“Let us go to him outside the camp . . . “

For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.

– Hebrews 13:11-14

This is a “hard passage” that I heard in church recently.

It wasn’t quoted as a hard passage, but I took it as one. I can write posts all day long, but, I wonder, can I live what this passage is asking me to live?

Here the writer of Hebrews connects the Old Testament practice of animal sacrifice — something that to our sanitized and safety-netted minds would appear monstrous if we could see it occurring — with Jesus’ death on Calvary. Jesus suffered “outside the gate” in order to save us.

Jesus deserves my utmost devotion and worship and love. How can I not love a God who was willing to suffer outside the gate for me? Most of us, at one time or another, have felt outcast. Some of us have been outcasts all our lives. And we are all surrounded by outcasts. In fact, some of us are in the business of doing the out-casting.

Outcasts: they wait outside the gate, while the rest of the world laughs and experiences love and wealth and fun and joy. They press their faces against the windows as we eat and drink and are merry. They suffer outside the gate in their loneliness and pain. The beautiful people and well-integrated never notice them or even think about them.

And into their midst steps Jesus, the One who always had time for them, who touched them with healing in spite of their infections and loved them in their ugliness and ministered to them and forgave them in their sin. He was the only one who honored them in spite of their lowly status in the culture.

And he, finally, went “outside the gate” for them and died for them, died for all of us. For whether you’ve ever been an outcast or not, we are all outcasts from the Kingdom of God without Christ. The scripture isn’t kidding when it says that without Christ we are dead men in our sin.

But thanks be to God that he was willing to become flesh and dwell among us, and to suffer and die for dead men, outside the gate where the outcasts live.

“Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.”

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