Second Reading: Hebrews 10:5-10
The Reason Christ Came
5 When Jesus came into the world, he said:
“God, you don’t want the sacrifices that the priests
Instead, you prepared my body as an offering.
6 You think burned up offerings or sacrifices for sin are worthless.
7 Then I said, “Look, God! I came to do your will,’ just like it says about me in the Bible.
8 Above it says, “God, you do not want the sacrifices that the priests offer in the Temple or their burned up offerings and sacrifices for sin. You think they’re all worthless.” 9 Then, he said “I came to do your will.” He took away the first kind with all their many sacrifices and replaced it with a second kind based on his willingness to do what God wants. 10 And, according to God’s will, we have been made holy through the body of Jesus Christ once for all!
5 On which account, (Christ) having come into the world, he says,
“Sacrifice and offerings you did not want, but a body you
prepared for me;
6 you do not think well
of whole burnt offerings and (those offerings) concerning sins.
7 Then I said, ‘Look, I come,’
(as) it is written about me in the roll of the book,
‘to do your will, God.’
8 Saying above that ‘sacrifices and offerings’ and ‘whole burnt offerings and (those offerings) concerning sins you do not want and do not think well of,’ which according to the Law they offered, 9 ‘then’ he said, ‘Look! I come to do your will,’ He takes away the first (order) so that the second (order) might stand. 10 In whose will we have been made holy through the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
10:5-7 These verses were a loose adaption of Psalm 40:6-8 (RSV):
Sacrifice and offering thou dost not desire;
but thou hast given me an open ear.
Burnt offering and sin offering
thou hast not required.
Then I said, “Lo, I come;
in the roll of the book it is written of me;
I delight to do thy will, O my God;
thy law is within my heart.”
The author put the words of the psalmist into the mouth of Jesus. And, the author made two changes to the psalm verse. First, “thou hast given me an open ear” became “a body you prepared for me.” For the author, the body of Christ was the instrument of sacrifice.
Second, “Lo, I come; I delight to do thy will, O my God” was shortened to “Look, I come to do your will, God.” The verb “delight” was dropped to give the speaker a sense of mission. Instead of enjoying doing God’s will (i.e., fulfilling the Law), the speaker now just simply sought to do God’s will. With these changes, the author highlighted the difference between the sacrifices at the Temple and self-offering of Christ on the cross.
As the feast of Christmas approaches, we may be tempted to overlook the most important question about the season. Why did Jesus come?
With a little creative editing, the author of Hebrews tried to answer that question. But his answer was in the context of his vision. The author placed the adapted verse from Psalm 40 into his outlook on righteous worship. More to the point, worship acceptable to God.
The author shared a world view common to his contemporaries. The home of God was the heavens (reflected in the sky); the home of humanity was the earth. To appease or align themselves to God (or their idea of a god), people would create ceremonies and build temples that duplicated what they thought was the worship and structure of heaven. When King Herod had the Second Temple rebuilt in the time of Jesus and the early Church, he and the builders tried to capture sense of heaven in the building itself. When the priests in the Temple offered sacrifice, they strove to do so as if they were before the Almighty himself. But about the time the author wrote the letter to the Hebrews, the Romans destroyed the Temple and reduced Jerusalem to rubble. With the Temple gone, Jews and Jewish Christians mourned. The Temple was nothing more than a pile of stones and the priesthood was scattered. Critics might have called the worship in the Temple a failure.
The author picked up on that criticism to advance his vision of Christ, the eternal High Priest. The priesthood of Aaron was a failure, because it was repetitive and ineffective. But the Christ came to offer his body as a way to do God’s will. The author framed Psalm 40:6-8 as an opposition between the old and the new, so that he could justify his claim. We are saved by Christ when he said “Yes” to God and offered himself up.
Why did Christ come? To say “Yes” to God and to offer himself to the Father. He came to show us how we can do the same. And to give us the power to do just that.
How have you tried to do God’s will this Christmas season? What was the result?