GOSPEL, FIRST READING & PSALM TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
So Jesus has taken one of the laws of Moses from Deuteronomy and one of the laws of Moses from Leviticus, put them together, these are the two greatest commandments, to love your neighbor as yourself.
Now in this case, why does he do that? Well already by the First Century A.D., in Judaism there's a recognition that these two commandments, love of God and love of neighbor, in a sense summarize the two tablets of the Decalogue of the 10 Commandments. So if you look at the first three Commandments, prohibition of idolatry, against taking the Lord's name in vain, and then keeping the Sabbath, those all are commandments oriented toward love of God. Then the second tablet of the 10 Commandments, honoring your father and mother, not killing, not committing adultery, not stealing, not bearing false witness, not coveting your neighbors possessions or wife, all those Commandments are oriented toward love of neighbor. So what Jesus is essentially doing is boiling the 10 Commandments, distilling them down to their essence and their core, and then linking those cores to two passages of Scripture: Deuteronomy 6, love of God, which they would pray three times a day, and then Leviticus 19, love of neighbor, which was not part of that liturgical prayer but which he's bringing to the fore here...
...I would just say that this practice of memorizing Scripture, of putting Scripture into our hearts, is something that is very ancient and it’s also something very powerful, because when you recite words like that three times a day they’re going to actually shape the way you see reality, the way you live each day. It's hard to live in opposition to God and at the same time recite three times a day to love God with all your heart, all your strength, all your soul, right. Does it make sense? Invariably too, when people start to live lives of disobedience, the first thing to go is prayer. The first thing to go is daily prayer. You can just trust me. You can put money on that. Take that to the bank. That's how it works, because prayer is that living relationship of love with God. Once the relationship starts to dwindle the prayer goes, and especially daily prayer, that’s the first place to go, and then disobedience becomes more and more easy to carry out.
SECOND READING TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
The second point — and this is so crucial — in verse 25, it’s because He has this everlasting priesthood that doesn’t stop… He doesn’t stop being a priest after He’s raised from the dead. He doesn’t stop being a priest after He ascends into the heavenly sanctuary, after He ascends into the heavenly temple. Because of this (this verse is so crucial), “consequently” — whenever you see that in Scripture, pay attention, because it means as a result of everything I’ve said before, it follows that:
Consequently he is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25)
What does that mean? This is so crucial. It means that the priesthood of Jesus Christ and the sacrificial offering of Jesus Christ does not cease on Good Friday. It doesn’t cease with His death on Calvary. He continues to exercise His high priestly sacrifices, His offering of Himself for all time as the heavenly high priest and the minister of a sanctuary that is not of this world. That’s why people can continue to draw near to God through Him, because He’s still acting as a mediator. He didn’t just say “the people who happen to be alive” when He was crucified and raised from the dead in the first century. He continues to act as high priest on behalf of humanity for all eternity. He has an eternal priesthood. It’s not like the men of the Aaronic priesthood who, when they die, would cease to function as priests. His is everlasting because of the mystery of His passion, His death, His resurrection, and His ascension. He lives forever. So crucial.
Now, one reason that is important, that He’s able for all time to save those who draw near to God through Him (to act as a mediator) is because in these next verses, we’re going to have one of the texts that is frequently used against the Catholic theology of the Mass as a sacrifice — which we’re not going to go into depth in this particular video. We’re going to come back to that later in Hebrews, we’ll return to it. But one of the passages that will frequently be used against that doctrine is verse 27. So if you keep going, listen to what it says:
For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners, exalted above the heavens.
Exalted where? Not into the Holy of Holies, not into an earthly throne of David in Jerusalem, but exalted above
the heavens. That means He enters into eternity. He enters into the supernatural realm, not of the heavens (like the skies) but above the heavens where God dwells. Therefore:
He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did this once for all when he offered up himself.
Okay, pause there. When Hebrews says that Jesus was offered once for all, the Greek word there is ephapax
. Now this term… it can be translated in different ways. It has different connotations. It can
mean “once and never again” — once and for all. If you say… I can’t think of an English way to say this, but if we say “once and for all”, we can mean “I’ve done this and I’m never going to do it again… once and never again.” But it can also mean — ephapax
in Greek — once and for all time. In other words, I’ve done this once and its effects (or this event) continues; it endures.
So, as we’re going to see a little later on in Hebrews, this verse will be used by some of the Protestant reformers — like Martin Luther, for example — to argue that the Mass (the Eucharist) cannot be a sacrifice, because Jesus died once and for all. In other words, there was one sacrifice. It happened on Calvary, and there can be no more sacrifice after that one time event.
Now in a certain sense, that’s true. Jesus is going to die in His human nature. He’s going to pour out His blood on Calvary once and never again — ephapax
. From an earthly perspective, that’s true. However, Hebrews isn’t just talking here about what happened on Earth. In context, what meaning has the author of Hebrews suggested to us? Well, if you want to understand what he means by ephapax
in 7:27, you might want to read it in light of 7:25, because he has also just said:
Consequently he is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
So in His priestly role as mediator and intercessor, He is continuing that process not once and never again, but once and for eternity, because He’s a heavenly high priest. He is a heavenly mediator.
So this is a classic example of a good old-fashioned Catholic both/and. So they’re both true. On the one hand, from an earthly perspective, Jesus offers Himself on Calvary once and never again. He’s not going to die a bloody death ever again — He does that once and for all time, never again. However, as a high priest who takes the sacrificial offering of Himself on Calvary, lifts up His human nature in the resurrection, and then brings it into the eternal heavenly sanctuary, Christ is also going to offer Himself once and for all time as a high priest who has been:
… exalted above the heavens.
Who has entered into eternity to act as a mediator, not just for those who wanted to draw near to God through Him in the first century, but until the end of time. And you can see this (if you keep going) in verse 28:
Indeed, the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect for ever.
The Greek word there, eis ton aiōna
— think here if you know Latin, like in the Glory Be to God… Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and the Holy Spirit. At the end of the prayer in Latin, we’ll say in saecula saeculorum
— a world without end or unto the ages or forever. That’s the Greek expression here. Now what does that mean, He’s been made perfect forever? Well, the Greek word here “made perfect” — teleioo
— as I mentioned elsewhere, isn’t just a word that’s used to describe something being made flawless. It’s also the ancient Greek term for ordaining a priest.
So for example, in the book of Exodus 29, when Aaron and his sons are ordained, they are teleioo
-ed. They are made perfect. They’re completed; they’re made complete through the act of being consecrated as priests. So the very fact that Hebrews is saying in 7:28 that Jesus is ordained forever or made perfect forever or made a priest forever implies that He’s going to offer sacrifice not just on Calvary but in Heaven. He is offering Himself to God the Father not just once and for all, in a sense of once and never again, but once and for all eternity. This is a totally new kind of priesthood, in other words. What Hebrews is revealing here is that the priesthood of Jesus Christ and the sacrificial offering of Christ … although it takes place in time and in history, isn’t bound by time and history because He takes that offering up into eternity as the high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
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