When Jesus Came...
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When Jesus Came...

From Series: Fix Our Eyes on Jesus, Volume 2

Hebrews 9:11-28  (ID: 1924)

The old covenant highlighted humanity’s great predicament: sin separates us from a holy God. Jesus, however, offered atonement for that sin. As Alistair Begg explains, Christ entered the Holy of Holies as both Priest and sacrifice, having obtained an eternal redemption for all who believe. The shed blood of Jesus therefore frees our conscience, even as we are gladly enslaved to the privilege of serving the living God.


Sermon Transcript:

Well, those of you who were present this morning know that we went part of the way through Hebrews chapter 9, and essentially I want to pick it up where we left off. We had just got into verse 11 and the verses which follow that, and I had begun to suggest that this opening phrase of verse 11 was a key phrase: “When Christ came…” And indeed, in breaking up the studies of this day for the structure of the tapes and various things like that, I think it is appropriate to call the morning study “The Cleansing of Conscience” and then to call our evening study “When Christ Came…” Because it radically changed everything. All of the circumstances that had preceded him and all that would follow from him was radically altered in the coming and in the work of Christ.

Under the law, as we’ve been seeing, one could never, ever be sure of forgiveness. It wasn’t that the priests were unfaithful in the performing of their duties; they surely could not have been more faithful in going about all of the religious practice to which they had been called. We’re told that again and again they were offering the same sacrifices, but unfortunately, they could never take away sin. And so there was this touch of obsolescence about what they were doing, there was this sense of futility about what was going on, and all and any benefit from it was minimal and external, and the only significant solution that was to be found by these souls was in that to which these sacrifices pointed.

And so, as we said this morning, they had reached the point where something had to happen, where someone had to come. If there was going to be access to God, if there was going to be the cleansing of conscience, if there was going to be the totality of a pardon, if there was going to be redemption that was eternal in its scope and nature, then there needed to be another who would come.

And it’s interesting, the way in which the progress of thought here parallels the way in which the apostle Paul unfolds these same theological truths in Romans. And just for the sheer exercise of seeing the parallel, I invite you to turn briefly to Romans chapter 3, simply that I might show you the way in which Paul, from a different angle but still with deep theological insight, is making the same point in his great theological treatise here as he’s written it to the church in Rome.

He has in the opening chapters of Romans declared the fact of men and women’s predicament before God, insofar as God’s wrath has been revealed against all the ungodliness and wickedness of men;[1] that his judgment is a righteous judgment;[2] that the Jewish people, despite all the benefits that they have enjoyed in their heritage, in the provision of the law, find themselves also and equally under this same judgment.[3] And he reaches the concluding part of his opening argument, if you like, in 3:20, where he says, “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in [God’s] sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of [our] sin.”

And that is exactly what was happening to these folks, these Hebrew believers. They had become aware of their sin; the sacrifices made it clear. The reason that they were repeated again and again and again was on account of the fact of their sinfulness. And what were they to do? They had come, if you like, to the dead-end street of externalized and ceremonial religion.

Well, look at the way in which Paul puts it in verse 21. He says, “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.” In other words, he says, if you read your Scriptures, you will discover that this is not a new thought, but this is something for which God has been preparing as he has provided the ceremonial law and as he has provided the word of the prophets. They have been testifying to these things. “This righteousness,” verse 22, “from God comes through faith in [Christ Jesus] to all who believe. There[’s] no difference,” for we’re all in the same boat: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.”

Now, when you turn back to Hebrews chapter 9, and you read the little phrase “when Christ came,” and you flip back over again to Romans chapter 3, what you have in Romans 3:21 and following is a sort of commentary on this little phrase, “when Christ came.” When he gets to Romans chapter 5, he puts it succinctly and wonderfully in verse 6: “You see,” he says, “at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.”

