The writer of Hebrews speaks of a long line of priests endlessly presiding over sacrifices in carefully prescribed ancient rituals meant first to cleanse the priests who prepared and offered the sacrifices and then the people themselves. The priests were only human, after all, sinful and subject to death, so their actions, no matter how meticulous and faithful, were always imperfect and thus never quite good enough.
Jesus changes all that. He is human too—but not only human. He was, and is, “holy, blameless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens” and “perfect forever.” Jesus, who sacrificed “once for all” by offering himself has freed us from never-ending sacrifice.
But what distinction do we draw between sacrifice and offering? To sacrifice is to give up something of value, sometimes out of a sense of obligation or even fear. God’s people once thought that proper sacrifices would gain God’s favor or appease God’s anger. Some may have considered the sacrifice a bribe, an action intended to influence God. An offering, however, is a gift, freely and lovingly given. Embedded in every true offering is an element of sacrifice, and, in every sacrifice, an element of suffering. When we say the Apostles’ Creed, we affirm that Jesus “suffered under Pontius Pilate.” Perhaps it would be better to put a comma after “suffered.” Jesus’ sacrificial offering surely involved suffering on the cross. But before that ultimate sacrifice, he must have suffered when he looked on the injustice and pain of the world. That suffering was born of love, God’s sacrificial offering of love for the world. The One who has sacrificed and suffered for us sees our suffering—and sees us through it.
Holy and Perfect One, help me offer my life as a sacrifice to you, as you have given yourself for me. Amen.
Sometimes we can look back and see why challenging things happened to us, but this is not always the case. Job never fully understood his story but finally submitted his life to God in humility. In Job’s case, God restored with abundance. The psalmist also rejoices that although the righteous may suffer, God brings ultimate restoration. The reading from Hebrews continues celebrating Christ’s role as the compassionate high priest. Unlike human high priests, who serve only for a time, Christ remains our priest forever. A man without sight in Jericho knows of Jesus compassion and cries out for it, despite attempts to silence him. He asks Jesus for mercy, physical healing in his case, and Jesus granted his request because the man has displayed great faith.
• Read Job 42:1-6, 10-17. What are your happy and unhappy endings? How do you acknowledge both?
• Read Psalm 34:1-8, 19-22. When has an obstruction or impediment influenced your relationship with God?
• Read Hebrews 7:23-28. What distinction do you draw between sacrifice and offering? Which do you prefer?
• Read Mark 10:46-52. When have you been unable to see the blessing right in front of your eyes?
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