The ancient Israelite home was simplistic but extremely functional in its design. A central room was the equivalent to the modern day eat-in kitchen/family room. There was also a room for sleeping, and another to accommodate guests should they arrive unexpectedly (which they usually did!). The last room functioned as a stable room. But it was not meant for all the livestock if the family was fortunate enough to have a small flock. This room was generally used for the animals which would journey to Jerusalem to become a sacrifice. Sacrifices were required by the Law to be perfect. No spot or blemish could be found on the animal, therefore it meant special care needed to be taken so that the animal would meet those requirements, hence a small room set apart to do just that.
There were basically two major types of sacrifices: burnt offerings and peace (or thank) offerings. In general these offerings were brought in order to “pay for” both known and unknown sins, offer thanks, or to give God His due (for example the first fruit offering found in Ex. 22:29 and Ex. 23:19). In the era of the patriarchs sacrifices were fairly straight forward but after the Law had been given to Moses on Mt. Sinai the sacrificial system became more deliberate and elaborate (Lev. 1-7).
By the time of Jesus and the disciples carrying off the amount of sacrifices being made, especially on a holy day such as Passover, was a science in logistics! The pivotal component of Passover (the commands of which are found in Ex. 12:1-6 with specific directions on what to do with the blood from that sacrifice in verses 7-13 and 21-22), or of any Biblical sacrifice, was the offering itself- in this scenario, the lamb. The list of offerings using lambs is quite extensive (Lev. 14:10, 12, 13, 21, 24, 25; 23:12, 18, 19, 20; Num. 7:15, 17, 21, 23, 27, 29, 33, 35, 39, 41, 45, 47, 51, 53, 63, 65, 69, 71, 75, 77, 81, 83, 87, 88 and many more!!). Lambs with any form of blemish could never be offered as a sacrifice for atonement (Lev. 22:23). With so much importance placed on the condition of and the necessity of a sacrificial lamb, it then becomes quite apparent how striking it must have been to hear John the Baptist call Jesus “The Lamb of God” (Jn. 1:29, 36).
The Greek word for lamb, amnos, is only used four times in the New Testament (Jn. 1:29, 36; Ac. 8:32; 1 Pet. 1:19) and in each instance it is used in reference to Jesus. In the book of Revelation the word is changed to arnion making an even more specific reference to Christ as THE Sacrificial Lamb (Rev. 5:6, 12). John’s use of the word is also connected to the phrase “of God” (tou Theou) signifying that this Lamb is provided by God, just as He once provided a ram for Abraham’s sacrifice (Gen. 22:7-8, 13-14). Jesus bears this title because He sacrificed Himself (and by no coincidence) at the time of Passover (Mt. 26:1-2; Mk. 14:12; 15:22; Lk. 22:14-20; 23:33; 1 Cor. 5:7). Spiros Zodhiates writes, “His deliverance of sinners is likened to the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt. Thus John the Baptist recognized Jesus Christ as the One who was to bring deliverance when he saw Him that day”. The blood from the lamb of the Exodus spared the Israelites from judgment as God “passed over” the homes whose doors bore its blood. Likewise the blood of Jesus is now sparing those who have applied it (so to speak) to their lives. Jesus lived up to the criteria of the perfect sacrifice (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Jn. 3:5), therefore He is able to literally take up and carry away the guilt and judgment associated with sin (Rev. 5:6, 12).
The penalty of sin and what it took to remove it was a costly sacrifice. Although we can somewhat understand it in terms of our imaginary story above, I’m not sure we fully “get it”. It’s true that many of us have a beloved pet and know how hard it is to lose them to sickness or death but truthfully, we can hardly equate that to what God the Father must have felt when He allowed His Son to become the Sacrificial Lamb which took away the sins of the world (Jn. 3:16-17). We may catch a glimmer of it when we think of a person we love, but even that could not possibly match the trauma of the cross. However, even with these weak examples our lives should reflect some understanding of the price that was paid for our freedom. Are you living in such a way?
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
Week of 4/24/2016