Jesus, The Perfect Sacrifice
& The Standard
A brief and simple overview of the sacrifices under the old covenant reveals that they were to teach us how God desired and deserved to be worshipped. We know from John 4:24 that God is seeking “true worshipers, ” for he says, “The time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks." God has been seeking true worshipers down through the ages and has spent immeasurable time trying to teach us how to worship him through the Israelite nation. He set them apart as his people. (Does this sound familiar? 1 Peter 2:4-10) He created a nation and stamped his name on them, became their God. He created them, giving them the various laws and rituals to separate them from the rest of the world as a light unto the world of the true and living God.
Consider the many different types of sacrifices and the precise instruction given in preparing and offering the sacrifices. God is a holy God and the ordinances he set in place for the Israelites in reference to approaching him were to demonstrate his holiness (See Exodus chapters 29-31, Leviticus chapters 1-7): the ceremonial washings, the separation of the priests from the remainder of the Israelites; who could approach God, when, how and where, the altars and then the sacrifices themselves; which of them were clean and which were not, which could be offered with blood and which not. Burnt offerings, grain offerings, sin offerings, fellowship offerings versus spontaneous thanksgiving offerings, these all depict a picture of the holiness of God, teaching us about his character and his expectation of us. They were not instituted just for the sake of the rituals in themselves. The laws, the rituals were teachers and were laying a foundation, ingraining, preparing for what was to come, that is the fulfillment of the law and perfect sacrifice – Jesus Christ.
Jesus is truly the answer! That simple statement speaks volumes. I think of the atom bomb and Hiroshima. The effects of one small nuclear bomb can affect millions. (That’s a bit of a negative example, however, the physical picture in my mind of when it is dropped, how it reverberates out and has the power to impact such a massive scope reminds me of the statement above.) Jesus’ physical entrance on the scene, in the flesh, God incarnate, changed not only the world at the time of his entrance, but shed light on history past, rocked the present and blew open the way of the future. Everything changed with his life, death and resurrection- everything. It is because of him that we now have BC and AD calendars. It is because of him that we have an Old Covenant and a New Covenant or an Old Testament and a New Testament. It is because of his blood. Therefore, (there is that conjunction again) he is our standard for everything – for life. That is why Paul says in Romans 12:1, “Therefore… offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God…”
Jesus came in the fulfillment of prophecy. He fulfilled how the ancients prophesied he would come and die and rise again (there is, of course, a few other prophecies still remaining in reference to his return and the end times). Therefore, when he died, “the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matt. 27:51). The shedding of his innocent blood, the blood of The Lamb of God, God’s ultimate provision for our sins, sealed the old covenant and introduced the new covenant. The blood of Jesus (for there is no covenant without the shedding of blood as there is no remission of sin without the shedding of blood) encompassed, fulfilled, or completed the law of the old testament. That is what I believe Jesus is getting at in Matthew 5:17-20 and the apostle Paul built on in Romans chapters 2-6.
That is why Jesus is our example. When Paul says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship,” we have the example of Christ, the picture of how Jesus lived, he said in Matthew 20:25-28 that just as he came to serve and not to be served, so we are to also live. In Philippians 2 we are instructed to imitate Jesus, “Who, being in very nature God…made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant…humbled himself and became obedient to death…” So we are to offer our bodies as sacrificial offerings, serving God by serving one another; laying our lives, our desires on the altar of sacrifice every day (Luke 9:23). As Jesus died on the cross, so we are to take up our cross daily and die to our flesh and live according to the spirit. The new testament shows and instructs us how to give our lives as living sacrifices just as the old testament instructed those under the old covenant what God expected from them and how he expected them to worship him.
(To be continued: Part 3)