“Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29b
About a year ago, my daughter and I had to make a trip to the butcher to schedule the pick up and slaughter of one of our steers. At the moment we opened the door I knew from the smell that an animal had been slaughtered recently (a large one) because of the distinct odor of blood which permeated the entire shop. After watching my daughter turn ghost white and almost buckle over from the strong aroma and then ask to be allowed to go back out to the car, my thoughts went to the Jewish temple and how similar the smell of this butcher shop probably was to the smell the priests and those worshiping in the temple smelled each day.
By the reaction of my daughter and the accosting affect the odor even had upon me, I would venture to guess that everyone within quite a distance of the temple had a constant reminder of their sinful state before the Lord and the gravity upon which God looked at the sins of man from His state of righteousness as the winds carried the smell of the blood of the sacrificed animals all over Jerusalem.
If you have ever read though Leviticus, you would know that this book contains a lot of scripture about the sacrificial atonement which God required the Jewish people to make for their sin. Here is just a short portion of that law:
“Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘If a person sins unintentionally against any of the commandments of the Lord in anything which ought not to be done, and does any of them, if the anointed priest sins, bringing guilt on the people, then let him offer to the Lord for his sin which he has sinned a young bull without blemish as a sin offering. He shall bring the bull to the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the Lord, lay his hand on the bull’s head, and kill the bull before the Lord...Now if the whole congregation of Israel sins unintentionally, and the thing is hidden from the eyes of the assembly, and they have done something against any of the commandments of the Lord in anything which should not be done, and are guilty...When a ruler has sinned, and done something unintentionally against any of the commandments of the Lord his God in anything which should not be done, and is guilty, or if his sin which he has committed comes to his knowledge, he shall bring as his offering a kid of the goats, a male without blemish...If anyone of the common people sins unintentionally by doing something against any of the commandments of the Lord in anything which ought not to be done, and is guilty, or if his sin which he has committed comes to his knowledge, then he shall bring as his offering a kid of the goats, a female without blemish, for his sin which he has committed...So the priest shall make atonement for his sin that he has committed, and it shall be forgiven him.” Leviticus 4:1-4, 13-14, 23, 27-28, 35
We may not consider the sacrifice of animals a wonderful thing, but because of the man's sin, atonement with blood is required. Look at this next verse to see that God Himself took the life of the first animal to atone for the sin which Adam and Eve committed in the garden.
To God, animals sacrifices are not morbid or outside of His will because these atoning animals make a way for His people to escape the condemnation of their sinful nature. People over animals is God's hierarchy of importance. So, instead of begrudging the fact that an animal needed to be slaughtered for the sin of one man or many, God looked at those sacrifices and took in their smells with great satisfaction because they were redeeming His people of forever needing to be separated from Him.
Likewise, when Jesus was announced as the “Lamb of God”, God also didn't shy away from carrying out His plan to allow Jesus to be the final and perfect sacrifice for the sin of man. Look at the portions of Isaiah 53 below that I have underlined which point out how Jesus was our perfect sacrifice in the eye of the Lord:
“Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
He was taken from prison and from judgment,
And who will declare His generation?
For He was cut off from the land of the living;
For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.
And they made His grave with the wicked—
But with the rich at His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was any deceit in His mouth.
Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him;
He has put Him to grief.
When You make His soul an offering for sin,
He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,
And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.
He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied.
By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many,
For He shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great,
And He shall divide the spoil with the strong,
Because He poured out His soul unto death,
And He was numbered with the transgressors,
And He bore the sin of many,
And made intercession for the transgressors.” Isaiah 53:4-12
Yes, some day there will be no more death, there will be no more sorrow, and there will be no more shedding of blood. In the New Jerusalem there will be perfect peace and life without sin – a place where the lion and the lamb will lay together in peace. But, as we long for what is to come and must live in this imperfect world, we must not forget that this day we long for has not yet come and the here and now requires us to live within our constant need to remember the redemption of Christ and the need for blood (the perfect blood of Jesus) to cover our sinfulness and bring us back to God within the parameters of His grace.