If you were passing by the cross on Good Friday, what would you see? As we mentioned yesterday, Jesus would have looked like just another criminal who was unfortunate enough to get caught. The cross would look like any other Roman execution. But, the Scriptures are clear. Jesus’ death was a sacrifice. Hebrews 10:10 states, “…we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” So, just what is it that makes Jesus’ death on the cross “the once and for all sacrifice”?
Sacrifices had to have four things. First, there had to be a sacrificial victim. Because Jesus’ sacrifice is in keeping with the Passover, the victim had to be a “spotless lamb.” Second, the sacrifice had to be offered by a priest. Third, the sacrifice had to be performed at the Temple. And finally, the sacrifice had to be part of a liturgy. In order for Jesus’ death to be considered the “once and for all sacrifice,” it had to satisfy all of these requirements.
Read Exodus 12:1-11, 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, John 1:29, 35-36 – Behold the Lamb
In our meditation for this Monday of Holy Week, we will look at several passages of Scripture. These verses will shed light on the first requirement, which is that the sacrificial victim be a spotless lamb. Our goal is to determine if Jesus is, in some form or fashion, a “spotless lamb”. Without an unblemished lamb, there is no sacrifice, merely the carrying out of an execution.
John’s Gospel is our first piece of evidence. John 1:29 states unambiguously that Jesus is none other than the “Lamb of God.” John the Baptist, who is preaching in the wilderness and baptizing in the Jordan River, sees Jesus coming. He says, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” John’s reference to Jesus as “The Lamb” is repeated just a few verses later. Verse 35 and 36 state, “The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God!’” These statements from John are part of his message in preparing the way for Jesus. As the “forerunner” or witness to Jesus, John the Baptist is announcing to the world that the Messiah has come. And the Messiah is…a Lamb.
Let’s delve a little farther into the evidence that Jesus is “The Lamb.” Revelation, the final book of the Bible, also calls Jesus by this name. Of all the images and references to Jesus in the Revelation none is a more favored title and image for Jesus than “lamb.” In fact, it is used 28 times in 22 chapters. Revelation 5:6 describes Jesus as the, “Lamb, standing as if slain”. Though John was looking for the lion, it was “the Lamb” who could break the seals of the scroll. The elders then sing that because of the Lamb’s sacrifice; only He is worthy to open the scroll. Jesus is portrayed as lamb in the culmination of the book of the Revelation. In chapter 19:9 we find the marriage supper of the Lamb. John writes, “Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.” There is little doubt that the Holy Spirit inspired the writers of the New Testament to present Jesus as “The Lamb.”
Clearly, this is determinative of Jesus’ identification as “The Lamb.” But, there is more required than that. The lamb must be spotless. No blemish and no broken bones were allowed. Exodus 12:5 states, “The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect…” These chosen lambs had to be perfect and in the prime of their lives. Exodus 12:46 states, “Do not break any of the bones.” For human beings to be “spotless and unblemished,” that means they would have to be without sin. This narrows the pool of available humans dramatically. In fact, the Scriptures are clear. “All have sinned” (Romans 3:23). In order for Jesus to be seen as a sinless sacrifice, we need to find Scriptural support.
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 5:21 a definitive statement on the matter. He says of Jesus, “God made him who had no sin to be sin (a sin offering) for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Further, Hebrews 4:15 says that Jesus, “has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” In Hebrews 7:26, the author says that the Lord Jesus, “is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.” In 1 Peter 2:22, Peter writes of Jesus, “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” The apostle John informs us that, “In him is no sin” (1 John 3:5). The overwhelming evidence of the New Testament is that Jesus was sinless – spotless and unblemished. There is no ambiguity or disagreement in the Scriptures on this point. To the contrary, there is universal agreement.
Now that we have established Jesus’ identity as “The Lamb,” and as One who is spotless, let’s turn to the “no broken bones” requirement. John 19:31-33 is very helpful in this regard. It says, “Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.” Is this merely a coincidence? Taken alone, one might think so. But, with the establishment of Jesus as the “Spotless Lamb,” it stands to reason that His legs would not be broken. Because the soldiers did not break Jesus’ legs, all of the expectations for the Passover Lamb are fulfilled in Him.
For the crucifixion to be a sacrifice and not just a Roman execution, there had to be a spotless lamb, a priest to preside, it had to be at the Temple, and part of a liturgy. We have established that Jesus fulfills the first requirement. He is none other than, “The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”
Our hearts are beginning to beat faster as we move step by step on the Pathway to the Passion. The intensity is growing. Voices of praise will soon turn to murmur and then calls for crucifixion. Despite the gathering darkness, our steps must remain sure. “We will follow the steps of Jesus, where e’er they go.”
In tomorrow’s study we will move to the second requirement. There had to be a presiding priest.