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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Title:God has given Christ Jesus as our Mediator
Text:LD 6 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:All of scripture points to Jesus Christ
 
Preached:2021
Added:2021-07-11
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Hymn 66

Psalm 110

Psalm 2

Hymn 1

Hymn 38

Scripture readings: Leviticus 4:27-35, Hebrews 10:1-10

Catechism lesson: Lord's Day 6

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Christ,

Being a pastor I have the opportunity to visit many homes in the congregation.  I’ve noticed that some homes have many books.  Some homes have fewer books.  But there’s one book I’m sure everybody has in their home.  Everybody has a Bible.  Now having a Bible is one thing, reading it is another.  I pray that all our Bibles are well-used, referred to constantly for spiritual food. 

When we read and study our Bible, we should be clear what or who we’re reading about.  Let me speak to the kids here for a moment.  Listen up kids.  Let’s say you have a book at home, your favourite book.  It’s about a big red dog.   You love the book so much that you want other people to read it.  You know I love books, so you give your favourite book to me and I read it.  And I come back to you and say, “Thanks, I really enjoyed your book about the small yellow cat.”  You’d look at me strangely.  And wouldn’t you say that I didn’t understand what I was reading?  The same can happen with the Bible.  People can read the Bible and not really understand what they’re reading.  They can miss the point. 

We have an example of that in the Bible itself.  It’s in Acts 8.  In that chapter there was an Ethiopian man heading back home from Jerusalem.  He appears to have been a convert to Judaism, what’s called a Jewish proselyte.  This man was sitting in his chariot as it slowly rolled along the road.  As he rode along, the Ethiopian was a reading.  He was reading a scroll which contained the book of Isaiah.  He was at chapter 53, that well-known passage about the Suffering Servant of God.  But he didn’t understand what he was reading.  Thankfully, God sent someone to explain it to him.  That man was Philip.  Philip ran up alongside the chariot.  He asked the Ethiopian if he understood what he was reading.  He said, “How can I, unless someone explains it to me?”  There was Philip’s opportunity.  He got into the chariot and explained the passage.  He shared the gospel.  Philip showed the Ethiopian how what he was reading from Isaiah pointed to Jesus.  Philip told him how Isaiah 53 was all about what Christ had suffered for sinners.  The Ethiopian believed and was baptized that very day.

You see, people can and do read the Bible and miss the point.  It happened in the past and it still happens today.  And what’s the point of the Bible?  The whole Bible from Genesis to Revelation has been given to us by God to show us Jesus Christ.  As rebellious sinners, we need someone to bridge the distance between us and the holy God who won’t have anything to do with sin.  Jesus does that.  Jesus is the one who brings peace between us and God.  Jesus brings us into a healthy, friendly fellowship with God.  We say that he is our Mediator – the one who mediates, who goes between us and God.  God has taught us about this one and only Mediator in the whole Bible, both the Old Testament and the New Testament.  It’s all about Jesus. 

That’s what our Heidelberg Catechism is teaching us this afternoon in Lord’s Day 6, and especially in QA 19.  QA 16 explains why our Mediator had to be a true and righteous man – human nature sinned, so human nature has to pay for sin.  And only a righteous man can pay for the sins of others.  QA 17 teaches how this Mediator had to at the same time be true God.  That’s because only God can bear God’s wrath against our sin.  Then QA 18 tells us the answer we already know:  Jesus Christ is the Mediator who is a true and righteous man and yet true God.  Then QA 19 tells us the place where we find this out – it’s in the Bible.  QA 19 is where our focus will be this afternoon.  I preach to you God’s Word summarized in our Catechism:  God has given Christ Jesus as our Mediator

We’ll learn how:

  1. We see his shadow in the Old Testament
  2. We see him clearly in the New Testament

You won’t find the name “Jesus Christ” in the Old Testament.  We don’t see him there clearly, in person.  What we do see are his shadows.  You know what a shadow is.  A shadow gives you a general idea of what someone looks like, but it doesn’t give you much detail.  You can’t know what someone’s hair colour is from looking at their shadow.  You can’t know about someone’s sense of humour or great love by looking at their shadow.  A shadow only shows you a sliver of what someone’s like.

