By Rev. Dr. Sergio E. Arevalo, Jr.
Eagle Rock Lutheran Church
Los Angeles, CA
January 19, 2012
In the Philippines some Filipinos do offer or sacrifice food for gods or Nuno. We call it Atang or Halad.
In Greece, some villages sacrifice animals to Orthodox saints in a practice known as kourbània. Sacrifice of a lamb, or less commonly a rooster, is a common practice in Armenian Church and Tewahedo Church. This tradition, called matagh, is believed to stem from pre-Christian pagan rituals.
Some Mayans following a form of Folk Catholicism in Mexico, they still sacrifice animals in conjunction with church practices, a ritual practiced in past religions before the arrival of the Spaniards (Wikipedia.org).
If you have already visited stores or restaurant whose owners are Buddhists, you have seen their offering in front of their Buddha statute.
Islam has also a festival of sacrifice (dabiha-sacrifice as a ritual or qurban). They sacrifice animals such as a lamb, a sheep, a goat, a camel, or a cow. The animal must be healthy and conscious. …”Therefore to the Lord turn in Prayer and Sacrifice “ (Surat Al-Kawthar) [Quran, 108.2] Qurban is an Islamic prescription for the affluent to share their good fortune with the needy in the community (Wikipedia.org).
In Hinduism, faithful do offering of ghee (clarified butter), grains, spices, and wood into a fire along with the chanting of sacred mantras. The offerings can represent devotion, aspiration, and seeds of past karma. In Vedic times, Yagya ( Yagya or Yajna is a ritual of offerings accompanied by chanting of Vedic mantras ) commonly included the sacrifice of milk, ghee, curd, grains, and the soma plant—animal offerings were less common. In modern times, Yagya is often performed at weddings and funerals, and in personal worship. Sacrifice in Hinduism can also refer to personal surrender through acts of inner and outer worship (Wikipedia.org).
The Five Major Offerings in the Old Testament
In Judaism there were at least five major sacrifices in the Old Testament, but the ritual sacrifices ceased after the destruction of the Second Temple, except among the Samaritans. The Second Temple was destroyed by Roman troops under Titus during the Siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE (74 years after Herod died).
(1) Burnt Offering (Lev.1; 6:8-13; 8:18-21; 16:24). The necessary elements in this offering were the following animals without defect or spot: bull, ram (male sheep) or bird (dove or young pigeon for the poor); they were wholly consumed by fire but the skin must be kept for the priests.
(2) Grain Offering (Lev. 2; 6:14-23). The elements in grain offering were grain, fine flour, olive oil, incense, baked bread (cakes or wafers), salt, no yeast or honey; accompanied burnt offering and peace offering (along with drink offering). The priest offered this for themselves. There must be no left over so they needed to eat all of the offering in the court.
(3) Peace Offering (Lev. 3; 7:11-34). In the Peace Offering, they offered any animal without defect from herd or flock and variety of breads. People should offer the fatty portions (fat covering inner parts; fat tail, kidneys, lobe of the liver). The breast was for the High Priest (wave offering), right foreleg given to officiating priest (heave offering). 1) Thanksgiving offering: all the left over (to be eaten the same day); no left over allowed. 2) Vow or freewill offering: left over (to be eaten the same day and the next day); any left over to be burnt on the 3rd day.
(4) Sin Offering (Lev. 4; 5:1-13; 6:24-30; 8:14-17; 16:3-22). The elements were the following:
1. Young bull for High Priest and whole congregation. The blood was to be sprinkled in front of the veil and put on the horns of the altar of incense.
2. Male goat for leader. The blood was to be put on the horns of the altar of burnt offering.
3. Female goat or lamb for common person. The blood was to be put on the horns of the altar of burnt offering.
4. Dove or pigeon for the poor. The blood was to be put on the horns of the altar of burnt offering.
5. 1/10 ephah ( 1 ephah is about 36.4 litres; thus, 1/10=3.64 liters) of fine flour for the very poor.
(5) Trespass Offering (Lev 5:14-19; 6:1-7; 7:1-6). The only offering was ram (male sheep). God’s portions were the fatty portions (fat covering inner parts; fat tail, kidney, lobe of the liver). However, the priests’ portions were all the left over (They had to be eaten within court of tabernacle). Sorry, no “to go.”
The Purposes of the Offerings
(1) Burnt Offering. The purposes of this offering were for voluntary act of worship, atonement for unintentional sin in general; expression of devotion, commitment and complete surrender to God. Sometimes they call it offering of consecration. The burnt offering was introduced early into the religious life of Israel. This offering was to be made every morning and every evening. It was to be a continual offering, and the offering was to burn all night (Exo 29:38-42; Num 28:3-8; Lev 6:9). As you recall the burnt offering was totally consumed, speaking to us of a total consecration of the life to the Lord. Since it is a continual, repeated offering, it speaks to us of the repetition of offering our lives in total consecration to the service of the Lord.
