Blood, Sacrifice, and Atonement ~ What’s it all mean?

1395375_73215192So on Sunday we began to explore this whole idea of sacrifice and what it means. The text we worked through was Hebrews 9. But before we could work through the text we needed to learn the context: how sacrifice functioned prior to Jesus, why sacrifice was needed, and what the Bible’s goal with sacrifice is.

The primary function of sacrifice in the Old Testament was to deal with the problem of sin and broken relationships. A whole system was created to ensure cleansing, forgiveness, and the assurance of peace. This was the role of sacrifice. You could offer a sacrifice, gain peace of mind, and assurance of forgiveness. That’s why it was needed and that’s why it was important. But in many ways the system didn’t fully work because the sacrifice of an animal couldn’t bring lasting peace or forgiveness. It simply wasn’t perfect or complete enough.

Fast forward to Jesus and Hebrews 9, and we have the author making an argument that Jesus is both a deeper and different sacrifice than what was used to. That while Jesus’ sacrifice brings peace and assurance of forgiveness of sins, like previous sacrifices, his is of a different kind.

Prior to Jesus we would offer a sacrifice to God to gain assurance of forgiveness. Now with Jesus, God offers a sacrifice of himself to assure us we are forgiven. This is a radical twist that actually ends sacrifice.

We can now be assured that God loves us, forgives us, and accepts us because of the death and resurrection of Jesus. We kill Jesus because of our sin (anger, vengeance, envy, fear, etc), and yet God still forgives us. Some of Jesus’ last words are “Father forgive them”, and his first words are peace. So if we can kill God’s only son, and his posture to us is still forgiveness and peace, what worse could we possibly do? 

If we kill him, and his response is to love us we no longer never need to doubt his love. We now no longer need to doubt or worry about God’s disposition towards us. We no longer need to offer sacrifices to God because Jesus has sacrificed himself to prove his love to us. Jesus’ death proves God is willing to welcome all of us because we all killed Jesus through our propensity to sin, scapegoat, and hurt.

Of course, there is so much more to unpack, but to do that just listen to the sermon.

But the main idea was this: Jesus’ death ends all sacrifice, assuring us of our forgiveness. And this is a beautiful thing. You can be accepted, you can be forgiven, you can be freed – and there is nothing you need to do. Jesus’ sacrifice does it for us.

So we ended the sermon with a simple challenge. Rest in Jesus’ sacrifice, that it covers everything, that it is enough. That means we don’t need to fear God because Jesus has given everything to prove God’s love for us. That means we can hope because we know that God’s stance towards us is open and welcoming. That means that we don’t need to be defined by sin, because we did our worst, and God did what he does best: resurrection. So we can live differently because sin and evil doesn’t get the last word.

The point is that Jesus’ sacrifice is important because it ends sacrifice, and assures us of forgiveness. And that’s a beautiful thing.


Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Jesus’ death ends all sacrifice, assuring us of our forgiveness

Teaching Points:

  • Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it can’t be life changing
  • Sacrifice brought peace and assurance of forgiveness.
  • The trajectory of the Bible is to limit, reduce, and abolish sacrifice.
  • The blood of Jesus is better and more complete sacrifice
  • Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t limited, and proves God’s mercy isn’t limited
  • We killed Jesus, and he offers us forgiveness and peace.
  • Jesus’ death ends all sacrifice, assuring us of our forgiveness

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? Were there parts that were confusing? What do you think was meant? Did you see sacrifice as beautiful, barbaric, or unnecessary before today’s sermon? What do you think of sacrifice now? Read over Hebrews 9 again and share with one another what gives you hope, assurance, of excitement in this passage. Are there portions you still don’t fully grasp? Which parts? Who can help you to understand them deeper?

Challenge for the Week: Accept and rest in Jesus’ sacrifice.

Talking about blood…

1327575_43238568On Sunday I want to talk a little about something that we think we’ve mostly grown beyond: sacrifice.

The truth is the language and theme of sacrifice pervades the Bible. It’s a part of the Old Testament with animal sacrifices, blood, and rituals and regulations. It’s also a part of the New Testament with discussions surrounding Jesus as our sacrifice.

But what isn’t as recognized is how sacrifice still functions and is a part of our world. We often think of sacrifice for back then but not for today. But sacrifices are still as much a part of our world, as it was a part of theirs; it’s just less visible.

Just look at the big movies and how they are centred on the theme of sacrifice: everything from the Hunger Games, to Lord of the Rings, to even the Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy. There is a recurring theme of someone’s sacrifice bringing someone else peace and life. So while we might not practice animal sacrifice we still live in a world full of sacrifice.

And this is what I want to examine on Sunday specifically. What is sacrifice? How does it function? And most specifically, why is Jesus’ death and sacrifice different?

So that’s where we are headed. We’re pulling back the veil on sacrifice to talk about how it works in our lives. But while we are moving there why not just pay attention for the next few days how frequent sacrifice still lives and moves in our world.

  • Watch for how we scapegoat and sacrifice others for our good. Like when we think “If only “they” weren’t around, things would be better… “
  • Watch for how often video games, movies, or TV shows regularly use sacrifice as a driving motif.
  • Watch for how when someone gives of themselves we gain life

Sacrifice might not be well understood in our world, but it is alive and well.