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Outside the Camp

He was not sacrificed in the temple… and it was not even within the city… but instead outside, outside the camp… and the cross of Christ might be the altar not of the temple but of the world. —Leo the Great, AD 440 

If you’ve traveled through a city or suburb, you’ve likely noticed how quickly an affluent neighborhood gives way to an economically depressed neighborhood. 

It’s obvious that some live “in” the boundaries of tax dollars while others live “out.” 

This stark contrast between “in” and “out” is about to be spiritually illustrated in the final chapter of Hebrews: 

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. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. (13:11-12) 

A fringe benefit of being a Jewish priest was that one was allowed to cook and eat the carcass of sacrificed animals with one exception—the one offered on the Day of Atonement. This animal was sacrificed annually for the sins of the people, and it was required that the carcass be disposed of outside the camp. 

Outside the camp was considered profane. Unclean people were sent outside the camp. If you had a skin disease, a discharge of any kind, or had come in contact with a dead body, you were shipped outside the camp. If you were to be executed for a crime, it was done outside the camp. If you needed to go to the restroom, you went outside the camp. 

Later, when the Israelites moved into Jerusalem, “outside the camp” came to mean outside the city walls. And it was outside the city walls that Jesus suffered—among the corpses, human excrement, and individuals affected with various diseases. 

When Jesus was expelled from the city of Jerusalem, the city was no longer holy. Rather, the place of refuse, where Jesus died, became sacred ground. Because it’s the presence of Jesus that makes people holy, we’ll find ourselves outside society’s inner circle when we’re immersed in His presence. 

Lord, outside the camp is good for me, I’ll hang out with you there! Amen.

Dive deeper into Hebrews with Pete’s video series Better: A New and Living Way!
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