Now, the wonder of this is that, again, it parallels what the writer to the Hebrews is saying. In Hebrews 9:26, he says, “Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world.” If he had had to enter heaven to offer himself again and again and again, in the way that the high priest offered himself year after year after year, then, he said, the sacrifice of Jesus would have had to been going on for a long time. And it would never end; it would have to continue. Paul, when he writes to the Romans, he says, “You see, it was at just the right time,” in the third decade AD, when the plan of God from all of eternity was ushered in and Jesus came.

Well, that’s just as a matter of interest. I thought that you might like that, and it might be helpful to you to see the way in which the Gospel writers and the writers of the Epistles parallel one another in the unfolding of biblical truth.

Back in Hebrews chapter 9: “When Christ came,” he says in verse 11, “as [the] high priest,” and then into 10:12, “But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.” This recurring emphasis, then, is upon the fact that what has been inadequately covered in the old covenant is now perfectly taken care of in the sacrifice of atonement offered by the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, I’d like to try and summarize what is a fairly challenging section by considering with you three simple phrases. I’ll take just a moment or two on the first one, probably longest on the second, and then probably a moment or two on the final one.

Christ Entered Heaven Itself

How are we going to get our arms around all of this material here from verse 11 through to the end of the chapter? What is the writer saying? What are the central points of emphasis?

Well, first of all, he is saying of Christ, “He entered heaven itself.” “He entered heaven itself.” Now, again, he has made much of this in the opening verses of chapter 8. He says, “We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven.”[4] He comes back to it here in 9:11: “He went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation.” And in verse 12 he points out, of Jesus, that “he entered the Most Holy Place.” And if you allow your eye to scan to verse 24: “Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself.”

Not only has Christ entered a better place, but he has also offered a better sacrifice.

Now, this is obviously of significance; otherwise, he would not emphasize it in the way in which he does. Jesus, he says, did not enter a holy place that had been made with human hands. This had been the experience of the priests of an earlier era, and particularly of the high priest on the Day of Atonement. They went into what was essentially a copy of the real thing. And you remember the copy, the type, had its antitype in the reality of heaven. Jesus, then, he says, appeared in heaven itself as the representative of a people who now enjoy, through his work, continuous and unrestricted access into God’s presence.

I don’t want to, in endeavoring to bring this down, trivialize it in any way. But essentially what has happened is this: that Christ has entered back into the presence of his Father, taking with him, as it were, the fruits of his atoning sacrifice—some who are presently there, others who will join him soon, others who will come later—but in each occasion, he is able to turn, as it were, to his Father and say, “These are all with me.” The high priest could take no one in with him to the Most Holy Place. He was able to go on only one occasion, and then had to wait for a year to go back again. But Christ, he says, has now entered into heaven itself, taking with him the travail of his soul.

Now, again, what you find in the writer of the Hebrews is this wonderful recapitulation of essential themes. If this was a musical rendition, it would be quite masterful in the way in which he is able to weave themes back into the main section and body of the work. So, for example, what he is saying here is what he actually said in the first few verses of his letter, when he reminded the people that “the Son is the radiance of God’s glory … the exact representation of his being.” He sustains “all things by his powerful word,” and “after he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” And on account of this, he had told them, he is far more “superior to the angels” than we might ever imagine.[5]

That’s a wonderfully reassuring truth to people who were beginning to doubt in their faith, who were discouraged along the journey, who were being buffeted by the accusations of their friends and neighbors, who were beginning to wonder whether it might not have been better to live back with all of the rigmarole and the bells and the smells and the ritual of the ceremonial life from which they had come, and they were undergoing the jibes of people who said, “You really don’t have anything much in this new religion of yours.” And the writer says, “Now, I want you to understand that the great benefit of this High Priest is his very absence from you. But I want you to know that he hasn’t just gone somewhere; he has gone into heaven itself.”

On the Day of Atonement, the worshippers would wait patiently for the high priest to return from the Most Holy Place. And then, having come out, he would, of course, be preparing to go back in again, because his work was never done. In contrast, the return of Christ into heaven was an indication of the fact that his work was finished. And again, I don’t want to reduce it to a level of triviality, but there is an essential way in which we can honestly acknowledge the fact that his cry “It is finished”[6] upon the cross was then ratified by his reappearing in the presence of his Father to declare directly, face-to-face with him, “The work, Father, that you gave me to do, I have accomplished. Those whom you gave me to redeem, I have atoned for, and I am now back where I began—back in heaven itself.”

