Have you ever made shadow puppets on the wall? The shadows on the wall takes the shape of your hands. My children like to do this by making shapes of a bird, camel, turtle or rabbit. They can do it for hours.
In a similar fashion the law of God that was given to Moses was but a shadow (v.1). It represented something greater, particularly something that was to come.
“The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” – Hebrews 10:1-4, ESV
Today there is no longer a need for animal sacrifices. Animal sacrifices were never met to be a permanent solution for man’s sin problem (v.11). The people knew that an animal sacrifice couldn’t be an equal substitute for another persons sin (vs.2-4) Thus Jesus came to earth, lived a sinless life and became the adequate substitute and sacrifice for sin. His sacrifice does away with once and for all the sacrificial system of the law (vs.5-10, 12-14). He is the eternal sacrifice.
“Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” – Hebrews 10:11-14, ESV
The mind-blowing truth is that Jesus forgives sins completely (v.12), perfectly (v.14), and eternally (v.18). Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is the reason there is no longer a need for daily or yearly sacrifices made by human priests. Jesus makes true and lasting forgiveness possible. And he writes the law on the hearts and minds of men (vs. 15-16).
Questions for Reflection:
- What kind of sacrifices were offered under the law?
- Why was a greater sacrifice needed than was provided under the law?
- How can we discern when old ways are superior and when they are inferior? What are some good criteria for evaluating new versus old?
- The Jews saw human sacrifice as a pagan abomination. How might this attitude have affected their response to the idea of Jesus as the sacrifice for their sins?
- In our culture animal sacrifice is abhorrent, and human sacrifice even worse. How do you think that affects a modern person who reads Hebrews to understand what Jesus did?
- How does Jesus’ complete sacrifice on the cross affect the way you live your life daily?
- How might your life be different if the old covenant and the old way of sacrifice were still in effect today?
- How does the phrase “I will remember their sin no more” give you encouragement to walk in freedom from sin today?