The scapegoat - 16 October 2018

Xanthe Hancox

He shall put both of his hands on the goat's head and confess over it all the evils, sins, and rebellions of the people of Israel, and so transfer them to the goat's head. Then the goat is to be driven off into the desert by someone appointed to do it. The goat will carry all their sins away with him into some uninhabited land.  Leviticus 16:21-22

When it comes to looking for someone to blame, the story of the great auk is one of the most bizarre. One of these large flightless birds washed ashore on St Kilda, a tiny island off the west coast of Scotland, in 1840. A group of islanders captured it and soon afterwards, a vicious storm came over the island killing many local fishermen. The people of St Kilda wanted someone to blame, they wanted a scapegoat. The auk seemed a reasonable culprit and was duly put on trial for being a witch, found guilty and executed. That was the last great auk ever seen in the British Isles.

The origin of the word ‘scapegoat’ comes from a ceremony performed with two goats on the Hebrew Day of Atonement (known today as Yom Kippur). The high priest would sacrifice one goat and symbolically place the sins of the people on the head of the other — the scapegoat —before it was sent into the wilderness carrying away the blame of the sin (Leviticus 16:7-10).

But when Jesus came, he became our scapegoat. He offered himself up “once for all” as a sacrifice to pay for the sins of “the whole world” (1 John 2:2; Hebrews 7:27). That first goat had been sacrificed as a sin offering for God’s people and symbolized Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. The second goat represented Jesus, completely innocent, accepting and removing our sin and guilt. None of us is without sin but God sees followers of his Son as blameless because Jesus took all the blame we deserve.

Prayer: Father, thank you that Jesus takes away all our sin and gives us salvation. We come boldly into your presence with joy, and with gladness and thanksgiving, not because of anything we have done but through Jesus. How we give thanks for this today! Amen

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