The Power of Once and for All

Series: Preacher: Date: March 27, 2016 Scripture Reference: Hebrews 10:1-4; 8-14; 1st Peter 1:3-5

1 – The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves.For this reason, it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.

2 – Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins.

3 – But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins.

4 – It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

8 – Jesus said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings You did not desire, nor were You pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law.

9 – Then He said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.”He sets aside the first to establish the second.

10 – And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ ONCE FOR ALL.

11 – Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices,which can never take away sins.

12 – But when this Priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins,He sat down at the right hand of God,

13 – and since that time He waits for His enemies to be made His footstool.

14 – For by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

1st Peter 1:3 – Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

4 – and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.This inheritance is kept in Heaven for you,

5 – who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

Like most people, this year I filled out a bracket for the March Madness NCAA final four. And—like most people—many of my bracket selections were crushed almost immediately. That’s happened before but when it happened THIS YEAR I got to wondering—HOW did that happen?   After all Dr. Gale Goodlow—who is not just a skilled physician but an EXPERT on college basketball—Gale helped me fill out my bracket.

  • So, how did 12th seed Little Rock beat 5th seed Purdue?
  • How did 12th seed Yale beat 5th seed Baylor?
  • And most of all, how did 14th seed Middle Tennessee beat 2nd seed Michigan State?

Gale and I had Michigan State winning the tournament—going all the way—and by the way THAT loss was a shocker to a lot of people. I mean, you would have to have borrowed Dr. Emmett Brown’s DeLorean from Back to the Future to have predicted this one.  Before that game Middle Tennessee was 0-22! How did they beat mighty Michigan State?

Of course unpredictable wins like this are the reason March Madness is so entertaining. This tournament always lives up to its name in that picking a winning bracket based on the way various teams are seeded—well, like golf, it can drive you a little crazy. Anyway—I got to wondering. How does a basketball team get awarded its seed in the tournament?  What gives that college the right to stake a claim as 1st seed?

So I did some research and here’s what I learned. Thirty-two of the sixty-four teams in the final four tournament gain automatic entry into the bracket by winning their conference’s championship—and that makes sense to me. Winners should be in the bracket. But the remaining 36 teams don’t necessarily get in by wins.  No—they are seeded in the tournament based on the decisions of a selection COMMITTEE. Now—I learned a lot more—I mean the formula for who gets placed in what seed by this selection committee is very complex but I decided not to share all that with you this morning—because the word “committee” is really all you need to know.  You see, I may not know basketball—-but I am an expert on committees and I know that committees—no matter how wonderful the people are who make them up—all committees have a hard time making decisions.

And committees are notorious for this. There are all kinds of saying that reflect this. Here’s a couple:

  • “A committee is a group of people that keeps minutes and wastes hours.”
  •  “A committee is an animal with four back legs.”

These sayings may be a bit extreme but experience has taught me that many times, in spite of the talent of their members, committees don’t make good decisions. I’m including myself in that criticism—because I’ve chaired countless committees and been a committee member on countless others.

In any case the fact that 36 teams are seeded by committee explains it all to me. That answers my question. 36 decisions made by a committee is why March Madness is so maddening! I mean, the results of my study show that claiming to be a top seed doesn’t necessarily mean what you think it does. Seeing a bracket that says a team has an upper seed ranking can be very misleading when it comes to the outcome.

Now—I share all this because for the past couple months we have been studying Jesus from the perspective of the writer of the book of Hebrews. And last week the writer said something very important—he made a powerful claim about Jesus. In essence He gave Jesus “first seed” when it comes to cleansing our sin—the sin that separates us from our Loving Heavenly Father. He “seeded” Jesus way above the Jewish sacrificial system. This claim is repeated in today’s text. In case you missed it here it is. The writer says: “We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ ONCE FOR ALL. By this one sacrifice He has made perfect FOREVER those who are being made holy.”

Well, that statement can be a little maddening for many people and not just in the month of March. They ask, “How can the Bible make this claim? What is it that makes Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross better than all the other sacrifices? What makes it a once-and-for-all deal?” Well the answer to that question should be obvious because it’s the reason we gather today and every Sunday.  I’m referring to the fact that HE IS RISEN!  [He is risen indeed!]

