Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Poor Man's Sacrifice

There are so many beautiful images of a bloody Jesus that stir my heart around Holy Week, and I know that perhaps that sounds a little weird to the human ear, but maybe that's what faith does. I don't know. (And I'm pretty sure I've written about this first one before, though I am not as sure that I have done so in precisely this way, and on either count, it is worth repeating.) 

One of the images of Jesus that strikes me is that of His atoning sacrifice. It's interesting to me that we always call Him the Lamb of God, as though He were the proper sacrifice, an aroma pleasing to the Lord. I don't mean that in any way to sound as though He would not be the proper sacrifice, but we need look no further than Leviticus 1 to discover that the Lamb of God was perhaps more the Pigeon.

There were very specific guidelines in the Levitical law for how the priest was to offer the various sacrifices of Israel. For animals like cattle, like rams, like lambs, there were certain portions that the priest was supposed to cut out and cut off, pieces to burn outside of the camp, pieces to hold up and wave around, pieces to claim for the priestly classes to live off of. But we must also remember that in reference to Jesus, there is a Scripture in the Old Testament that is claimed to prophesy that His body, in particular, would remain in one piece. 

Therefore, He cannot properly be sacrificed as a Lamb.

But there was also in Israel this standing order that if a person could not afford the proper sacrifice - if he could not bring a ram, a lamb, or a goat, then a substitution of a couple of pigeons could be made, and God would find this acceptable from the poor man. It is in these instructions that we see the crucifixion of Jesus foreshadowed.

The sacrifice of the pigeon begins with draining its blood on the side of the altar. We see this in the order of the beating that Jesus took. Bent on the side of the public post, in the place where a criminal's blood was shed, Jesus was lashed as many times as the law would allow, His body busted and broken open. His blood pouring out.

Then the gizzard was removed "with its filth" and thrown in the place for ashes, just as the clothing that Jesus wore was stripped off of Him and thrown aside - filthy, disgusting clothes of the Prophet-Teacher, detestable in their filth to the mocking crowd. 

Then pull on the bird's wings to tear the bird open, but don't pull the wings off. (Lev. 1:17a) Is there any more fitting image for our Savior's arms outstretched on the Cross? His love spread out from east to west, one hand to another, like the wings of the sacrifice pulled open, but not torn off.

Then the priest will lay the bird on the wood.... (1:17b) And here it is, the outstretched, pulled open arms of the Lord laid across the beams of His cross - the wood. 

This, we're told, is the offering. It's the poor man's offering - the Pigeon.

It's our offering, the Lamb. 

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