The Real Thing
For twenty years I lived in a town just south of Atlanta, Georgia, which gave me a deep appreciation for a man named Asa Candler. Candler was the founder of a soft drink company known as Coca-Cola, but what many people don’t know is that he was a generous philanthropist who donated millions of dollars to Emory University and what later became the Candler School of Theology, a Methodist seminary. I am a blessed recipient of that generosity, as Candler was where I attended seminary. To borrow a slogan from Coke, Asa Candler was the “real thing” when it came to giving generously.
In our reading today, we see a well-articulated treatise on why the world should accept Christ as the real thing when it comes to the sacrificial messiah that God had promised, and the prophets had foretold. Prior to Jesus’ arrival, animal sacrifices were made in an attempt to blot out one’s sins and transgressions. But the best that could happen was that the animal blood “covered” the sin but could not erase the sin … thus the adherence to the Law that required such sacrifice was only a shadow-form of a much greater atonement yet to come. It needed to be repeated once a year, thus proving its inefficiency in actually making sin go away.
Hebrews 10:1-10 (Common English Bible)
10 The Law is a shadow of the good things that are coming, not the real things themselves. It never can perfect the ones who are trying to draw near to God through the same sacrifices that are offered continually every year. 2 Otherwise, wouldn’t they have stopped being offered? If the people carrying out their religious duties had been completely cleansed once, no one would have been aware of sin anymore. 3 Instead, these sacrifices are a reminder of sin every year, 4 because it’s impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
5 Therefore, when he comes into the world he says, You didn’t want a sacrifice or an offering,
but you prepared a body for me; 6 you weren’t pleased with entirely burned offerings or a sin offering.
7 So then I said,
“Look, I’ve come to do your will, God.
This has been written about me in the scroll.”
8 He says above, You didn’t want and you weren’t pleased with a sacrifice or an offering or with entirely burned offerings or a purification offering, which are offered because the Law requires them.
9 Then he said, Look, I’ve come to do your will. He puts an end to the first to establish the second. 10 We have been made holy by God’s will through the offering of Jesus Christ’s body once for all.
Beginning in verse 5, the writer recalled a time when Christ quoted Psalm 40:6-8 and drew out the validation of his own sacrifice on the cross as the final and complete offering for the sins of the world. “Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—I have come to do your will, my God.” Jesus made the case that God never desired burnt sacrifices and sin offerings from humanity, but rather a heart that was obedient and redeemed by the shed blood of the real atonement of his crucifixion.
Obedience versus shallow offerings is the lesson for us today. When you offer your time, talent, and tithe, do you do so out of a sense of obligation, or as an act of obeisance? Do you mentally calculate the cost of your service and your witness before you respond? Do you nitpick the “law” regarding Christian behavior or are you all in?
The book of Hebrews is a study in why Christ was the ultimate offering on our behalf, and it calls us to respond accordingly. We acknowledge that Jesus was indeed the “real thing” and recognize that his death and resurrection means that our response as Christ followers should be just as real and meaningful.
Ponder this today as you go about your routines. Is God calling you to “get real” about your behaviors, attitudes, actions, and thoughts? Jesus gave it all on the cross. May we do likewise.
Jesus went all in, too.