May 17: The Seventh Sunday of Easter (Ascension)

May 16, 2015

For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. –Hebrews 6:13-20

I like how in the last sentence the writer mentions an anchor. Acts 27 is the only place in the Newer Testament where an anchor is mentioned, and there it is an actual anchor belonging to a ship. Here it is used figuratively. The subject is “strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.” Then he tells us we have that hope like an anchor “that enters into the inner place behind the curtain.” That’s a little odd, isn’t it? An anchor is supposed to enter into the mud at the bottom to provide safety. What is this “inner place behind the curtain”?

On the subject of Jesus’ high priesthood “after the order of Melchizedek” this Jewish writer naturally thinks of the temple and of the Day of Atonement. On that day the high priest goes in, behind the last curtain, into the innermost sanctuary of the Temple, the holy of holies. There, at the holiest spot on earth, the space closest to God, the high priest would make atonement for the people.

This original audience needs to understand that Jesus (“a high priest forever”) has gone in, not into the earthly Temple in Jerusalem, but into the true sanctuary, the world of heaven itself, straight into the innermost courts and the very presence of the loving Father. He has gone in there on our behalf and it’s like we’re attached to him by a great cable. There he is like an anchor. We dare not let go of the cable through all the winds, tides, and storms that may well come. There is enormous comfort to be found precisely at such time in the knowledge that the anchor is “sure and steadfast.” And that’s the gospel.

Come hear it preached and enacted in the Supper this Sunday!

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