St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

A Time To Think About Sacrifices

Sermon on Hebrews 10:5-10

Text: Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; 6 with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. 7 Then I said, ‘Here I am — it is written about me in the scroll — I have come to do your will, my God.’” 8 First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them” — though they were offered in accordance with the law. 9 Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

In 1905, a man by the pseudonym of O. Henry wrote a short story called “The Gift of the Magi.” The story goes like this. Mr. James Dillingham and his wife, Della, are a couple living in a modest apartment. They have only two possessions between them in which they take pride: Della’s beautiful long, flowing hair, almost to her knees, and Jim’s shiny gold watch, which had belonged to his father and grandfather. On Christmas Eve, with only $1.87 in hand, and desperate to find a gift for Jim, Della sells her hair for $20 to a nearby hairdresser and eventually finds a platinum pocket watch fob chain for Jim’s watch for $21. Satisfied with the perfect gift for Jim, Della runs home and begins to prepare pork chops for dinner. At 7 o’clock, Della sits at a table near the door, waiting for Jim to come home. Unusually late, Jim walks in and immediately stops short at the sight of Della. Della then admits to Jim that she sold her hair to buy him his present. Jim gives Della her present – an assortment of expensive hair accessories, useless now that her hair is short. Della then shows Jim the chain she bought for him, to which Jim says he sold his watch to get the money to buy her combs. Although Jim and Della are now left with gifts that neither one can use, they realize how far they are willing to go to show their love for each other, and how priceless their love really is. This story reminds us about sacrificing for one another. As we grow closer to Christmas, we are reminded that it is really A TIME TO THINK ABOUT SACRIFICES. 1. Our Sacrifice Cannot Save. 2. Christ’s Sacrifice Was Once For All. As a result, 3. Let Us Offer The Sacrifice Of Faith.

Our text is found in a large section of the book of Hebrews, in which the author highlights Jesus as the Great High Priest and the sacrifice that he offered. In this particular section, he quotes from Psalm 40, by saying, “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am — it is written about me in the scroll — I have come to do your will, my God.’” Sacrifices were a main part of the Jewish religious life. There were some sacrifices that were made daily, others annually, and others on particular occasions. There were sacrifices that were made for the nation and sacrifices made for the individual. There were sacrifices that were made in times of thanksgiving and there were sacrifices that were made in repentance. If you want to read about all of the sacrifices that were to be made, read through the book of Leviticus. It almost makes your head spin when you read about all of the sacrifices that God commanded his people carry out.

However, the psalmist makes it very clear that God is not really interested in sacrifices, whatever they might be. Even though he had commanded that all of these sacrifices be brought, none of them could ever bring about redemption. Not one of them, on their own, could save the person who brought them. What the Lord was really looking for was obedient hearts. The fact is that, no matter how many sacrifices that made, they could never get rid of the fact that the one offering the sacrifice was a sinner. No amount of animal blood that was spilled, no matter the number of animals that were burnt up on the altar could ever change this. What God was ultimately looking for is shown us in the words, “I have come to do your will, my God.”

Unfortunately, there were some who thought that, if they did all of the right things, they would be OK with God. This is clearly seen in the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. They thought that they were able to keep all of the laws of God. There is no doubt that they were very careful to do all of the sacrifices that God had commanded in the Old Testament. In addition to all of the laws of God, they added their own laws. This, they felt, would make them even more acceptable to God. This certainly made them better than all of those other people who were not keeping the laws the way that they did. They had fooled themselves into thinking that, by doing all of the right things, by offering all of the right sacrifices, they would have earned their way into heaven.

It can be easy for us to fall into this same sort of thinking, as well. Perhaps, it is unintentional, but this sort of idea can so easily mislead us. We look at the things that we do and then compare them to other people. The things that we do may even have been commanded by God. We do them, but we start to think that what we are doing makes us acceptable to God. We come to church every Sunday, or at least, whenever we are able. As we sit there, we look around and think of all of the people that are not there. Rather than despairing that our brothers and sisters are missing the opportunity to grow in their faith, we feel just a little bit satisfied in what we are doing. We serve in various ways around the church and, rather than being thankful for the opportunity that God is giving us, we complain that we are the only ones doing anything. The list goes on and on of the ways that we can be tempted to fall into this type of thinking.

