When God told Abraham to offer his son He gave us a glimpse into His plan of redemption (Gen 22:2-8). In Leviticus Chapter 16 He gave us another glimpse, but in a little more detail.
Each year, at the annual Great Day of Atonement Festival, every family had to make an offering to cover the sins of that family. According to the law the penalty for sin is death. That means that every person who has committed any kind of sin deserves the death penalty (Rom 6:23; Ezek 18:4). However, instead of the people paying the penalty for sin, God mercifully provided an innocent substitute to carry the death penalty on their behalf (Lev 1:4).
“Then he must bring the two male goats and present them to the LORD at the entrance of the Tabernacle. He is to cast sacred lots to determine which goat will be sacrificed to the LORD and which one will be the scapegoat. The goat chosen to be sacrificed to the LORD will be presented by Aaron as a sin offering.
The goat chosen to be the scapegoat will be presented to the LORD alive. When it is sent away into the wilderness, it will make atonement for the people.”
(Lev 16:7-10 NLT)
Jesus understood this sacrifice. “That is why Christ, as he came into the world, said, ‘O God, the blood of bulls and goats cannot satisfy you, so you have made ready this body of mine for Me to lay as a sacrifice upon your altar. You were not satisfied with the animal sacrifices, slain and burnt before you as offerings for sin. Then I said ‘See, I have come to do your will, to lay down my life, just as the Scriptures said that I would’” (Heb 10:5-7 TLB).
JESUS, OUR SUBSTITUTE
The atonement offering in the Old Testament required two goats. One goat was killed and its blood was shed as a sin offering for the people (Lev 16:15-16). The second goat was sent alive into the desert to carry away the penalty of sin (Lev 16:20-22). These two sacrifices depicted the perfect sacrifice of Jesus, and both of them had a profound impact on the entire human race.
“And about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?’”
(Matt 27:46 NLT)
“But when they came to Jesus, they saw that he was dead already, so they didn’t break his legs. One of the soldiers, however, pierced his side with a spear, and blood and water flowed out.”
(John 19:33-34 NLT)
We know that when we “die” our spirits simply leave our bodies. Likewise the eternal living Spirit of Jesus left His body, but not to heaven, to hell. Why?
The second goat explains it. Even though the sacrifice for sin had been offered, sin still had to be judged and punished. So, after the high priest confessed the sins of the people upon the head of the goat, he sent that goat, cursed with the sin of the people, into the wilderness to carry away the full punishment of their sin. That innocent animal, or scapegoat, took upon itself the curse of sin as a substitute for the people. In the same way Jesus took upon Himself the sins of the world. He, who never sinned, became sin and was sentenced to death for our sin (2 Cor 5:21). As our substitute, or scapegoat, the eternal living Spirit of Jesus was sentenced to hell as punishment for our sin so that we in exchange can have eternal life.
Can you imagine what Jesus looked like on that cross? The Roman soldiers gave Him uncountable brutal lashes with a leaded whip. The beatings tore His body into shreds of bloodied flesh, revealing His bones. They plucked out bits of His beard. A crown of thorns was placed upon His head and forcefully driven into His skull with sticks. Long nails were slammed into His hands and feet. Blood was gushing from all His wounds. Muscle cramps tortured His body. All His bones were out of joint. He found it extremely difficult to breathe. Jesus was riddled with pain and drenched in blood (Ps 22:12-18; John 19:1, 2, 24, 34).
“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’).”
(Gal 3:13, NKJV)
To add to that horrid picture, when Jesus became sin He took upon Himself the curse of sin. He experienced the horrific consequences of sin – spiritually, mentally, and physically. He was cursed with every deformity, abnormality, sickness and disease you can think of. Name the curse and it tormented Him. Curses not even mentioned in the Bible came upon Him. He took upon Himself our pain, our grief, and our sorrows. He took upon Himself every evil act that human beings have ever committed. He experienced the hell of all injustice. Not to mention the torture He experienced from Satan and all his demonic forces.
You see, Jesus was not, as some pictures portray, hanging on the cross with a light shimmering around His head, a trickle of blood running down the side of His face, and a cloth around His loins. He was naked, bloodied, and totally disfigured. Those who saw Him stated that He didn’t even look like a human being. “Many were amazed when they saw Him – beaten and bloodied, so disfigured one would scarcely know He was a person” (Isa 52:14 NLT).
And He did it for us? Yes, because of love.
“Under the old covenant, the priest stands before the altar day after day, offering sacrifices that can never take away sins. But our High Priest offered himself to God as one sacrifice for sins, good for all time.”
(Heb 10:11 NLT)
Jesus died on the cross as the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. He offered up His blood as an eternal sacrifice for our sin (Heb 9:28). He gave Himself as our sin offering, our peace offering, and our guilt offering. His blood did not merely cover our sin for a while but took it away. His blood purified us of all our sin and made us holy and acceptable in the eyes of God (Heb 9:22). His blood took away the shame and guilt of our sin and brought us back into fellowship with God (2 Cor 5:18).
