Our Lord knew all that was set before him in his entire mission in the world—his incarnation, life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension. The crux of this mission was to be his death on the cross at Calvary—“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1.15).
In the events leading up to his crucifixion, Jesus underwent so much pain and humiliation, until the worst of it all, that was in his being forsaken by God when he became the sin-offering for his people, when he laid down his life for us (Isaiah 53; 2 Corinthians 5.21; Hebrews 9.24-28, 1 John 3.16). Yet we are taught that he looked forward with joy to enduring all that was set before him, and that he delighted to go through the death of the cross (Psalms 40.6-8; Hebrews 12.2).
Stop and think.
Why was this death of Christ “the will of God”? What was the joy that was set before Jesus, that he would arrive at by way of his being put to death?
It was the sacrifice that put into force the covenant of grace.
And for our Saviour to walk this way was our his own will too (Luke 9.51; 18.31-34; Heb 10.5-10). Indeed, it was his Testament.
“For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.1 For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth…It was therefore necessary that the patterns [i.e. the Tabernacle, its furnishings, and the ceremonies] of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices2 than these. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9.13-17,23-26; see also Luke 22.20; 1 Corinthians 11:25; Hebrews 7.22).
Our Saviour’s sacrifice of himself has accomplished our redemption, our salvation. The Covenant of Grace, the New Testament, has been put into force by his shed blood. Our salvation was the joy that was set before Jesus; and that joy is still his, while he sits at the right hand of God, interceding for us there (Psalms 110.1; Hebrews 1.3; 8.1; 12.2; Romans 8.34; Revelation 5.1-7).
Christ’s first disciples should have known what was coming, but they had “understood none of these things” (Luke 18.34). That was why they were so sorrowful at his crucifixion. But they would not remain sorrowful, because what the Lord promised them came true after his resurrection and his revealing himself to them again: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. …and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you” (John 16.20-22).
After his resurrection, the Lord Jesus came to his disciples again and enabled them to understand what he had been teaching them all along—that this was the fulfilment of so many Messianic prophecies. “And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24.44-48).
Similarly, there were two disciples who returned to Emmaus with sad disappointment, because thay had trusted that their “prophet mighty in deed and word” “should have redeemed Israel” (Luke 24.13,19,21). But he had just been condemned to death, and so they were going home. Then, along the way, they had a visitation from this same Prophet (Deuteronomy 18.15; John 1.1), after he had risen again.
Their risen Saviour first revealed himself to them through “Moses, and all the prophets” as the Messiah who would, and has now, suffered these things and entered into his glory, before he permitted them to recognise his Person. It was with increasing joy of Scriptural comprehension and belief that their hearts burned within them, while he talked with them by the way, and opened to them these Scriptures (v.13-32).
This same joy is ours when we find that we believe in this Man of Sorrows. For when the Lord “put him to grief,” he bore our griefs: “he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53.1-12). This is the ultimate healing of all the harm done by the broken covenant of works and by our own sins—this is the healing that makes us a “new creature,” and with it comes God’s blessing us with “all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (2 Cor,5.17; Ephesians 1.3).
This is the great salvation that we rejoice in, when we affirm our faith in “the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2.20).
The New Testament Greek word διαθήκη (diathēkē) can be translated as “covenant” or “testament” (Strong’s Concordance, Greek Dictionary, word #1242). In the context of Hebrews 9 it is more appropriate to translate it as testament with Christ as its testator, than as covenant with Christ as the covenanter, seeing that it was his death that put the New Testament (New Covenant) into force (Hebrews 9.17). ↩︎
This passage in Hebrews affirms that the “heavenly things themselves” should be purified with “better sacrifices” (plural) than the animal sacrifices that “paterns of things in the heavens” were purified with in the Old Testament (Hebrews 9.23). The old, ceremonial purification began with the blood of sprinkling by the hand of Moses when he said “This is the blood of the testament” (v.20). The fact that only oxen are mentioned as being sacrified by Moses in Exodus 24 shows us that the author of Hebrews, who mentions “calves and goats” (v.19), has both this initiation of the Old Testament by Moses and also the repeated ceremonials in the Law of Moses (e.g. Leviticus 9) and especially the yearly Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16).) Seeing that all such animal sacrifices can never take away sins (See Hebrews 9.13; 10.4), better sacrifies were needed that actually could, and would, take away sins. Now, there is only one such sacrifice, and that was of our Saviour, the “Lamb of God” (John 1.29). And that is why the author of Hebrews immediately goes on to explain and emphasise why, when “better sacrifies” (plural) were needed—indeed a fulfilment of the entire Mosaic system of animal sacrifices—the one sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ himself has fulfilled and accomplished all the putting away of our sins (Hebrews 9.24-28). And so there is no need whatsoever for anything else, whether of re-establishment animal sacrifies in any restored Jewish temple, or of re-presentations of Christ’s one sacrifice in the totally-unnecessary “sacrifice of the mass” of the Roman Catholics. ↩︎