Now, loved ones, we need to understand that these things are realities; these are not mythologies. This is not spiritual fiction. Raymond Brown says, “He entered heaven as an outward visible sign that his eternal achievement was finished and complete.”[7]

So that’s the first thing. He entered heaven itself.

Christ Offered Himself

Second thing is that he offered himself. He entered heaven himself and by the offering of himself. How in the world was he able to go into heaven? Well, first of all, he had come from heaven. But he was able to go into heaven “by his own blood.” That’s what we read in the twelfth verse: “He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood.” It was in the offering of himself, if you look at verse 14: “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit”—here’s the phrase—“offered himself…” And then in verse 26: “Then 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”—here’s the phrase—“by the sacrifice of himself.” And here again is a great recurring theme. Not only has Christ entered a better place, but he has also offered a better sacrifice.

Handley Moule, the Anglican bishop and a great Greek commentator from an earlier era, says of this, “Blood shed is not a vehicle of power, but an evidence of death, especially by sacrifice or execution.”[8] The shed blood was not a vehicle of power, a means whereby there might be some manipulative ingenuity. But the shed blood was an evidence of death, especially a death that had come about as a result of sacrifice or execution.

Now, the significance of that lies in this: what the high priests had in common—namely, the Old Testament high priest and Christ our Great High Priest—was this fact, that they both entered a sanctuary in virtue of a sacrificial death. How was the Old Testament high priest able to enter into the Most Holy Place? On account of a sacrifice that had been made. How then was Christ able to enter into heaven? On account of a sacrifice that had been made. The distinction, of course, lies in the fact that that which the high priest in the old covenant referred to and carried with him was only a shadow of that which we find epitomized and realized in Jesus himself. Again, Handley Moule: “To give evidence of that death the earthly priest took with him the blood of another victim, but as Christ was both priest and sacrifice he presented only himself.”[9] Wonderful statement. “To give evidence of that death the earthly priest took with him the blood of another victim, but [since] Christ was both priest and sacrifice, he [took] only himself.”

Now, you say, “Is this significant?” Well, yes, it certainly is. And I want you to note very clearly that in verse 12 we’re told that “he entered the Most Holy Place once for all,” notice, not with his own blood—not with his own blood—but “by his own blood.” The significance of that lies in the fact that what he accomplished, he accomplished in a moment of time in and upon the cross, and that the presentation of himself was the indication of the reality of the blood that had been spilled in a moment in time on a hill called Golgotha.

Now, it is this issue of death which leads the writer in verse 15 to introduce another way in which the word “covenant” is used. In fact, in verse 16, he all of a sudden says, “In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it.” And if you’re reading that, you’re saying to yourself, “Well, how in the world did we get to the last will and testament from here?” Well, the fact of the matter is that this is another way of using the Greek word diatheke. It can be used of a covenant; it can also be used of a last will and testament. And with this idea of sacrifice and death forcibly in his mind, he refers to Jesus as “the mediator” of this “new covenant.”

What the old covenant promised, it couldn’t confer, because the blood of the animals couldn’t provide a real atonement for sin. Was there then no value in these old sacrifices? Yes, there was value in them. The value in them was insofar as that they found out regularly that they were in need of a perfect sacrifice. And as they went through the same thing over and over again, they’d be saying to themselves, “If only there was one who would bear away our sin! If only there was a Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world.”[10] And so their value is found in the one perfect sacrifice to which they pointed.

And that is why people were saved in the old covenant in the same way that they’re saved in the new covenant. Let me quote to you from Robertson. He says, “It is Christ’s death that gives worth to the types that pointed to him. So then the atoning sacrifice of Christ is the basis of salvation [for] all who are saved before the Cross and since.”[11] Abraham was saved on the basis of the death of Christ. All who were saved in the Old Testament were saved on account of the sacrifice made perfect in Jesus, to which all of their ceremonial worship was pointing.