Our Belgic Confession says the Old Testament is a time of shadows.  Our Catechism speaks of foreshadowing in the Old Testament.  It’s true:  the Old Testament only shows us shadows of who Christ is and what he would do.  It does that from the beginning to the end, from Genesis to Malachi.  In Genesis 3, God gave what we call the “mother promise” to Adam and Eve.  It’s called the mother promise because all the other promises of the Bible are birthed from this one.  After Adam and Eve had fallen into sin, God promised that there would be a descendant of the woman who would smash the serpent’s skull.  Someone would come with a death blow for Satan.  He’d take care of the problem created by our fall into sin.  As our Catechism says, already in Paradise God had revealed the good news.    

In the years following, God made more promises to the patriarchs.  The patriarchs are the ancient fathers of the Old Testament, men like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  God told them repeatedly how he would bring rescue for them.  God would bring rescue from their sins and the condemnation those sins deserve.  Someone would come to make things right. 

Now you may have noticed how our Catechism says that God had this gospel, this good news, proclaimed by the patriarchs.  It’s not just that it was proclaimed to them, but also by them.  The patriarchs were gospel preachers.  Where do we see them preaching the gospel?  We could look at several examples, but let’s just take Abraham.  In Genesis 22, we find that story of Abraham being commanded by God to offer his son Isaac.  When Isaac wonders what’s going on, Abraham says, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.”  Abraham trusted God to provide the substitute.  Later Abraham calls that place, “The LORD will provide.”  Abraham thus preached that God would provide the substitute sacrifice – this is pointing ahead to Christ, the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world.

The same message also came later in the prophets of the Old Testament.  A few moments ago I mentioned Isaiah 53.  In Jewish synagogues today they read from what we call the Old Testament systematically.  They have a schedule for reading from different parts of what they call the Hebrew Bible.  They read through Isaiah as well.  But interestingly, they won’t read Isaiah 53.  They literally skip from Isaiah 52 to Isaiah 54.  That’s happened for centuries.  For centuries Jewish synagogues haven’t heard the public reading of Isaiah 53.  Why?  Could it be because this passage speaks so obviously about the Messiah that you’d have to be blind not to see it?  What are they afraid of?  Isaiah 53 speaks of the one who was despised and rejected by men.  He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows.  He was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities.  Isaiah 53 speaks of an individual who would be a substitute sacrifice to atone for sin.  Though we’re still in the shadows, Isaiah 53 is probably the clearest passage in the Old Testament, but it’s by no means alone.        

That includes the parts of the Bible which can be hard to understand.  If you’ve ever tried to read through Leviticus, you know it’s not an easy read.  People often get frustrated with Leviticus and give up.  But the truth is that even these hard places point us to Christ. They too show us a shadow of our Saviour Jesus.

We read from Leviticus 4.  That passage was written by Moses.  In John 5:46, Jesus told the Jews that Moses wrote about him.  Moses wrote about Christ.  So when we look at words from Moses in Leviticus 4, we have to keep that in mind.  We have to ask ourselves:  how does this point us to Jesus?

Leviticus 4 speaks about the sacrifices which had to be made when the people of Israel sinned.  The people would have to bring an animal to the priest.  They’d put their hand on the head of the animal and then kill it.  They’d do that by cutting its neck so the blood would gush out.  The blood would be caught in a container and given to the priest.  The priest would then smear the blood on the altar.  Then the fat would be burned on the altar.  The result of this would be atonement, reconciliation with the holy God, peace with God.  The promise is made in Leviticus 4:31 and 35, “…he shall be forgiven.”  That’s a comforting promise. 