AMEN! Since Jesus died AND rose again—He proved He was the sinless Son of God, which means He could indeed do what the law and all those other sacrifices could never do—cleanse us from ALL our sin—once and for all. Let me put it this way: Jesus’ resurrection gave Him the right to be “first Seed—” or more accurately the “one and only seed” when it comes to forgiving sin and making it possible for us to be pure in God’s eyes.

The fact is EVERYTHING about our faith as Christians is built on what happened on that third day. Dr. Dale Bruner has an interesting insight. He says that when Mary Magdalene turned and saw our Risen Lord in the Garden that first Easter morning—when SHE turned and saw Him it was as if the entire WORLD turned as well—in that instant it turned from B.C. to A.D.—from “before Christ” to “anno Domini:”“The Year of our Lord.” One second before Mary had been a woman agonizing in the depths of sadness, in the face of unforgivable sin and unconquerable death. Then, a second later Mary experienced the highest possible human joy because she stood in the presence of the One—the ONLY ONE—Who has conquered sin and even death itself.

By the way this is one of the unique aspects of our faith compared to all other religions. You see, unlike any other faith system, the Christian faith traces its origin to one moment in time—the moment Jesus ROSE from the dead. That instant validated Christianity as the only true faith.

John Ortberg tells a story about a time Sunday School teacher was telling children the Resurrection story. The teacher asked the children, “What did Jesus first say to His disciples after He rose on Easter morning?” And a little boy replied, “TA DA!” Well, as humorous as that child’s response is—it has profound truth in it for Jesus’ resurrection was that amazing—that WORLD-changing. TA DA INDEED!

Since Jesus’ resurrection is so foundational to our faith—on this Easter Sunday morning I want us to take a close look at it—just like millions of Christians around the world are doing.

(1) First, on this Easter Sunday morning, I want to affirm the fact that the Resurrection of Jesus REALLY HAPPENED.

Now, I know we’ve talked about the proofs of the resurrection in the past but they bear repeating so I’ll mention just a few.

First, the initial witnesses of the empty tomb were WOMEN like Mary Magdalene.  That’s what the Gospel writers report. And—no offence ladies—but women had a low status in the culture of that day. The “ceiling” in the first century wasn’t “glass”—it was GRANITE. One indication of this is the fact that a woman’s witness was not admissible evidence in court—neither in a Jewish court nor a Roman one. So—if you were MAKING UP a story—like a legend about the resurrection of Jesus Christ, you would never put women in there as the first eye-witnesses. Doing so would totally debunk your story. Including women would destroy its plausibility for the hearers or the readers of the time.  No—-if you were making it up and you wanted people to believe it, you’d use credible witnesses like MEN. So—the only reason the Gospel writers could have put women in is if they really were they eyewitnesses.  There’s no other motivation for doing this. PROOF #1.

And speaking of eyewitnesses, in his book, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, Richard Bauckham says that the Gospel accounts of the resurrection have all the marks not of vision literature—not of legends—but of actual eyewitness accounts. He says you can see the difference between an account that’s given from the vantage point of an individual in the actual scene as opposed to most legends—because legends are written from the viewpoint of an omniscient narrator. An omniscient narrator sees the whole and tells you everything that’s happening. But the Gospel narratives are different.  If you read them carefully you see that they are written from the LIMITED point of view of eyewitnesses—the people who were there at the time. For example, on the road to Emmaus we are told that one of the travelers was Cleopas—but we aren’t told the name of the other—it’s a LIMITED reporting.

Bauckham also asks, “What are all these names for—like Cleopas? Why the names of the women, Joanna and Mary the mother of James?”  He answers his own question by saying that in ancient times very often when you were giving a historical account based on eyewitness testimony, these names were like footnotes.  It was your way of saying if you want to check out what I’m telling you, go talk to these people. And you could have done that because the Gospels came out while these eyewitnesses were still alive so you could go to Cleopas and say, “Hey Cleo—did it really happen like Luke said in the 24th chapter of his book?” And Cleo would say, “Yes—it did—I was there and can verify what Luke wrote.”