All who were saved in the Old Testament were saved on account of the sacrifice made perfect in Jesus, to which all of their ceremonial worship was pointing.

And so the death and the inheritance introduces, as I say, this issue of the last will and testament. I don’t want to go into it; I think it will take us off track from these three central points. But I want you simply to notice that when you have a last will and testament, you have three things. You have—well, what is it in legal terms? You have a testator and a legatee and a bequest. Something like that. Or you have a benefactor, the beneficiary, and the bequest. And that is essentially what he is referring to here. He says, “When you have a death and when you have a last will and testament, there is a benefactor, a beneficiary, and a bequest.” The benefactor is the Lord Jesus Christ, the beneficiary are those whom he has redeemed, and the bequest is the blessing of eternal redemption. That’s the point. That’s it all.

He then uses a couple of illustrations—to which, again, I don’t want to go in—in verse 18, 19, and through to verse 22. And if you read your Old Testament, you can find all of this, but what he is essentially saying is that none of this can happen without blood. That’s his whole emphasis: this issue of the blood being shed and of the sacrifice being so important. In verse 18: “This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood.” The covenant was ratified with blood. And in verse 21: “In the same way, he sprinkled with … blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood.” So not only was the covenant ratified but the sanctuary was sanctified by the sprinkling of blood.

Now, again, this would be perfectly understandable to the first-century reader, because they had come out of a background where all of this ceremonial worship was very clear to them. They had participated in it; they had given themselves up to it; they had understood, in measure, that it was pointing forward; and now they had found in Christ the one who was the mediator of this new covenant. And it would make perfect sense to them that in the same way as there had to be the shedding of blood, the death of the innocent for the provision of the guilty was a principle that they understood. And therefore, if Christ was this, then they understood it to be true. And indeed, they had no difficulty in understanding that apart from the sacrificial death of Jesus, apart from the shedding of his blood, there was no forgiveness of sins: “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”

I want just to read a quote which some of you will find helpful, and others of you perhaps not. And I do this purposefully, loved ones; I don’t do this out of any sense of malice. I do this in order to instruct you. I’m quoting from bits and pieces: William Cunningham’s Historical Theology—he was a Scotsman, lived a long time ago and wrote big books that are really hard to read—and a few other folks.

“Although…” Well, let me start here, make it shorter. The author’s insistence upon this principle—namely, that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins—the author’s insistence upon this principle makes it hard to see how there can be any remission of sins granted through the unbloody offering of the mass:

There is in the mass no real Christ, no suffering, and no bleeding. And a bloodless sacrifice is ineffectual. The writer of the book of Hebrews says that “apart from shedding of blood there is no remission of sin[s]” (9:22)…. John says, “The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7) …. Since admittedly there is no blood in the mass, it simply cannot be a sacrifice for sin.[12]

This is therefore an unscriptural practice which “dishonours and degrades the one perfect and all-sufficient sacrifice of Christ, by representing it as repeated, or rather caricatured, daily and hourly by the juggling mummery of a priest.”[13]

Some of you, I know, are thinking these issues through in these days, and you do well to. Some of you have come here tonight as visitors and guests, trusting in the fact that your sin is atoned for on a regular basis on account of what someone else does on your behalf. And therefore, dear friend, it is a matter of distinct importance to discover where truth is to be found, because it is not simply a matter of preference in relationship to some religious affiliation. It is a matter of eternal significance. And one would be a foolish individual to address it in the way I choose to if it were merely a trivial, ephemeral sideshow. But the death of Jesus Christ in an unrepeatable, once-for-all atoning sacrifice is the whole emphasis of the book of Hebrews. The Spirit of God has taken a complete letter to address the issue, so that we might be saved from error and encouraged in truth.

