With His sacrifice, Jesus didn’t bring the blood of an animal, but His own blood.
“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. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9:11-15).
The word incomparable is used in at least two different ways. It can be used of something that is truly one of a kind. It can also be used of someone who is without an equal in quality or extent.
In this portion of Hebrews (9:11-15) we note that Jesus, our Great High Priest, is incomparable in the second sense, without equal in quality or extent when compared to the Old Testament priests.
When God established the Old Testament priesthood, He also directed the Israelites to build the Tabernacle (see Exodus 26). It was essentially a tent made from wood, fine linen, and animal skins. The Old Testament priests served God in a tent, and later in a temple, both made of earthly elements. Christ—our Great High Priest—doesn’t serve in a dusty old tent, but in heaven, the perfect tabernacle, not part of this creation.
The Old Testament priest’s job was to reestablish peace with God through intercession and sacrifice. Christ, our Great High Priest, came to secure for every human being perfect peace with God. He came as High Priest of the good things to come and obtained eternal peace by means of His perfect single sacrifice.
Perfect Single Sacrifice
One day a year, on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), the High Priest entered the Most Holy Place with the blood of an animal to make atonement for the people (see Leviticus 16-17). God accepted that sacrifice because He had determined beforehand (Acts 2:23) in mercy to send His Son to offer the single greatest sacrifice on the altar of the cross. With His sacrifice, Jesus didn’t bring the blood of an animal, but His own blood. Christ’s blood is far greater—not because His was human blood, but because He was (is) fully God and fully human, the God-man. While the sacrifices of the Old Testament priests had to be repeated over and over, Christ’s sacrifice was offered once for all.
In Numbers 19, God required the external cleansing of those who came in contact with human remains or graves. These “unclean” Israelites were cleansed with a solution of water and the ashes of a sacrificial heifer. This God-appointed concoction offered outward cleansing, but it did not cleanse the soul, heart, or mind. God be praised that Christ’s sacrifice cleanses us from all sin (see Isaiah 53:5, 1 John 1:7)! Jesus’ sacrifice is infinitely more powerful to cleanse. It also grants a joyful spirit, enabling us to serve Him in faith, out of cleansed hearts.
Perfect Mediator, Perfect Covenant
God used Moses to establish the first covenant, the Law. Christ, the Son of God, alone established the new covenant of grace. He is the Mediator of the new covenant (1 Timothy 2:5), the covenant of grace. In this covenant God forgives sins on the basis of Christ’s perfect and even incomparable (that is, without equal in quality) sacrifice!
Andrew Schaller is pastor of Calvary Lutheran Church in Marquette, Michigan.