Are we living similar to those under Jewish law, relying on a “process” to experience God’s forgiveness when we sin instead of acknowledging this solution has been accomplished for us in Christ?
It was thought by many at the time that John the Baptist was the long awaited Jewish Messiah. He would have no part of that. He barely considered himself to be a “warm up” act. He plowed the spiritual field ahead of Jesus and didn’t mince words confronting crowds which flocked to see him with stinging words about their sin and need for repentance, challenging them to a change of heart confirmed by a change of lifestyle.
According to Jewish law, offering the life blood of an animal was enough to cover one’s sin, so they developed a pattern: Sin, slaughter, repeat. This was never a final solution for dealing with their sins. To the practicing Jews in John’s audience who continued the centuries long practice of sacrificing the life of an animal to appease God for their sins, a lifelong repetition of sin and bloodletting, John set them on their heels by declaring that there was One among them who was God’s lamb, and this lamb (Jesus) would put an end to their sin/sacrifice cycle by taking away not just their personal sin but the sins of the world. (John 1:29) As modern Christians, through scripture we look backwards at that statement and acknowledge its truth. Can you imagine what those words looked like to the Jews who considered looking forward with it? Heresy perhaps?
Jesus did not come to earth to take away the sins of the world in some “symbolic” fashion. He was born to die, but not an empty, purposeless death. His death was to offer life to and rescue those who put their trust in him in a similar way the Jews were given life and freedom by marking with lamb’s blood the lintel and sides of their doors in the first Passover. Ever since, they had celebrated their deliverance at Passover breaking bread and drinking wine in remembrance of their flight from Egypt.
On his last night with his disciples as they gathered for Passover, Jesus instructed them that as the gospel went forward they were to commemorate something other than their ancestor’s deliverance from Egypt. As they took the bread and wine, Jesus was claiming to be that “once for all” sacrifice for sin by the giving of his body, symbolized by the bread, and wine symbolizing the letting of his blood. His death was intended to be the end of the sacrificial system through an entirely new covenant. It took some time for those disciples to comprehend this, and I wonder if we still struggle in some way to grasp this even today.
In my conversations with Christians new and old to the faith, many are uncertain about the issue of sin and God’s forgiveness. The penalty for our sin was dealt with by Jesus at the cross. Forgiveness for the sins of the world (which includes mine and yours) was provided by the substitutionary death of Jesus over 2000 years ago, years before we were born and able to commit our first of many sins. This forgiveness becomes ours at the same moment we accept the free gift of salvation by faith in this work of Christ. “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions – it is by grace you are saved.” (Rom. 2:4-5) This offer of forgiveness covered sins you and I were yet to commit and the same principle applies today. The sins I may commit tomorrow have been forgiven. Emphasizing the have been. This is due to the remarkable grace of our Lord and this new covenant in Christ’s blood.
Now, instead of killing our lambs or appealing to God to forgive us for our sins and indiscretions in a repetitive cycle like the ancient Hebrews, we can and should come to our Father as children already forgiven with hearts of gratitude and praise, marveling at the extent of his mercy and grace. Think About It.