A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the ‘Day of atonement’ one of the most significant days in the Jewish calendar. This was the day (once a year) when the high priest would enter the Holy of holies and represent the people before God, making sacrifices for sins.
This day is set out in great detail in Leviticus 16
One of the aspects of this day was ‘the scapegoat’ a highly symbolic act which, as so many other things did, looked forward to the ministry of Jesus.
After the high priest had sacrificed a bull for himself, he would then make sacrifices for the people. He was to take two perfect male goats and present them before the Lord. He would cast lots to choose which one would be slaughtered and which one would be set free. After the first goat had been sacrificed for the sins of the people, the second goat (the ‘scapegoat’) was taken to the high priest where he placed his hands on the goats head. He would confess the sins of the people over the goat and it was then led out into the wilderness where it was released, symbolically carrying the sins of the people with it.
Actually, for us, Jesus represents both goats. He was the ultimate sacrifice that paid for our sins and He is our scapegoat, the innocent goat who took upon himself the weight of our sin.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Our sins were laid on Jesus who bore our sins just like the scapegoat bore the sins of the Israelites;
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. (Isaiah 53:6)
The goat, having taken on the sins of the whole community, was cast out of the city and the presence of the people. The same thing happened to Jesus on the day that He was crucified. He was taken outside Jerusalem and crucified on the hill at Calvary.
..and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all…. he bore the sin of many and makes intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:6,12)
Because what Jesus did was a ‘once and for all sacrifice’ there is no need for any further sacrifices, we don’t need to place our hands on a goat and send him away. Jesus has not only forgiven us, but he has removed our sins, as the bible says, as far as the East is from the West (Psalm 103:12)
…we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all….. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:10,14)