On this day in 1941, the Japanese navy made a preemptive strike on our naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The attack killed 2,403 U.S. personnel, including 68 civilians, and destroyed or damaged 19 U.S. Navy ships, including 8 battleships. The battleship USS Arizona remains sunken in Pearl Harbor with its crew onboard. Half of the dead at Pearl Harbor were on the Arizona. A United States flag flies above the sunken battleship, which serves as a memorial to all Americans who died in the attack. That attack launched America into WWII.
This morning I read Hebrews 9. It speaks of Jesus’ role as our great High Priest. Under the old system, the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies once a year with a blood sacrifice to atone for his sins and the sins of the people of Israel. This was a temporary cleansing that had to be repeated year after year. Verse 22 puts the whole thing into perspective. In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. God had ordained that the penalty for sin was the shedding of blood.
Pearl Harbor reminds us, in a graphic way, that the penalty for the sins of the world is the shedding of blood. It was a dramatic event in our history, but only one example of how a world dominated by sin always leads to the shedding of blood. Still today, innocent, and not so innocent, blood is being shed to atone for the sins of the world. But this blood sacrifice can never truly make things right. World War II changed the face of our world, but it didn’t change the heart of our world. So today we still have conflict in almost every corner of the world.
But there is a solution; a final, once and for all solution. It is found in Christ. Hebrew 9:11-15 lays out the details.
When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance--now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.
I fear that it will not be long before few people remember or care about the significance of December 7, 1941. The sacrifice made there will be lost in the dusty annuls of history, just as every man-made sacrifice will be. But the sacrifice that Jesus made on a cross outside of Jerusalem will continue to bring hope, forgiveness, and true freedom to all who accept it.