Special Note: This was a sermon delivered at The Lord’s Chapel on Sunday, November 30, 2014.
Leviticus 17:14 says,
“For as for the life of all flesh, its blood is identified with its life. Therefore I said to the sons of Israel, ‘You are not to eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is its blood; whoever eats it shall be cut off.’
Genesis 9:3-4 says,
“Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant. “Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.”
Deuteronomy 12: 23-24 says,
“Only be sure not to eat the blood, for the blood is the life, and you shall not eat the life with the flesh. You shall not eat it; you shall pour it out on the ground like water.”
I think it somewhat strange that Yahweh requires the blood of clean animals as an atonement for sin. Can you imagine what the Temple looked like when it was functioning in this capacity? Literally thousands of bulls, goats, doves, and lambs were sacrificed on a regular basis! The flow of blood from the altar must have been a gruesome sight to see.
Imagine if you will, all of the priests dressed to the “Nines” in their white robes, breastplates, head garments, and all of the accoutrements. Think of all the ablutions and purifying washings; think of all the rituals before the sacrifice. Now picture the priests coming out from the Holy of Holies dripping with blood all over their robes, on their face, and the spattering of spilled blood from head to toe. It was almost like the aftermath of a murder! They go in all perfect and white and emerge bloody.
But sin is so heinous, so repugnant, so disgusting in God’s eyes; the only way to have audience with Him is the atoning sacrifice of a life given for yours. This ALL was a shadow of the ultimate sacrifice on Calvary.
Listen to the words of Christ recorded in John 6: 53-63:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.”
These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.
Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? “What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.”
Can you even imagine what the disciples and the Jewish audience were thinking?
For their whole lives and in their forefathers’ lives, blood was considered unclean! And here was their Messiah saying to eat His flesh and drink His blood? I mean, even in spiritual terms this is harsh!
It begs the question: What is the significance here?
I believe that all blood is unclean because there is only ONE whose blood is holy, only ONE whose blood is pure, and only ONE whose blood is clean…all other blood is fallen, worldly blood. But our Savior’s blood is the reason for His coming.
Before Christ goes to the cross, He teaches the disciples about communion, and what does the wine represent? His blood! He says, “Do this often in remembrance of Me.”
All of the sacrifices, from the very beginning, were a shadow of the divine mystery that Christ would become the ultimate sacrifice for not only humanity, but also the whole of creation! Romans 8 tells us in verses 19-22,
“For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.”
So as Abraham lifted the knife above his head to sacrifice Isaac, the Lord stopped him. The reason is simple: What Abraham was about to do…God would do in the future; Abraham didn’t need to sacrifice his son, but God would. He has “provided His own sacrifice”.
Heavenly Father, I offer myself up to you at this moment. Please take me out of the way, empower me with Your Holy Spirit, and let the words that follow be from You and only You. Amen.
- The Reading of Isaiah 53
Turn in our Bibles if you will to Isaiah 53 and read along with me.
- The Sermon
Now let’s break this down to see exactly what Christ did for us:
1Who has believed our message?
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
2For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
Here we see that Christ was not some glorious king that came clothed in majesty, not some man that was beautiful to behold, and not some triumphant general marching through the streets of Jerusalem. He was not handsome, He did not attract the attention of the Jews, and He was simply the son of a carpenter! Instead of parading through the streets of Jerusalem on a white horse with a trumpet blast and much fanfare, He entered on a donkey…a borrowed donkey!
3He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
4Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
When we see a person who has been disfigured or pitiful to look upon, we simply turn away in pity; it is human nature. We have to remember in ancient Palestine, if you were sick or leprous or blind, the Jews assumed that your sins or your fathers’ sins had caused such a condition. All who lived and witnessed Jesus’ life and death could assuredly say that “He was accursed, smitten, afflicted, and shameful to look upon”. As He carried His cross on the road to Golgotha, His back torn apart from 39 lashes with a cat-of-nine-tails, bleeding and stumbling, it must have been a gruesome sight.
What we should understand here is that when Christ lived on earth, He was accustomed to pain and familiar with suffering; “He was full of sorrow and He was despised.”
The reason is magnificent in its application. Whenever we are going through sorrow or grief, Jesus can say, “Man, I know how you feel”! When we are afflicted, when we are marginalized, and when we feel left out in the cold. Jesus can say, “I feel your pain!” Sorrow, grief, affliction, persecution, and abandonment were all His bedfellows. Jesus knows all of these very, very well.
5But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
6All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.
Here we have the substitutionary atonement for our sins. Jesus knew no sin, but He took all of our failings upon Himself. Of all the people that ever lived, Jesus never sinned, He never hated, He never took vengeance even upon the ones deserving of it, and He never disobeyed the Father. And yet, the worst punishment this side of eternity was put upon Him. All that is ugly, all that is offensive, all that is perverted, and all that is evil and ungodly, Jesus took upon Himself for you and for me! As He was nailed to the cross and mocked, what did He reply? “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
We don’t know what it would be like to take the full price of sin upon ourselves; we have no clue as to how abandoned Christ must have felt up on that cross. We turned our backs on Him, spat upon Him, ridiculed Him, His best friend denied Him, one of His own betrayed Him with a kiss, His own fellow Jews had yelled “Crucify Him!”, and even the Father had to turn away! The pain and agony that saturated this perfect Man is best summed up by Him reflecting the phrase found in Psalm 22: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?!”
