Online Bible Commentary
Let Us Go to Him
Hebrews 13:10 We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat. 11 The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. 12 And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. 13 Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. 14 For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. (NIV)
In the book of Hebrews the writer is encouraging the first century Hebrew Christians in their faith. In so doing, he also is discouraging them from returning to Judaism. In this passage, he is exhorting them to obedient living by calling them to follow Christ.
The writer begins by comparing the sacrifice of Christ to the ritual of animal sacrifice of Judaism. An altar is defined as any structure upon which offerings such as sacrifices and worship are made for religious purposes. In Judaism the altar resided in the room designated as the Holy of Holies in the temple, or tabernacle. Only the high priest could sacrifice the blood of the sacrificial animal upon the altar, and then only once a year.
The writer proclaims that Christians also have their “altar” (v. 10a). That altar is Jesus Christ. Those who minister at the tabernacle, the Jewish priests, “have no right” (v. 10b) to partake of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, because they are not Christians.
“The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering” (v. 11a). The term “Most Holy Place” is another name for the Holy of Holies. The high priest carries the blood of the sacrificial animal into the Holy of Holies and offers it as a sacrifice to God upon the altar.
The remains of the animal are then “burned outside the camp” (v. 11b), meaning outside the perimeter fence of the temple grounds. This is the fence that borders the courtyard of the temple in Jerusalem. This description, “burned outside the camp”, goes back to the days prior to the building of the temple. The tabernacle was a tent that was set up in the center of wherever the Israelites camped. The bodies of sacrificial animals were literally carried out of the camp and burned.
“Jesus also suffered outside the city gate” (v. 12a), the camp. He was crucified at Golgotha, outside the gates of Jerusalem. His sacrifice made “the people holy through his own blood” (v. 12b). The sacrifice of Jesus made the people holy, whereas animal sacrifice only ritually covered the sins of the people.
Animal sacrifice had no power to make the people holy. It would make them feel cleansed, but it had no cleansing power. It would be a sacrifice for the Jewish people and would last for one year, whereas Jesus’ sacrifice was for all people and lasted forever. It replaced animal sacrifice, and made it possible for all people to go before God at any time, and not just the high priest once a year. The sacrifice of Jesus was much superior to animal sacrifice.
Therefore, “let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore” (v. 13). This is a call for the first century Hebrew Christians to make a clean break from Judaism. They faced intense pressure, even persecution, to return to their previous religion. The writer wants them to turn from that religion once and for all, and never look back. He wants them to picture themselves joining with Jesus and taking up His cross.
The writer wants them to turn from anything that reminds them of Judaism, including the city of Jerusalem, the center of Judaism where the temple resided. Jerusalem is “not an enduring city” (v. 14a). It and its religion will eventually be destroyed, along with the rest of world. He wants them to turn from Jerusalem and its religion, and turn to the enduring city of Christ, “the city that is to come” (v. 14b), Heaven itself, the New Jerusalem.
So, the writer is encouraging the Hebrew Christians to turn away from Judaism once and for all, “forgetting what is behind, and straining toward what is ahead” (Phil. 3:13), as Paul wrote. He wants them to be like Elisha when he followed Elijah. Elisha left his life as a farmer forever. He made that decision permanent by slaughtering his oxen and cooking them over the fire of his burning plow (1 Kings 19:21). The writer echoes the words of Jesus to the disciple “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead” (Mt. 8:22). He wants them to bury their old religion. He wants them to stop sitting on the fence and make a decision. The message is to move on with Christ, and don’t look back.
That is also the message to us today. If there is anything keeping us from following Jesus we need to turn our backs on that and move on with Christ. We all have our “Jerusalem” that we need to leave behind in order to go to our “New Jerusalem”. For me, it was my job, my home, my hometown and all my friends. It may be different for you. It may be a habit, or a vice. It may be a person, or persons. Or, like the first century Hebrew Christians, it may be another religion. Whatever the cost, it is well worth it. We will never regret following Jesus. Let us go to Him.