Public schools are out in deference to a special holy day of rest and fasting on the Jewish calendar. Yom Kippur means Day of Atonement. It falls ten days after Israel’s new year, and became a time to deal with the sins of the last year. Imagine that! Check out Leviticus 23:27-32 and Leviticus 16:20. The High Priest would make his way into the innermost chamber of the Temple called the Holy of Holies, the only time anyone would enter there. Trembling before the intensified presence of the LORD, he would symbolically place the sins of the people on a goat – a scapegoat as it came to be called.
Then they’d slap that thing on the rear and chase the goat out into the wilderness. Yeah, I would think so. After all your sins and the sins of all the people are dumped onto that goat, that’s one animal you don’t want to see around anymore. When something is truly forgiven, it is sent away forever.
I wonder — if you lived back then and the priest came to your house asking, ‘what sin do you want me to place on the goat this afternoon?’ what would you say? If you knew you could be completely released from past moral failure, sin, and all spiritual blemishes in your life – what would you put on the goat’s head before it went away forever?
One time we brought in a goat for Easter Sunday to demonstrate how the priest would put the sins on the goat. So we had this little goat up there, and after explaining how it worked, I was going to say, “The goat has left the building!” But before the goat left the building, he decided to leave a little surprise for me on stage, right there on the platform. Nice. I got to thinking that’s often how being forgiven feels to us. We may go through the motions, but even when the goat leaves, in the end I’m still left standing with doo doo, and it’s not really gone. We have trouble feeling truly forgiven once and for all. So did the people of Israel.
One day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Hey look! The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Three years later before Pilate, the people cried out loud, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” Jesus was about to become our scapegoat, the one on whose head your sin would be placed. Soon he would be taken away, and our sin with him. As Isaiah 53 says, “It was our weaknesses he carried; he took our infirmities on his back, and carried our sorrows.” He was pierced, crushed for our sins, beaten and “the punishment we needed to have pace was upon him. We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way…. But the Lord has laid on him the guilt and sins of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)
Jesus is our scape goat!
Because of Jesus, every day can be a Day of Atonement for you! You don’t have to be Jewish, skip school, or even own a goat. But you can be completely forgiven, with no doo doo residue left behind. You don’t need a priest and you don’t need a Temple. Tell Jesus you are sorry for what has put distance between you, and confess your sins today. Then ask him if you can place your sin into his hands.
Then let it go.
“There is a righteousness from God which comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. We are made right in God’s eyes when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done.” (Romans 3:22)