We need to remember that God is looking for the life that is described by the psalmist, “I have come to do your will, my God.” In other words, God is looking for us to be ones who always follow his will. When we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that we have not been perfect. Close enough isn’t good enough. By way of a picture, imagine that you are in school. If the teacher were to hand you a worksheet with 100 problems on it, but you only did 95 of them, would the teacher give you a perfect grade? You might say that you did most of them, so you should get a passing grade. However, the fact remains that you didn’t do all of them. With God, it is perfection or nothing. We need to realize that, even if we mostly do what is right, we have failed more times than we can count. No amount of what we do, no matter what sacrifice we might give, can ever make us right with God. Our sacrifices cannot save us.

That is why the writer of this letter points away from what those Hebrew Christians were doing to what Christ had done for them. He does the same for us, as well. He points us to Jesus Christ. The entire reason that Jesus came to this earth was to save us. This was his Father’s will. Jesus was the one who said, “I have come to do your will, my God.” This will started off when Jesus became a human being. He humbled himself so that he could live in our place. His Father’s will was that Jesus would live a perfect life. Throughout the Gospels, you find Jesus’ enemies accusing Jesus of breaking this law or that law. However, none of their charges could ever stick, because he never did anything wrong. He came to do his Father’s will by living for us and, then, he did his Father’s will by suffering and dying for us. Just think of that for a moment, God loved you so much that he was willing to punish his own Son in your place. Jesus felt the full brunt of his Father’s anger against our sins. Jesus loved you so much that he was willing to be that perfect sacrifice for your sins. He was willing to sacrifice himself on the cross so that you could be with him forever in heaven. It is clear that Jesus fulfilled his Father’s will, because Jesus rose from the grave on Easter morning.

Jesus’ sacrifice was complete, as it says in verse 10, “We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Note the words “once for all.” Here the writer isn’t referring to that fact that Jesus died for all people. That is clearly taught elsewhere in the Scriptures. Here, the meaning is that Jesus’ sacrifice was once for all time. In other words, Jesus’ sacrifice is so complete that there is nothing that can be added to it. This included any of the Old Testament sacrifices. This, also, includes anything that we might think that we might add to our salvation. In reality, it is insulting to Christ’s work to say that he did almost enough, but we have to add in our two cents worth. Christ’s sacrifice was once for all time. When Jesus said, on the cross, “It is finished,” he meant it.

This fact gives us so much comfort, because, otherwise, we would continually be wondering if we did enough. Is there still something I have to do to be saved? What am I missing? Jesus says to us in such a loving manner, ‘The sacrifice that I made on the cross was sufficient to pay for all of your sins. You now are holy in my Father’s sight. Don’t worry what you have to do to be saved. I have done it all for you.’ Christ’s sacrifice was once for all time. Christ’s sacrifice was for you.

You may recall earlier, as we spoke of the various sacrifices that were made in the Old Testament, there were not only sacrifices that were made when sin was committed. There were also sacrifices of thanksgiving, as well. Obviously, they were done to thank God when he had particularly blessed that individual. Indeed, we have been truly blessed through the sacrifice that Jesus offered. We have had our sins forgiven. We have an eternity in heaven to look forward to. May we offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, as well. However, what does this thanksgiving sacrifice entail? Are we to bring in animals or produce to be burnt upon an altar? Probably not. The apostle Paul gives us an idea as to what we can bring. He writes in Romans 12:1, “I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship.” In other words, Paul is saying that we express our thanksgiving by the way that we live our lives. We give ourselves completely to him. We want every one of our words and actions and even our thoughts to be ones that thank God for all that he has done for us. Sometimes, thanking God may involve sacrifice. We sacrifice of our time so that we can help others or serve at church. We sacrifice some of our wealth to give to others in need and to support the work of the church so that the Word of God may be proclaimed here and around the world. We do this to thank God for all that he has done for us. We do this to thank Jesus for the once and for all time sacrifice that he made for us. In reality, we have been so richly blessed with all things that, it is only natural that we want to offer our sacrifices of thanksgiving.

Christmas, truly, is a time of sacrifice. Parents sacrifice some of the things that they might want to have for themselves to give special gifts to their children. We sacrifice our free time to go shopping. Generally speaking, all of these sacrifices are done out of love for someone else. That was the point of the story that we began with this morning. As all of these sacrifices are being made at this time of year, may God always help us to remember the greatest sacrifice of love that the world has ever seen. May he direct our eyes to the manger and see all of his promises fulfilled. May he direct our eyes to the cross where Christ sacrificed himself once and for all time. May that wondrous sacrifice so fill us with thanksgiving that we cannot help but give ourselves completely to him. Christmas is a time to think about sacrifice, God for us and us for God. Amen.