Friday

23 October 2015

“Jesus ... is the mediator of a better covenant.” (v. 6)

Psalm: Psalm 116


Background

At the heart of these verses lies the contrast between the visible world and ultimate reality. First, the writer contrasts the priests of the temple with Jesus, the high priest. The priests need to offer sacrifices over and over again, both for the sins of others and for their own sins. But Jesus is the perfect priest, glorified through a hymn of praise that implicitly reflects on the difference between him and other priests (verse 26). Jesus' offering is made once and for all, through his defeat of evil on the Cross. Later in the letter, the writer will explore this concept of self-offering much further (Hebrews 9:11-14). Because his offering is eternal, it is more effective than the daily offerings of the temple. At the centre of this passage (verses 25-28) lies a profound sense of the wonder and glory of Jesus.

Secondly, the writer contrasts the earthly temple with the eternal temple of heaven. The earliest focus of worship for the Israelites was the "tent of meeting" (Exodus 33:7), and this language is used here. The tent, or temple, is understood as a shadow of the heavenly one. In writing like this, the author echoes Plato's understanding of reality, in which everything we see or touch on this earth is an individual copy of an eternal heavenly reality (or form), and therefore secondary, as a copy is secondary to the original masterpiece.

The comparisons lead to a profound conclusion: Jesus stands between God and the people to share a better covenant - not merely the 'new' covenant which Jesus speaks of (1 Corinthians 11:25) but a 'better' covenant, free from the difficulties which, in Christian eyes, beset the first covenant.

This passage offers us a further perspective on the theme 'fullness of life'. If we are to live life fully, we do so in covenant relationship with God, the source and goal of our life.


To Ponder

  • If Jesus has made a sacrifice once and for all, why do you think we need to continue to pray for God's forgiveness?
  • Does today's Church have the balance right between a focus on the earthly Jesus and the exalted Christ? Or in what way do you think the balance might be improved?


Bible notes author: The Revd Caroline Wickens 

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