A Finished Work for Unfinished People

With the end of one year and the beginning of another, our thoughts often turn to remembering what was, and hoping for what might be. For me, 2021 was a year of hope and growth, after a hard 2020. We welcomed our fifth child, I started a good job, and we saw God work in our family in a wonderful way. Maybe your year went well, or maybe it was a year of struggle and pain. That is the nature of life in a fallen world. Relationships crumble, jobs go south, we experience pain (physical, emotional, and spiritual). Even in good times, we can experience times of anxiety, depression, and longing for something more, something different. In short, we are “unfinished.” We are not complete. We are broken people who long for wholeness.

In Hebrews chapter 10, a comparison is being made between the Old Testament sacrificial system and the sacrifice that Christ made at the cross. From verses 11-14, the author gives us truths that should warm the hearts of the hurting and struggling.

The insufficiency of human systems. In verse 11 we read “And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.” Imagine being part of ancient Israel during the time of King Solomon. Your family goes to the temple and you are blown away by the magnificence and beauty of the structure. You see the priests in their robes, and the gold-plated furniture. But then you get closer, and you see the blood. Everywhere. And the line of animals and people waiting for their turn to approach the altar, have the throat of their animal slit, blood spurting everywhere, and the flesh of the animal burned as a sacrifice. And you hear the word floating through the crowds. “Atonement.” It’s a powerful word. It’s a word that brings hope to the broken. Can my sins really be atoned for? Can someone like me really find justification? What Hebrews is reminding us of is that no slain animal could ever bring true atonement. The blood of animals cannot take away sins. No human system can. There is no price that I can pay for my atonement. The debt is too great, the burden too much, the guilt too clear. But the sacrificial system, with its blood, fire, and gore, was pointing forward to something else.

The total sufficiency of Christ’s singular sacrifice. In verse 12, the author tells us, “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God…” This is what every one of those bulls, goats, and sheep were pointing forward to. The “lamb of God, who would take away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). A few things here jump out. First, this was a willing sacrifice. There was no “divine child abuse” here. There was a perfect God who willingly “offered” Himself as a sacrifice for sin, thereby doing what no animal sacrifice could ever have accomplished. Second, it was a singular sacrifice. The imagery here is telling. In Solomon’s Temple, the priest’s work was never done. He labored and labored until his time of retirement came, and then he was replaced by the next guy. But when Christ offered Himself one time, He sat down. It was finished. The work of redemption was complete. No more blood. No more sacrifices.

The authority that followed Christ’s sacrifice. Verse 13 follows close after verse 12: “waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.” The singular sacrifice of Christ for our sins did not just accomplish our redemption, it also set in place the gradual gathering of kingdom authority in the person of Jesus Christ. It put the world on notice. All that brokenness you see around you? All the greed, violence, anger, hatred, fear, and pain? Temporary. A better world is coming. A better kingdom ruled by a greater king. For us who struggle, this brings hope. This world is not all there is. This world is a broken and defective version of the beauty that is to come.

The sanctifying promise of Christ’s sacrifice. Verse 13 tells us that “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” This is the beautiful promise of Christ’s sacrifice. As you live as a broken person in a broken world, do not lose hope. Christ’s sacrifice has not only purchased your redemption, but also your sanctification. For those of us who could not fathom the word “perfect” ever being associated with our name, this verse sheds light. Christ is at work in you. He will not leave you in your mess. He will take your brokenness, suffering, sin, and pain and redeem it. Bring from it the sanctification that makes us more like Jesus and prepares us for perfection in glory.

I don’t know what your circumstances are. I do know that this world is fallen, and we are fallen people who live in it. But there is hope. Christ has done what no person or thing could ever do. He has made a path of redemption, sanctification, and glorification open to anyone who will believe. If you have not turned to Him, will you? If you have turned to Him, know that your future is in His hands, and that you can trust Him with your future. There is no promise here of an easy life, but rather a promise of a life that brings glory to the One who made you, and a promise that every event of your life will move you toward the moment when you will stand before Him, complete…finished.