February 19, 2015

Inexcusable sin?

Leviticus 4:1–6:30
John 7:14–44
Song of Solomon 5:13–16

Two excuses I’ve always found difficult to answer: “But I didn’t mean to do it” and “I didn’t know it was wrong.” When a child says them, what do I say? When a child of God says them, how does God respond to those excuses? The first reading today answers that question.

“If anyone sins unintentionally in any of the Lord’s commandments about things not to be done, and does any one of them, if it is the anointed priest who sins, thus bringing guilt on the people, then he shall offer for the sin that he has committed a bull from the herd without blemish to the Lord for a sin offering.” (Leviticus 4:1–3)

“If the whole congregation of Israel sins unintentionally and the thing is hidden from the eyes of the assembly, and they do any one of the things that by the Lord’s commandments ought not to be done, and they realize their guilt, when the sin which they have committed becomes known, the assembly shall offer a bull from the herd for a sin offering . . . .” (Leviticus 4:13–14)

“When a leader sins, doing unintentionally any one of all the things that by the commandments of the Lord his God ought not to be done, and realizes his guilt, or the sin which he has committed is made known to him, he shall bring as his offering a goat, a male without blemish . . . .” (Leviticus 4:22–24)

“If anyone of the common people sins unintentionally in doing any one of the things that by the Lord’s commandments ought not to be done, and realizes his guilt, or the sin which he has committed is made known to him, he shall bring for his offering a goat, a female without blemish, for his sin which he has committed.” (Leviticus 4:27–28)

“If anyone commits a breach of faith and sins unintentionally in any of the holy things of the Lord, he shall bring to the Lord as his compensation, a ram without blemish out of the flock . . . for a guilt offering. He shall also make restitution for what he has done amiss in the holy thing and shall add a fifth to it and give it to the priest. And the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering, and he shall be forgiven. (Leviticus 5:14–16)

No matter who sins, whether it is unintentional or in ignorance, a sacrifice must be made to atone for it. The point is: “If anyone sins, doing any of the things that by the Lord’s commandments ought not to be done, though he did not know it, then realizes his guilt, he shall bear his iniquity.” (Leviticus 5:17)

Then, along comes the Messiah, also called the Lamb of God, the ultimate sacrifice for sin. By the reaction of the religious leaders, you’d think they were getting paid handsomely for doing their job of slaughtering lambs and were worried about being out of work. Instead of rejoicing, they didn’t like Jesus at all.

He said to them and to the crowds, “Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?” The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?”

Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well? Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” (John 7:19–24)

The point is, the Son of God knew the Law and knew that no one kept it. What is the point of continually offering sacrifice for sin and then continuing to sin? Isn’t that mocking the Law of God, even God Himself? But they didn’t see it that way and if they did, their best defense was offense — instead, they mocked Jesus.

When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” So there was a division among the people over him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him. (John 7:40–44)

The point is, the Lamb of God could prove Himself only by fulfilling the role for which God sent Him. He would die, not for His own sin, but the sin of the people: for those who hate Him, for those who love Him, for those who sin deliberately, for those who sin unintentionally or in ignorance, for those who never hear of Him, and for those who mock His name. So He died, that we might live forgiven lives.

People are still divided over who Jesus is, not so much because of a lack of evidence, but because of what Jesus said — they do not want their sin exposed. I know that feeling. Having my sin exposed is like finding out I am terminally ill. But having it forgiving is like the surgery that robs that disease of its power.

I’m with Solomon in saying of Jesus, “His mouth is most sweet, and he is altogether desirable. This is my beloved and this is my friend . . . .” (Song of Solomon 5:16) my friend who laid down His life for me.

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