Zurbarán Lamb of God, Prado Museum, c. 1635-1640
“Why a lamb in his passion? Because he underwent death without being guilty of any iniquity.”
Saint Augustine – 375
I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of Jesus being the sacrificial lamb. I think part of it is my deep love for the Old Testament especially the Pentateuch.
Good Friday has always been one of those days for me to calm down, reflect and think about just what Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross meant to me. I would always take the day off from work and in a previous life I actually helped to plan Good Friday services for the church I was attending. Most of the time communion was celebrated in remembrance of Jesus broken body and the blood that was shed on that truly horrific day.
Because I have a very vivid imagination my mind is usually drawn to what it must have been like to be there on that day. Most of the crowd were shouting for his execution or mocking him. Others must have been scared they were next. And then of course there is Jesus’ mother, Mary. What she must have felt on that day… To watch your child be murdered in front of you… It’s the part of the scene that my imagination just can’t fathom.
Finally, there is the matter of Jesus’ innocence. Jesus was accused of many things, none of which he was guilty of. Even the pagan Pilate recognized Jesus’ innocence.
4 Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” 5 So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” 6 When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.”
John 19:4-6 (ESV) Emphasis added.
An innocent man tried, convicted and executed… all so that eternal salvation could be available to the world. Just as in the Old Testament an innocent spotless lamb would be sacrificed in order that God’s people would be blameless for worship. Two huge things stand out from that concept.
First, Jesus was innocent. Sinless. Blameless. Spotless. During my short time on this earth I’ve had my share of struggles. Heck, even while writing this I’m sure sin is just around the corner. But for Jesus to remain sinless for 33 years? It’s hard to grasp. Not to mention to remain sinless in the midst of being beaten, tortured and murdered. As a young kid I know asked one of my pastors, “Why didn’t Jesus just incinerate, destroy and otherwise demolish those trying to kill him?” The simple is answer is He had to die. And He had to die a blameless man.
The second concept that hits my heart and head is that Jesus did this for me. It’s the part of my salvation I most appreciate yet least understand. I don’t mean understanding on an intellectual level. I mean on a gut, heart, soul level… why did this lamb of God die for me? At my very core this ultimate sacrifice just doesn’t make sense. The often quoted John 3:16 says it was because God loved the world. If that’s the case then maybe it’s the size and scope of God’s love that makes this hard to understand.
In closing, I hope you will take this Good Friday to reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice, His innocence and what that means to you.
*Part 2 of this series will be posted on Easter Sunday.