• Sacrifices taught that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness
  • Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world
  • By dying on the cross Jesus took our punishment on him and freed us

“But now he has appeared once for all … to do away with sins by the sacrifice of himself.” (Hebrews 9:26)

Throughout the Bible there were many instructions and examples of sacrifices to make up for the sinful actions of people. The Bible says, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” Lambs and goats and cattle would be routinely killed and sacrificed for the sins of the people –for worship and specifically for special sins. The blood would often be sprinkled on the altar and sometimes on the people. It all symbolized that the life of another had to be taken in place of us so that we could live.   All the sacrifices themselves didn’t bring forgiveness and life, but were shadows of the real thing that would come. They prepared hearts to turn and trust in Jesus.

One of the Jewish festivals was the Passover. It is the time Jews celebrated their freedom from slavery. During the festival meal they remembered how God told their ancestors to kill a perfect, blameless, lamb. They were to spread its blood on the doorframe to their home so the angel of death would “pass over” their families. This and all other sacrifices looked ahead to the real sacrifice that would be done once for everyone and for all times. That complete and final sacrifice was Jesus who would make people perfect by forgiving their sins and no longer remembering those sins. Early in Jesus’ ministry, his cousin John pointed to him and said “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Jesus knew what was ahead of him. At a certain point in his ministry he began to explain to his disciples that he “must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests, and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”

At first it seemed to Jesus’ followers that everything was falling apart. After celebrating the Passover with Jesus, they went out to a place called Gethsemane. There a large crowd sent by the chief priest came after Jesus with swords and clubs. Jesus willingly went with them. They conducted several illegal trials. They falsely accused him of many things. They used as evidence against him that he claimed to be God, an accusation which they deemed a crime worthy of death. After whipping and slapping him around, the Roman soldiers put a crown of thorns on his head and mocked him as the King of the Jews. They finally dragged him out of the city and nailed him to a cross. The Roman governor put a title over his head saying “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” Hanging suspended on the cross Jesus said, “It is finished” and died.

God had punished his Son instead of us for the sins we have committed. It was God’s plan all along that he already promised hundreds of years earlier with the prophecy, “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows…He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”