A young farm boy was once asked by his Sunday School teacher what Jesus meant to him. He thought carefully and then responded, “No more dead lambs.” Taken aback, the teacher asked him what he meant by that, and he responded, “Well, since Jesus died to take away our sin, we no longer have to sacrifice lambs to God to pay for our sin.” The teacher simply smiled.
The young boy had stumbled on a profound truth that separates all religions into one of two categories. In the depth of the human heart, people recognize the world is not as it should or could be. All kinds of things are out of whack. Recognizing that we are to blame for the mess this old world is in because of our sin, mankind has attempted to appease God with prayer and sacrifice to buy him off, a type of bribe to make things better for us. Whether it was sacrificial lambs, votive offerings, or human sacrifice, that is one way of doing religion, of dealing with this fallen old world.
But along comes this fellow, Jesus of Nazareth, true man and true God, with a better way. Fulfilling God’s commands and will, he demonstrates that the forgiveness of sins is God’s way in the world. He is God’s chosen lamb to take away the sin of the world. He takes all of those things we know are out of whack, draws them into himself, and declares “Father, forgive them.” And that is the end of sacrificing to God. The only thing left for us to do is to thank and praise the one who says, “It’s OK, I forgive you, I have a home for you for eternity, free of the pain and problems. I raised Jesus from the dead, I will raise you, too. Let everyone know.”
There you have it, two ways of religion in the world. One way, people “kill lambs” and do all sorts of things as sacrifice to God, in an attempt to buy him off. The second way, we believe that he has gone and done it all for us — that Jesus as God draws all of that evil into himself and takes it from us. We can’t have it any more. The only “sacrifice” left for us is the sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise.
No more dead lambs. Thanks be to God.
Rev. Lou Hesse is the pastor at Living Word Lutheran Church on West Broadway Avenue in Moses Lake and a Grant County farmer. This column was written on behalf of the Moses Lake Christian Ministerial Association.