(2) Grain Offering. The purposes in grain offering were voluntary act of worship, recognition of God’s goodness and provisions, and devotion to God.
(3) Peace Offering. Peace offering was done for voluntary act of worship; thanksgiving and fellowship (it included a communal meal); included vow offerings, thanksgiving offerings and freewill offerings.
(4) Sin Offering. Mandatory atonement for specific unintentional sin, confession of sin, forgiveness of sin, and cleansing from defilement.
(5) Trespass Offering. Mandatory atonement for unintentional sin requiring restitution, cleansing from defilement, and make restitution.
The Lamb in Jewish Offering
Since our passage tells about the Lamb of God, let us study the function of lamb in the Old Testament offering. I already mentioned that lambs were offered in the Burnt Offering, Peace Offering, Sin Offering and Trespass Offering. It must be spotless or no blemish. It must be one year old or younger.
Many Jewish sources discuss the deeper meaning behind korbanot (offerings). For example, Sefer Hachinuch explains that an individual bringing an animal sacrifice for a sin understands that he personally should have been sacrificed as punishment for the rebellion against God inherent in his sin, but God mercifully accepts the sacrifice in his or her place. Furthermore, it is considered fitting that an animal is used as a sacrifice because at the moment of sin, the individual in question disregarded his elevated human soul, effectively acting as an animal (Wikipedia.org).
The Son of God as the Lamb of God
When John the Baptist saw Jesus again in Bethany on the other side of Jordan, it immediately came to his mind and told to his disciples that Jesus was the Lamb of God. He mentioned this twice in our passage (vv.29, 36), meaning Jesus being the Lamb of God is very important in their lives and spirituality.
Jesus was the perfect lamb for the offering since he has no blemish and perfect. John the Baptist foresaw this already that’s why he mentioned, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (v. 29).
Jesus’ sacrifice and crucifixion should be seen in the light of the Jewish tradition of sacrifice.
Isaiah prophesied Jesus as a unique lamb,
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.” (Isa. 53:4-9).
Peter says, “The Messiah also suffered for you and left an example for you to follow in his steps. “He never sinned, and he never told a lie.” When he was insulted, he did not retaliate. When he suffered, he did not threaten. It was his habit to commit the matter to the one who judges fairly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the tree, so that we might die to those sins and live righteously. “By his wounds you have been healed.” You were “like sheep that kept going astray,” but now you have returned to the shepherd and overseer of your souls” (I Pet. 2:22-25).
Jesus became the Lamb of God that substituted for us so that we could experience salvation.
Peter says “You know that you ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish” (I Pet.1:19, RSV).
Like Jesus, the Messiah, we might experience challenges and sufferings for the Gospel, are we ready for that? Are we ready to give up our lives for the sake of others? Lord, give me strength to endure that suffering.
Martin Luther encourages us to become students of the theology of the cross. In the Lutheran Handbook, students of the theology of the cross should position the cross in our thinking as an end point, not a starting point. Luther encourages us to think of the cross as the last stop for sin, death, and delusions of grandeur. He also says that God shows up in those things that seem weak, foolish, and insignificant to human eyes (I Cor. 1:17-29). There’s no class or diploma you can get that certifies us as a theologian of the cross. As we experience life’s ups and downs, being a student of the theology of the cross is something you just live into when we are open and trust God’s promises (pp.136-137).
Please listen to the life and sacrifice of a man of God in Germany. Lutheran Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer lived when Adolf Hitler was powerful. That’s the time when most of the Christian churches were either deceived or threatened by Hitler. Bonhoeffer opposed the Nazis with all his might, and called the church for repentance. Bonhoeffer believes that “The church is only a church when it works for others,” and “The purpose of theology is to change the world for the better.” In the eve of the “Kristallnacht” (Crystal Night) on November 09, 1938, the Nazis unleashed their full fury against Jewish communities in Germany. Their houses stormed, synagogues burned, families brutalized, and Jews imprisoned.
Bonhoeffer was away from Berlin, raced back to the capital, and stood like a fearless prophet against the violence of the Nazis. He was also furious with Christians who justified the violence by saying the Jews were reaping only what they deserved as the crucifiers of the Christ.
Eventually he was imprisoned due to espionage, and accusation of assassinating Hitler at Telgel Prison outside Berlin for 18 months. Later he was brought to Flossenburg Concentration Camp.
While he was leading a small worship service on April 08, 1945, the Gestapo burst in and dragged him away. On the next day at about 5 in the morning, Bonhoeffer was taken to an execution site in a grove of trees and forced to strip. He knelt naked and prayed, then they ascended the gallows till his death (Robert Morgan, On This Day).