1 The old plan was only a hint of the good things in the new plan. Since that old “law plan” wasn’t complete in itself, it couldn’t complete those who followed it. No matter how many sacrifices were offered year after year, they never added up to a complete solution. 2 If they had, the worshipers would have gone merrily on their way, no longer dragged down by their sins. 3 But instead of removing awareness of sin, when those animal sacrifices were repeated over and over they actually heightened awareness and guilt. 4 The plain fact is that bull and goat blood can’t get rid of sin. 5 That is what is meant by this prophecy, put in the mouth of Christ: You don’t want sacrifices and offerings year after year; you’ve prepared a body for me for a sacrifice. 6 It’s not fragrance and smoke from the altar that whet your appetite. 7 So I said, “I’m here to do it your way, O God, the way it’s described in your Book.” 8 When he said, “You don’t want sacrifices and offerings,” he was referring to practices according to the old plan. 9 When he added, “I’m here to do it your way,” he set aside the first in order to enact the new plan – 10 God’s way – by which we are made fit for God by the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus. [The Message]
1 Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who approach. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased being offered, since the worshipers, cleansed once for all, would no longer have any consciousness of sin? 3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin year after year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; 6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. 7 Then I said, “See, God, I have come to do your will, O God’ (in the scroll of the book it is written of me).” 8 When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), 9 then he added, “See, I have come to do your will.” He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. 10 And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. [NRSV]
In the Old Testament, the practice of offering God animals has shown conflicting reviews rather than answers and faithfulness.
On one hand, from earliest of stories, [Gen. 4], it is Cain and Able bring offerings to God. Cain is the farmer brings grains that he has plucked, baked or even brewed and God declares that his gift is pleasing and appropriate. Able is the herdsman brings an animal that he has butchered and brazed or barbecued and God declares that Able’s gift is dis-pleasing and inappropriate.
Able’s response to doing what God does not approve or displeased God leaves Able hurt, disappointed, feeling rejected and after internalizing all this, he becomes angry and seek revenge on Cain.. who is later killed by Able. There is a great mis-placed and mis-directed response of Able to go after Cain. Feeling rejected for doing what displease God, Able feels Cain has showed him up. Cain didn’t bring grain to make Able look bad. Able didn’t necessarily know God would be please or dis-pleased.
God makes it clear. I don’t want your animal, Able I. A nice wool sweater would be just fine or some goat cheese. Rather than Able asking God, for instructions or help or forgiveness. Able seeks revenge and resolution by his own judgment. This is his sin. (Not so much bringing the wrong gift.)
What does God want from us this Palm Sunday? Do we need to be waving palm branches high in the air? Is that what God wants from us? Maybe, but probably not if we leave the leaves by the way-side and resume speaking ill of each other. God is probably not pleased if we are interested in getting even with those who hurt us. God is not so happy when we kill someone’s spirit and joy. God is not happy when we don’t learn from our mistakes.
The Old Testament gets confusing, because several generations later sacrificing animals becomes the focal point of seasonal celebrations for God’s people. Did God suddenly change the rules and expectations? The grain, oil, perfume offerings along with the fellowship of sharing meals seems to be approved by God. The next thing you know there is an entire priestly family clan and tradition with rules that are kosher or not. There are offerings of animals for the community, the family and the individual.
Later the people are exiled in foreign lands and cannot come to the temple to worship and the animal sacrifice seems to be the exception and not the rule.
Jesus comes along and becomes the final passover lamb sacrifice that God finds pleasing.. this is my son, listen to him.
In the letter to the Hebrews, God is saying, I’ve come not only to complete my part of the work, I’m going to do it from your perspective. Jesus becomes for us the sacrifice that we need. Jesus becomes our bridge to the no-where we have created out of our sin and detachment from God.
If you look back to the Gen 4 passage, God neither asked for an offering, nor gives any instruction. Only after seeing how we respond, does he correct Able. God doesn’t want us to fix what we cannot repair.
God does not want us to play God’s part in the drama of our own lives.
God doesn’t need our blood, God has given us that life in the first place.
What does God expect, want, need, ask of us? “See I have come to do your will.”
God wants us to trust God’s system
God wants us to follow God’s lead
God wants us to ask for help and direction
God wants us to come to God first and not after we’ve tried all our other options..
But hear the Good News! God has a preference for our life. God has patience for us to find God, if we will patiently continue to seek God.
So often, we try something once or twice, if we fail we give up on it.
Try asking for help again.
Try reading the scripture with a fresh set of questions.
Try coming to the table and finding an invitation, even though we have not done what was asked.
God will teach, correct and straighten out our brokenness.. that may not be pretty no easy.
But don’t give up, Don’t judge or get even with those who have found faithfulness
God doesn’t want our bull, God wants us. Not a stand-in or replacement. God stand in the way of sin, to find us where we are.
Don’t hurt our sister or brother, just because we are able.
Easter is about raising cain… and raising all of us.
So celebrate! Now and through the Maundy and the darkness of Friday… Sunday is coming. Don’t’ give up now.