Sometimes the most basic of all spiritual questions are the ones that are the most difficult to answer. We have to resist the urge the answer deep questions with shallow answers. Our text for Sunday is Hebrews 9.18-28
19When Moses had proclaimed every commandment of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. 20He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.” 21In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. 22In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. 23It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
So much truth in so few verses. The author of Hebrews reminds us of the importance of the second coming of Christ, to bring our full salvation. The author explains the difference between the “once for all” sacrifice of Christ and the “again and again” sacrifices of the old covenant. The author refers to the purifying nature of the sacrifices, a unique element of Jewish sacrifices for the culture around them knew nothing of the purifying effect of the blood sacrifice.
But I am drawn to verse 22, where the amazing principle is stated with such clarity: “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.”
Like our Heavenly Father, I too am a father. I have three children, and they occasionally sin. When one of my children come to me and confess their sin, what is my reaction? Do I say, “Sorry, I cannot forgive you unless you first kill a goat.” Or do I say, “Sorry, you must die for your sin.” Or do I say, “Sorry, our relationship is broken forever and cannot be repaired no matter what you do.” Of course not. I am able to forgive my children when they disobey me because of my love for them.
My question is basic: why can’t God forgive His children like I am able to forgive my children? Why is forgiveness so hard for God?
Of course, I am not the first to ponder this question. Over the next couple of days, I will lay out the different theories that have been suggested through the years to answer this question. We will look at each and see how we can come to our own answer for the most basic of all questions.