God’s perfect creation in Genesis 1—2 was distorted by the sin of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3. The entrance of sin brought about death and curses to human history.
Sin is not only a reality we struggle with but also an affront to a righteous God. Sin is serious. Therefore it has to be dealt with with the seriousness it deserves.
In the OT God in His wisdom and grace God chose to make a temporary way sin can be atoned as the coming of Christ is awaited. A substitutionary animal sacrifices was allowed for remission of sins. For sin to be atone for, there must be a shedding of blood (lose of life).
And so, the idea of animal sacrifices and levitical priesthood runs throughout the OT as a shadow of the NT reality in Christ.
Significantly, in the OT, there was a specific national day (the day of atonement) in which sins were atoned for. This day highlights seriousness of sin and God’s hatred for sin and demands for righteousness.
Understanding the Day of atonement, helps us understand better the sacrifice of Jesus.
Key Highlights of the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16
- Apart from having the other daily sacrifices, the annual day of atonement was a day of fast; a day God cleansed all the sins of his people; and the only day the high priest entered the Holy of Holies/the Most Holy Palace.
- The high priest prepared himself to appear before God in a worthy manner.
- A bull and two goats were required for the sacrifice. One goat was for the for the Lord (sin offering) and another for the scapegoat.
- Aaron was to slaughter the bull for his personal sin offering and his household.
- The high priest slaughtered the goat for sin offering for the people and took its blood behind the curtain and sprinkled on the atonement cover and in front of it. This showed that Israel’s sin could only be atoned for by a substitutionary death V15.
- Concerning the scapegoat- The high priest was to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites-all their sins- and put them on the goat’s head. This goat was then released to the desert. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place. (According to Jewish tradition the goat was subsequently thrown over a cliff to prevent it from returning).
But there was a problem… clearly the animal sacrifices were insufficient in the following ways:
- The Day of atonement and sacrifices were repeated endlessly year by year. No one sacrifice was enough or final. The sacrifices were an annual reminder of sins because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
- It never made perfect the worshippers. The worshippers still felt guilty for their sins.
- The day of Atonement was only a “shadow” of a reality that was to come through Jesus (Heb. 5:1-14).
Sufficiency of the sacrifice of Jesus (Heb. 5, 9)
- Like the sacrificed animal, he shed his blood for forgiveness of our sins
- Jesus as a scapegoat was sent outside the camp (Jerusalem) and took the sins/guilt of his people- (Heb. 13:2; 1Jn 3:5).
- Jesus was made sin for our righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21). He is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, (Jn. 1:29).
- Jesus was made curse (Gal. 3:23).
- His sacrifice is sufficient; perfect, and superior sacrifice- He entered a heavenly sanctuary, by his own blood (never needed to make atonement for himself as a high priest). He now sits at the right hand of God the Father. His sacrifice was once for all and he can make us holy.
The story of the adulterous woman in John 8:2-12 illustrates the sufficiency of Jesus’ sacrifice. Her life was spared because they brought her to Jesus the ultimate and superior sacrifice. The perfect sacrifice of Jesus offers hope. Every hopeless sinner, like this woman, can find hope only in Jesus! Again, why did God allow her to live? This story offers us profound lessons:
Jesus did not allow her to be put to death simply because in Him there is:
- Life- The sacrifice of Jesus offers humanity a free gift of life.
For example, in this story (John 8:2-12), the adulterous woman (we don’t have her real name) had already received her death sentence from her accusers: people and the religious leaders. Perhaps they pondered, “why should she live?” but Jesus perspective was, “why should she die?”
Jesus had come for the very purpose to seek and save that which was lost and to give his life as a ransom for many, Mk 10:45. Jesus also declares, I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. He is the fountain of life and any sinner who turns to him in faith is never turned away but given eternal life.
He gives life and breathes life to your lifeless situations….
- Love- The story of the cross of Jesus is the story of unconditional love. While we were still sinners Christ dies for us (Rom. 5:8). He has loved us with an everlasting love. In his love he adopted us into his family as sons.
The woman in this story, like many in our world today, suffered rejection and hate. She was brought early in the morning and before everyone to shame her before stoning her. But Jesus does the unexpected. He accepts her. This does not mean that he affirmed her sin but in accepting her to come to him he clearly displayed God’s unconditional love. We see this love clearer when we look at the cross. God is love (1 Jn. 4:8). A very familiar verse summarizes it all, For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son… (Jn. 3:16).
