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The Rev. Charles Camlin: “Before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:46-59; Hebrews 9:11-15)

March 28, 2010

From the Rev. Charles Camlin of Holy Trinity REC in Virginia comes another excellent sermon, Before Abraham Was, I AM.  This sermon was preached for Passion Sunday, and is based on John 8:46-59 and Hebrews 9:11-15.   Fr. Camlin notes that “There are two primary subjects which we must consider together concerning Jesus Christ. The first of these is His Person—who exactly is Jesus? Second, it is His work—what exactly did He accomplish in His death and resurrection.”  I found this portion of his sermon on the second of these subjects to be edifying:

Now let us take that thought with us as we briefly consider our epistle lesson. Here St. Paul gives us a snapshot, if you will, of the entire redemptive work of Jesus Christ. In this one passage, His death, resurrection and ascension are all alluded to. Not only should Christ’s humanity and deity be held together, His entire work of redemption is to be held together as well. And the backdrop for this meditation upon Christ’s redemptive work is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement outlined in Leviticus 16. On that one day each year in the Hebrew calendar, the high priest would enter into the Holy of Holies on behalf of the people to offer up a sacrifice to obtain the covering of their sins for the year.

The Apostle picks up on this event and shows that the redemptive work of Jesus Christ is the culmination of the Day of Atonement—yea, even of all the sacrifices of the Old Testament. Look with me again at verses 11-12 of Hebrews 9: “But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” Here we have Jesus presented as a greater High Priest. What makes Him greater? The author argued earlier in this epistle that Jesus is a priest who is greater than Aaron, Moses’ brother, who was the first High Priest. In fact, He is a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek—the shadowy figure who met Abraham in Genesis 14. Here we would add the truths that we talked about earlier from the gospel. He is able to become a High Priest for us because He became like us in every way with the exception of sin. But because He was the Son of God, He is an eternal High Priest whose work is of eternal significance.

He is also a greater High Priest because He is High Priest of the “good things to come.” This is an allusion to the greater promises made concerning the New Covenant—promised in Jeremiah 31 and repeated in the 8th chapter of Hebrews. He is the High Priest of the New Covenant. And this greater High Priest entered into a greater Tabernacle. The High Priest in Israel was the only one who could enter into the Holy of Holies in the earthly Tabernacle, and then only one time each year. The picture given in our passage today is of Jesus Christ, after His crucifixion and resurrection, ascending into heaven. When He entered into heaven, He entered into the very presence of God through His blood. The High Priest under the Old Covenant entered only briefly and most certainly in fear of coming into the presence of a holy God in the earthly Tabernacle. But Jesus Christ entered into the heavenly Tabernacle and even sat down at the right hand of God. And it is there that He lives forever to make intercession for His people.

Fr. Camlin goes on to talk about the fact that not only is Christ a greater Priest, He also  offers a greater Sacrifice and a greater Covenant – not a bad meditation for Holy Week!

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