7He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth.
8By oppression and judgment He was taken away;
And as for His generation, who considered
That He was cut off out of the land of the living
For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?
Even when He could have called angels down from heaven, even when He could have justified His life by His words, and even when He could have escaped the torture He was enduring, He simply kept quiet and took it all out of love. Remember what Paul told us: “It was for the joy set before Him” that He took the pain and suffering. He was looking forward to the day of reuniting Himself to us, to having a people, to having the sons and daughters of men worship Him and love Him and to spend eternity with the ones that He loves!
9His grave was assigned with wicked men,
Yet He was with a rich man in His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.
10But the LORD was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.
This part just destroys me. In some way I cannot understand, the Lord, the Father, was PLEASED to crush Him, was pleased to place Him in untold grief, and was pleased to utterly destroy Him! Why? John 3:16 tells us why…”because God so loved the world!” Because God so loved you and because God so loved me.
In my recent post, “Dear Papa,”, I deal with the suffering of the Father. If you read this revelation, you will know that the pain on earth suffered by Christ was echoed in heaven by the Father. The message of the cross is bloody and profoundly painful to our God.
11As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.
12Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,
And He will divide the booty with the strong;
Because He poured out Himself to death,
And was numbered with the transgressors;
Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors.
Here we see how Christ touched every part of humanity. Not only did He suffer physically, but He suffered in His soul as well. When you have a bad day, when life just keeps beating you down, when you suffer in your soul for the loss of a loved one, and when you see your country going in the wrong direction. Remember, that the Messiah has felt all of it! There is no pain in your soul that He can’t touch and heal. Jesus tasted it ALL!!! Don’t ever say to yourself, “No one understands my pain”, or “no one understands how I feel”.
When we say, “Lay it at the foot of the cross”. We should be aware that Jesus is the only person who could possibly understand the depth, width, and length of the pain that resides deep within us. Only He can touch the dark and lonely places in our hearts. And He sees your pain. But remember, He doesn’t just want to see it…He wants to heal it! He came so that we can always turn to Him not just in appreciation for His sacrifice, but in a way that allows Him to heal the pain!
So we can quote “By His stripes we are healed”, but most days isn’t it more important to say, “By the affliction of His soul, I have a healed heart!”
- Conclusion and Exhortation:
As I did some research to refresh my memory on the ritual sacrifices, I found a Jewish website that explained in detail the rituals and the meanings of the sacrifices. I was blown away when I read the following explanation.
There were three reasons given to explain the sacrifice of animals:
- Giving to God: Here we see the need to give God our very best. The offering was to be something close to you, something you owned, and something you really cared about. A person was to bring the first born from their livestock or the first fruits of their labor. God wanted only your best; this way it really kind of hurt! This was to reflect the moment God gave His very best.
- Substitution: The sacrifice was to take your sins that distanced you from God. The sins of your soul are transferred to the soul of the animal to be sacrificed. In essence, the sacrifice took on the guilt of the one offering the sacrifice. Sound familiar?
- Draw closer to God: The last and in my opinion, the most important part was to draw you closer to God. Now that a substitution was made, a person was pure and undefiled before God, and that allowed the person to draw closer to God, to approach the living God, and to usher into His presence our very souls that before the sacrifice was unclean and unworthy to be in the presence of a God that cannot be in the presence of sin. This is the whole point: God created man to fellowship with…God has plenty of angels to do His bidding. Man is, for God, a family to be loved; we are His children! What good dad doesn’t want to be with his children, to laugh with them, to play with them, and to bring them joy?
Now, didn’t God make the ultimate sacrifice for us? He gave His very best for us, He allowed His only Son to be the substitution for our iniquities, and He did this with the goal of allowing us to draw closer to Him!
Jesus put on flesh, so that we may be clothed in the Spirit. He took on corruptible flesh so that we may put on the incorruptible. He traded His divinity for your fallenness. All this He did because of His unbelievable love for you and me.
Jesus came to die and to conquer death. When John the Baptist saw Jesus approaching the Jordan River, John cried out, “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!” John, being filled with the Spirit, already knew that Jesus came as a sacrifice…amazing.
We can never forget that He came as the Lamb of God, a lamb that would be led to the slaughter. That is the pure and undefiled gospel that we celebrate. It is ugly and lovely at once. It is grand and degrading at the same time. It displays the best of God and the worst of us. Praise the God of heaven and of earth for His sacrifice for us. How wondrous are His ways and His eternal love for us!
Remember this often as Jesus commanded us to do. Communion is the remembrance of a God that bled out for you and suffered for humankind in a gesture that forever will amaze us, amaze the angels, and ultimately will be the act that gave freedom to the slaves of sin.
Take time to thank Jesus for His sacrifice. Pray to the Lord often in humble reverence for His mercy and grace and courage. Let us learn to live the resurrected life in the power of the Holy Spirit, for to not heed that call is to discount the enormous price that was paid to purchase this freedom for you and me.