9th October 2011
“God made him [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV)
In ancient Israel, as well as in Judaism today, the greatest of the holy days wasYom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It was the day that gathered up the worship of every other day. The high priest would stand before the people as their divinely appointed representative, bearing the names of all of the twelve tribes engraved on his breastplate and shoulders.
He would perform the rituals of animal sacrifice using the blood of a bull and a goat and, as the representative of every Israelite, confess the sins of the whole nation. Only on this one day each year the high priest, and only the high priest, after performing special rituals for his own cleansing and self-consecration, would enter the most holy and sacred chamber of the Temple, the Holy of Holies, on behalf of all Israel, praying for the people and sprinkling the sacrificial blood for all their sins.
The New Testament writers saw this sacred ceremony as the foreshadowing of the atoning work of Jesus Christ, who came from God as the true High Priest, our perfect representative and substitute, in solidarity with all humanity, bearing the names of all people throughout all times. As the book of Hebrews explains: “Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. He says, ‘I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises’” (Hebrews 2:11-12).
Jesus’ whole life of love, including his prayer and obedience as one of us on our behalf, is his self-consecration for us. He does not offer an animal; he offers himself as the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world. He does this, not to appease an angry Father; but rather in acknowledgement of the Father’s love for a sinful world, sealing by his own blood God’s covenant love and devotion to humanity.
Jesus became the broken and sinful humanity that needed healing redemption. As theologian James Torrance once put it: “Christ does not heal us by standing over us, diagnosing our sickness, prescribing medicine for us to take, and then going away to leave us to get better by obeying his instructions—as an ordinary doctor might. No, he becomes the patient! He assumes our very humanity that is in need of redemption and, by being anointed by the Spirit in our humanity, by a life of perfect obedience for us, by dying and rising again, our humanity is healed in him.”
Jesus is the perfect revelation of the Father, who loves us so much that he will never leave us to our own destruction. And Jesus is our perfect substitute and representative in the Father’s presence. That means that in Jesus, God has already forgiven us and accepted us as his beloved children. We have nothing to fear—we can put our faith and hope in Jesus knowing that he has already done everything necessary for our salvation. Isn’t it time that we came home to the loving embrace of our heavenly Father?
Most wonderful Father, your plan of salvation in Christ Jesus does cast out fear. How can we fear you when you and your son are the ones who have done all this for us. Not fear, Lord, but deep, abiding and reverential respect and awe for your love and concern for your creation. In Jesus’ name we pray.
Study by Joseph Tkach