The last three days, I have been reading through the Old Testament book of Leviticus. This is part of my read-through-the- Bible-in-a-year process. Leviticus is not fun to read. The early parts are a lengthy and graphic description of the sacrificial system that God set in place through Moses. It is all about how the innocent animals will be killed to provide forgiveness of the people of Israel.
I have to say, the descriptions are fairly disgusting. There is too much detail about how the animals die and it seems very cruel. Specific information is giving about how to take the lives of the animals, about what to do with various organs and body parts and too much information about what to do with the blood that is shed. And there is a massive amount of blood. The blood of the animals is sprinkled on the sides of the altars and spread around. Some of it is even applied to the right ear of the priests.
I have read this stuff dozens of times. But it is affecting me this time in a different way.
It seems incredibly cruel and disgusting this time around. It seems harsh and unnecessary. It seems like God is in some way being appeased by the shedding of innocent blood. And it seems like there could have been a better way. It is no surprise that many who read this are turned off. Animal rights activists have to be blown away. Anyone with a heart has to feel bad about the entire process. What a bloody mess!
The bloody mess is exactly the point. These animals were pointing to the way that Christ would be suffering. They represented him, the Lamb of God. His crucifixion was foretold every time one of these animals gave its life. As awful as the animal sacrifices were, Jesus’ death on the cross was many times worse.
We have made the crucifixion too sterile. Mel Gibson told the story well in The Passion of the Christ. But the movie was for entertainment purposes only. Most of us saw it, and cried a few tears. But we don’t go there in our minds very often. We don’t see those images when we pray. We don’t go there during Holy Communion in our worship services. And maybe we are not capable of doing so.
I think that it is necessary to remember that the death of Jesus was very ugly. There was a lot of blood. Too much blood.
Here is the point: it was all my fault. It is because I am a sinner that Jesus had to suffer such an awful death. His blood provided forgiveness for my sin. If I keep that truth in front of me, maybe I won’t take forgiveness so lightly in the future. Thank God for grace!
I can’t wait to get through Leviticus. But as I read it, I will embrace how Christ embraced me.