Introduction: What does it mean to “Behold the lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world”? With this question in mind the following story was written. To Kill a Lamb walks you through what it might have been to be an Israelite at the time of Christ.
The many duties and rituals repeated day after day without a living connection to the Lawgiver caused important truths about God to be forgotten through the mindless repetition. So complete was that loss of understanding, the Jews did not recognize the Messiah when He came to offer Himself as the True Sacrifice.
Even today we are challenged with some of the same trappings of formalism as we repeat our religious rites and duties. It is this writer’s prayer that this imaginary look into the past will help in framing the truths of the Sanctuary in a relevant light for modern Israel.
David climbed down from the stone fence and wondered. He had watched the lambs that spring with unusual interest. Which one would it be?
David loved the sheep – especially the newborn lambs. He never tired of watching them prance about, nibbling at the prickly grass then scamper back to the much preferred warm milk from mamma sheep. But now David faced a looming problem. At the age of twelve Hebrew boys were considered to have come of age and thus required to participate in the experience and drama of the Outer Court. One of these sweet little guys bouncing about the field would be standing in for his sins and coming under the knife.
David recoiled at the thought as he trudged along the pathway home, kicking at the loose rocks and occasional stick. His father, Jedidiah, often talked about the priests, the law, and the Synagogue. Everything sounded so glorious. But on the other hand there seemed to David a dark side in their religion that defied explanation. Not that David would come right out and say it, but it always bothered him to see the people bring their animal sacrifices to the temple to be killed.
David wondered if the bullocks and lambs had any idea why they were selected from the others left at home. Did they know why they were so special and how that look of perfection would soon interrupt their short lives? “There had better be a good reason for all this killing” David mused with a quiet scowl.
The fragrance of fresh baked bread drifted up the path and turned his thoughts toward lunch. At the door of their cozy shepherd’s home, nestled among the hills near Bethany, David slipped off his sandals and placed them next to Papa’s.
After their simple meal, David somehow found the courage to question his father about the ritual killing of the farm animals. Everyone had to do it and that added up to a lot of death. Jedidiah tried to calm David’s fears. “You must understand,” he said, it’s a matter of ancient law. Don’t worry about it too much, son, the day will come when it won’t bother you like it does the first time. Duty will overcome your fears. Maybe when you grow up you will become a priest. Then you will know what is in the scrolls and you can explain to others what this is all about. I would like to know more myself.”
David stared at the well swept floor and swallowed against the lump forming in his throat. “But it will always bother me, he thought, I could never get used to killing, especially a lamb. Why does God say “thou shalt not kill,” and then require us to kill?”
David never brought it up again. He sensed that the conversation would just go round and round in circles and only make him sorry for bringing it up. He would find out soon enough, the experience of the outer court, for he was turning twelve that spring.
The dreaded day at last arrived when David and Jedidiah were to make their pilgrimage to the Temple.
Papa selected the lamb and carried him through the field toward David waiting at the gate. Jedidiah quieted the lamb as David tied a small cord around the soft wooly neck. “But Papa, that’s Timmy, my favorite lamb!” David exclaimed. “I’m sorry, son, he was the finest of the bunch. This is all according to the law governing sacrifices. I am required to bring the best of the spotless and Timmy just happened to be the one.”
David’s mother, Rachael, handed them their lunch and waved good-by as they walked down the hill toward the main road leading into Jerusalem.
Oxen lumbered along with their rugged carts piled high with local produce. David and Jedidiah passed them easily as the rough wheels labored through the ruts worn deep in the road. The journey seemed unusually long as they climbed the winding thoroughfare. Familiar sights and landmarks that once brought a thrill as they neared Jerusalem felt strangely unwelcome to David as he trudged along with Timmy by his side.
As they approached the Temple, they could hear the ever present noise of bleating sheep and the occasional moo of the cattle. The odor that arose from arena of death turned David’s stomach. He passed up the offer of a noon-time meal. He wanted to snatch away his little Timmy and flee back home to the meadow, but comply he must.
The market street teemed with buyers and sellers crowded into tiny booths, flailing their arms in noisy transactions. At last they found the back of the line of worshipers waiting at the outer court gate. To David, everyone seemed too casual as they waited for their turn to come. Snatches of conversations could be overheard concerning leaky fishing boats, oppressive taxes, fabric in from some distant port. “How can they talk about other things?” he wondered. No one seemed to care about the sheep dying in the Temple.
