The Priest Who Sacrifices Himself
“If the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”- Hebrews 9:13–14
In our study of Mark’s gospel, we are currently in the middle of Mark’s account of the crucifixion of Jesus. For centuries, Christian theologians have recognized that the cross and the events associated with it give us one of the clearest revelations of God and His purposes in salvation, for at the cross we see the atonement, the very purpose for which Christ came. So that we will better understand the identity of our Savior and His work, we are taking a short break from our study of the gospel of Mark to consider what the various names of Jesus tell us about Him. Dr. R.C. Sproul’s teaching series The Names of Jesus will guide our study.
In Scripture, names are key for understanding a person’s identity. Very often in biblical history, God gave important figures new names to signify their role. For example, the Lord changed Abram’s name to Abraham, which means “father of the multitude” or “father of the people,” in order to confirm that he would be the patriarch with innumerable descendants (Gen. 17:5). In the case of Jesus, we find not that God changed His given name but that He gave His Son many names, all of which give us insight into Christ’s person and work.
One of the most significant of these names is priest or high priest. The book of Hebrews offers the most extended description of Christ as our priest, the background of which is the work of the old covenant priesthood. Integral to the work of the old covenant priests, of course, was the offering up of various sacrifices. The book of Leviticus is our most important source for the old covenant sacrificial system, and it covers the many sacrifices God provided for His people so that they could maintain covenant fellowship with Him when they sinned. Of these sacrifices, perhaps none was more important than the sacrifice the high priest offered on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16) for the sins of the entire nation.
Whether we are talking about the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement for the nation or the daily sacrifices offered for specific individuals under the old covenant, the book of Hebrews emphasizes their inadequacy. They had to be repeated again and again because they could not purify the conscience or offer full atonement for sin. That was left to the sacrifice of our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ, who offered Himself as the final, perfect sacrifice of atonement (Heb. 9–10). Christ’s offering of Himself fulfilled all the sacrifices that came before Him and purified His people forever (9:13–14).
Other religions besides biblical Christianity tend to prescribe methods for individuals to atone for their sins. Biblical Christianity stands apart in saying that we cannot atone for our sins. But it also says that Christ has offered the perfect atonement for our transgressions. As we repent, let us remember that Christ has offered full atonement for our sin and that all glory goes to Him for paying the price we owe for our wickedness.
Passages for Further Study
1 Peter 1:17–19