The blood of Jesus was the only price worthy enough to set us free from the kingdom of darkness (1 Pet 1:18-19). Was it not for the blood of Jesus we would’ve been condemned to a life of eternal damnation. But the sacrifice for our freedom has been offered and there’s absolutely nothing the devil can do about it. What he thought he could do in Adam to destroy us, God has rectified in Jesus. Isn’t that entirely Good News!
Because of the sacrifice of Jesus we don’t need to hide from God in shame, ever. Because of Jesus we have peace with God (Col 1:20-22). We can come into His presence without any fear, always assured of His glad welcome (Eph 3:12). We can come to God as we are without having to feel inferior, unworthy, condemned, or ashamed (Heb 7:19; Rom 8:1). God doesn’t look at us and see all our flaws. He looks at us through the blood of Jesus and sees us as people whose sins have been forgiven and taken away.
YOU ARE TOTALLY SET FREE
“So if the Son sets you free, you will indeed be free.”
(John 8:36 NLT)
Somehow people don’t find it difficult to understand that Jesus died for our sin, and because of that we’re forgiven. That’s true, but that’s not all. Jesus redeemed us from the curse of sin. He did not come to offer us a superficial treatment for our wounds. He came to destroy the root of evil!
Capture this again: Because of Adam’s disobedience we lost our kingdom authority and became subject to a curse. And the curse is spelled out in no uncertain terms in Deuteronomy 28:15-68. But, because of the obedience of Jesus we were set free from the curse (Rom 5:19). As our scapegoat Jesus took the full punishment of our sin. He became cursed in our place so that we can live in the blessing, glory, and authority of God again (Deut 28:1-14) Because of Jesus we are totally restored to prosperity in all things – spirit, soul, and body.
Now, ask yourself this question: if Jesus gave His life to purchase your freedom, then why would He give you a sickness or destroy your finances to make you pay for your mistakes? Was He not punished in your place?
Isaiah prophesied exactly what Jesus would do for us. “He was despised and rejected – a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way when he went by. He was despised and we did not care. Yet it was our weakness he carried, it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God for his own sins! But he was wounded and crushed for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace. He was whipped, and we were healed! All of us have strayed away like sheep. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the guilt and sins of us all” (Isa 53:3-6 NLT).
Obviously the devil will do all he can to keep you from this truth. If Satan knew God’s plan he would’ve done everything he could to stop Jesus from going to the cross (1 Cor 2:8). But he couldn’t. All he can do now is to prevent you from believing it. You know, Satan won’t oppose you if there’s nothing to be gained. He will do all he can to keep you in a state of spiritual darkness. He knows that if you truly understand what happened at the cross, and beyond, nothing will stop you from taking possession of the freedom and life that Jesus obtained for you on that day.
PUT SUFFERING IN THE RIGHT PERSPECTIVE
“In all their suffering he also suffered, and he personally rescued them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them. He lifted them up and carried them through all the years.”
(Isa 63:9 NLT)
Isn’t it odd that we often hug our troubles or sorrows and call it our cross? Well, Jesus was beaten into a pulp, went through hell, to hell, and conquered Satan to set us free. What we should do is to honour the sacrifice of Jesus by taking possession of His victory – right here on earth. The only cross we are to carry now is to take up His cause, and that simply means to re-establish the rule of God’s Kingdom upon this earth again (Mark 1:14-15).
It’s so easy to give all sorts of answers that will make people feel better when they’re in the middle of a crisis, but is what we say the truth? What about, “Jesus picked this little flower because He needed her for His garden in heaven? Jesus is not going to heal you on earth, but He will heal you in heaven? Maybe God gave you cancer to teach you a lesson. Maybe you’re suffering financially to glorify God?” We can be so wise in our own eyes at times, but so sincerely wrong.
Of course suffering is real, but we can’t always shift the blame. Especially not to God! Sometimes we suffer because we don’t understand who we are in Christ, or because we don’t really know the will of God. Sometimes we suffer because of other people’s bad decisions. And how many times do we suffer because of our own ignorance or plain foolishness?
Some of us suffer because we’ve made important decisions without first getting God’s wisdom in that situation. Some show little love, respect, or affection to their spouses and then wonder why they are suddenly faced with divorce. Some never discipline their children, never mind what God says, and then they wonder why they end up with rebellious teenagers. Sometimes we say whatever comes to mind and then we’re quite surprised when we reap exactly what we’ve said. Or we eat what we like and suffer malnutrition-related diseases. Or we have no financial planning and struggle continuously with lack or debt. We often struggle to get over our emotional issues because we neglect time in the counsel of God. We constantly destroy our natural resources and when disaster strikes we blame God.
Well, being believers doesn’t mean that we’ve lost our common sense. We can’t always pray things right or try to drive out demons, while failing to deal with certain underlying issues. Often the most spiritual thing we can do to end our suffering is to change our diets, stop worrying, love our families, plan a financial budget, consult a medical professional, learn to live a balanced life, or to get some sleep.