Now how does that point us to Jesus Christ?  As John the Baptist would say later, Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God.  He was sacrificed to pay for our sins.  His blood was poured out for us.  When the Israelites put their hands on the head of the animal, they were saying that this animal was taking their sins.  The animal was their substitute, it was taking their place.  It was dying so they didn’t have to.  That animal was having its blood shed so they didn’t have to have their blood shed.  That’s exactly what Jesus has done for us.  He took our place on the cross.  He died instead of us.  His blood poured out instead of our blood.  So this passage from Leviticus 4 points us to these comforting gospel truths.  Sure, it’s only a shadow.  We don’t learn everything about Christ from Leviticus 4.  But we do learn that the forgiveness of sins comes through the shedding of the blood of a substitute.

We could also think of the Psalms. All the Psalms point to Christ in some way or other.  Yet there are the so-called Messianic psalms which directly prophesy about the coming Saviour.  Messianic psalms are about the coming Messiah, the Christ.  We sang Psalm 110 before the sermon.  That’s a Messianic psalm, the most quoted psalm in the New Testament.  It’s about the Messiah Jesus.  After the sermon we’ll sing Psalm 2.  That psalm is also about Jesus.  Jesus is the Son spoken of in that psalm, a son who reigns as King.  If you bow the knee to this King, there’s blessing.  But if you rebel against him, if you scorn him, there will be eternal consequences.  You can see that the message of salvation is also there in shadow form.    

When we turn to the New Testament, we see Jesus Christ clearly.  God has given us everything we need to know about our Saviour in the pages of the New Testament.  That’s why Answer 19 of our Catechism ends by saying, “Finally, he had it fulfilled through his only Son.”  The gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John tell us about the life of Christ here on earth -- from his conception and birth to his resurrection and ascension into heaven.  As we look at these gospel writings, we don’t see shadows anymore, we see the real person and everything that’s beautiful about him.  We see him in 8K Ultra HD.  There are different ways we see him.    

For example, we see Jesus performing miracles.  These miracles weren’t ends in themselves, but served as signs pointing to his mission to save.  Think of how he delivered the Gerasene demoniac in Mark 5.  That man had been under Satan’s cruel thumb.  He’d been invaded and occupied by a legion of demons.  Christ delivered him, just as he has delivered all Christians from all the power of the devil. 

We also see Jesus preaching rescue and salvation for sinners.  In Mark 10, the disciples James and John asked to be given places of prominence next to Jesus in his glory.  They didn’t understand what they were asking.  They showed that their understanding of the gospel was weak. They had a weak understanding of what Jesus was all about.  He wasn’t about earthly glory, pomp, and pride.  Instead, he said, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  “To give his life as a ransom for many” – Jesus was speaking about what he would do as a substitute for us on the cross.  Our humble Lord would take our place, take our hell, take what we deserve.

In the concluding chapters of each of the gospels that’s exactly what we see Jesus doing.  We see the cross and what led up to it.  We hear not only of his physical suffering, but also of his spiritual agony.  On the cross, we hear him cry out the words of Psalm 22:1, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  It can’t get clearer than that.  As our Lord’s Supper form says, Christ was forsaken so we might be accepted by God and nevermore be forsaken by him.  Then to show that God accepted this sacrifice he made in our place, Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day.  He scored the decisive victory over sin, death, and Satan.  That’s a victory we share in when we place our faith in Jesus.  Loved ones, that’s something we all need to do if we’re going to be saved.  There’s no rescue except through trusting in Jesus Christ alone.            

Our reading from Hebrews 10 really highlights the difference between the shadows of the Old Testament and the clarity of the New.  The author of Hebrews says that the Old Testament law “has but a shadow of the good things to come.”  The shadows are cast by the real thing.  The shadows point to the “true form of these realities.”  Hebrews 10:4 tells us that “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”  Why is that?  Well, the blood of the bulls and goats in the Old Testament sacrifices, that was only a shadow of Jesus Christ.  They’re shadowy, not the reality.  Only the real thing, only Jesus Christ could save. 