Now, we’re not done with this yet, because there is one other factor to consider in the offering of himself. He entered heaven itself, he offered up himself, and he did so, as I’m suggesting to you—or as the Bible makes clear—“once for all.” That’s the phrase in verse 12: “once for all.” It is again in verse 26: “But now he has appeared once for all … to do away with sin[s].” And in verse 28: “So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people.”

Now, what is the writer emphasizing? He is representing the unrepeatable dimension of the work of Jesus Christ, in contrast—as we’ll see when we come to 10:1—in contrast to the year-after-year activities of the Old Testament priests: “By the same sacrifices [they] repeated endlessly year after year,” they could not “make perfect those who draw near to worship.” However, he says, those things serve as a necessary reminder of a man and a woman’s need for cleansing. Because these continual, repetitious sacrifices point inward and expose the sin of man, and they point forward to a time when the sacrifice for sin would be complete.

“But now,” he says, “he has appeared.” “He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages.” What does that mean? It means that by his coming, he has ushered in that period of time which will eventually culminate in the end of history as we know it. And that’s why, again, he starts his letter by saying, “In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.”[14] What are the “last days”? They are ushered in by the arrival of Jesus Christ, and particularly, if you like, by his ascension into heaven. But he appeared in a moment in time. And the sacrifice is in no need of repetition, because it produces effects that were absolutely impossible under the animal sacrifices.

Now, some, I think, have been troubled by this notion in 8:3, because I’ve heard from you: “Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer.” And you’re saying to yourself and you’ve been saying to me, “Well, I think that he is still in heaven, and he’s still offering a sacrifice—because, after all, they went in and they offered something.” I’m pointing out to you that that is not what the Bible teaches, that he didn’t carry his blood in there to offer it as a sacrifice; he walked in there himself. And by his very appearing, he declared the reality and sufficiency of the sacrifice that had been accomplished on the cross.

Well, what then does he do? Well, he speaks to God on our behalf as our advocate. He prays for us. He exercises his ministry of intercession. But he’s not sacrificed all over again. He doesn’t need to be.

The best illustration I’ve found of this was from Alan Stibbs. And I’d overlooked it, and I just discovered it, and I think it’s wonderful, so I want to read it to you; it’s very brief.

“Admittedly,” says Stibbs, “the act of offering was necessary to constitute Christ a priest in fact, and not only in name.” So, in other words, he had to offer something so that he wouldn’t just be called a priest, but he would actually function as a priest, because priests offered in a prospect of atonement. So in order to constitute him “a priest in fact, and not only in name,” “the act of offering was necessary … just,” he says,

as the act of child-bearing is necessary to constitute a woman a mother. But that truth does not mean in the case of motherhood that henceforth, to those who resort to her as “mother”, such a woman is always giving them birth. Her act of child-bearing is for them not only an indispensable but also a finished work. What they now enjoy are other complementary ministries of motherhood, which lie beyond the child-bearing. Similarly with Christ’s priesthood His propitiatory offering is not only an indispensable but also a finished work.[15]

I think that might be of help to some of you who’ve been struggling with that.

Christ Obtained Eternal Redemption

Okay: he entered heaven itself, he offered up himself, and finally, he obtained for ourselves an eternal redemption. Now, that’s where we left it this morning; we’ve now come full circle. “He did not enter,” verse 12, “by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.”

In heaven, Jesus speaks to God on our behalf as our advocate. He prays for us. He exercises his ministry of intercession. But he’s not sacrificed all over again. He doesn’t need to be.

To redeem is to set free by the paying of a price or a ransom. Again, these people would have had no difficulty understanding that; they had come out of a background of this. We saw it, for example, in the story of Joseph when he was redeemed from the folks who had taken him into slavery and he was carted away into the opportunity of slavehood in Potiphar’s house. So he was redeemed from being a slave to the Ishmaelites, and he became a slave to Pharaoh. And it was at the paying of a price.

We, by nature, are slaves to sin. We are redeemed by the paying of a price—namely, the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ—in order that we might become slaves all over again. But now we are enslaved gladly and joyfully to the Lord Jesus Christ, who is our master and our guide.