“For I decided to concentrate only on Jesus Christ and his death on the cross.”
(1 Cor 2:2 NLT)
We should be careful not to lie against the truth of what Jesus did for us. We can’t cling to clever philosophies built on man’s intellectual interpretations of the Word of God (Col 2:8-10). We can’t always change our minds about what we believe just because someone has said something different (Eph 4:14). Always go back to the cross! The question should always be: what was the purpose of the death and resurrection of Jesus?
Don’t waste your time on endless mental debates about the Word of God with those who have no spiritual understanding of the truth yet. Once you understand the truth there’s no need to get involved in disputes over silly little issues. Rather learn to live by faith, based upon the finished work of the cross, and get on with the life God intended for you to live (1 Tim 1:4)!
Now some may mention the apostle Paul, and the famous thorn in his flesh, as a reason to justify suffering in our lives. Yes, the Holy Spirit did show the apostle Paul that he will suffer, but for His Name’s sake (Acts 9:16). That didn’t imply endless suffering from a sickness, or poverty, or any part of the curse. Paul suffered severe persecution, ridicule and torture for the sake of the gospel.
Of course that doesn’t mean Paul never became sick or never faced a financial challenge. He did. But he always overcame his personal challenges. He did not remain in those challenges. He knew Christ promised deliverance in times of trouble. And God always delivered him from all his troubles!
FOR THE SAKE OF THE GOSPEL!
“Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because of your allegiance to me.”
(Matt 24:9 NLT)
Jesus warned us in advance that the world will hate us because we believe in Him. Persecution is not an option. It’s part of the package of being a believer. That is your baptism of fire and cup of suffering as a follower of Jesus Christ.
Many believers who went before us sealed their faith by their blood. They were beheaded, set aflame on stakes, kept in dungeons, and chased by merciless haters of the gospel. There are believers around the world who still face horrendous physical abuse, imprisonment or death for the simple reason that they believe in Jesus.
Maybe not all of us will ever face a stake or a bullet or a prison. Not all of us will be confronted with a choice to save our bodies from death should we deny Christ. The attack against us is different. What most of us will have to deal with is verbal persecution. The question that you need to ask yourself is: Will you choose self-preservation, or will you continue to stand for Jesus (2 Cor 6:8)?
You know, not all people will like you if you believe in Jesus. Your stand for Jesus Christ will cause division in many of your relationships. Some people will humiliate you. Some might mock your faith by saying that any person with reasonable intelligence cannot possibly believe such a fable. Some will say hurtful things about you. Some will spread false rumours about you. You may lose your job. You may lose your friends, family, or family inheritance. You may lose your influential position in society. You may lose your fame. You may even lose your church membership.
So, yes, you will suffer for the sake of the gospel. But you don’t have to suffer until you die, or until Jesus comes back, from a curse that you’ve been set free from.
“But the angel answered and said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.’”
(Matt 28:5-6 NKJV)
After the full punishment for our sin was served God raised Jesus up into a new life by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:11). Our substitute accomplished His mission. The ransom was paid. Jesus endured the cross and faced the worst kind of pain, torture, rejection and humiliation we can possibly imagine. He humbly took the beating and despised all the shame for the joy that was set before Him: To bring us back into the glorious Kingdom of God!
Remember God’s words in Genesis 3:15?
The day when Jesus conquered our enemy came (Col 2:15). Right there in hell Jesus made a public fool of the devil and stripped him of his authority. As a matter of fact, He reduced the rule of Satan to nothing. So, the devil is not our problem any longer. He has been dethroned. Because of His legal victory over Satan Jesus is the One supremely in authority (Eph 1:21). And one day all of creation (including Satan) will bow down before Him and confess that He alone is Lord, that He alone is the One with all the power, all the glory, and all the majesty in the universe (Phil 2:9-10).
SEE JESUS FOR WHO HE IS NOW
“And the apostles gave powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.”
(Acts 4:33 NLT)
What is your personal perception of Jesus? How do you really see Him? Do you still see Him as a baby in a manger, or as a man hanging on a cross, or simply as a religious figure?
Listen, we should see Jesus for who He is now! He is alive. He is the resurrected Christ. And He is coming back (Acts 1:11)! Jesus is the God of Glory. He is the Commander-in-Chief of the armies of heaven. He is the God of miracles and wonders. He is the Great I Am. He is the Name above all names. He is the Saviour of the world. He is our faithful and merciful High Priest. He is our Deliverer, Protector, Provider, Comforter, and Healer. He is our faithful Shepherd. He is the Lord of the harvest. He is our Prince of Peace, our Mighty God, our Wisdom, our Strength, and the Light of the World. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the Giver of Life. He is triumphantly victorious, crowned with glory, honour, majesty and power and alive forever more. To His Kingdom alone there will be no end.
If we see that picture of Jesus, how can we present a powerless gospel to a clearly desperate world? The world needs Jesus. The gospel of Jesus Christ still is the power of God unto freedom, forgiveness, healing, prosperity, wholeness, and life for everyone who will believe (Rom 1:16)!