On Good Friday morning, Jesus had just celebrated Passover with His disciples. It was an annual remembrance of the angel of death passing over the people when the blood of the Passover lamb was applied to the door posts, lintels of their houses.
You can read about the original Passover in Exodus 12.
On Good Friday, we gather to remember and consider Jesus’ death on the Cross – Jesus, God’s Paschal Lamb. His blood not only protects us from spiritual death, but also cleanses and redeems us.
The first Passover was the night that God’s redemption began to deliver Israel from Egyptian slavery – a deliverance that took 40 years to work through the nation so they would be ready to inherit God’s promised land; and a further 1400 years until Jesus came to complete God’s plan of redemption and open a new pathway of freedom for His people.
Redemption is a huge theme in Scripture – the deliverance from slavery to the world, its principles, Satan’s rule, and the power of sin. Good Friday is a day when we remember Jesus’ atoning death, and the Redemption that flows from that.
That death was more than an act of kindness towards those who couldn’t save themselves. It was God’s predetermined plan of redemption – of saving His people, and delivering them from the power and corruption of sin, and from their own sinful nature and its actions.
Hebrews 9:11-14, CSB, ‘But Christ has appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come. In the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands (that is, not of this creation), 12he entered the most holy place once for all time, not by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. 13For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young red cow, sprinkling those who are defiled, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works so that we can serve the living God?’
Jesus died as our substitute, but He also was our great High Priest offering Himself to cleanse the sins of His people. Substitutionary atonement and priestly mediation and intercession all rolled up in one once for all act. Hallelujah!
Although the writer takes us back into the heart of Jewish OT worship made possible by animal sacrifices and gifts given – the Cross was the place where Jesus completed everything necessary to procure our salvation.
He did not need to carry His blood into the heavenly sanctuary to complete His work – He cried it is finished on the cross, nothing further needed to be done to cleanse sin. As High Priest, His presence in heaven guarantees our salvation.
As sacrificial victim, His pure, spotless sacrifice was sufficient, ‘without blemish.’ Instead of having to offer anything further – He Himself in heaven is the evidence of all that He has successfully done for us.
In the first of Isaiah’s Servant Songs, Isaiah 42:1, there the Father says that He put His Spirit upon the Messiah. Jesus entire life and ministry was a partnership with the Holy Spirit.
On the Cross the Father may have turned His face away from His sin-bearing Son, but the power of the Spirit was an important element in enabling the perfect One to be the sin-bearer, and to complete the work of the Cross.
Verses 24-28, CSB, ‘For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with hands (only a model Or antitype, or figure of the true one) but into heaven itself, so that he might now appear in the presence of God for us. 25He did not do this to offer himself many times, as the high priest enters the sanctuary yearly with the blood of another. 26Otherwise, he would have had to suffer many times since the foundation of the world. But now he has appeared one time, at the end of the ages, for the removal of sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27And just as it is appointed for people to die once — and after this, judgment – 28so also Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to bear sin, [Lit – apart from sin] but, to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.’
Hebrews 5:1 tells us what the duties of the high priest were, NLT: ‘a man chosen to represent other people in their dealings with God. He presents gifts to God and offers sacrifices for their sins.’
A person chosen, in the OT from the tribe of Levi, and of the line of Aaron, or set apart for this office of high priest. His job was to represent the people before God both by what he did, what he wore, and his obedience to the principles and commandments for the role set out by God through Moses.
As such he brought gifts to God from the people, and offered sacrifices on their behalf.
The trouble was that he was just like the people and needed first to offer sacrifices for his own sins, before he could offer for the people. Year by year the same things had to be repeated over and over again because, although he acted for the people as their representative before God, he was imperfect and so were the sacrifices he offered.
Thus, he could only ceremonially cleanse the people, and the sacrifices covered their sins. This may have enabled the Jewish people to worship God in OT times, but it was not sufficient for the salvation of the Gentiles and Jews together.
Something more needed to be done in order to make them truly right before God. Paul tell us in Romans 3, that their forgiveness in OT times was ultimately not based on the animal sacrifices, but on the that which Jesus did on the Cross.
The NLT brilliantly brings this difficult passage to the fore when it says: ‘Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, 26for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.’
God’s justice and fairness come to the fore. His justice ultimately waited until the time when the substitutionary sin-bearer would be put to death – and His fairness was that He accepted the animal sacrifices which covered sin and ceremonially cleansed people until Christ’s Cross when Jesus died for the removal of the guilt and penalty for sin.
Thus all the believers up till Christ will be in heaven because of God’s fairness and Jesus’ death, those believers alive during His life, and all of us who will believe afterwards are all saved through the Cross of Jesus.
The Cross dealt with the penalty for sin, death – spiritual and an eternal death, of all believers in all time. It also dealt with their guilt – people who broke God’s word and rebelled against His rule as Creator, Governor and King of the earth.
That is why it is important to understand what the Cross really means, v. 25, ‘we are made right with God when we believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.’ Isn’t this all amazing!
Hebrews 9:26, ‘But now he has appeared one time, at the end of the ages, for the removal of sin by the sacrifice of himself.’ All of this means the following for us – the so what…
Matthew 20:28, ‘Jesus came to give His life as a ransom for many.’
He actively obeyed all that He needed to do to be the perfect man completely upholding all the just requirements of the Law, and perfectly obeying His Father’s will and purposes – He passively obeyed by submitting to the will of God and the death on the Cross, the two elements of our Justification, being made right with God.
He is our Great High Priest still acting as our representative in heaven and thus guaranteeing our salvation. Thus our prayer lives are not founded on our ability to pray, but on the completeness of the High Priest by and through whom we have access to Father.
As High Priest, the glory of God resides in Him and by what He does. He is perfectly holy, just, and glorious. His perfection is searingly awesome, and He is the radiance of the Father’s glory.
His atoning death means that the just anger of God against sin is perfectly upheld, the penalty for sin paid, God’s truth vindicated, and thus the wrath of God is removed from the life of the believer, and her or his future judgement.
Our sin was committed against the Lord – our guilt is under the blood of Jesus – His sacrifice was accepted by Father – and our atonement is complete in Christ.
Therefore, it is not about us reforming ourselves, but about us getting in step with the Spirit, filling our lives with His word, and living a life of worship, service, witness, generosity, thankfulness and holiness because we spend so much time in His presence.
This is the life He calls us to – a life free from a guilty conscience…
Jesus has opened the gates to heaven, and He has created the chance for a life that pleases God and fulfils His purposes for our lives.
This is a life worth living.
Do you know this Jesus?
He is calling you today to live in the reality of all that He accomplished in His death on the Cross – a life without condemnation – a life without a guilty conscience – a life without regret, and a life without shame. Amen