The week before Thanksgiving we paused our study of Hebrews, just in time to turn and focus on the season of Advent. Our lesson covered 9:15–10:18, pausing at just the right place, for the author of Hebrews pivots at this point from teaching, to focus on application beginning in 10:19. It’s also a perfect spot for us to pause, because in our lesson we discussed the importance of Christ’s incarnation. For in the middle of our passage, the author of Hebrews writes:
“. . . when Christ came into the world, he said,
‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body have you prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings
you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, “Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.”’” — Hebrews 10:5–7
Once again, the author of Hebrews is putting the words of the psalms into the mouth of our Lord Jesus when he quotes Psalm 40:6–8. And what is the point he’s making? He has already taught us that the blood of the animal sacrifices were merely shadows pointing forward to the salvation which would be offered by the coming Messiah. Indeed, he repeats this theme in the first verse of chapter ten:
“For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. . . . But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” — Hebrews 10:1, 3–4
He then rolls straight into his explanation for the necessity of the incarnation: “Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, . . . ‘a body have you prepared for me’” (10:5). Because the blood of bulls and goats would never take away sins, the Messiah who was to come and save his people from their sins—the One who would live the perfect life they couldn’t and die in their place as the Sufficient Substitute—needed a body.
Now, if your first response to this is, “Well, duh,” —join the crowd. We had that moment in class. But then it dawned on us: Jesus as disembodied Spirit could very well obey his Father perfectly and do his will, but as such he could not represent us before God as our substitute. In order to live that perfect life, obeying God in every jot and tittle of the Law, fulfilling all righteousness, and then to die, he needed to be human. And in order to be human he needed a human body. In his incarnation God prepared for him a human body. As Jesus sings in Psalm 139, the Father formed his inward parts and knit him together in his mother Mary’s womb. Like the rest of the human race, Jesus was fearfully and wonderfully made. His frame was not hidden from God when he was being made in secret, for God’s eyes saw his unformed substance; and in his book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for him, when as yet there were none of them.
Therefore, when Jesus Christ came to do his Father’s will (10:7), “by that will,” he had a body to offer, that “we [would be] sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (10:10). And this body, “offered for all time [as] a single sacrifice for sins” (10:12), is the “single offering [by which] he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (10:14).
Jesus’s body possessed a human heart which pumped human blood, oxygenated by a pair of human lungs, throughout a human cardiovascular system. And this real, living, human blood which flowed through our Savior’s veins was carried by him into heaven on our behalf to secure our eternal redemption (9:12). This is the blood which Jesus offered as the mediator of the new covenant—through the eternal Spirit, without blemish to God—to purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God (9:14–15).
And so, Jesus, the final and supreme Word of the Father (1:2), superior to angels (1:5–6), the Creator of the cosmos (1:10), the Eternal One (1:11–12), the Founder of our salvation (2:10), the Prophet more glorious than Moses (3:3), the General more victorious than Joshua (:8), our Great High Priest (4:14), the Forerunner who anchors us securely in heaven (6:19–20), the Mediator of the better covenant (8:6–7)—this Jesus, high, holy, and exalted above the heavens, needed a body in order to be born as the Babe of Bethlehem, wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger, because there was no room for his family at the Inn.
This is the Jesus whose birth we celebrate at Christmas. This is the Jesus who humbled himself to come do the Father’s will.
O, come, let us adore him; O, come, let us adore him; O, come, let us adore him! —Christ, the Lord!