Jesus on the Cross and Holiness

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, “Speak unto Aaron and to his sons, saying,
‘This is the law of the sin-offering: in the place where the burnt-offering is killed shall the sin-offering be killed before the LORD: it is most holy. The priest that offereth it for sin shall eat it: in a holy place shall it be eaten, in the court of the tent of meeting. Whatsoever shall touch the flesh thereof shall be holy; and when there is sprinkled of the blood thereof upon any garment, thou shalt wash that whereon it was sprinkled in a holy place. But the earthen vessel wherein it is boiled shall be broken; and if it be boiled in a brazen vessel, it shall be scoured, and rinsed in water. Every male among the priests shall eat thereof: it is most holy. And no sin-offering, whereof any of the blood is brought into the tent of meeting to make atonement in the holy place, shall be eaten: it shall be burnt with fire'” (Leviticus 6:24-30).

These regulations are being provided specifically to the priesthood and regard the offering for sin. What I found quite interesting from this presentation is the emphasis on holiness: the sin offering is described as “most holy” in verse 25, it is to be eaten in a holy place (Leviticus 6:26), and anything touching it is made holy (Leviticus 6:27). If it gets on your clothing, you must wash it in a holy place (Leviticus 6:28). If the blood gets in a clay vessel, it must be broken; if in a metal vessel, it must be thoroughly cleaned (Leviticus 6:29).

There is much that we can gain here. First and foremost we see an illustration of holiness in the most concrete way. Holiness is intertwined with sanctification: being set apart, special to God. There is nothing intrinsically “holy” about said bull, or the location, or its blood. If the bull were used for another purpose, it would not matter where its blood went. If the tabernacle were somewhere else, that plot of dirt would be no different from the plot of dirt next to it. We see that God is teaching Israel about holiness, and we can also learn from this tutor (cf. Galatians 3:24). That which is set apart for God is to be considered special. Elaborate arrangements are made for the handling of the object. Great care is expected to be used. Everything is supposed to be deliberate and according to the specifications of God.

That’s what holiness really is. It requires deliberation and calculation. We must strive to act deliberately, differently, and according to God’s specifications (1 John 2:1-6, Galatians 5:17-24, 1 Peter 1:13-16). There is nothing intrinsically holy about any of us; the holiness comes from God’s designation, and we are consigned to manifest that designation.

I wonder if this passage also has something to say about Christology. We recognize that the sacrifices, especially the sacrifice for sin, was the earthly copy of the heavenly reality undertaken by Jesus (cf. Hebrews 9:1-15, 10:1-12). There is a theme in the Scriptures that speaks about how Christ was “made sin” for us on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21), and since sin is what separates us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2), it is reasoned that our sin separated Jesus from God while He was on the cross, and hence His quotation of Psalm 22:1 in Matthew 27:46.

This all presupposes, however, that Christ taking on our sins would separate Him from God. Yet look here in Leviticus: the sin offering is reckoned as being holy. By being the representative sacrifice, the animal is set apart, or made holy, to God.

What if, as opposed to separating Jesus from God, Jesus being the sin offering for all mankind in fact makes Him set apart, or holy, to God? Are we not to be holy, as He is holy (1 Peter 1:16)? Is not sacrificial death represented as an act of love (1 John 3:16), and held up as an example for all of us? Is it possible that Jesus’ death is in itself an act of holiness, setting Himself apart for God so that He could set us apart for God (to make us holy/consecrate us/sanctify us) in His blood (cf. Hebrews 10:14)?

Leviticus helps us to understand much about God and the problem of sin and sets before us the physical shadow of the heavenly substance regarding much of our service to God. Let us receive the encouragement and hope that comes from that which was written to Israel (Romans 15:4)!

Ethan R. Longhenry

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