Sermon for Sunday December 23rd, 2018, the Fourth Sunday in Advent

 

The Lessons: Psalm 80:1-7; Micah 5:2-5a; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-45

The Text: Hebrews 10:5-10

The Topic: How the Offering of the Lord Jesus Christ impacts the lives of the Faithful

INTRODUCTION

In Don Richardson’s best-selling book, Peace Child, he tells of going, accompanied by his wife Carol and seventeenth-month-old child to the Sawi, a headhunting tribe in Netherlands’ New Guinea. There savagery was a way of life. The tribesmen considered headhunting, cannibalism, and treachery as virtues. As these savages heard the story of the Gospel, they considered Judas – not Jesus – the hero, and Don almost despaired of ever reaching them.

At last, the warfare and barbarism between the Sawi and their neighbor tribes grew so intense that the Richardsons decided to pack their bags and leave. But when the Sawi heard of it, they were deeply disturbed. They had come to love and trust the Richardsons. To prevent their leaving, the Sawi met in a special session and decided to make peace.

The next day as Don watched with mounting curiosity, the peace ritual began. Young children from the warring villages were to be exchanged, and as long as any of those children were alive, the peace would continue.

It was an anguishing ritual, for every mother feared her child would be taken. But after a period of emotional indecision, the chief himself grabbed his only son and rushed toward the enemy tribe, literally giving the tribe to his enemies. In return, he received a son from the other side. Peace descended across the mountains.

As Don pondered the significance of the ceremony, he realized there was a powerful Redemptive Analogy. Shortly afterward, gathering the elders together, he told them how God the Heavenly Father sent Jesus to earth as His Peace Child to make peace between God and man.

It was a lesson they understood and embraced at last. [1]

– Don Richardson: Peace Child. Regal Publishers, 1975

THE EPISTLE LESSON: HEBREWS 10:5-10

Why, someone may ask, should we find our Second/Epistle Lesson relevant in Advent, rather than in Lent or Passiontide?

This passage from the tenth chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews speaks first of all to the replacement of all animal sacrifices by the unique offering of Jesus Christ once and for all; secondly to the Incarnation in which God became man in Jesus Christ; and lastly to the fixed purpose of the Son of God in the Incarnation, the determination to do God’s will.

The author of the Epistle states in the verse preceding the beginning of our Lesson that the blood of bulls and goats cannot possibly take away sins (Heb. 10:4). Now the traditional argument was that these animal sacrifices needed to be offered year after year, since all people continue to sin. Though the writer might have conceded that these animal sacrifices had some effect, they did not atone for all the sins that worshippers would commit in their life time.

THE LORD JESUS’ CHRIST’S PERFECT OFFERING

The problem of the ineffectiveness of animal sacrifices is solved by the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ into the world. The writer next quotes from the Septuagint version of Psalm 40:8-10, but implies that these words are spoken by the Son of God, for he writes, “Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me” (Heb. 10:5, KJV; Ps. 40:8). Through this introduction to his quotation, the writer makes it clear that the Lord Jesus Christ himself is prophesying in Psalm 40 that God has prepared for him a body, that is, so that he may be born a human being on earth. Of course, one might ask why it appeared that in the Pentateuch God should command animal sacrifices to be offered, only to do away with them later. To this objection a reply might be given based on the contrast expressed in the opening verse of our Epistle Lesson: it is not that God never desired sacrifices and offerings as commanded by the Old Testament Law, but that now, in view of the mission of His Son, He no longer desires such sacrifices and offerings. Clearly the preparation of a body for Christ in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary contrasts to the animal sacrifices and offerings that are no longer God’s will. In the same way as verse 5, verses 6 and 7 are an antithetical parallelism, contrasting all the sacrifices of animals in which God no longer delights to the mission of the Speaker to come to earth solely to perform God’s will.

The writer emphasizes the contrast by stating that though the sacrifices, offerings, burnt offerings and offerings for sin were offered according to the Law, the fact that God does not want them or delight in them, shows that He is replacing them in order to establish the perfect Sacrifice of His Son that is summed up in the words, “Behold, I have come to do thy will, O God.” By that will of God to which the Lord Jesus Christ was perfectly obedient, the writer concludes, we have been made holy through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all (Heb. 10:10).

THE PURPOSE OF CHRIST’S BIRTH

During this season it is natural to think of the birth of Jesus Christ in terms of the birth of a child in humble circumstances, but this passage shows that the Incarnation was the beginning of a new age in God’s dealings with Israel and with mankind. The birth of Jesus Christ was planned by God, and prophesied in Old Testament Scripture. The purpose of the birth of Jesus was His mission on earth to accomplish God’s will, which culminated in His death on the Cross to atone for the sins of all mankind in perpetuity.

THE PURPOSE OF OUR LIVES

How many of us can say as God the Son says in Ps. 40:8, “I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart”? The first advent of the Lord Jesus Christ had as its purpose the accomplishment of God’s perfect will on earth, the redemption and deliverance of mankind from sin and eternal hell. Now that we are being sanctified through the offering of Jesus Christ’s body once and for all, what should the ultimate purpose of our lives be? Surely it is to love God wholeheartedly, to love our neighbor, and to do God’s will.



[1] p. 483, Robert J. Morgan: Preacher’s Sourcebook of Creative Sermon Illustrations. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2007.

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