The Sin-BearerBefore this One who “will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him” (Heb. 9:28 NIV).
Good Friday. The worst day ever. On that day, God’s Son died at our hands. And the best day ever. His death paid for our sins, offering us peace with God. It was the Day of Atonement for humanity. For you and me and anyone who has ever lived or will yet be born. The original Day of Atonement was an annual holy day for ancient Israel. On that day one goat was sacrificed for all Israel’s sin. But there was a second goat, too…
“But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord to be used for making atonement by sending it into the desert as a scapegoat … [Aaron] shall bring forward the live goat. He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites – all their sins – and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the desert in the care of a man appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place; and the man shall release it in the desert” (Leviticus 16:10-22, NKJV).
Year after year, Israel sent out a scapegoat, a sin-bearer… but no longer. When the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., so was the system of Jewish sacrifices. It was no longer needed anyway. The ultimate Scapegoat had come. That once-for-all Sin-Bearer was Jesus Christ.
On a spring afternoon around 30 A.D., God the Son was led outside the city. There, despite two thieves, Roman soldiers, jeering Pharisees, weeping women and mocking passers-by, He died a solitary death. A death no one else could share, no one else could fully comprehend, a death even His followers shrank from. For God the Father took all the sins of all who have ever lived, and the billions more to come and laid them on a man dying on a Roman cross. He made Him our Scapegoat. Yours. And mine.
Yes, the Father laid His hand, as it were, on the head of the Son who was as pure and holy and set-apart as He was. He deposited there all the hidden, sleight-of-hand deceit and all the open, putrid and festering offenses of all humankind – of every drunken abuser, sex offender, serial murderer, discarder of life. Of every demon worshipper, global terrorist and drug lord. Of the architect of the gas chamber, the captain of the slave ship, the kindler of the martyr… of even the betrayer of the Messiah and the eater of forbidden fruit…
And all the sins of you and me, with our own schemings and subtle slayings, our unseen balks and betrayings, our solitary disobediences in our own gardens of Eden.
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us” (2 Cor. 5:21 NIV). Jesus was “virtually” made to be sin, made to bear the guilt of all who will repent and of those who never will; no sin escaped being heaped upon His back. As the skies grew black, He went, innocent but willing, into the wilderness of horrors, taking for us the wrath of God against all that is unholy.
“Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering…he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed… the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:4-6 NIV).
Why did God the Father do this? “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21 NIV, emphasis mine).
Why did Jesus endure all this? “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24 NIV, emphasis mine).
Good Friday happened so that we, through Jesus, can own up to our sins and ask God’s forgiveness, based on Jesus’ payment of our penalty. Can stand clean, then, before our Father. Can come close and enjoy a relationship with Him. Can be eternally His.
The Cross of Christ is holy ground. Take-off-your-shoes ground. A place of divine mystery beyond human comprehension. We cannot fathom all that happened there and all that it means…
But we can worship.
Worship before this chosen Scapegoat, this Wilderness-Wanderer, this Sin-Bearer.
Before this One who “will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him” (Heb. 9:28 NIV).
Even so, come, Salvation-Bearer.
Sandy Mayle is a freelance writer who lives with her husband in Erie, PA.