Our text for today speaks of a repair project that makes any household project seem insignificant and unimportant. The project is the one Jesus undertook to permanently repair the damage that sin brought into our world and into our lives. With an eternally important project like that—rescuing the world from its own sin!—you would think that this would be a project that would span centuries, requiring many trips to the home improvement store. But in just one visit to our sinful world, Jesus undid the eternal consequences of sin. And in one return visit in the future, Jesus will bring us to the eternal blessings of heaven. That’s what our reading from Hebrews teaches us today. It Only Takes One! It only takes one sacrifice of Jesus to do away with sin. It only takes one appearance of Jesus to deliver us salvation.
Jesus made one trip. He made one sacrifice. Hear what he did: “For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.” Jesus entered heaven itself. Jesus appeared before God’s presence…
Which was unlike the high priest and how they did their work. Once a year, on Yom Kipper (the Day of Atonement) the High Priest went into the Holy of Holies. This room was separated from the rest of the temple by walls on three sides and a thick curtain at its entrance. He would enter the Holy of Holies after he sacrificed a goat and collected some of its blood. He would sprinkle the blood of the goat onto the Ark of the Covenant, inside of which were the Ten Commandments. The blood was poured out onto the Ark of the Covenant because the people had sinned against God’s Commandments and blood would cover their sins.
What truth was unspoken in this ceremony! The blood of the sacrificed animal was shed instead of the peoples’ blood. The people, not the goat, deserved death. But the animal died and the animal’s blood was covered the Ark of the Covenant which housed the Ten Commandments. So when God the Father peered down from heaven and looked at the ark, he didn’t see the Ten Commandments and their accusations of sin. God saw the blood of the sacrificial animal covering up the law and its accusations. The blood of the sacrifice covered up the guilt of the people’s sin. That sounds familiar doesn’t it? It sounds like the Lamb of God whose blood takes away the sin of the world.
One major difference between the Day of Atonement and the sacrifice of Jesus was that the Day of Atonement was repeated every year. It wasn’t the ultimate remedy for sin, but a picture of and a preview of the once-for-all sacrifice that would come in the future. But now that sacrifice had come! And it only took one sacrifice of Jesus to do away with sin – because Jesus was no ordinary sacrifice! Only one sacrifice of Jesus was needed to do away with sin because of the incalculable value of the sacrifice. The sacrifice was the body and blood of God himself.
This sacrifice revealed the depths of God’s love for his wayward creatures! God would actually send his Son to take up the sin of a world full of rebels! The Son of God would actually take responsibility for that sin, even though it was not his own, and then pay for it all by his own sacrifice. God himself, in the person of Jesus, would shed his own blood to cover up the world’s sin and cleanse it from its shame. And in that one sacrifice, Jesus did away with the world’s sin: “[Christ] has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.”
If only we would believe that with all our hearts. If only we were free from doubts and uncertainty. If only our wandering minds would not keep us awake at night by thoughts of the foolish words and the sinful acts of the day just ended. If only our sinful nature inside of us would stop denying the cleansing power of Jesus’ once-for-all sacrifice which is more than sufficient to wash away my sin. If only our rational thinking would stop getting in the way of grasping and clinging to this message of forgiveness in Christ.
Satan would love to take your worries and fears and turn them into despair and then unbelief. If he can’t lead you away from Jesus in sin, he will try to lead you away in despair. That’s why the annual Old Testament sacrifice was made every year. It was a reminder that blood would be shed for them. And when a privilege, then, for me to announce to you that divine blood has been shed. And it only took one sacrifice for Jesus to do away with sin! Your personal feelings do not erase the once-for all sacrifice Jesus offered on the cross. Your inner worries and fears do not change the fact that God’s own Son gave his life for you. Nothing you do or say or imagine can change the historical fact that Jesus Christ suffered and died to take away your sin, and nothing you do or say or imagine can change the theological truth that Jesus’ one sacrifice was all that it took to do away with your sin.
II. Today is the Sunday of the church year that we call, “Last Judgment.” Today is the day we think about the final judgment and our text says this: “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”
This speaks of the cold reality of death. There isn’t a single person who doesn’t have to deal with issues of death and mortality in some form or another. We are reminded of death when decline in our health, or our loved ones do. We are reminded of death when we hear of a neighbor’s passing, or a catastrophe taking a number of lives. But after our death comes the day that we stand before God to hear his just judgment and his righteous verdict.
Our text reminds us that Jesus died–not because of his sin, but because of ours. And what eventually follows his death is the final judgment – not a judgment of Jesus, but the last judgment by Jesus. Jesus will appear one more time and at that appearance he will deliver his people to their eternal salvation in heaven. “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”
Imagine the thought of standing before the Almighty God on the final judgment on the last day. What accusations could the prosecuting attorney, Satan, accuse you of? The immaturity of your youth. The pride of your adulthood. The worry of your elderly years. Your whole sinful life. Who would want to hear all the awful, sinful things he’s done in God’s courtroom?
But listen to our reading again and see that the final judgment does not have to frighten us. “Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” At the final judgment, you will not stand before an unjust judge who is out to get you. At the final judgment, you will stand before your loving Lord who is out to save you! Jesus’ first entrance into this world did away with your sin, and his one remaining appearance will deliver us our eternal salvation. His first entrance won your eternal redemption, and his remaining appearance will deliver that redemption to you personally. His first entrance won your eternal life by his resurrection from the dead, and his remaining appearance will deliver you from this world into the eternal gates of heaven where death, hell, and sin can harm you no more.
Those who ridiculed and sold him, pierced and nailed him to the tree, along with all those who reject him in unbelief, will be deeply wailing at his return, but when we gaze upon Jesus’ glory, we will praise him for his glorious grace.
How would you feel if you didn’t vote and the candidate you would have voted for wasn’t elected? How would you feel if he had lost by just one vote? You would know by bitter experience that one person can make a difference.
The difference our Savior Jesus made! The accomplishments of the Son of God! His one sacrifice has done away with sin. will pale to the accomplishments of Jesus Christ. One sacrifice of Jesus has done away with sin. One remaining appearance of Jesus will deliver us our salvation. What a difference this one person has made. He’s the reason you live life with a clear conscience as you wait for the day when our Savior comes to deliver the gift he’s won and promised. Amen.