We often refer to Jesus as both the Lamb of God and the sacrifice for our sins. But it turns out...these are two separate things.
It struck me as I was reading Leviticus this week. If you look at the offerings prescribed for various situations in Israel, you see first that the male lamb is acceptable as a burnt offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord, and as a fellowship offering. But "if someone brings a lamb as his offering for sin, he must bring a female." (4:32) Jesus is no female lamb.
Does that make Him not the sin offering? Not quite. It just means, as the Lamb of God, He's no sin offering.
He's a burnt offering, forever in God's presence a pleasing aroma. This cannot be overlooked. The aroma of His sacrifice covers the stench of man's fallen nature. He's a fellowship offering, providing a way for man to return to God.
And I would even argue that He's still a sin offering. Not as God's Lamb, but as man's goat.
In modern vernacular, a goat is someone you can get to take the fall for you. You can put more on his shoulders than he rightfully deserves. You can transfer your responsibility to him and get him to pay the price for you. It's someone who is often unaware he's being used (which is not the case for Jesus) or unwilling to stand up for himself (which is more closely He).
Isn't that what sort of happened with Calvary? The Pharisees, the priests, the leaders, some of the Romans, the people all came together to get Jesus to take the fall for perceived wrongs. They put their insecurities on His head. They wrapped their stories into His. They told His story the way they wanted it told so that people would have a certain impression of Him. They made Him their goat, which, according to Leviticus 4 (prior to v. 32), is the acceptable, preferred offering for sin. A male goat with no defect.
Of course, there are interesting theological ideas that go along with this that we cannot ignore. If God sacrifices His Lamb as a pleasing aroma and a fellowship offering, but man makes that Lamb a Goat and leads it to the Cross, who is making the sacrifice? Are both man and God sacrificing here? What does that do to the gift of the Son as we know Him - if He is our offering?
At the same time, when you look at the judgment scene in Matthew, you see the people declare that "His blood will be on our hands and our children's hands." So in some sense, the people knew that they were playing some role in this. (Although I'm not sure the vernacular of the goat goes back so far, and I'm not sure the people thought they were making a sacrifice here.) But it shows that the people were willing to accept their responsibility in leading Jesus to the Cross and in that sense, at least, they are responsible for bringing the sacrifice, whether they knew it or not.
And it's entirely possible that man's goat became God's Lamb when He saw the sacrifice being made and chose to transform it into a burnt offering and a fellowship offering. But that leaves sin standing. (Which, of course, is not so troubling as we live in a world of sin and very well know this.)
As you can see, I don't have any clean answers for this. It's just something I'm throwing around in my head and thought I would share. Anyone else have a thought?