Says a chap called Wilson, “As the sacrifices sufficed for all who were represented by the earthly high priest, so the sacrifice of Christ actually saves all who are included within the scope of his work.”[16] And then, quoting the Scottish theologian of old, John Murray—and this will pass some of you by, but for others it will be a matter of discussion and import. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. Says Murray, he did not die to secure a mere possible redemption of all men but purposefully to give his life as a ransom for many:

It is to beggar the concept of redemption as an [effective] securement of release by price and by power to construe it as anything less than the effectual accomplishment which secures the salvation of those who are its objects. Christ did not come to put [man] in a redeemable position but to redeem to himself a people.[17]

And that, you see, is the significance of verse 28: “So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people.”

And with this eternal redemption, within the scope of it, there is so much for which we ought to be rejoicing tonight. This redemption which God the Father has planned and the Son has procured and the Spirit has applied encompasses all the wonder of a life changed. It is in this eternal redemption, verse 14, that our consciences are cleansed “from acts that lead to death”—that our consciences are cleansed from doing things that are actually deathly in their import. It is by means of his eternal redemption that we have been sanctified so that we might serve the living God.

Do you think that Jesus Christ, as it were, went to the extent of redeeming us from all ungodliness so that we could just run around and please ourselves? Do you think that he redeemed us and made us members of his family so that we might treat him with scant regard? So that we might offer to him, as it were, the dribs and drabs of our lives and of our time, so that whenever we had a flush within our tummies that got us excited about God, we decided that we would do him a favor and offer ourselves up for him? That he would go to such extent by the very shedding of his own blood to redeem you, to cleanse your conscience from acts that leads to death, and to enable us to serve the living God!

What a privilege to serve God! By nature, we serve ourselves. By nature, we’re interested only in ourselves. Sometimes, perhaps, in a friend or a neighbor, a loved one, we’ll give some time, but the truth is, at the very core of our being, we’re essentially selfish. There are none of us that seek after God, not one of us;[18] every so often we have a stirring in our hearts, but there is no essential quest for God. And so we look back over our shoulders and down through the corridors of time, and we marvel at his redeeming love: that from all of the eternity, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit entered into a covenant of redemption and planned to secure a people that belong exclusively to God who will be given up in service to God. And down through the corridors of time he has come, and he has sought us, and he has bought us, and he has secured us at great price, and he has made us his very own.

That’s the most significant thing about it all: that in his grace and in his mercy, he looks upon us and he says, “And she is mine. I chose her from all of eternity. I have loved her with an everlasting love. I saw nothing in her that made her redeemable. It was not on the strength of his potentiality that encouraged me to reach out and see him. I was not struck by his inclination to turn towards me. No, I just reached down, and I picked him up.”

Now, there’s another little sermon that I’ll leave for someone else to preach, but let me just give it to you. I think this will preach, but my time is gone. In verse 26, you will notice: “He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin.” There you go, there’s your first point: “He has appeared.” Speak about his incarnation and about his coming and about the fact of his arrival.

And then your second point is in verse 24: “He entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.” He has appeared, he now appears.

Before the throne of God above,
I have a strong and perfect plea,
A great High Priest whose name is Love,
Who ever lives and pleads for me.[19]

And then verse 28: “And he will appear a second time.” He has appeared and made atonement for my sin. He now appears before his Father in heaven and pleads my case—all of my rebellion, and all of my wandering, and all of my impure thinking, and all of my disinterest in his truth. And he pleads my case before his Father.

And best of all, he’s gonna reappear. And when he comes this next time, it’s not to deal with the issue of sin, but it is to come for those who are anticipating his arrival. And only those who have understood the wonder of the fact that he has appeared, and who live daily in the wonderful experience of the way in which his appearing before the Father ministers to the reality of our need—only those will be looking forward to his appearing again.

