Friday, April 2, 2010

A lamb led forth

He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth.  (Isaiah 53:7)

Every year at Passover time, a thousand remaining Samaritans gather on Mount Gerizim for the Samaritan Passover. Their custom looks much like it would have two thousand years ago, when the Jews brought their sacrificial animals to the altar in Jerusalem to atone for sin.

I had the privilege of witnessing the Samaritan Passover ten years ago, during my study time in Israel. With my own eyes and ears, I witnessed the lambs being led in, the spilling of blood, and the loss of life. It was an unforgettable experience. 

Why did God command such a gory practice in the Old Testament? Because of this timeless principle: the price for sin is death. And as the author of Hebrews says, "Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness" (Heb. 9:22). Ultimately, the Son of God Himself would come to earth, take the form of a man, and be slain for our forgiveness. All the sacrifices of the Old Testament pointed to His death on the cross. So on this Good Friday, let us praise the Lamb of God, who took away the sins of the world!

Here's a short story I wrote ten years ago as I watched the helpless sheep and considered the Passover event from their perspective...

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...My front left leg has been tied to this fence all morning. What I would do to reach that luscious patch of grass over there! It seems so close, yet so far away. Oh well. Such is the life of a sheep. Maybe I should sleep for a while until my Master comes to feed me...

...The sun hangs high overhead, and my stomach burns with the pangs of hunger. I've spent the last few hours just standing here alone in the courtyard, watching, waiting, listening, squinting through the blinding rays of the sun. An occassional beetle crawls by, or a fly pesters my face, but nothing out of the ordinary. I sure wish I could return to my flock, my family. Just one week ago, we grazed leisurely along the pastures of Mt. Gerizim. I wonder why were we brought into the city...

...It's mid-afternoon. At last, my weary body can find relief in the shade! But still, no water. Still, no food. Where could my Master be?! I've noticed some people gathering nearby, and there's a distinct scent of excitement in the air. I wonder what's going on. Oh, how I love surprises!...

...Many more people have arrived now, including some bothersome children. I wish these kids would just leave me alone! Half a dozen of them have kept pestering me for at least an hour -- jumping, yelling, and stomping, just beyond the reach of my shackles to ensure their own safety. What pitiful creatures. Meanwhile, the men seem to be gathering large olive branches and throwing them into nearby pits...

...It's late afternoon, and the men just finished pouring gasoline into the pits. Now they are throwing matches in... Whoa! look at those giant flames! What on earth is going on?! Could I be in danger, standing here in the corner of the courtyard?...

...Dusk is imminent. Many more people, robed in white, are flooding the courtyard. Great billows of smoke belch out of the fire pits, nearly suffocating me. As if the hunger and thirst weren't enough, my eyes are now stinging unbearably. A cacophony of human voices crescendo in song, and faintly in the distance, I hear the desperate cry of other sheep... But wait! Who is that approaching?! ... Master!! He's come to deliver me from this grevious nightmare!

...No, Master! There must be some mistake! Why have you brought me to the edge of the flame? Why do you trap me tightly between your legs? And why do you hold a dagger in your hand?!...

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