“This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order” ( Hebrews 9:9-10 )
On this side of the cross we celebrate certain things to remind ourselves of everything Jesus accomplished on the cross. Communion is a great example of this. As we symbolically partake in the body and blood of Christ Jesus we remind ourselves of the sacrifice God the Father and his son Jesus made on our behalf. We remind ourselves that His body was broken so that we may be whole. We remind ourselves that His blood was shed so that we can be forgiven. We do this to remember.
In the same way, the Israelites experienced and celebrated certain rituals that were aimed at looking forward to the time of Christ Jesus. They were by no means an end unto themselves; they served as an illustration of the new order, or the institution of Jesus’ eternal High Priesthood.
Day after day, month after month, year after year, theses ceremonies were carried out. If this system could have worked, then the repetition would not have been needed, in other words, they would not have offered the same gifts and sacrifices over and over. Understanding this, we see why the entire system served as an illustration. The sacrifices made never cleared the conscience of the worshipper. What was offered was never able to renew the inner man because it only dealt with external rules and regulations for the body. This is why a new order was needed, one that dealt with the heart of mankind.
The sacrificial system was meant to point the worshipper to the coming Messiah. Just as we look back to the cross, the Israelites entire system of worship looked forward to the Cross. In both cases, Jesus plays the lead role. Since He has come, there is no longer a need for this illustration because we have the real thing. Hebrews 10:1 sums up this very thought, “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship” ( Hebrews 10:1 ). The shadow is inconsequential when the real thing is present. Unlike the illustration, Jesus is able to wash clean and clear the conscience of those who come to him. This shows how vastly different and far superior the New Covenant is over the Old. I am thankful that we are on this side of the cross looking back in remembrance to Jesus’ sacrifice, with no need for an illustration because what we have is the real thing.