See, there’s such a difference when Jesus came. The lady at the well had been at the well tons of times. But it was different when Jesus came. Zacchaeus thought it was an ordinary day with an extraordinary opportunity in a kind of weird vantage point up a tree. And it was all different when Jesus came.

Down through the corridors of time God has come, and he has sought us, and he has bought us, and he has secured us at great price, and he has made us his very own.

How about you? Has Jesus come to you? And I’m not asking now if you have been feeling religious over a period of time, or if you got confirmed, or you drifted into the kingdom. I’m asking, “Can you look to point in your life when Jesus came?”

When I was a boy—and I’m sorry, I’m starting to get old with this stuff, “when I was a boy” stuff. This is terrible. I haven’t even had my forty-fifth birthday, and I’m speaking like a grandfather. Make a note of that; I want to cure this problem. But Sunday nights in this place that we went, they had all kinds of speakers and singers and everything. And there was a song that was like one of the top ten in Christian circles, because, you know, you’d go for a few Sundays, and some lady would come from Bolton, and she’d sing it. And then you’d go for a month, and then some guy’d come from America, and he’d sing it. And so, over time, I really got into this. I didn’t particularly like the melody; seemed a bit old-fashioned.

But as I was sitting this afternoon, I said, “I wonder if I can remember a verse and a chorus of this song?” And I think I can. It went like this. And I think it was descriptive of the coming of Christ to blind Bartimaeus. Somebody will know this song:

One sat alone beside the highway begging,
His eyes were blind, the light he couldn’t see.
He clutched his rags and shivered in the shadows,
Then Jesus came and bade the darkness flee.

When Jesus comes, the tempter’s power is broken;
When Jesus comes, our sins are washed away.
He takes our needs and fills our lives with glory,
For all is changed when Jesus comes to stay.[20]

What’s the significance of all of this? Well, he entered heaven itself by the offering of himself. And the believer looks at it and says, “And that was for myself? That, with Paul, he loved me and gave himself for me.”

What a wonderful, wonderful story—unparalleled in the religions of our world. Only Christ can bring about such change.

Let’s pray together.

Just where you’re seated, tell God your response to his Word today, tonight. Some of us have been living for ourselves, and we have been neglecting the fact that we have been redeemed at great cost in order that we might be sanctified in his service. Others of us, Lord, do not know you, and we cry out to you. And we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.


[1] See Romans 1:18.

[2] See Romans 2:1–16.

[3] See Romans 2:17–29.

[4] Hebrews 8:1 (NIV 1984).

[5] Hebrews 1:3–4 (NIV 1984).

[6] John 19:30 (NIV 1984).

[7] Raymond Brown, The Message of Hebrews, The Bible Speaks Today (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1982), 170.

[8] H. C. G. Moule, Outlines of Christian Doctrine, rev. ed. (London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1890), 85–86.

[9] H. C. G. Moule, Outlines of Christian Doctrine, 105, quoted in Geoffrey B. Wilson, New Testament Commentaries, vol. 2, Philippians to Hebrews and Revelation (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2005), 401.

[10] See John 1:29.

[11] Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, vol. 5, The Fourth Gospel; the Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1932), 401.

[12] Loraine Boettner, Roman Catholicism (1962; repr., London: Banner of Truth, 1966), 227.

[13] William Cunningham, Historical Theology: A Review of the Principal Doctrinal Discussions in the Christian Church since the Apostolic Age (Edinburgh, 1863), 2:143.

[14] Hebrews 1:2 (NIV 1984).

[15] Alan M. Stibbs, “The Finished Work of Christ” (Tyndale Biblical Theology Lecture, 1952), https://theologicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/work_stibbs.pdf.

[16] Wilson, New Testament Commentaries, 402.

[17] John Murray, Redemption—Accomplished and Applied, 63, quoted in Wilson, New Testament Commentaries, 402.

[18] See Romans 3:11.

[19] Charitie L. Bancroft, “Before the Throne of God Above” (1863).

[20] Oswald J. Smith, “Then Jesus Came” (1940).

Copyright © 2020, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.