The Old Testament book of Leviticus is probably the hardest book in the Bible for many to read. Much of it outlines, in detail, the duties of priests and Levites (the book’s name comes from this group) in worship, including the sacrificial system involving animals practiced in ancient times. However, there are many pictures of Christ embedded in these stories and rituals, one being the requirement that each individual lay their hands on any bull offered for their sin.
This is first described in Leviticus 1:3-5a – “If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer a male without blemish. He shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the LORD. He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. Then he shall kill the bull before the LORD” (emphasis mine)
Why is it so important that each person lay their hand on their sacrifice? I think there are at least 3 reasons:
First, the sacrifice is for each of us specifically and individually. Atonement is not a blanket covering everyone with no distinction – it focuses on each individual. God does not have a limited attention span, where time spent with one person takes away from time spent with another. He can, and does, focus on us all. Since He desires relationship with each person, He wants us to be aware of the need for sacrifice at individual level, as well as the connection created at an individual level.
Second, the sacrifice shows us the severity of our sin. Before a just God, no sin can go unpunished, or He would commit injustice. Only blood can atone for sin, and having each person make a personal connection with their sacrifice highlights the seriousness of our own sin, discouraging us from thinking other people’s sin is more serious than our own. Even the priests, as shown in Leviticus 8:14, had to lay their hands on their own sacrifice, showing even those who might be considered, or consider themselves, more spiritual are not exempt.
Third, nobody else can worship for us since the purpose of worship is to have a personal relationship with our Lord and Maker. It is the sacrifice that restores our relationship to God, not the priest that intermediates the sacrifice, which is highlighted by the fact that Jesus became both the sacrifice and the High Priest. Just as I can’t have a real relationship with someone only by hearing about them through someone else, I can’t have a real relationship with God through someone else’s worship. The faith of people you know – parents, friends, teachers, pastors – will do you no good. Each must have his own faith because what He wants is us.
In Leviticus we find a picture of Jesus, who lived a perfect life for us, not so that we don’t have to be perfect, but so that we can become perfect. He died for each of us, specifically, and needed to die because no other sacrifice could cover the severity of our sins before a just God. Through His sacrifice, we are adopted as members of His family, to live perfectly in Paradise for eternity.
Jesus lamented of the religious people of his day in Matthew 23:37 – “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” When He offered relationship, they insisted on religion, and missed being touched by their Maker’s hands.
One More Picture
Much more recently than Leviticus was written, a similar point was made by Mel Gibson in his movie The Passion of the Christ. During the scene where Jesus is being crucified, Gibson decided to film his own hands driving the spike into Christ’s hand. It is the only time Gibson appears in the film. The film’s website (since removed) said this was “symbolic of the fact that he holds himself accountable first and foremost for Christ’s death.” Gibson, in Leviticus terms, chose to “lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering.”
Yes, Jesus suffered terribly for the sin of each of us, but He willingly did it because it was needed to gather His people to Himself. “Lay your hand” on His sacrifice and thank Him that He wants to know you personally.
 Gibson, Mel. The Passion of the Christ. (2004)
One thought on “Sacrificed for You”
So true-the attention God has for each of us is not finite. His love is boundless. Thanks for your helpful synopsis of Leviticus, Todd.
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