PLUS—the fact that we STILL HAVE the gospel accounts verifies their accuracy.  All that would have had to happen for them to disappear from the pages of history would be for witnesses like Cleopas and the others to stand up and say, “This is all made up!” But they didn’t! They affirmed what they witnessed—what they experienced on that first Easter Sunday. PROOF #2!

Here’s something else Baukman points out.  Jewish people are the last people on the face of the earth to be open to the idea that a human being could be God. To believe that—to be preaching that—-would be going way against their worldview.  I mean, they wouldn’t even SAY the name of God out loud.  When they added vowels to the Old Testament Scriptures they did it for every word except the name for God. To them that name was too holy to “pollute” with vowels. So—how would Jews like the disciples be worshiping a man—JESUS—as God?  How did that happen? Well, it didn’t happen through DISCUSSION—and it wasn’t a GRADUAL thing.

No—something must have happened—some BIG SHOCKING thing that shattered their worldview. And that something was this—they met the RISEN Jesus. PROOF #3!

Tim Keller writes, “The resurrection was not preached in the early church as a symbolic representation of wonderful higher truths like, ‘We must always keep hope.’ The resurrection was preached as a hard, bare, terribly irritating paradigm-shattering, horribly inconvenient but impossible to dismiss FACT.”

Keller invites us to take Paul as an example.  When he was known as SAUL he was offended by Christianity.  He hated the gospel message. He was seriously ticked by the idea that there would be no more temple—no more sacrifices for sin. These revolutionary teachings were outrageous to him. After all, he was a Pharisee—so he was against everything about Christianity. Then something happened—something that shattered Saul’s deeply held convictions and that “something” was SOMEONE he met when he was traveling on the Damascus road. That day Saul SAW and talked to the Risen Jesus. On that road he was confronted with the unshakable FACT that Jesus was crucified—dead—buried—and then ROSE.

You know, many people are offended by Christianity today. There are lots of “Sauls” running around. They don’t like Christianity’s teaching on money—they don’t like the Bible’s teaching on creation. They laugh at stories like Noah and the Flood or Moses parting the Red Sea or Jonah living in the belly of a whale. They think Biblical accounts like that are ridiculous. They are offended by the Bible’s teachings on sex and morality and so on. Well, the fact is the first Saul was more offended by Christianity than any of these people. He was so upset he was killing Christians for spreading their offending message. But when Saul realized that Jesus had been raised—it didn’t matter that Christianity offended him anymore. It didn’t matter because he knew it was true. Jesus’ resurrection validated the Christian faith—all of it.

(2) Here’ something else we should remember on this Easter Sunday—the Resurrection of Jesus is the key to understanding ALL the Scriptures—not just the book of Hebrews.

I mean the Bible only makes sense if Easter is true—which it is—because He is RISEN? [He is Risen indeed!]

For example: The Jewish sacrificial system we have been studying about in Hebrews—it only makes sense if it points to the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. The Jewish Passover meal only makes sense when paired with the Resurrection. The promise of Abraham’s descendants blessing the whole world only makes sense if you realize this happens through Christians sharing the good news of our Risen Lord.

In his book, Love of God, Don Carson reconstructs what might have been going on in Paul’s mind in those three days when he was blind and he’d just seen the risen Lord.  He points out that Saul, the Pharisee—would indeed have been offended by Christianity for this reason: The Messiah by definition is anointed. Messiah means “anointed one,” which means “the chosen one, beloved one.” In other words, the Messiah would be blessed by God.  The Messiah would have the favor of God. He would please God.  But here is this Jesus Christ, claiming to be the Messiah, and yet He is dying on a cross. Even the Romans knew that this was the most ignominious of deaths. The Romans and the Jews knew to die on the cross was the bad end for people who were the lowest of the low.

