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  • Writer's pictureRev. Gerald (Jerry) Reiter, Emeritus

In The Wilderness, The Lamb

Fourth Wednesday in Lent


In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.


It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

Hebrews 9:22-29


Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”


“You have said so,” Jesus replied.


When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.


Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus Barabbas. So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.


While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”


But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.


“Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.


“Barabbas,” they answered.


“What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.


They all answered, “Crucify him!”


“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.


But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”


When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”


All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”


Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

Matthew 27:11-26


Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, was instituted by God in the days of Moses, when Aaron was High Priest of the Tabernacle during the 40 years in the wilderness from Egypt to the Promised Land. God prescribed certain rites for it and in a quick outline, the rites and rituals of the day went as follows:


Aaron was to choose a young bull for a sin offering and two goats for sin and whole offerings. He was to offer the bull to make amends for himself and his family. One goat was offered for the people. With a pitcher of the blood of the animals, and two handfuls of incense, he entered the Holy of Holies, the most sacred place in all the world.


Aaron sprinkled the sacrificial blood on the Ark of the Covenant. He mixed the blood of the bull with the blood of one of the goats. As he walked around the altar seven times, he sprinkled the blood on it to make amends for the people’s sins.


A second rite took place before the assembled people. The other goat was brought to Aaron. With great ceremony he solemnly placed both hands on the head of the animal as he made confession of all the people’s sins and rebellious acts against the Lord. The sin of the people was thus transferred to the hapless goat.


Then a man led the goat, laden with sin, out into the wilderness. The great, solemn, moving service was over. Aaron and his family were free from guilt. The sin of the nation had been carried into the wilderness by the “scape-goat.” “God is good,” the people cried, and rousing celebration began.


Once again types of the Lamb of God are introduced into history and the Scriptures. This time, instead of sheep, God uses two goats, one whose blood was sprinkled in the Holy of Holies, and one who bore sin into the wilderness. Both have become shadow of the Lamb whose blood was shed for the sin of the world and who bore the sin of the world in His own body on the cross.


A scapegoat is a person or a thing bearing the guilt of others. The Christians were scapegoats for Nero at the burning of Rome. The Jews were scapegoats for Hitler as he sought to rid the German nation of its non-Aryan blood to create a super race.


Jesus is our scapegoat. The sin of the world was placed on Him. He died for the sin of the world in the wilderness of Calvary.


The poets haven’t missed the scapegoat role of Christ. Horatius Bonar, in 1843, penned the beloved hymn:

“I lay my sins on Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God; He bears them all and frees us from the accursed load. I bring my guilt to Jesus to wash my crimson stains clean in His blood most precious till not a spot remains.”


And Isaac Watts, probably the greatest of hymnists, wrote:

“Not all the blood of beasts on Jewish altars slain could give the guilty conscience peace or wash away the stain.


My faith would lay its hand on that dear head of Thine. While as a penitent I stand, and there confess my sin.”


It’s way beyond my understanding that Jesus could have died for all the sin of all the world to redeem its billions of souls. It’s a divine mystery.


But this I know and this I believe, that my Heavenly Father knows and loves me, and that Christ ransomed me, and reconciled me to my Heavenly Father.


And this I know and this I believe, that my High Priest even now is in the heavens, interceding for me.


And this I pray and this I believe, that you as the people of God have made a covenant with Christ. For He bore your sins in His own body on the cross, and He pleads your case, even now, in the Holy of Holies in Heaven.


And this I know, that the sacrifice was made and the atonement is available for everyone. The heathen, whose gods are silent and unhearing, may come to Christ and find the living, gracious God. Jesus stands ready for him to cry, “O Lamb of God, I come, I come,” for He has presented His holy, precious blood to the Father for him.


Let the worst of sinners, the despairing, the dying, come to Christ for He has presented His blood to the Father for them.


“Jesus, my Great High Priest offered His blood and died; my guilty conscience seeks no sacrifice beside. His powerful blood did once atone, and now it pleads before the throne.”


May the world hear the glorious Gospel of redemption and atonement, and find in Jesus Christ, the peace that passes all understanding.


Amen

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