A small boy was consistently late coming home from school. His parents warned him one day that he must be home on time that afternoon, but nevertheless he arrived later than ever. His mother met him at the door and said nothing. His father met him in the living room and said nothing.
At dinner that night, the boy looked at his plate. There was a slice of bread and a glass of water. He looked at his father’s full plate and then at his father, but his father remained silent. The boy was crushed.
The father waited for the full impact to sink in, then quietly took the boy’s plate and placed it in front of himself. He took his own plate of meat and potatoes, put it in front of the boy, and smiled at his son.
When that boy grew to be a man, he said, “All my life I’ve known what God is like by what my father did that night.”
And we also know what God is like by what Christ did on the cross. The cross reveals a powerful story of the magnitude of God’s love and grace.
In the Old Testament, after a priest went into the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement, he came out with a “good thing” for the nation of Israel. He brought one year of forgiveness. But when Christ came out of the “greater tabernacle” (Heb. 9:11-12), He brought a better thing — a lifetime of forgiveness, a one-time sacrifice that would never need to be repeated, a new relationship with God the Father that was based on reconciliation (Rom. 8:1), and many more blessings, whose realization is yet to come (cf. Rev. 21-22).
Now on THE (final) Day of Atonement (the day of Jesus death on the cross), Jesus’ sacrifice was made with blood. But the blood on that day was a better blood than the blood of bulls and goats. The Old Testament sacrifices provided atonement, but not permanent atonement because they were only shadows of the reality to come. Those sacrifices were inadequate because they provided a blood of a different kind — they were not appropriate equivalents of human life. But the blood of Jesus was free from sin’s curse (Rom. 8:22), it was given voluntarily (Heb. 9:14), which no animal ever did, and it was done one time for all time (Heb. 9:12).
As significant as the Old Testament sacrifices and Law were, they were inadequate because they could never clean the conscience of a man. For as pure as an animal might be, even an animal could not be inwardly clean. So the best an animal sacrifice could do was provide external cleansing. But Christ’s blood dealt with the ultimate issue — He removed not only the defilement, but the source of the defilement (Heb. 9:13-14). Because of His blood, believers in Him are free to worship and serve God with a cleared, non-condemning conscience. And because He was without blemish, we can be made blameless (Eph. 1;4; Col. 1:22).
There is no forgiveness without (perfect) blood. And there is no atonement without (perfect) substitution. Christ Jesus provides both.