Keller builds on this and points to the fact that Saul would have remembered that Deuteronomy itself says, “Cursed is he who is hung on a tree.”  Saul knew Jesus had cried out, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” He was probably standing there when Jesus said this. So here’s what Saul’s thinking: Christianity makes no sense because the Messiah would be blessed by God, would be supported by God, would be accompanied by God—and this guy, Jesus, was abandoned by God, he was cursed. He thinks, “What kind of fool do you take me for!? What kind of salvation could a man cursed by God bring?” And then Saul saw Jesus raised from the dead.

Then in the darkness of his three-day-blindness Saul thinks: “Well, wait a minute, if he was raised from the dead then God did vindicate Him, then God is pleased with Him—then God does love Him and bless Him. But wait a minute, if God does love Him and is pleased with Him—then when He was cursed and abandoned He must have been cursed and abandoned for somebody else’s sins, not His own.”  And suddenly Saul—Paul turns to the rest of the Scriptures which of course, as a Pharisee of Pharisees he would have been able to carry around in his head.  He would have thought of Isaiah and said, “Okay, in the first part of Isaiah the Messiah is a great king but the second half is all about this strange figure of the suffering servant. They couldn’t both be the same figure, could they? Yes, they could.” Then he looks at the temple and the sacrificial system, and says,  “Okay, let’s think about the whole thing. Did the blood of bulls and goats and little lambs, did that really over the years actually completely atone for sins?  That wouldn’t make much sense, would it? What if it wasn’t supposed to? What if the purpose of all those sacrifices was to point to something or Someone else? What if all that was pointing to Jesus?  But okay, now if it’s all pointing to Jesus what does that mean about the temple and sacrificial system?”

And then in his mind he takes a look at Ezekiel and Jeremiah. He thinks,“Look at those places where it talks about a New Covenant, where it seems like God is actually talking to people face-to-face and writing the Law on their hearts.  It’s almost like there’s no need for a priest or a temple anymore. What is that New Covenant discussion about? How do we understand that? Oh, if we remember Jesus’ life and death and resurrection, then that makes sense.  What about the promise to Abraham, that through Abraham’s descendants all of the nations of the world would be blessed? How would that ever happen? Perhaps through Christians—followers of Jesus becoming children of God through faith!”

Do you see what’s going on? Once Paul understood the resurrection, he understood the cross. And once he understood the resurrection and the cross together, he looked back and the entire Old Testament opened up to him.

Paul had been expecting a strong Messiah to come save the strong.  His understanding was the Messiah would have come; He would have gotten up on the horse and He would have saved all those who summon up their strength to follow Him—and obey Him fully. So it would have been a strong Messiah coming to save the strong.  But instead he suddenly realized, “Wait a minute, it’s a Messiah coming in weakness to save those who admit their weakness and their need for a Savior.”  Once he saw that, it opened everything up. My point is the Resurrection is indeed the key to understanding the entire Bible!

In 1799 a French soldier named Pierre-Francois Bouchard—who was a part of the Napoleonic expedition to Egypt found a granite stone that was inscribed with a decree—one that had been issued in Memphis, Egypt in 196 BC on behalf of King Ptolemy V. The decree appeared in three languages: ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, Demotic script, and ancient Greek. Since it presents essentially the same text in all three scripts the stone provided the key to the modern understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphs. It is called THE ROSETTA STONE—and it was a very important discovery because before then we had no way of translating all those Egyptian doodles. Well, Jesus’ resurrection was in essence THE ROSETTA STONE of the Bible. It explains or “translates” everything.

In the time I have left, I’d like to elaborate on this by pointing out how the fact that HE IS RISEN—[HE IS RISEN INDEED] affects our day to day existence.  I want us to look at the POWER of once and for all—how that power impacts our lives.

(1) First, it has the power to change the way we look at SIN.

As I said earlier, because Jesus ROSE it shows He has the authority to forgive our sins. It means He did indeed die for sin ONCE AND FOR ALL—which means our sins can be washed away. We can be pure in God’s eyes. There is now no need for further sacrifices—the blood of our Risen Lord covers all our sin. When we come to him in faith, Jesus’ death on our behalf wipes the “sin slate” clean.

