20 October 2020

Hebrews 9:1-3; 11-14

…how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God! (v. 14)

Psalm 149:1-5


Today's passage is packed full of powerful imagery and profound language – to the extent that these can interfere with us getting to grips with what the writer is saying. It explores how Jesus breaks down the traditional boundaries of religion and expectation – and opens up an invitation to a relationship with God through Christ, rather than through rite and ritual.

The letter to the Hebrews was likely penned to a community of Jewish converts who were constantly fearful of the persecution of Christians, and were trying to hold on to the rituals and practices of their Jewish heritage, whilst at the same time, trying to make sense of the Jesus story. For this original audience, therefore, understanding who is ‘in’ and who is not was fundamental to their faithfulness.

At first glance, it is easy to disregard this passage as one of architecture rather than of theology. The key to these verses is that God's dwelling – the Holy of Holies (v. 3) – is no longer the secret, undisturbed place in the Temple. Unlike the High Priest, who entered there annually on the Day of Atonement to offer sacrifices on behalf of the people, Jesus provides the means for the salvation of all people and the whole of creation through his own sacrificial death and resurrection. This is not, therefore, a description of the physicality of the temple, but is rather a statement on the nature of Jesus’ incarnation as the God-human-high priest.

Whereas the recipients of the letter are constantly trying to tie Jesus down, limit his influence, and explore the limits and boundaries of God's grace, the writer encourages an expansion of the limits of the kingdom of God and a deeper appreciation of Jesus’ actions.

To Ponder:

  • Where have you been limited in your understanding of the expansiveness of God's grace?
  • What might the redemption of creation look like?
  • What one thing can you do this week to live that into reality?

First published in 2017.

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Joanne Cox-Darling

Joanne Cox-Darling is a minister in South Staffordshire; a county proud of its creativity and regeneration opportunities. Joanne is chair of the Christian Enquiries Agency – a charity of Churches Together that seeks to enable people to discover faith and faithfulness through the website www.christianity.org.uk. Joanne is the author of the book 'Finding God in a Culture of Fear'.

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