sermon — Leviticus 16 — Maundy Thursday — 04/05/12


Sermon Text – Leviticus 16:20-22 20 “And when he has made an end of atoning for the Holy Place, the tabernacle of meeting, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat. 21 Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, concerning all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and shall send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a suitable man. 22 The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to an uninhabited land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness.”Sermon Theme – “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins” 1. What it means for sins to be “forgiven” 2. Where this forgiveness is to be found Dear friends in Christ,

In just a few moments we will be taking part in the Supper that our Lord instituted on that night He was betrayed.  In 1 Corinthians the Apostle Paul gives us the Lord’s words of guidance regarding our taking part in this meal – “let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.”  This examining ourselves means to do as Luther wrote in his Small Catechism – “Examine your place in life according to the Ten Commandments.  Have you been faithful as a father, mother, son, daughter, employer, or employee?  Have you bee disobedient, unfaithful, or lazy?  Have you injured anyone by what you have said or done?  Have you stolen anything, neglected your duty, been careless, or damaged anything?”  The goal of such a self-examination is to see our sin – and our need to repent and come to the Lord for forgiveness – which forgiveness is the heart and core of this Sacrament – that “in, with and under the bread and wine, we are receiving Christ’s body and blood, which is given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”  As this “forgiveness of sins” is so much the heart and core of the Gospel message, I welcome you to purposefully take the time to look together at two things – 1) to look at the Old Testament pericope for today and see what it means to say that sins are “forgiven” – and 2) to use the special opportunity tonight gives us to see where this forgiveness is to be found.  The verses I read before from Leviticus 16 are part of the record regarding what was to be done on the Great Day of Atonement.  After certain prescribed sacrifices had been made, the incense was burning in the Holy of Holies before the Lord, and the blood of the sacrifice had been sprinkled on the mercy seat and on the altar, then the high priest was to proceed as we read.  The other of the two goats that had previously been selected was to be brought forward, where the high priest would place his hands on its head, and “confess over it the sins and iniquities and all the transgressions of the people.”  That being done, the goat was to be “sent away into the wilderness by the hand of a suitable man.”  The place where the goat was to be released was to be “an uninhabited land” – as one commentator put it, a place not having roads of any kind leading through it – unmarked, unknown, wilderness.  What a beautiful picture of how the Lord forgives sins! 1) First you note the substitution – the sins of the people are placed on the goat, as the high priest “placed his hands on it and confessed over it all their sins.” 2) You also notice then what happens to that sin bearing goat – it is sent far away.  It is this same thing that God has done in forgiving us! 1) The prophet Isaiah said it so well – “the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”  Every single sin of mankind has been laid on Christ. 2) And with that sin on Him Jesus paid the price it demanded – suffering and dying on the cross – giving His body and His blood into death.  And by paying the price for sin, Jesus has removed it from us. And do understand what the Bible says concerning the removal, the forgiveness of sin! To forgive in the Greek means “to lift up and take away.” “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”  Our sins are gone!  Period!  God does not take sin away ONLY UNTIL, or UNLESS, or IF.  To “forgive” sin means that they are taken away!  What a blessed, God-given, relief this is!  For we live in a world that is so full of conditions, so full of things done in the past being remembered and dragged out in times of political mud-slinging, so full of instances in which details are missed and invalidate entire contracts or business dealings.  It gives us such peace to know that nothing of the sort can happen with God’s forgiveness.  When we need reassurance regarding forgiveness, we can go back to God’s Word, where we find, for one, the picture of Christ given in the scapegoat of Leviticus 16, and rest assured that our sins are taken away in Jesus Christ!  And when something is precious to you, you know where you have it, don’t you?  And if it is something that you will need a continuous supply of, you know where to go, right? >> maybe it is a prescription drug that you have to take – high blood pressure, cholesterol. >> perhaps it is those pills for your heart that you might need now and then.  >> you know RIGHT WHERE THEY ARE, and when you need to order more, you know EXACTLY what to do.  >> same thing goes with those important PAPERS – the mortgage, life insurance, car insurance policies, your driver’s license – you know RIGHT where they are –  It is the same for you and me as Christians when it comes to the forgiveness of sins!  We keep ourselves mindful every day of exactly where to go to find it!  Martin Luther put it in this thought provoking way: “When I need forgiveness of sins, I must not go to the Cross, for there it is not distributed – it is on the cross where Christ procured (acquired) forgiveness.  Also I must not go to the memory or the knowledge of the suffering Christ, because there I do not find it.  But I must go to the Sacrament or the Gospel; there I find it; for here is the Word that gives to me the forgiveness procured on the Cross. Everything depends on the Word.”  Yes – it is IN THAT WORD where we find our Savior giving us the Gospel promise of forgiveness of sins through this Sacrament” – “given for you – shed for you – for the forgiveness of sins.”  IT IS THE WORD itself which makes this supper of bread and wine a Sacrament of the body and blood of Christ which feeds our soul.  It was on the cross that He gave His body and shed His blood; it is here in the Sacrament that we receive them.  It was on the cross that He paid for all sins; it is here in the WORDS of the institution of the Lord’s Supper that we hear our Savior promise it to us personally – “given and shed FOR YOU for the forgiveness of sins.”  Our sins are forgiven – completely paid for through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus!  That very forgiveness we find in the Gospel in the Word and in the Sacraments – yes, in the Lord’s Supper which we are celebrating tonight!  So we say with the hymn writer: “I come, O Savior, to Thy table, For weak and weary is my soul.  Thy body given for me, O Savior, Thy blood which Thou for me didst shed – these are my life and strength forever, by them my hungry soul is fed.  Who can condemn me now? For surely the Lord is nigh, who justifies!  No hell I fear, and thus securely with Jesus I to heaven rise.  Lord, may Thy body and Thy blood be for my soul the highest Good!”  Amen.