In 1972, a shepherd had brought his sheep into a walled-off, enclosed area for the night, and he had just gone to sleep when he heard a commotion. He quickly rushed over to where the sound was coming from and to his horror he discovered that a wolf was in the process of dragging off one of his sheep through a hole in the wall. He was mauling this sheep and blood was flying.
The shepherd quickly began hitting the wolf, and the wolf turned on him and began attacking him. He bit him over and over while the shepherd was striking him with his staff, and finally with one final blow of his staff, he killed the wolf as he himself collapsed into a bloody heap.
He managed to crawl over to the half-dead sheep and began to bandage its wounds. He gave it some water, and then took it in his own bloody arms, and shepherd and sheep went to sleep together. The next morning the shepherd was found dead, his body literally draped over the sheep to comfort it and keep it warm. The following day the headline in the Jerusalem paper said, “Sheep Alive, Covered in Shepherd’s Blood.” (Sermoncentral.com).
This is a fitting illustration to describe our relationship with Jesus Christ. In the midst of sin trying to steal our souls, Christ gave His life to atone for those sins, to beat them off, so that by his blood, we might be saved.
The message of atonement is written into the hearts of every believer. At one time we were lost, broken vessels in a world of sin and death condemned to pay the price for our transgressions in blood, and then, without any merit on our part, our Savior came to pay the penalty we deserved. “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds we are healed” (1 Peter 2:24).
In ancient Israel, atonement had to be made for the sins they had committed. The penalty for this sin was death. Out of Godly goodness and grace, our Father in heaven allowed them to transfer that penalty to the animals of the sacrifice. Because we have a just God, the penalty had to be paid in blood and the sacrifice of atonement was God’s mercy in action.
In the time of Jesus, that same satisfaction of the law was required (“Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” Hebrews 9:22) and because they sinned much, the sacrifice was still mandatory. Only the perfect sacrifice could atone for all of mankind’s sins once and for all. Only an unadulterated ransom could be paid for the sins of the past, present and future. But that would require someone who was spotless, a person without sin.
Because sin had infected every human life, only the very Son of God could qualify for the ultimate sacrifice to save all of God’s people. So, God did what He must to save us by sending His only Son to pay the price we had no hope to satisfy. Jesus Christ became “the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). Through Him the ultimate atonement was given and now we rest in peace knowing that our sins are forgiven.
“(Jesus) entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12).
That same atonement covers ours sins still today and through the gift of repentance, our sins are forgiven and are souls are seen by God through the prism of Christ. Because of the ultimate sacrifice, we can be assured of our salvation filled with the hope won for us by our Saviors most unselfish act of redemption.
Just as Isaiah foretold, “(Jesus) was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Please pray with me:
Heavenly Father, thank you for the sacrifice of your only Son so that we might be saved from sin and death. By His atonement we were given hope. Thank you for loving us enough to make clear our paths to heaven. Amen.