Beckett: Pastoral Thoughts – Jesus: The Scapegoat for Our Sins (Leviticus 16)

Featured image painted by my beautiful wife.

Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the high priest would have to cast lots on two goats: one lot for God and one lot for Azazel (the meaning of “Azazel” is unknown, v. 8). On the lot that fell for God, the high priest would use it as a sin offering (v. 9), and he would sprinkle its blood over the mercy seat in the Holy Place to make atonement for all Israel since they lived unclean lives before the Lord (vv. 15-17). For the goat that was still alive, the high priest would present it before the Lord, lay his hands on it, confess the iniquities and sins of Israel over it to place their sins upon the goat, and then send it out into the desert to die with the sins of Israel upon it. Both goats are literally scapegoats, and both prefigure Christ.

Like the first goat, Jesus was slaughtered for our uncleanness as His atoning blood poured over the “mercy seat” of Mt. Calvary; and like the second goat, Christ our High Priest placed all our sins upon Himself, was cast outside the holy city Jerusalem, and died with our sins upon Him. Therefore, whenever you see the cross, you should see Christ your scapegoat who took all your sins upon Himself and suffered the just punishment for them in your place.

We like to blame God for a lot of things, particularly the evil and suffering in the world, conveniently forgetting that we’re the ones who do evil and bring suffering upon others. The only blame Jesus receives is your blame. He took your blame, and as your scapegoat He was cast out and died in your place. Therefore, confess your sins before Him and lay them on Him, for He can take the burden (see Matthew 11:28-30). There is nothing too heavy for Christ to carry, for He carried His own cross to Calvary and took on the weight of the sins of the entire world, including yours.

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