Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Passing Over of Sin in Christ

In many parts of the world springtime will arrive with its flowers and green foliage at the same time as the celebration of the Jewish Passover and the Christian Resurrection Sunday (Easter). The Jewish faithful remember that time when the Lord passed over the homes of Jewish families in Egypt that had marked the doorposts of their homes with the Blood of a Lamb in obedience to Moses' directives, (Ex. 12:21-24). Christians celebrate this date as seeing Jesus as the fulfillment of the Passover Lamb.

When John the Baptist first saw Jesus approaching (John 1: 29-31, and the next day, John 1:36) he immediately proclaimed Jesus to be "The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." The great Apostle Paul also referred to Jesus in this context as, "Christ our Passover, was sacrificed for us," (1 Cor. 5:7). In context, God the Father had sent His Son preparing Him from conception to be the final sacrifice the world would ever need. In the book of Hebrews we are given a perfect picture of the transition from the Jewish sacrificial lamb, offered at Passover and at other times throughout the year, to the ultimate Passover Lamb, Jesus.

"For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: "Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, But a body You have prepared for Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure. Then I said, 'Behold, I have come-- In the volume of the book it is written of Me-- To do Your will, O God.' " "Heb. 10:1-7

The Holy Spirit reveals through this passage that God's will for all of humanity was to turn to the anointed One He would provide for the expiation or passing over of sin. That Anointed One was Jesus. Tradition and repetition in worship and custom was very hard for many to give up at the time that Christ appeared in our world (John 1:11). The author above used Psalm 40:6-8 as proof of what God's intent was to be for humanity; to bring Himself into the world as a babe, conceived of the Holy Spirit into the womb of a virgin (Is. 7:14; Matt. 1:23; Luke 1:27), and growing up among the people till the time of His revelation was ready. It was at this time when John the Baptist saw Jesus approaching him (at aprox. 30 years of age) that Jesus, the offspring of God, began His earthly ministry. But not all of the people understoodnot all of them were ready to accept that the Messiah they had long awaited would come in such manner; furthermore, to add confusion to their expectations of a conquering Messiah (one who would crush the Roman rule), they did not expect that He would die as the sacrificial Lamb who would make available to the world the forgiveness of the sins. 

Psalm 40:6-8
For a moment lets take time to understand why the author of Hebrews quoted Psalm 40:6-8 as the prediction of the coming Messiah. First of all we need to realize that he was quoting from the Psalm contained in the LXX version of the Hebrew Tanakh or Canon of Scripture. The LXX (Septuagint) is called such because of the seventy (lit. seventy-two) translators commissioned to copy the Tanakh into the common language of the day for those Jewish descendants not living in Israel. These are referred to as the diaspora or dispersed ones having been led into other nations, mostly by the captivity of conquering empires. The Hebrew customs and traditions were quickly fading in these other lands where populations of Jewish families were thriving. As decades and centuries passed they were in danger of losing their heritage to syncretism, or the absorption of one culture being swallowed up into the surrounding native culture. So the need arose for them to have their Bible in their new native tongue so they could continue to carry on their rich ancient heritage. 

Psalm 40:6-8 in the Masoretic Hebrew text states:6Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; My ears You have opened. Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require. 7  Then I said, "Behold, I come; In the scroll of the book it is written of me. 8  I delight to do Your will, O my God, And Your law is within my heart." In the Hebrew text you will notice there is a notable difference in the phraseology between the MS text and the LXX. MS-40:6b states, "My ears You have opened" whereas LXX-Hebrews 10:5b states, "But a body You have prepared for Me." I love this passage because it is a perfect transition of transliterating a custom practiced from ancient days into a modern equivalency; here it involved the ancient practice of owning servants and or slaves. In the ancient Hebrew agrarian and farming societies families would live out their faith by recognizing the rights of all people to subsist and raise families even if they did not have the wealth to do this themselves. So they would bring into their family servants and or slaves who would work for them and in turn be able to raise a family of their own. this was a beneficent practice. This ancient practice in Hebrew culture should never be confused with the slaves of early American days and the way they were trafficked and treated. Instead we need to realize that not all people had farms or livestock as the Hebrew nation grew. Many families provided jobs and homes to these unfortunate ones as servants or slaves. They were treated as family members and were never forced into this for life. In Jewish history, never do we find the practice of deliberately beating into submission a servant by Hebrew taskmasters. On the contrary, they were treated as family and God had provided laws for their protection. Paul Taylor writes:

As we already know, slavery was common in the Middle East as far back as ancient Egypt. If God had simply ignored it, then there would have been no rules for their treatment and they could have treated them harshly with no rights. But since they did have rights and rules for their protection, it showed that God cared for them as well. However, this is often misconstrued for an endorsement of slavery, which it is not. God listed slave traders among the worst of sinners in 1 Timothy 1:10 (kidnappers/men stealers/slave traders). This is no new teaching as Moses was not fond of forced slavery either:
Exodus 21:16
He who kidnaps a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, shall surely be put to death.

In light of such rules, slaves/servants in Israelite culture came about by their own actions, whether from among the Israelites or neighboring cultures.1

So what of Psalm 40:6-8? What the difference in texts? Charles Ryries states, the LXX is, "an expression signifying obedience, based on the custom of piercing the earlobe as a sign of voluntary perpetual service" (Exodus 21:4-6). -Ryrie Study Bible  What is important to note is that a servant often became so attached to his owner that when the day of freedom or Jubilee came he did not want to leave. So he would freely offer of his own will his body in service for life to the owner; as a token of the attachment he would have his ear pierced with an awl. In later years it came to mean offering your life or body in the service of another, and thus the LXX transliterates it as such!

Jesus inhabited the body that God had prepared to be the servant for life of all who would by faith trust Him as their Lord and Savior, (Rom 10:9-10).  He truly is our Passover and He proved it by conquering death through His resurrection, a holiday we remember annually at the time of Passover or Resurrection Sunday!

Why do so many refuse to acknowledge the day?
The question for today is why do so many overlook this day even giving no attention to it but rather, turning attention to their own pursuits? James Hastings spoke of the phenomena through referencing a famous painting.

Sigismund Goetze, in his picture “Despised and Rejected,” has placed upon the canvas a striking illustration of this text. In the centre of the picture is the suffering Christ, bound upon a Roman altar, overshadowed by an angel with the Gethsemane cup, and surrounded by all sorts and conditions of men. Yet He and His sufferings are not in all their thoughts. The political agitator has his crowd, the workman his beer, the artist his cigarette, the broken down his care. Under the very shadow of the great Sufferer, the sporting man is engrossed in his “pink edition,” and the scientist in his test-tube. The newsboy is vigorously pushing the sale of his paper containing “the latest winners” and society scandals. The flower-girl offers her wares unnoticed to the society doll, whose frivolous vanity is flattered by the attentions of a fashionable young man. The world-power militarism ignores the suffering Prince of Peace. At the very feet of the Victim are the outcast woman and her babe, while afar off stands the widow with her lonely burden of grief; yet even she does not look to Him for sympathy and help. Churchmen, of whom more might be expected, dispute the text of Scripture, but forget the spirit of the Gospel. Of all that throng, no eye is turned towards the Sufferer, save that of a nurse, well accustomed to scenes of pain and anguish. Her face is expressive of wonder, horror, and sympathy, and suggests Lam. 1:12, “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow.” The great world, engrossed in its own pursuits, its business and its pleasures, its selfishness, and its gain, its frivolity, its grief—all purely questions of time, has no eye for, and no thought of, Christ, who is still the “despised and rejected of men.”

What will you be doing the Resurrection Sunday? How will you remember the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus? Oh dear reader, do not overlook the depth of the love of God in bringing a way for you to have complete forgiveness of sin. He paid the price of redemption from sin through the sacrifice of His body and the substitution of His righteous life in exchange for your sinful one (2 Cor. 5:21). He truly is our Passover!

1 - For a full discussion of this topic see Paul Taylors excellent expostion entitled The Bible and Slavery at