Now I know what you might be thinking.  It’s a question I’ve heard many times.  If the blood of bulls and goats couldn’t take away sins, then how could God’s people of the Old Testament be forgiven?  How could God promise forgiveness in what we read from Leviticus 4?   Well, they weren’t forgiven because of the value of the animal blood.  They weren’t forgiven because the animal blood itself actually accomplished anything.  Instead, believers in the Old Testament were forgiven because they trusted in God’s promises, gospel promises that pointed ahead to Christ.  They believed God’s promise that forgiveness would come through a substitute sacrifice.  For them, they looked forward to the fulfillment of that promise and were forgiven as a result.  For us, we look backward to the fulfillment of that promise and we’re forgiven as a result.  But it’s all because of Jesus Christ.  Only because of him.

I also want you to notice how Hebrews 10 quotes from Psalm 40.  Specifically, notice how the words of Psalm 40 are directly attributed to Jesus:  “Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said….”  And then follows Psalm 40:6-8.  The words of Psalm 40 are the words of Jesus.  These words speak of Christ’s eager and willing obedience to God.  An Old Testament believer might have only caught a shadow of what Psalm 40 was ultimately speaking about.  But a New Testament believer sees the picture of Jesus Christ and his perfect obedience to God offered in our place.  A New Testament believer sings Psalm 40 and finds comfort knowing how Christ has been obedient where we haven’t.  He perfectly kept all of God's law for us.  Jesus kept the law in our place.  Now that we’ve been saved by his righteousness, we in turn want Psalm 40 to be a vision for our lives.  We’re disciples and like Jesus our Master, we want to eagerly do God’s will to show our love and gratitude. 

We can be thankful to God for the New Testament writings.  Because of these words we can have a clear sight of Jesus Christ – we can see him with 20/20 clarity.  And we don’t need anything else to see him.  We don’t need visions or dreams.  Anyone whose eyes have been opened by the Holy Spirit can now see Jesus clearly in the Bible.  Loved ones, that makes us so rich, so blessed. 

Did you know that for hundreds of years most Christians didn’t have Bibles?  But today we have them and we have them in our own language.  Some of us have many Bibles, not just one or two.  Now God’s Word to you this afternoon is:  what are you doing with your Bible?  Loved ones, no matter how old you are, if you can read, God wants you to read his Word and study it.  Not for the sake of reading and studying it in itself.  But to know Jesus Christ, to really know the Saviour who brings peace between us and God.  And so as you read your Bible, there’s a certain way to do it.  You have to be looking for somebody.  As you read the Bible, look for our Lord Jesus.  Look for him.  Look for his shadows in the Old Testament.  Look for the reality of Jesus in the New Testament.  The whole Bible points us to him.  As Thomas Watson once said, “The promises of the Bible are just the box; Christ is the jewel in the box.  The Scriptures are the dish; Christ is the food on the dish.”  It’s all about him.  When we read the Bible in this way, then the Holy Spirit will work with what we read to make our faith in Christ stronger.  And that’ll be for our benefit and for the glory of God.  AMEN. 

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

We give you thanks for the holy gospel.  Thank you for the good news which you revealed already in the Old Testament.  We thank you for the shadows cast by Christ from Genesis to Malachi, shadows which already give us gospel encouragement.  But Father most of all we thank you for the New Testament where we see Christ most clearly revealed.  Thank you for the miracles he performed, the words he preached, the sacrifice he made for us on the cross.  Thank you for his perfect obedience to the law, offered in our place.  We’re glad that through all of that we see the beauty and wonder of our Saviour.  We worship you for the free gift of salvation that we have in Jesus.  Help us with your Holy Spirit to treasure your Word.  Please help us with your Spirit to understand how your Word points us to Christ in every place.  We pray that as we read your Word we would see Jesus and have our faith in him strengthened.                                    




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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