Let us, then, go to Him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace He bore. Hebrews 13:13
Jesus died “outside the camp” — outside the city walls — and the writer of Hebrews compels us to go out there and join Him. What could that possibly mean?
Hebrews is called Hebrews because it was written with the Jewish Christians in mind. They would have understood “outside the camp” to mean the place where the bodies of the animals whose blood had been used to atone for their sins were taken and burned. “The high priest carries the blood of bulls and goats into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp” (Hebrews 13:11).
It’s a disgraceful place. Anything that was unclean was taken outside the city walls so it would not contaminate those inside. Lepers had to live out there unless they had been cured and declared clean by a priest. The penalty for some sins was a period of time outside the camp. The bodies of the animals were unclean because they were used as a sacrifice for sin. Outside the camp was clearly a place of disgrace.
And yet we read about Moses in Exodus 33:11, “Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp, a good distance from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting which was outside the camp.”
Apparently, you could also meet God out there, too. There was also a sanctified place outside the camp — a place where Moses could meet God and the people would gather around and hear what God had to say to him and them. Could this not be an Old Testament picture of how we can meet Christ today “outside the camp” where He has paid the price for our sins, so that no longer are bulls and goats required since He is our final sacrifice?
And yet outside the camp is still a place of disgrace, since the writer of Hebrews says that we bear the disgrace He bore when we meet Him out there.
So why are we meeting Christ at a place of disgrace? Because that’s where we all meet Him. That is the only place we can meet Him. We can’t meet Him in our purity or our righteous or our beauty, none of which we have. We meet Him outside the camp, like the sinners we all are. This is the truth: Jesus meets us at our worst. And He can do so because He Himself is the one who has atoned on the cross for our worst.
So this is what I think all this means. Christ is out. He is outside the camp. Outside the tomb. Outside Jerusalem. Outside of Judaism. Outside of religion. Outside the building. Outside the box. And outside anything else you think could keep Him in. He was the sacrifice for our sins, and so He is still there waiting to meet us in our sin and turn our disgrace into grace, and grace turned outward.
[Tomorrow we will explore what it means to “bear the disgrace He bore.” That sounds like something ongoing. What could that mean?]
On the Day of Atonement, the animals were burned outside the gate, prefiguring the day when our Savior would suffer on Golgotha, outside the boundaries of Jerusalem. (Ligonier).