“For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach.”
In various segments of society, there are regrettably the worldly “in-crowds.” They are found in schools, work places, neighborhoods, and even religious communities. Inclusion with the “in-crowd” results in being accepted and looked upon with favor. While most people like to be accepted and viewed favorably by others, to be a part of the “in-crowd” is not necessarily good or beneficial, as it very often involves compromising our Christian beliefs and adopting a manner of living that is in conflict with God’s holy will. Being a devout and faithful Christian most generally means being outside of the many “in-crowds” of the world.
The Jewish Christian readers of the book of Hebrews were being pressured by Jews to come back to the “in-crowd” of Judaism. To go back within the camp of the spiritual house of Israel entailed reverting back to outdated Old Testament laws and obsolete religious rites. Within such confines, sinners relied upon religious rituals and works of the Law to be reconciled to God. This latter practice is the case with all non-Christian religions of the world. But, were we to enter into and be accepted by such religions, we would lose all the spiritual and eternal blessings that Jesus purchased and won for us through His substitutionary life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection.
Even though the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, was sacrificed on the cross in atonement for all the sins of the world, the Jews continued to observe the Great Day of Atonement outside the gates of Jerusalem. The blood of bulls and goats that was shed and poured out on the altar in the Most Holy Place in the Temple of Jerusalem over the many years in the Old Testament could never sanctify the people, but was intended to foreshadow Jesus’ all-sufficient sacrifice outside the walls of the city (Hebrews 9:12-14).
Unlike other sacrificial animals that were eaten by the priests, the animals offered on the Great Day of Atonement were not eaten, but rather were burned outside of the city. This pictured the complete removal of sin which Jesus accomplished when He endured the fiery torments of hell outside the gates of Jerusalem.
Therefore, Jewish Christians were exhorted to go outside the camp of Israel with all its work-righteous laws to the cross of Christ where His blood was shed to make full satisfaction for every human sin (1 John 1:7).
Leaving behind the “in-crowd” of Judaism and clinging to the cross of Christ alone would mean “bearing His reproach.” Even as Jesus suffered terrible persecution at the hands of His enemies, so also Christians who declare allegiance to Him will be faced with fierce opposition.
When we don’t go along with the worldly ways of the “in-crowd” and instead stand up for Christ and His ways, we can expect to be ostracized, ridiculed, and worse. This is what it means to be joined together with our Savior in faith, rather than being found with the “in-crowds” of the world.
Knowing how much Jesus willingly and lovingly suffered for us so that we could be redeemed children of God who shall finally be glorified in heaven, we willingly and lovingly suffer for Christ’s sake. In fact, like the believers of old, we rejoice that we are counted worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus (Acts 5:41).
It is better by far to be joined together with Christ than to be numbered among the worldly “in-crowds.”
Mark Gullerud is pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Bowdle, South Dakota, and Zion Lutheran Church in Ipswich, South Dakota.