Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.
It had to come to this. Set before us is this evening is a sinner’s only hope of escape from the utter wrath of a just and holy God. The cost of our salvation is Jesus-our-brother in the terrors of hell, the rigors of death, and hanging there in the middle of the cross accursed.
All along God gave us clues that it was going to happen this way. Starting way back with our first disobedience in the Garden to the time when God graciously chose Abraham to be the father of the Savior’s race, the Lord began to show the mystery of our salvation. He told us it could only happen with the shedding of innocent blood. The man-child of Eve would crush the serpent’s head, but the serpent would draw first blood from his heel. God would cover Adam and Eve’s shame with an animal skin. In this way, God initiated the first animal sacrifice to demonstrate that our rebellion must be recompensed by the lifeblood of another. The place that God shed blood for our sins was foreshadowed. That Abraham would be led to sacrifice Isaac on Mount Moriah; this is the very mountain on which Jesus would be sacrificed. Coincidence, I don’t think so. Furthermore, God foreshadowed the identity of the Lamb of God who would once and for all take away the sins of the world when he told Abraham to sacrifice “your son, your only son . . . whom you love” (Genesis 22:2). These words are not lost on us; we heard the Father say very similar words at Jesus’ baptism and transfiguration.
At the time of Moses, God instituted the holy priesthood and designated a high priest who would pray for the people and sacrifice for their sins. God’s priest had to offer sacrifices “day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people.” In fact, animal sacrifices were demanded by God for almost every aspect of human life: to maintain fellowship between God and his people and between God’s people and their brothers; for premeditated sins and sins committed in ignorance; for specific sins and for sin in general. The need for blood sacrifices crossed generational lines. It was necessary for the affluent and poor man alike, for priest and pauper, for Jews and converts. In this way God showed us that no human was exempt from God’s wrath. Nor could any escape from His wrath. Deliverance was only through the shedding of innocent blood.
There (T) hung our Savior, who fulfilled, once and for all, the office of high priest. He is our Great High Priest. He did not have to offer sacrifices for His own sin, because He had no sin. In fact, He who is called “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:5) is the one who came to purify the priestly tribe of Levi (Malachi 3:3) once and for all. Listen to Him! He prayed from His cross: “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34). For whom was He praying? For the high priests? Yes. Their greatest sin was that they did not recognize the Lamb of God when He was sacrificed for them. But He died for you and me, who were born as His enemies! We are the object of this merciful, compassionate, priestly prayer. Even as His baptized children, we know we need Him to plead for God’s mercy upon us sinners daily. We must confess that, even after our conversion, our sinful flesh is locked in mortal conflict with the spiritual man God created in us. Each day we look up to that cross and should cry: Lord forgive me for I have doubted and the do evil, forgive me.
At Calvary’s altar of His (T) cross is where our Great High Priest “offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears” (Hebrews 5:7). But His love for us did not stop there. He sealed His prayers for our forgiveness with His holy precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death. On the altar of the His cross, our Lord Jesus fulfilled once, for all, the office of High Priest and the role of sacrificial lamb.
“Unlike other high priests, He doesn’t need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for His own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when He offered Himself, for He was the perfect offering of atonement!”
How comforting are the words “he sacrificed for their sins once for all”! It is as if this forgiving moment in time embraces all of eternity! For what you see on the middle cross today reaches back, beyond the sacrifices God prescribed to Moses, to Abraham, to Cain and Abel—yes, even before Yahweh took the animal skins and covered the shame of our first parents. Jesus’ blood reaches back to the moment God cursed Satan with the words, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15).
Since Jesus’ sacrifice was for all people of all time, it’s effective in forgiving sin and removing damnation, even before animal sacrifices were instituted.
What comfort we find in the words “he sacrificed for their sins once for all”! At the cross of Jesus, the seeds of the gospel were already sown in the hearts of many who stood at the foot of the cross. Jesus’ high priestly sacrifice resonated in their hearts and its fruits were plainly seen just 50 days later. At Pentecost, many were struck to the heart, when Peter preached that they murdered their Messiah. So they cried out to the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Peter replied that they should repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. About three thousand of them were buried with Christ by Baptism into death and rose to a new life of saving faith that day. Christ did it all. No further sacrifice is necessary.
“Once for all.” What comfort it gives us that God removed all of the animal sacrifices, which were merely a shadow of this enduring Good Friday event! Think of it! Why don’t we sacrifice lambs on our altar for the sins we have committed against God and one another? Why is the altar empty? Why don’t we pour out, again and again, the blood of innocent victims each time we worship? Why has sacrifice come to an abrupt halt? Because of these words: “[Jesus] sacrificed for their sins once for all.”
Once a young German Jew was attending an adult Bible instruction class in a Lutheran church. He knew his books of Moses very well. He volunteered that God demanded his Old Testament people to sacrifice only at the tabernacle or, later, only at the temple in Jerusalem. Then he mentioned that the last time the temple was destroyed, Jerusalem was occupied by non-Jewish people. In this way, God made it impossible to offer sacrifices. Then he said that to this day the Islamic Dome of the Rock has stood where the temple used to be in Jerusalem. For that reason, sacrifice has been removed from modern Judaism. Can you imagine what would happen if the Jewish people tried to reestablish sacrifices at the only place God would accept them? It would ignite another holy war of unthinkable proportions. Jesus rightly said that those who reject his sacrifice on Calvary’s cross have their “house . . . left to [them] desolate” (Luke 13:35). Since they have rejected their only Messiah, they have no temple, no sacrifice, and no forgiveness from God.
“[Jesus] sacrificed for their sins once for all.” Once for all, reminds us that no sin, no matter how great, can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. That fact, that assurance comes from the lips of our dying Savior Himself. For He says: “It is finished!”(John 19:30), He declared it so as His life faded away. Anyone could see that His life was coming to an end. The Holy Spirit didn’t need to waste ink to tell us that. But Jesus wasn’t just speaking about His life. He was speaking about His mission: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). Jesus was saying, “I have succeeded in offering a sacrifice for the sins of the race of Adam. In its place, I have paid the price of sin for every one of Adam’s children until the day I return in glory.”
Nothing can be added to this cross without diminishing its glory. As soon as we make His sacrifice contingent upon something we do, a decision we make, or an emotional proof of sincerity, we begin the sacrificial cycle all over again. Instead of sheep, we offer “my own thinking or choosing.” In doing so we are saying, “It is not finished.” The world shouts, “To be saved you must sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice, you must do the works.” But our consciences testify that none of these sacrifices are ever enough. Christ says, “It is finished,” nothing more is necessary, nothing more can be added.
As you look up to bloody cross of Jesus on this Good Friday, you can rest assured that He set you free from sin and its domination over you and the punishment of God’s eternal wrath, once for all! By His life, and His suffering, by His agony and His bloody sweat, by His death and His burial, IT IS FINISIHED!, once for all and that’s once is for you. In Jesus name, Amen and amen!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, amen!