And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. Hebrews 10:11-14, ESV
By God’s design, symbolism has always had a key role to play in worship. Our passage refers to the symbolic sacrifices offered by the Old Testament priests. These were such valuable sacrifices that God encoded both the requirement for them and instructions on how to complete them into the law given to Israel through Moses. God desired that His people express their faith in Him by making sacrifices that symbolically looked forward to a better sacrifice to come. Nonetheless, the sacrifices themselves never actually accomplished atonement; they never actually removed guilt and shame from the shoulders of the sinner. Attending daily to this difficult and bloody work, the faithful priest was both calling Israel to faith in what God would do in the future and reminding them that this longed-for day had not yet come.
Then Jesus came! Christ, acting as our Great High Priest, offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice to atone for sin. With His single sacrifice, the priestly work was finally finished. Jesus did not need to return to the work daily. He retired to the throne room and “sat down at the right hand of God.” We now live in the days of His waiting, while the consequences of His sacrifice are being worked out. His righteous offering stands in judgment of His enemies and will one day see their utter demise. It is sanctifying the saints who are forensically declared perfect and are being changed into the image of the One who sacrificed Himself for them.
Returning to the idea of symbolism in worship, let us look at how our symbols have changed. In the place of the priestly labor of temple sacrifices, we sit and partake of a supper. We are offered bread to eat and the fruit of the vine to drink in remembrance of Christ and His sacrifice. The priests served in futility to make them hungry. We are served a meal to remind us of Christ’s sufficiency.
I look forward to the day when we can live out this Lord’s Supper symbolism in gathered fellowship once more. Let us pray together that that day will come soon and, in the meantime, let us find peace and rest in the finished work of our perfect Priest.