J e s u s, SACRIFICE

W E D N E S D A Y 4 | 3 | 1 9

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Sacrifices - we make them all the time. To spend more time with family, certain activities on our calendars must be sacrificed. To retire comfortably one day, we may have to sacrifice getting the latest iPhone model every year. Yes, we know what it means to sacrifice…or do we?

In the Bible, a sacrifice is what was needed to accomplish two things: to cover sin and to satisfy God’s wrath on sin. We see very early that God required something living to die, spilling its blood (Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 9:22), to serve as a proper sacrifice. It is subtly introduced when God exchanges the fig leaves for animal skins when Adam and Eve sin (Genesis 3:21). The animal sacrifice is repeated through the stories of Abel (Genesis 4:2-4), Noah (Genesis 8:20), the Patriarchs (Genesis 13:18; 26:25; 33:20; 35:7), and the Passover plague (Exodus 12) all before the Law of Moses was given. In the Law, the instructions for an acceptable offering are spelled out even more clearly. 

Perhaps the most important passage regarding sacrifice is the description of the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16. Each year, the high priest would first sacrifice an animal to atone (pay the penalty) for his own sins before entering the presence of God in the Holy of Holies to make atonement for the sins of all the people. He would take one goat and sacrifice it on the altar, spilling its blood to cover the sins of the people and to satisfy God’s wrath. He would take a second goat, a scapegoat, and lay his hands on its head before releasing it outside the camp, symbolically transferring the guilt of the people to the goat and thus taking those sins of the people away. 

These sacrifices, which had to be made year after year, were only a shadow of what was to come. Jesus was the perfect, once-for-all sacrifice on the cross who both atoned for our sins by His blood and was crucified outside the city, fulfilling the symbolism offered by the scapegoat. “He entered the most holy place once for all, not by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption…But now He has appeared one time, at the end of the ages, for the removal of sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Hebrews 9:12, 26b).

“No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). This is the ultimate sacrifice: Christ giving up His throne in heaven to take on flesh and give His own life for us (Philippians 2:5–11). He loves us this much. This is what and whom we celebrate at Easter. He conquered sin on the cross. He conquered death in His resurrection.