22 October 2020Hebrews 10:1-10
Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who approach … And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (vs 1, 10)
In 2017 the Catholic priest Jean Vanier was interviewed about his life's work in the immediate aftermath of Grenfell Tower and Manchester Arena bombing. He spoke about living within two cultures – a culture of fear and a culture of community. It is a persuasive argument, not least of all in light of Vanier's desire to forge communities with some of the most disadvantaged people in the world.
The passage from Hebrews 10 is part of the crescendo to the author’s argument – there are two cultures at work. There is a culture of fear, which is marked by ritual and religious practices. But, with Jesus, a new culture has dawned. It is a culture of the community of Christ, a community marked by the forgiveness of sins once and for all.
The quoted poem in this passage is taken from Psalm 40. This psalm recognises that ritual and sacrifice are important features of religious observation and worship – but that God doesn’t really want rite and ritual. The rituals are there to support and sustain the worshipper, rather than for God's benefit. God desires something greater, something that has been fulfilled in Jesus.
The law does not have the last word. Fear is not the end of the story. Rather, in Jesus, there is a once-and-for-all crown and completion of God's purposes. Jesus' sacrifice is a voluntary, obedient one. The readers would be in no doubt that the temptation to look back at the old systems was futile in light of the now realised new future in Jesus Christ.
- The Irish Band U2 recorded a version of Psalm 40. You can listen to it here.
- Where do you prefer to look back to old systems, rather than look forward? Why is it so attractive?