Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sermon for 11/4/12

Sermon “Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant” Open our hearts and minds to you, Lord of the covenant, that we may know the grace you have bestowed on us, giving your great and precious promises. This we pray in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. As with all our Bible readings, there were quite a few sermons asking to be preached today. It’s always exciting to see what the Lord would have us ponder whenever we open our Bibles. And I hope you take our readings and ponder them on your own, asking the Lord to speak through His Holy Word on a daily basis, renewing your hearts and minds. Today we’re brought to the message of God’s covenant love. This idea of a covenant comes from Old Testament customs. At the time of Abram, probably about 1500 B.C., some 3500 years ago, this custom of sealing a covenant was well established. In the ancient cultures of his time, rulers who were making a treaty would take a variety of sacrificial animals, divide them in half, make a pathway between them, then walk down the pathway together. The ground and the animals were spattered with blood. By the end of their walk, the rulers would be wet with the blood of the sacrificial animals. The smell of death was all around them. In this ceremony both of the rulers would pledge that if they were to break their agreement, their covenant, they themselves should be put to death, just like the sacrificial animals they had killed. We find a covenant like this sealed in Genesis chapter 15. If you have a Bible handy, you might want to look at this passage, in Genesis 15. God has promised Abram a son who would be his heir, who would inherit the great land of promise, who would be great, and who would be a blessing to all nations. There’s just one problem. Abram is old. He has no children. When God repeats his promise to Abram he asks how he will know that the promise will be for him. God sets up a sacrifice. Abram is to bring sacrificial animals, but he is not to pass between them. During the night, the LORD tells Abram more about his future. Then the LORD himself passes between the animals, but he doesn’t allow Abram to do so. By doing this God has said clearly, for all time, that if he fails to keep his promise he is no longer God, he deserves to be torn apart and put to death. By preventing Abram from passing through this sacrifice he says that Abram cannot and will not keep the promise. He keeps Abram from convicting himself. Over the generations the nation of Israel grew. They continued making the sacrifices that God had appointed. And these sacrifices did bring forgiveness. The people were sprinkled with the blood of their sacrifices. This sprinkling cleansed the people of God. Yet it would not have any effect except that Jesus came to pass between the sacrifices on our behalf. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, as we read in Hebrews chapter 9, passed through death, “by his own blood” (v. 12, NIV84), bringing us eternal forgiveness. Jesus himself took the place of Abram. He took the place of Moses. He took your place, he took my place. He walked through the valley of death, the passageway between the parts of the dead animals, representing you and me, acting as our mediator. What is a mediator? Before we get ahead of ourselves I think we’d better make this clear. A mediator is, strictly speaking, a middle-man. It is the person who represents one person to another and that other person to the first person. It’s sort of like a messenger, but it is normally a messenger who has authority agreed on by both people to represent their points of view. Often in modern days a mediator is a lawyer who speaks for a client who is unable to be present, then speaks back to the client about the other party’s needs and desires. We see in this passage of Scripture that Jesus is our mediator. He is the one who works on our behalf, taking our needs before God and bringing God’s answer back to us. He is the one who walks between the sacrifices for Abram and for us. So what is the critical factor in this event? How does the author of Hebrews see it? Jesus, our priest, the one who makes sacrifice on our behalf, the one who stands for us, enters God’s presence pleading for us. But just as we have confessed, we have a problem. Jesus is like the lawyer who is coming to the judge on behalf of someone who has committed a terrible crime, one with plenty of evidence for conviction, and who has confessed that crime. What response does the judge have for us when we plead guilty of our crimes? He may commend us for our honesty. He may even thank us for coming clean. But someone has to go to jail. The penalty stands. We are guilty. The penalty of our guilt before God? As we know from Romans chapter 6 verse 23, sin receives death. We are guilty. We deserve present and eternal death. What will we do? How do we receive forgiveness? All the offerings we can make, all the sacrifices we can make, all the penalties we can pay are of no use. Someone has to die. And it looks a lot like that someone is you. It looks a lot like that someone is me. Really? Just for those “little” sins? Yes. There is no sin that is too small to convict us. There is no failure before God which goes unnoticed. Our Lord is perfect. In Matthew chapter 5 he demands that we should be perfect, just like him. Ezekiel chapter 18 tells us that the soul who sins must die. So what are we going to do? Go cry without stopping until we die? That won’t do us much good, will it? In fact, it will do us no good. There is nothing we can do of our own accord that will stop the penalty of God. He kept his promise made to Abram. He remains the true God and is not condemned. The good news in all this is that Jesus did walk down that path for us. He passed between the sacrificial animals, and he did it for us. He did it for you, he did it for me, he did it for every single man, woman, and child ever born in this world. And by doing that he stands before God as a mediator of the new covenant. He pleads before the Father that we should not be torn apart, but that he should instead. He asks the Father that our sins should be laid upon him. He asks the Father that all the sacrifices anybody had ever made should be replaced by his perfect sacrifice and that he may end it all, taking our penalty upon himself. Someone has to die. Jesus, our mediator, begs that he should be the one who dies for us. Jesus, then, is the mediator of a new covenant. He is the mediator of a covenant that is completed. He is the one who has finished the work of our forgiveness. He is the one who has wiped away all our sin, all the sin we have ever committed, all the sin we will ever commit, all our sins of commission, what we have done, all our sins of omission, what we have left undone. He has taken it all upon himself. He has died for your sin and for my sin. He has become sin for us, according to 2 Corinthians 5, so that we could become God’s righteousness. And how did he do that? He did it by having his body broken for you and for me. He did it by having his blood shed for you and for me. He has sprinkled us with the blood of his covenant, he has brought us forgiveness, life, and salvation, to as many as believe him. Do you come today with a guilty conscience before God? Jesus has taken all your sin. Do you come today with a burden of sin? Jesus has taken it away from you. Do you come today doubting whether God keeps his promises? Jesus has fulfilled all righteousness, keeping all the promises of God. Do you wonder whether this work of Jesus is for you? He has given us his true body and his true blood, whenever we gather in his name and receive his gifts of grace in communion. And this gift is for you and for me, for as many as believe that he died for us. Jesus gives you life! He is the mediator of the new covenant! As we read in 1 Peter chapter 5, let us cast our cares on him. He cares for us. When we gather to receive communion, when I raise the bread and the cup, join with me in trusting that his body is broken for you and his blood is shed for you. When you receive our Savior in your mouth, trust that he is here, as he said in John chapter 6, to give you true food and true drink that will last for eternity. Trust in our Lord Jesus Christ with me. He is the mediator of the new covenant, a covenant in his blood, which will wash you from all your sin. (2 Cor. 13.14, NIV) Now may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all, amen.

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