Summary: The forgiveness of God is a grand theme in the Bible. The non-Christian world looks at forgiveness one way and the Christian world looks at God’s forgiveness another way.
A Grand Theme – Forgiveness”
The forgiveness of God is a grand theme in the Bible. In the Old Testament forgiveness was given through animal sacrifices. Leviticus 16 describes the Day of Atonement. This special Jewish Day is called Yom Kippur. The High Priest sacrifices a bull for his sins and takes two male goats for the sins of the people. Leviticus 16:6-10
Some scholars believe that during this time you could fit 210,000 people on the temple mount. 18,000 people were used to build the temple, using 2.3 million stones. Some of the stones were ten feet by ten feet by 80 feet – weighting hundreds of tons.
Picture a couple hundred thousand people gathering after ten days of fasting and soul searching. One man, the High Priest is going into the presence of God on their behalf
Leviticus 16:20, “When Aaron had finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the Tent of Meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat. He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites – all their sins – and, put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the desert in the care of a man appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself their sins to a solitary place, and the man shall release it in the desert.”
Tradition has it that a Gentile with no connection to Israel was the person appointed to take the Scapegoat away to the desert. No one wanted to see the goat walking around in their community. This was one sin laden goat. All the sins of the people were placed on the goat. The High Priest would place his hands on the goat representing all the people and the man appointed would take the goat away into the desert. The word for scapegoat is “ahzahzel” which carries the idea of “taking away.”
Jesus is our Scapegoat. In John 19:15 when Pilate asked the crowd what they wanted him to do with Jesus? The crowd shouted! What did they first shout? “Crucify him?” No, first they shouted, “Take him away,” then they shout “Crucify him!”
John 19:16 “Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.” Jesus is led outside the camp, the city of Jerusalem, by Gentiles. Do you see the connection between the crucifixion of Jesus and the scapegoat? Jesus is our Scapegoat.
Jesus came as our High Priest to die once and for all to provide forgiveness of our sins. When Jesus came he radically changed the way people find forgiveness of sin. The Old Testament was fore-shadow of the death of Jesus on the Cross.
Jesus prayed from the cross “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing. And they divided his clothes by casting lots. The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of god, the Chose One.’” Luke 23:34
Jesus prayed for the forgiveness of the people and the rulers sneered at him.
Jesus did not pray, “Father bring judgment on them for their punishment of an innocent man.” Jesus offered forgiveness.
The non-Christian world looks at forgiveness one way and the Christian world looks at God’s forgiveness another way.
I. The World says “You Owe, You Pay.”
The non-Christian world has the same view of forgiveness as Lamech in the Old Testament. Genesis 4:23-24. The first two sons of Adam and Eve were Cain and Able. Cain was jealous of Able and killed him. After Cain killed Able he became a wanderer on the earth. A mark was put on Cain by God and the word went out, “If anyone killed Cain God would avenge his death seven times over. Cain had a son Enoch, Enoch had a son, Irad, Irad had a son, Mehujael and Mehujael had Lamech.
Lamech said, “I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me. If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech is avenged seventy-seven times.
The law of Lemech is the law of the non-Christian world, “You hurt me or my family and you pay.” It is the idea that if you hurt me I have the right to hurt you with not only equal pain but greater pain. Revenge is always justified.
Jesus countered the Old Testament Law of Lemech with forgiveness as a way of life. Peter came to Jesus one day: “Someone’s hurt me. He’s done me wrong. Not just once. I know I’m supposed to forgive him; but it feels so unfair. Why should I always have to be the one to forgive? How often do I have to forgive him – seven times?”