The concept of sacrifice in Scripture begins at the fall of mankind from innocence in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 3:21 tells us that before banishing Adam and Eve from the garden, he clothed them in animal skins. God sacrificed the life of an innocent animal to cover the nakedness of the guilty. (As a side note, I don’t imagine it was easy. God loves His creation, every bit of it, even the parts that have turned away from Him.) This sacrifice is essential in dealing with our fallen nature as it turns out.
Leviticus 14:25 tells of the sacrifice of a lamb without spot or defect to cleanse a leper of guilt, and the how the priest performs the cleansing ritual. Without going into the details of the ceremony itself, it is noteworthy that leprosy is a physical disease – but that the leper needed also to be cleansed of the guilt (other elements of the ceremony dealt with the physical presumably) he or she carried. The innocent lamb was slain to cleanse the diseased one of guilt.
There are other sacrifices of other animals in other passages of the Bible, and all of them have a symbolic significance of cleansing, forgiveness, thanksgiving, and other things that are common with a theme of redemption. Peter tells us that we were redeemed with the blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:19).
Hebrews 9:26 tells us that the sacrifice of Christ put away all sin for all time, and that sacrifice is different from all the other sacrifices in Scripture. How is it different? It was not merely an innocent being sacrificed. It was a willing sacrifice with full knowledge of what He was doing. John 3:16 tells us that this is because God loves us so much that He could not leave mankind in a fallen condition. He had to redeem us from that state, and the only way he could do what His own justice demands is to take the penalty upon Himself to do it.
Revelation 7:14 and Revelation 12:11 tell of the power to cleanse and keep cleansing in the lives of those who will accept that payment on their behalf and choose to walk in its power. In the first reference, it talks about those who have come out of great trial and struggle and have washed their robes white in the “blood of the Lamb,” that is Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God. The second reference adds power. It tells of a band of believers that overcame because of the blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony of that cleansing power, and that they did not love their own lives even when faced with death. That sacrifice made so long ago on a hill outside Jerusalem still carries that power today! If we will accept the payment made by Jesus’s willing sacrifice and choose to walk in the power of His subsequent resurrection from the dead, we can join the ranks of that overcomer band!
What does this imply for us as Disciples of Christ, or followers of Jesus? Jesus willingly gave His life for others. We should follow His example. Does this mean we need to die like He did? Not necessarily, though He may call us to that. If you read about His ministry in the Gospels, He was always was giving His time, His abilities, His wisdom and teaching to others – He was giving His life before He ever gave His death for us. He did so tirelessly and without hesitation. We as His followers should do likewise. When is the last time you gave someone your time, or the benefit of your knowledge and experience? Or how much time during the week do you give to serving those that need counselling? Or those that need basic sustenance? Or healing of any kind? That should be our main driving motivation – to do as He did when He was here. It is not enough to simply talk about how Jesus saves without being Jesus for people. Scripture says we are His Body, the Church. If that is so, we need to follow the direction of our Head, Jesus Christ. James 2:16-17 says that we must not be those who talk the talk only, but we must also be those that walk the walk. If we are the Body, why aren’t His hands healing? Why aren’t His eyes seeking where to help next? Why are His feet not moving us in that direction? As James says, Faith without accompanying works is of no value (paraphrase mine).
Let us be those that are seeking opportunity to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Jesus DIED for us, a most painful execution. How can we do differently for Him? Revelation 12:11 – “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.” (NASB)
Heavenly Father, I yield to you. Let me be, as it says in Your Word, a living sacrifice, and a vessel to be used to help others, just as Your Son did when He was here. Let me be a help for those that need help, an ear, a set of hands, whatever You need from me, right up until You come for me or until Your Son returns. I ask in Jesus’ name. Amen – so be it.