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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Jesus Our Atonement

February 24, 2010

Lent Midweek Service

Leviticus 1:1-4

Grace, Mercy and Peace are yours from God our Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ.

Listen to how the Book of Leviticus in the Old Testament begins:

    The Lord called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, [2] "Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When any one of you brings an offering to the Lord, you shall bring your offering of livestock from the herd or from the flock.

    [3] "If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer a male without blemish. He shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the Lord. [4] He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. (Leviticus 1:1-4)

This is our text.

Now jump ahead 1600 years later, to the night when our Lord Jesus Christ was betrayed.

  It was the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. [8] So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, "Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it." (Luke 22:7-8).

Holy Communion is necessary to Christianity.  It is not an optional thing like, say, making the sign of the cross, lighting candles a certain way.  It is not just a custom or a tradition like having coffee and cookies after the service.

Holy Communion is necessary.

Without Holy Communion, we wouldn’t fully understand what Jesus did for us when he died on the cross and rose again.

Without that meal that the disciples had with Jesus the night before He was executed on the cross., people would not have understood the significance of his death.

People could see that His death on the cross was a noble death.  Many realized it was the death of an innocent man.  Many would be impressed to see someone remain faithful to what He believed in right to the point of death.  But they would not see that this death was for them.

Jesus said, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”  In the meal Jesus explained what His death would mean.  “This is my body, which is given for you. . . this cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

Holy Communion shows that Jesus death was an atonement.  Just as the Passover Lambs were being sacrificed, so the Jesus the Son of God was sacrificed.  He offered up His own body and blood to make atonement for the sins of the world.

Atonement is an important word from the Bible that helps us to understand what Jesus has done for us.

When I define big words, I like to find smaller words, one syllable words if possible, that can be used to explain the big words.  So the word I’d like you to keep in mind as a synonym and definition of atonement is fix.

In Leviticus the Lord told Moses how people could bring livestock as offerings to be sacrificed for atonement for a fix.

Jesus gave up Himself to death, for our fix.

The word fix is a good word here because it implies that there is a problem.  Fix,  you hear that short word and you  know that something was broken, and now it’s no longer broken.  You had a problem, and now the problem has gone away.

You know the old saying,”if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Well something was broken with the world.  There was a big problem.  Jesus fixed it.

In Leviticus the word atonement is used for three different ways in which the Lord fixes things for His people.

1. Acceptance -- For the person who is or who feels at a distance from God or at odds with God, the Lord provides atonement and acceptance.

2. Forgiveness – When someone sins, the Lord provides the means to make atonement, to fix the problem, to forgive the sins.

3. Purification – When someone is unclean, the Lord provides atonement, and cleans them.

First, Acceptance.  We Christians, get used to the fact that we are on God’s good side. We sometimes take it for granted.  We shouldn’t.   Remember that God is holy.  He remains completely separate from sin and sinners.  He created human beings to be holy like him.  When you sin, you make yourself unacceptable before God.  Don’t be so bold as to think you can just march right up to the throne of God just by being who you are.

In the opening lines of Leviticus, God describes how a person should bring an offering of a lamb or a bull, a male without blemish, to the front of the tent of meeting, the tabernacle.  The priest would meet him and his animal there and then they would sacrifice his animal, “that  he may be accepted before the Lord.”

Jesus did that.  He was the one without blemish or stain, offered to God, so you would be acceptable.  Do you ever feel out of touch with God?  Does your shame make you wish God wouldn’t get too close to you and see all your flaws, see what really goes on in your imagination and in your heart.  Does your guilt make you think that if God had to choose, there would be others he’d accept first?

Jesus is your Atonement.  Jesus is your fix.  Because of Jesus and only because of your savior Jesus, God accepts you.

Second, forgiveness.  In Leviticus chapter 4, you can read how the Lord gave specific instructions on what to do if somebody sins, or if the whole community sinned, or if the elders or the priests brought shame on the whole community by sinning.

I have heard people say that Leviticus is difficult or a boring book to read.  But if you read to find the definition of atonement, you’ll find in the bloody sacrifices of Leviticus, the story of Jesus your atonement who fixes your problem of sin.

If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us, but if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to fix our sins, to make atonement, to forgive.

            Third, purification.  In Leviticus 14 there is some discussion of leprosy.  It was a big deal back then.  The Children of Israel are wandering through the wilderness living in tents.  Infectious diseases needed to be controlled in the camp.  There were strict rules for a person who came down with a skin disease.  They would have to stay outside the camp, out of the community and outside of the means of grace.

            But when the leper was healed, the Lord provided instructions of what to do, what animal to sacrifice and how in order to make atonement and purification.

            We too live in an impure world, with impure bodies.  We drag the sinful nature along with us until we die.  We suffer from that impurity.  We have sick thoughts.  We have sick and frail and diseased bodies.

            Jesus fixes that.  He atones for you.  He heals you.

Let us pray:

Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness

My beauty are, my glorious dress;

Midst flaming world, in these arrayed,

With joy shall I lift up my head.

Lord, I believe, were sinners more

Than sands upon the ocean shore,

Thou hast for all a ransom paid,

For all a full atonement made.


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