What Does Sacrifice Mean?

In a previous post discussing salvation and how it pertains to the sacrifice of Jesus, I briefly touched on the meaning of the blood sacrifice, especially as pertaining to the Passover. I wanted to explain a bit more about the sacrificial system and why Jesus had such an important role to play in it.

When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden of Eden, God established his primary rule: the punishment for sin was death and a “blood price” was required to pay the penalty.¹ God shed blood to provide them clothing to cover their nakedness. The shame of their nakedness was a metaphor for sin, and the shedding of blood to cover their nakedness a metaphor for paying the price for sin.

During the Passover, the Israelites had to sacrifice a lamb and smear the blood on the doorposts. In doing so, the angel of death literally passed by, sparing the family the punishment for sin.

Eventually the law was given to the Israelites setting down a sacrificial system for the payment of sin. When an Israelite gave animal sacrifice, the animal was the physical sacrifice, paying its life. But it was the person, not the sacrifice, that paid the spiritual cost for sin. The person had to pay the price of death for sin (by proxy). He was forced to experience the very real horror of death.

Ultimately the sacrifice was a symbol of the inner state of repentance. The sacrifice was ritually required, but on its own insufficient, to restore the spiritual link to God. God requires both the internal and external forms of repentance.

When Jesus died, it was humanity making the sacrifice. When we accept Jesus as our sacrifice, we must accept the reality of sin and that we are responsible for that horrible sacrifice. And death on a cross was horrible, there is no denying that.² When we do this, his blood washes our sin away.

Jesus then sends the Holy Spirit, God’s power, to dwell within us. This is the restoration of our connection with God. Under the old Covenant, only the High Priest could enter the “Holy of Holies” and be in the presence of God directly. The priest was the “mediator” between person and God. Under the new Covenant, Jesus is our High Priest: he mediates between God and Man allowing us to directly communicate with God through the power of the Holy Spirit.³

Jesus had to die because we needed a sacrifice. We need our spiritual connection with God restored. He didn’t do it for himself, he did it because he loved us.

¹ The cost (or wages) of sin is not pain and suffering, but death. Pain and suffering certainly do shout at us, reminding that there are real consequences of sin. But death is the penalty of sin.

² The horror of death would have been no less had Jesus died of a quiet lethal injection. The pain and suffering of Jesus was not required, only his death. But the brutality of his death forces us to recognize, by proxy, how terrible death is and the horror of sin.

³ Through the Holy Spirit, the connection with God is permanently restored. This is why the sacrificial system is no longer needed. Jesus was a perfect human sacrifice, more acceptable than any spotless animal could ever be. Repentance of sin remains an important part of our lives, but no other sacrifice is acceptable.

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