Free files for my fellow youth pastor friends…
I was covered from head to toe in mud! I can barely remember it, but I do have the picture to prove it. My mom retells the story of how I as a young boy found the garden hose, turned it on, made some mud, and then wallowed around in it like a hog. To surprise her, I ran up to the kitchen window where I could see her washing dishes. When she looked at her son, she couldn’t help but laugh because of the mud that covered my whole body. What a great day!
God looks at us exactly the same way…except for exactly the opposite. When we believe in Jesus Christ, the spilt, precious blood from His death covers over our sickening sin. Isn’t it fascinating how we love to show people our identity by how we cover ourselves? Some people cover themselves with clothing from their favorite sports team. Many teenagers cover themselves as a way to identify themselves with their favorite clothing line. God says there is a reason we have a fascination with covering, and it is because we need to be covered with Jesus’ blood! Leviticus 16 gives us greater insight into what the death of Christ has done for us.
God commanded Israel to observe this special Day of Atonement once a year on the 10th day of the 7th month. On that holy day, the people were to stop working and everything else they normally do to solemnly rest in order to focus on the day’s significance. The High Priest was the main participant to perform the duties. He was to undress himself, bathe his entire body, and put on holy garments set-apart for this day. He was then commanded to make about 15 different sacrifices and to drip the blood on pretty much everything inside the tabernacle…including the mercy seat. The goats were the most significant sacrifices. One goat was symbolically given all the sins of Israel and killed as a symbol of Israel’s sin paid for, but the other goat was not killed. It was taken outside of the camp and let go as a symbol of Israel’s sin removed. Then all sacrifices involved were to be burned outside the camp, and all people involved (goat releasers, bull burners, etc.) were to bathe themselves before going back into the camp.
The Day of Atonement pointed forward to the Death of Jesus. The sinless Jesus was arrested, put under false trials, wrongly convicted, and sentenced to death. They beat Him, spat on Him, and pulled out His beard. They had Him scourged with the “Cat of Nine Tails.” It was a Roman torture device with a handle and leather straps tipped with metal balls to tenderize the victim’s flesh. Hooks, bone, and jagged metal were added to dig in and rip the flesh from the body. These victims were beaten beyond human recognition. Jesus then collapsed under the weight of trying to carry his cross which was probably made out of recycled timber and stained with blood, sweat, and tears from previously executed criminals. After a crown of thorns was dug deeply into his scalp, Jesus’ wrists and feet were nailed to the cross with railroad spikes about six inches long – driven into some of the most shocking nerves of his body. His cross was then hoisted up and dropped into a hole which probably jarred His body so badly that he shook violently from the extreme trauma. There on the cross publically, Jesus bore our sin and carried our sorrows all the way until His death from either suffocation or the bursting of His own heart when He victoriously cried, “It is finished!” That was the true and final Day of Atonement.
Besides merely agreeing that it happened, what do we do with the death of Jesus? “[Carry] in [your] body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Cor 4:10-11). This context may come from an ancient Roman judgment which enforced a convicted murder to carry his dead victim (strapped to his back) until the diseased decay of the dead victim carries over to the murderer’s body and kills him. Paul says, in the exact opposite way, carry around with you the victory of the death of Jesus so that His righteousness is contagious into our lives! The more we focus on Christ’s death, the more we benefit from His life. Let His blood cover you from head to toe.