Growing up, I lived on what some might call a “gentleman’s farm”. We had chickens and horses, and my dad also invested in few head of cattle just to stock the freezer and sell to a few close friends. Being one of three girls, every critter that lived on our property received a lot of love and most importantly, a name. We started out naming chickens after friends and family members, but the cows eventually received steak-related names. There was Porter House, T-bone, Chuck and Patty…Some people might have found it offensive, but to us country folk it was a bit humorous to sit around the table and discuss which chicken we were having for dinner – by name. It did, however, add an extra level of reflection when it came time to slaughter the animals.
For four hundred years the Hebrew people were in slavery in Egypt, and God used Moses to bring them out of bondage and head down the path to the promised land. God used a series of ten plagues to reveal His power and majesty to the Hebrew people and through the Egyptians. He turned all of the water in Egypt to blood, He sent locusts, frogs and gnats, He blocked the sun and many other signs. But the final plague was the death of the first born son in every household and of every animal. This most extreme of the plagues was the breaking point for the Egyptians and the culmination of God’s work in the land. Up until this final plague, God had simply chosen to withhold the plagues from the Hebrew slaves. With the final plague, however, God gave the Hebrews careful instructions which they were to follow to designate themselves as followers of God and to have their children spared: They were to take a one year old male lamb which had no blemish on it, they were to kill it and wipe its blood on their door frame and eat it. When the angel of death passed over, it would see the blood and leave their house untouched.
Because of this monumental movement of God and the foreshadowing of Jesus it represented, an annual festival was kept to remember the event known as the “Passover” – when the angel of death passed over the people of God who were marked by the blood of the lamb. It was a week-long event, during which people ate unleavened bread, did no work and kept a lamb in the house with them until the time for its slaughter. The lamb, after living in the house, would become like a pet. It would be personalized, loved and cared for. And then it would be slaughtered an eaten. They would name and love their food and their sacrifice.
When Jesus came, He fulfilled the prophesy of the suffering Messiah and He also fulfilled the Law of sacrifice by becoming the final and the perfect Passover lamb. Everyone knew that the death of an animal did not relieve the guilt of sin from a person – it was an action one could take to offer sacrifice before God and suffer through the loss of an asset, looking forward to the true scapegoat of Jesus. Jesus, however, became sin on our behalf – as a man having never sinned – so that our guilt is actually punished in Him and removed. This is why sacrifices are no longer needed! Jesus completed the system!
Jesus, however, was a man and not a lamb. He lived on the Earth for approximately 33 years, had a fruitful ministry for three years during which time He intimately trained eleven men who would take the Gospel to the world and make disciples. He had a name, He was loved, He was the Spiritual leader who brought grace to a lost and dying world.
It is a strange concept, and probably considered inhumane by some, to name and bond with one’s food. Most of us prefer to not think about the slaughter and preparation it takes to prepare that hamburger or steak while we eat our dinners. We must, however, know and love that sacrificial lamb who took our guilt by suffering our punishment by his crucifixion and death. In fact, the more we know Him and the more we love Him, the more unthinkable the suffering that we caused. When we first hear the Gospel, when our hearts are first opened to receive its truth, we fundamentally recognize our guilt and fate in the light of a holy God and we are amazed that grace is offered to us by the sacrifice and punishment of another. But Jesus is no longer dead – God raised Him from the dead and as Christians we abide in Him and enjoy Him through fellowship!
Thus, the more we get to know Him, the more we love and enjoy Him, as our passion deepens for Him, the more we realize our guilt and the depth of our sin, then the more we are broken by causing Him pain and suffering. This love for Him leads to our repentance an change. Scripture says that if we continue sinning after coming to know Him and the Gospel, we are nailing Him back to the cross:
“For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.”
– Heb 6.4-6
Our sacrifice has a name: Jesus. He loves us and invites us to know and have a relationship with Him by confessing and repenting of our sins, and trusting His work on the cross to cover our guilt. He forgives us. Let us therefore get to know Him, spend time with Him, love Him and cherish Him. The more intimate we grow with Him, the more detestable we will find our sin because it is our sin alone the required His death on the cross. We will run from sin because it puts Him to open shame and essentially nails Him back on the cross. It breaks His heart and grieves the Spirit when we sin. And the longer we have the lamb of God living in our house the more we will love Him and desire to not hurt Him. Let’s remember Him today.