24 October 2017

Hebrew 9:15, 24-28

“For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.” (v. 24)

Psalm: Psalm 107:17-32


Jesus came face to face with God, entering heaven itself to appear before the Godhead.

This has all sorts of ramifications in Jewish history, for no-one sees the face of God and lives. The presence of God is so powerful, and God's holiness in such contrast to the sinfulness of humanity, that God shields this from those seeking a revelation. The original readers would remember God's glory passing by Moses (Exodus 33), and the declaration that God is "merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness" (Exodus 34:6). They would remember that Elijah did not meet with God in the thunder but in the stillness and silence that followed (1 Kings 19).

The heroes of Jewish history never encountered God face to face; they saw glimpses of God, but never got to see God head-on, eye to eye. Jesus subsumes all the stories of the past, and encounters God having entered the very realms of heaven. Jesus 'mediates' this relationship. It is through Jesus that humanity is invited to participate in the kingdom of God.

N T Wright suggests a further extension of Jesus' role as ultimate high priest. On the Day of Atonement, the high priest would exit the Holy of Holies, and proclaim the ritual complete. The priest would then go about ministering within the community. Wright notes "they would set about the world of dealing with the problems that remained in the community, the practical outworking of the ritual". In this passage, Jesus' final return will be one of final completion: "When Jesus reappears … they will become the people God wants them to be as citizens of his new creation". All the work will be finished.

To Ponder

  • Where do you feel close to God? How does that affect your discipleship?
  • What difference does it make to you that Jesus' sacrifice was a once-for-all event?
  • What does the 'new creation' about which N T Wright speaks, look like for you?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Joanne Cox-Darling

Joanne Cox-Darling is a Methodist presbyter currently serving in the Wolverhampton Circuit, where most recently she participated in a harvest festival in a farmyard, surrounded by a 'small' dairy herd of nearly 200 cattle. Joanne is the chair of the Christian Enquiries Agency (www.christianity.org.uk) - described by the Archbishop of York as the "possibly the easiest form of evangelism you will ever do".