I find myself in a recurring situation. It looks something like this: I arrive home tired and “spent” from a full day of work. Four children are inside playing and hear the disruptive, low rumble of the garage door opening. Before I even get out of the car most days, my kids are in the garage or at my car door. My grand thoughts of setting my things down and kicking my feet up are soon interrupted by a pile of Hot Wheels needing to be “raced” or plastic blocks needing to be built. To make a long, detailed story short, my selfishness shows its ugly head. I have to ask for grace, most often from wife who is also spent from a tiring day.
This is an all too familiar scene: asking forgiveness day after day unable to kill a habit of selfishness present deep within me and experiencing a refreshing amount of grace from my kids and wife. I’m also grateful for the unending love of Christ and his grace in each of these situations. However, the frustration and hopelessness of this continual cycle reminds me of the way men and women had to atone for sin in the Old Testament.
A system was formed for the forgiveness of sin and right-standing with God in Exodus(see Exodus 12). It was a sacrificial system that allowed man to shed the blood of a spotless lamb to make payment for their sin. This system also communicated that both the punishment and the payment for sin is always death. The exhausting part of this though is that it was a payment that had to be made over and over again. This was a good and gracious system put in place by a good and gracious God, but it was an inevitably endless process for sinful people. It was a vicious cycle.
Jesus comes along and proclaims a new covenant and new promise(Jeremiah 31:31-34) for the atonement of sin, but it didn’t necessarily exclude the need for a spotless lamb.
It’s important to recall who scripture proclaims Jesus to be: “…the Word[Jesus] was God.” (John 1:1 ESV) Jesus is God in the flesh. Not long after his opening introduction of Jesus as divine, the writer of John highlights the introduction of Jesus by John the Baptist: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) “In the flesh” implies many things, specifically being susceptible to temptation. But as the writer of Hebrews will tell us, his susceptibility to temptation as a human being didn’t lead him to sin. He was without sin. In other words, he was a spotless lamb.
Christ would be crucified in the most brutal act of injustice this world has ever seen. He was crucified as a man not only innocent of the sin he was accused of, but innocent of any sin ever throughout his life. His crucifixion should not merely be viewed as an act of injustice at the hands of sinful men, but as a simultaneous grand act of redemption and final atonement of sin- not only sin that had been committed in the past, but all sin that would be committed by those who he came to save and would put their trust in him(Romans 5:1-11). Christ was sacrificed as the spotless lamb.
“It is finished.”
His dying words cause us to recall the history of sin-atonement, but also to encounter the reality of its future. The reality that there is no longer a yearly, monthly, weekly, daily need to shed blood for sin is a life-changing, earth-shattering reality. Now through faith in the sufficient, once-and-for-all sacrifice of Christ, we can rest in the truth that our sin has been fully and finally covered by his blood. Jesus carried on the tradition and message of the passover: that the payment for sin is always death. When sin happens, someone has to die. Behold, Jesus is the lamb of God.
The night before the crucifixion of Jesus, he sits down with his disciples and enjoys one last Passover meal with them: “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” (Luke 22:15)
Jesus knew what was to come and what He would endure. Sitting around a table, he invites us to partake by commanding us to remember.