Sunday, February 1, 2015

Aaron: The sinless high priest

"Father, where are they taking those animals?"

"Do you remember how this morning I told you that today was a special day? Today is the Day of Atonement. It is a very serious day. Those animals are being taking to the tabernacle as part of some special sacrifices."

"Special? What makes them special?"

"What makes them special? Well, normally we bring animals to the tabernacle to offer them as sacrifices for our own sins. But once a year these special sacrifices are offered to cleanse the whole nation and the high priest. It is really important that they be done properly."

"Why does the high priest need two goats?"

"What do you mean?"

"The bull is so big so it must be the sacrifice for us. So why does the high priest need two goats?"

"No, the goats will be sacrificed for us. One will, anyway. The other will be the scapegoat. It is the bull that will be offered to cleanse the high priest."

"Are you sure? I think you may have it backwards."

The sacrifices of the Day of Atonement do indeed seem to be backwards. A bull is typically four to five times larger than a male goat. On a per capita basis, one would anticipate that the larger sacrifice (the bull) would be offered for the larger group of people (the nation). But instead the larger sacrifice is made for the high priest and his family, while the much smaller goat is offered for the nation.

This seeming contradiction emphasizes for us the importance of the high priest. As the intercessor for his people, as the one who approached God on their behalf, it was critical that the high priest be acceptable in God's sight. The bull was offered annually to atone for the high priest's sins in order that he might carry out his duties. He had to be holy.

The book of Hebrews explains that Jesus is our perfect high priest. He does not need to offer sacrifices for his own sins. He is holy, pure, blameless. He is perfect. Forever. Even better, he does not need to offer daily (or even annual sacrifices) for the people. Unlike any other high priest, he could offer himself as the sacrifice. His sacrifice is all that is needed.

(Lev. 16:1-34, Heb. 7:26-28)

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