This is a powerful love! What is it that can separate us from the love of Christ?
It is because of love Jesus laid down his life for us (Jn. 15:13; 1 Jn. 3:16).
- Forgiveness– In Christ, there is forgiveness of sins. Remember, without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins (Heb. 10:17).
In Christ, we are forgiven- the past, present and future. The death of Jesus as a substitute brought us forgiveness by taking our penalty upon himself.
All we know about the woman in this story is that she was an adulterer. She was a sinner. Like any other sinner, she deserved death. The people and the religious leaders must have justified themselves from Leviticus 20:10, Deuteronomy 22:22. But Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn. 1:29) took her sin upon himself!
Sadly, we sometimes doubt the forgiveness we have received! Remember, Doubts do not begin from God but from the devil, for he is the accuser of the brothers (Rev. 12:10). Satan plants doubts to paralyze us and the ministry God has put in us.
When Jesus forgives you, you also need to forgive yourself. He is the perfect sacrifice and so you should no longer be crippled by doubt, fear, and guilt conscience.
If you have put your faith in God count your transaction done in Christ! Tetelestai (Jn. 19:30). When God has forgiven who can reverse? Jesus our sacrifice is sufficient.
When Jesus forgives he does it completely: he removes them as far as east is from the west Ps103:12; he casts them behind his back Isa 38:17; he casts then into the depths of the sea Mic 7:19; he forgives all our trespasses Col 2:13; and he remembers them no more Heb 10:17. Amazing! He never leaves the woman the same point he found her, he forgives her and gives her a new beginning. Jesus said, It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick, Matt 9:12. There is no remission of sins apart from the shedding of blood.
Since Jesus forgives, we should not live under the guilt of sin but instead confess our sins in order to be forgiven.
- Justification– In Jesus there is declaration of righteousness. In Christ, sinners are justified, “We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ” Heb 5:10. This righteousness is not based on works but purely on the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, Heb 5:10. It is received by those who put their faith in Jesus Christ, the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
The woman we read about had no righteousness of her own but Jesus’ righteousness was imputed on her. This is precisely what grace is (undeserved favor).
The ultimate Judge took away her guilt and declared her righteous. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death, Rom 8:1-2. We also know that, God did not send his Son to the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him (Jn. 3:17). Who else can condemn those who the Righteous Judge of all has declared as righteous?
Justification also leads to a process of being made holy (sanctification)…
- Freedom– It is only in Jesus that sinners are set free. In this case it freedom to not sin again.
The teachers of the law and the Pharisees had a water-tight case against this specific woman until they brought it to Jesus who dismantled it. It is worth noting that Jesus eventually lets her go by telling her, “Go now and leave your life of sin” v11. The newfound freedom is a freedom not to further indulge sin but to serve the living Savior who had freed her (the nation of Israel in Egypt was also freed so as to serve Yahweh.
In the words of apostle Paul she was told, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your boy to him as instruments of righteousness” Rom 6:11-13.
- Reconciliation- Sin separates us from a holy God. In no other way is the wall of hostility between us and God bridged apart from the only one Mediator between men and God- Jesus Christ. It is through the death of Jesus Christ that we are once again reconciled to God (Rom. 5:11,12; 2 Cor. 5:18,19).
Because of the reconciliation we can come to God’s presence with confidence (Heb. 10:19, Col 1:19). We come before God not because we are worthy but because we are reconciled through the ultimate Sacrifice, Jesus Christ. We confidently bring our needs to Him knowing that he hears us and answers us.
The adulterous woman had broken the law of God, in fact caught in the act, and by status an enemy of God, but Jesus actions toward her demonstrates that God has made a way that sinners can find hope. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation, Col 1:22.
- Redemption and deliverance– The penalty for sin is death and Jesus’ audience, together with the adulterous woman, must have understood this fact from the Law of Moses. But when they presented her to Jesus, they unknowingly presented her to the One who ultimately pays the penalty of sin once and for all.
Therefore, the adulterous woman, and any other sinner like you and me, can live because of the redemption through the shed blood of Jesus. The biblical authors testified, In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:13-14). She, like any other sinner who comes to Jesus, was delivered from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light.
Finally… contrast the human and angel fall and reflect on the grace and unique love that God has extended to mankind. Angels fell but no plan was given for their salvation; in fact, hell was prepared for them. But mankind fell but God gave his very son as a sacrifice so that those who BELIEVE will inherit eternal life.