But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the LORD to be used for making atonement by sending it into the wilderness as a scapegoat (Leviticus 16:10).
We like to use scapegoats. Since we are reluctant to face up to our own failures, we are happy to find someone or something else to blame. Who can blame us?
It might surprise us to learn that even God made use of a scapegoat. Not for his own shortcomings. Ours! He foreshadowed this in the Old Testament and made it real in the New.
His Son became the greatest one.
With the celebration of Easter over, it’s a good time to take one more look at the center cross on Golgotha, and review the question of, “Why?”
The answer? Jesus is our scapegoat.
The Law of God given on Mount Sinai details how sin will be atoned for. Vivid illustrations paint a bloody picture of innocent animals being killed. They hammer in the lesson that for the human race to escape the punishment it deserves, there must be a sacrifice of innocent life.
Lambs were common victims. Unlike bulls, which were also to be sacrificed, lambs never threaten humans. When killed, they do not squeal in pain. They are the picture of innocence.
When John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and proclaimed, “Behold the lamb of God!” the message was clear in the minds of everyone who knew the Old Testament.
Goats were also sacrificed as sin offerings. They, too, were substitutes.
On the Great Day of Atonement, the High Priest would enter into the Holy of Holies and sacrifice a young bull to make atonement for himself and his household. Then, two goats were presented. One was to be slaughtered. The other was spared. But some say that was a fate worse than death.
That one became the scapegoat.
The killing of an animal as a sacrifice was gruesome. Most modern Americans would be disturbed by it. But the fate of the scapegoat was no less unsettling.
That one was to be abandoned in the desert wilderness.
A person coming upon it was to show no mercy. It had become something detestable. It was to be left to die alone.
Glancing back to dark Golgotha even through the sunlight of Easter, our ears can still pick up an echo of the desperate scream, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
And a wave of survivor’s guilt may wash over us.
The warrior who survives a firefight that took the lives of friends may wonder why he was spared—may feel guilty about still being alive. So, we may begin to wonder why we were spared the wrath of the Holy One when we know we are guilty. Here is our answer.
Jesus was the scapegoat.
We walk away from Easter knowing that God will not abandon us. We will not die—but live. We walk on in life with the sober realization: “I don’t deserve it.”
We pray: Savior God and Life-giver, the bright dawn of Easter still sheds light into our life. We can walk on knowing that all is well. It must be. It will be. You transferred our guilt onto Jesus. Let us live the rest of our lives in the warm glow of Easter morning. Remind us again, and again, that death cannot hold us. Thank you, Jesus, for being the scapegoat. Amen.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military