As many of you know, I have been a fan of The Monkees since I was a young teen. Well, here’s a little Monkee Trivia that you may or may not know. Did you realize that Mike Nesmith’s mother invented liquid paper? If you’re young you may not know what liquid paper is—but hang with me and you’ll see it was pretty cool stuff. Mike’s mom’s name was Bette Nesmith and she worked as a secretary at the Texas Bank and Trust. She was a single mom. In those days there were no computers. Everyone used typewriters and paper—HERE’S A PICTURE of both for you young people—and one of the challenges of secretaries like Bette was erasing mistakes made while typing. You couldn’t just hit the delete key like we do today. Well, she made extra money to provide food and clothing for her future Monkee son by painting holiday windows at the bank—Christmas scenes. In this way she realized that, “With lettering an artist never corrects by erasing, but always by painting over the error.” So she decided to apply that to typing. She put some tempera water-based paint in a bottle, took her water color brush to the office—and painted over typing errors. She made improvements with the help of young Mike’s High School chemistry teacher and it worked great. Other secretaries began to ask her to make some of the liquid paper for them to use and she eventually marked it as a product called, “Mistake Out” in 1956. The name was later changed to “Liquid Paper” when she began her own company.  The company was very profitable and in 1979 she sold it to the Gillette Corporation for $47.5 million. This explains how Mike Nesmith was able to afford a guitar and get guitar lessons that would lead to his fame as a Monkee! Eventually self-correcting typewriters came out—we still have one in the office—but not before Ms. Nesmith made her fortune.

Now, wouldn’t it be great if someone came out with a way to correct PEOPLE—a way to cover over their mistakes? Well, that’s exactly what Jesus did on the cross. Because God so loved the world—He sent His only Son to do what could not be done in any other way. He sent Him to die on a cross. Jesus’ blood was shed to cover over our sins once and for all—and as I said, the resurrection proves He could and DID do exactly that!

I really enjoyed the Good Friday walk through experience that Kevin and Crew set up—and a statement at the last station really hit me. “God treated Jesus like Barabbas so He could treat Barabbas like Jesus.” Jesus shed His sinless blood to cover the sins of people like Barabbas and you and me.

(2) But that’s not all. The resurrection power of once and for all changes the way we look at LIFE.

You see, when a sinner like you or me realizes that Jesus is indeed God’s Son Who died in our place. When we confess our sin and invite Him into our lives as Lord we experience a change in perspective—a change in focus. As we grow in Jesus’ likeness we become less self-focused and more other-focused.  Plus, we don’t look at life as just a three-score and ten deal. No—we embrace an eternal mindset—and start living for things that last—things that further God’s eternal kingdom. We begin to want to change the world by helping others and we know the best way to do that is by telling others about Jesus. We also follow Jesus’ footsteps in ministering to physical need—knowing that this kind of good work points people to our Lord.  I mean when we walk our talk—people are open to hearing us talk about our walk!

A moment ago I referred to that Easter morning when Mary Magdalene saw a man in the garden and assumed he was just the gardener. Well, Ken Shigematsu, pastor of 10th Church in Vancouver, British Columbia, points out that on one level, she was obviously wrong—but on another level she was right, because Jesus Christ was a gardener, ushering in a new creation in our world.  The Bible tells us that the first man, Adam, was the first gardener in our world, in the paradise of Eden.  But of course sin changed all that. Thorns and thistles and hard ground came because of sin.

Well in a very real sense Jesus Christ, the second Adam, is the new Gardener, Who comes into the world to remove the thorns and the thistles, to break up the hard ground, and to replace it with blossoms, with flowers, with harvest.  You see, when Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose again—He was breaking the power of death and evil and unleashing the greatest life-giving force the universe has ever known.  When people meet Him, they want to become part of His revolution: His revolution in making our world a place of greater beauty and justice, in making all things new—as more and more people accept Jesus as Savior and Lord. I mean, when you know Jesus—you want others to know Him too—you want others to experience the power of once-and-for all.

