Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.Luke 24:27
The Day of Atonement
We’ve got quite a bit of ground to cover in this Chapter, so grab your archaeology tools and let’s find Jesus in Leviticus!
If you have ever heard the word “scapegoat,” the creation of that word is found in Leviticus. And yes, the term is scapegoat, not escape goat. 😉 Just like true archaeologists, we have some prep work to do before we visit our dig site.
We have chosen to venture into one of the most misunderstood and under-appreciated books in God’s Word. Leviticus is a book that demands the reader’s full attention when reading it. Taken out of context, well, let us read a quote from Dr. Charles Stanley’s InTouch Ministries:
“A quick look at Israel’s sacrificial system can make one wonder whether all these animal carcasses point to a God who needs His pound of flesh in order to be satisfied. But we know God is hardly a malevolent carnivore with an insatiable taste for fresh meat.”JOSHUA RYAN BUTLER, InTouch Ministries.
Keep in mind that there’s no reason for us to enter Leviticus if we don’t look for Jesus within those pages. Leviticus is first and foremost about the cross of Calvary and the entrance Jesus made into heaven when He presented His blood for the sacrifice that ended all sin sacrifices (Hebrews 9:12). If we reject that truth, then there’s no reason to read Leviticus.
As we saw last time, the key to understanding Leviticus is to “foresee” it at the cross of Calvary. Jesus is the key that unlocks this amazing book. “The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come…” (Hebrews 10:1). So, in our search for Jesus, we are heading into the best of the best of the book; we are headed to the center of Leviticus to discover Christ Jesus in the Day of Atonement ceremony.
What was the Day of Atonement?
For decades, Las Vegas has been known as Sin City. Most residents there seem to be quite happy with this moniker. If only humanity would understand the cost of sin. Sin is death. Sin demands the shedding of blood. We saw this at the beginning of humanity in Abel’s sacrifice (Genesis 4:4) and now in Leviticus the process has been codified (formal rules).
As with the individual sin offering, God designed the Day of Atonement to make the Israelites, and us, deeply aware of the grievous cost of sin, and to show us that the Day of Atonement was a temporary “fix” that would be replaced when Father God’s beloved Son arrived.
Each year the high priest had to follow a very formal and strict process, created by God, Himself, for the “covering over” (atonement) of the sins the nation of Israel for that year. This formal process is bursting with shadows of Jesus. Not only is Jesus our eternal High Priest, He accomplished this by His perfect sacrifice. We see this in Hebrews 9:12: With his own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever.
God deeply wants people to understand that moral justice demands the maximum punishment for even a single sin. So, in God’s great mercy, He established an escape from the eternal punishment through the sacrifice made by His Son, Jesus. Until God’s perfect timing for the birth of Jesus, God provided the Israelites with a process for reconciliation between God and the nation of Israel. That’s what the Day of Atonement did.
Now we see Jesus
We’ve already spotted Jesus a couple of times in Leviticus. Now we will find that the Day of Atonement is full of imagery of Jesus and “Good Friday”, the day of Christ’s crucifixion.
On the Day of Atonement, the high priest had to purify himself before he could bring the nation before God. This required the death of a bull for a sin offering and the death of a ram for a burnt offering. His sin offering demonstrated the imperfection of the high priest and the ram points us back to the sacrifice by Abraham of Isaac (Genesis 22:13).
Sacrifices were required to “cover over” the sins of the high priest and his family. This shows us that the high priest was imperfect and therefore temporary. Jesus, the eternal High Priest is the perfect solution for He is perfect.
The high priest had to wash himself in water and remove his elaborate clothes and put on simple, plain, linen clothes. This seems to point forward to the time when Jesus took off his outer garments and, in the appearance of a slave, washed the feet of His apostles (John 13:1-17).
The high priest humbled himself, setting aside his high position and authority (Leviticus 16:4). This seems to point to what Jesus did to defeat sin and death by setting aside His position in heaven. We see this in Philippians 2:5-8:
We must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Full of Types and Foreshadows
All of the children of Adam have sinned. However, by the blood of Jesus our sin is not covered over (atoned) but removed. “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7) This is amazing. We can approach God because Christ’s blood is better than the blood of bulls and goats (Hebrews 10:1-10); “And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus.” (Hebrews 10:19)
As we are seeing, every aspect of the Day of Atonement is full of types and foreshadows. The imperfect high priests have been replaced by Jesus, the perfect High Priest. The imperfect mediation between the people and God is now perfect because Jesus is the sole mediator between them (Hebrews 9:15). Because Jesus is now the High Priest in heaven we can approach God’s throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:14-16).
Well, we didn’t get to the scapegoat but I promise that we will in the next installment of “Finding Christ in all of Scripture.”