Second Reading: Hebrews 10:11-14

The Power of the One Sacrifice

Popular Translation

11 Day after day, a Jewish priest stood before the altar in the Temple. He offered the same sacrifices to God that could not forgive any sins. 12 But, Jesus offered one sacrifice on the cross that wipes away sins forever. Now he sits besides God 13 and waits for the end of time when he will destroy his enemies. 14 For, when Jesus gave himself to God, he completely removed sin from believers. He will bring these people to live with God forever.

Literal Translation

11 On the one hand, every priest has stood (before an altar) serving daily and frequently offering the same sacrifices which are not capable to lift away sins, 12 but, on the other hand, this (ONE), having offered a single sacrifice on behalf of sins into eternity, sat at the right (hand) of God, 13 left waiting until (his) enemies might be set (as) his footstool for his feet. 14 For, in a single offering, he has made perfect (those) being sanctified into eternity.

10:13 “until (his) enemies might be set (as) his stool for his feet” This is a Semitic idea of contempt. If you have seen an footage from the Middle East in the past few years, you may have noticed people banging their shoes on picturers of their enemies. Or, dancing on images of their enemies. The English phrase “beneath contempt” communicates the idea of damnation found in this verse.

In these verses, the author of Hebrews concluded his exposition about sacrifice. As he did before, the author compared the earthly cult of the Temple in Jerusalem with the heavenly worship of Jesus which began on the cross. Both types of sacrifice were continuous. The earthly cult offered the same sacrifices over and over. In this sense, it was impotent, for it could not affect what it asked: reconciliation and intimacy with God. The heavenly cult of Jesus was also continuous, but in a different sense. The death of Jesus on the cross was a one time event. But the reality of that event, found in the risen body of the Lord, would live forever.

To truly appreciate the thinking in Hebrews, we must once again see what kept people from a lasting, intimate relationship with God: death. The earthly cult of the Temple could never overcome death. This was why it could not take away the cause of death: sin. But, with the death and resurrection of Jesus, death itself was destroyed and, by extension, its cause.

Belief in the Risen Lord connected one to his eternal life. With such life now a reality, the author looked forward to the destruction of those who aligned themselves with sin and death (i.e., non-believers). These would be the enemies “as a stool under his feet.”

Some might mock us for our trust in someone who died two millennia ago. This was the same scepticism that Jewish-Christians faced when they held onto their faith in the face of the destruction of the Temple. The gloomy outlook of the world, critics claim, is enough to argue against faith. Believers, however, view the outlook AS a reason for faith. We reach out to the One beyond us, because the world is not enough. And he gives us true, everlasting life.

The world viewed the cross as death. We see it as life.

Have you had an experience with death and destruction? How has such an experience challenged or strengthened your faith?