I heard this week that Muslims are coming to faith by the droves in Europe—because Christians there are opening their homes to these refugees. Those Muslims want to know why a Christian would want to help them—why a follower of Jesus would want to help give them a new start—and those Christians are telling them about Jesus Who gives all people a new start.

Peggy Peek just returned from a mission trip in Detroit. She told me she learned there that 95% of the meals served in disasters like Katrina and Detroit and wherever—come from Southern Baptists. And don’t misunderstand—I’m not saying this is some denominational deal—because it is individual Christians—who get the training and then man these feeding centers. They do this because of their relationship with Jesus Who they know is the Bread of life.

So—the resurrection of Jesus—the power of once and for all—gives us the power to change the way we look at life.  We embrace a perspective that makes us want to make an eternal difference in this world.

(3) One final point and we are done. The power of once and for all changes the way we look at DEATH.

Take the fingers of your left hand and feel the pulse on the wrist of your right arm. That pulse will stop one day. Your heart will have a final beat. Feel yourself breathe. One day those lungs will empty a final breath.  When you woke up this morning the number of nights you will lay your head on a pillow decreased by one. If Jesus tarries, we will all die physically one day. Your family will call a funeral home to make arrangements. The mail man will deliver sympathy cards. This kind of thing will happen to all of us. That’s our future. I know it’s an uncomfortable fact to consider—but it’s true. In Psalm 89:48 we find a question that we all know the answer to: “Who can live and not see death or who can escape the power of the grave?” NO ONE. Young and old, good and bad, rich and poor—neither gender is spared; no class is exempt.  We all die—nearly 2 people a second, more than 6,000 an hour, more than 155,000 every day—57 million a year. The finest surgeon might enhance your life but he can’t eliminate your death. As Hebrews 9:27 says, “People are destined to die once.” That’s the fact—plain and simple.

Last year was proof of this fact and I say that because in the first few months it felt like there was a funeral every week. So many wonderful Redlanders were called home last year—and the power of ONCE AND FOR ALL is what got us through all that grief. You see, we know that the Risen Jesus promises to do to the tombs of Christians the same thing He did to HIS—EMPTY them. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in Me will never die.” (John 11:25-6) Because Jesus rose—we know death is not the end—in fact, it is the beginning of an eternity of sinless joy. We know we’ll be reunited with our loved ones in the home God has prepared for us.

And this knowledge—this sure and steadfast hope is SECURE. Peter says this inheritance “is kept in Heaven for you.”  I heard a story about a guy who, ever since he was a little boy, his parents had promised to give him a beautiful car to drive when he turned 16. He looked forward to parking it in the family’s barn where it could stay warm and dry. Only first his dad would have to get rid of that old car sitting in the barn. He couldn’t wait for his dad to haul it off to the dump to make way for his dream car. But when would that day come? When would that new car arrive? When would his dad get rid of that old junky car under the tarp? Then one evening in early summer he heard strange sounds coming from the barn. It sounded like an engine. What was going on? Peering into the darkness he noticed a light was on in the barn. He walked into the warm night air, down the dirt path, and poked his head into the barn door. When he saw the tarp, rolled up and left against the door, he excitedly thought, Dad is finally getting rid of that junky old car! Then he looked and saw one of the most incredible sports cars in automotive history. It was a Corvette, but not just any Corvette. It was the coveted, beautiful, powerful 1963 Corvette 327 V8 with a split window, aluminum knock-off wheels, painted candy apple red. That was the car that had been underneath the tarp in the barn all those years. He stood there stunned. It was always there, just waiting for him to turn 16. His father looked up, and with a broad smile, he said, “Come on, son. Let’s take her for a ride.”

In the same way, this coveted, beautiful and powerful inheritance I just described is kept in heaven for you and me. It’s there now. Someday the Lord Himself will roll up the tarp and let you see it in all its glory.  We’ll see our loved ones again!  One day there will be NO MORE death!

Let me ask—who is “first seed” in your life?  Who calls the shots? Who or what gives your life perspective. By virtue of the fact that Jesus rose from the dead—only He has the right to be first—so if you haven’t already made that decision—make Him first in your life today.


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