But the animals knew. David’s lamb tugged against the cord as they advanced. Now he, Papa, and Timmy stood at the head of the line. There was no going back.
A few moments passed and a white robed priest parted the veil and motioned for them to come inside. For a moment, the busy activities and new sights in the courtyard diverted David’s attention from the task at hand. Regimented and orderly, the priests fulfilled the requirements at each station. The Altar of Sacrifice loomed large and imposing front and center. Two priests walked back and forth on the platform that went clear around the altar busily raking the coals and centering the previous sacrifice to make sure it would be completely consumed by the fire. David could feel the heat as he watched the column of smoke rise high into the afternoon sky. He just stood looking up for a moment as the plumes drifted out of sight. “Is that all there is? he mused: nothingness in the end?”
Jedidiah cleared his throat to catch David’s attention and motioned for him to tie the cord holding the lamb to the horn of the altar. David made a loop in the end of the cord but then handed it to their attending priest. David couldn’t quite reach high enough.
Jedidiah brought forth the carefully wrapped silver knife. David knew what he must do, but he just froze in place, looking down at Timmy. A few awkward moments passed and Papa came gently over and helped him with the awful duty. The priest crouched down in front as Jedidiah assisted David’s trembling hand. As Papa had shown him the day before, David placed his left hand under the lamb’s jaw then pulled firmly back. With a quick and almost painless stroke it was done.
The priest caught the blood in the waiting bowl. Some splattered on David’s hand and dripped on the pavement stones blackened with stains. Timmy went limp and fell at David’s feet.
Tears fell silently into the soft wool as David stroked his head and apologized for what he had done. Looking for a place to be alone, he handed Papa the knife and wandered away toward a corner of the court not being used while the ceremony continued.
As David grew through youth to manhood, the questions never left his mind. He went from priest to priest seeking a reasonable explanation for their God ordered cruelties, but always the same response: “It is written in the law. We must obey the law.”
“But what does it mean?” David would ask. “Mean? If you sin, you kill a lamb; that’s what it means.”
Then one day David heard about a new teacher in Israel. He preached every day at the Jordan and many speculated that he might be Elijah come back from the dead. David set out at once to find out for himself.
This new teacher was not hard to track down. It seemed that all Israel hungered for his messages. David listened carefully to his words. “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. The Messiah is soon to come. Make straight the highways and exalt the valleys that your King may come to Israel. Repent, repent of your sins. Prepare your hearts to receive your King!”
Suddenly, John stopped speaking and a hush settled over the crowd. Raising his hand and pointing to someone on the upper bank he announced, “Behold the lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.” The puzzled throng, once silent in rapt attention to catch each word of the holy evangelist, then burst forth in murmuring and muffled conversations. All quickly glance from side to side with the hope of spotting the One pointed out.
It soon became apparent to all of whom John spoke. A young man dressed in the ordinary garments of the working class made his way down into the water and waded out to John. They talked for a moment. It seemed as though the man was trying to convince John to let him be baptized. John finally agreed.
He raised his arm toward the open sky and cried out to God to bless the Lamb of God, then lowered Him into a watery grave. As the Man came up out of the river the heavens appeared to pull apart and a pure white dove appeared and descended toward the Baptized One, lighting on His head. If that wasn’t odd enough, a deep booming voice from the opening above announced, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Some thought it merely thundered, but David understood the words and trembled at the thought that he had just heard God confer blessings on His Son!
All eyes were riveted on the man as heavenly light bathed the scene. Who could he be? For a few moments no one dared speak. Suddenly the dove flew off into the distance toward a region of desert and the unknown man slowly made his way up and out of the Jordan following after the dove. David felt mysteriously drawn to this man. He tried to catch up. He desperately wanted to talk with Him, but this mysterious figure soon disappeared over the hill into the wilderness. He reached the summit of the hill where the Man had last been seen but search as he might the Mystery Man was gone.
Upon arriving home, David told his family all he had seen and heard. After describing the supernatural baptism, David asked his father, “do you think the Messiah is about to appear?”
“Well, David, I wouldn’t rule it out. I remember back a few years before you were born some cousins of mine from over near Bethlehem got all worked up about some bright lights and angels or something. They kept saying things about the Messiah being born. And that’s been, let’s see, about thirty years ago. Most everyone thought they had gotten into a bad jug of wine, but I remember them each telling the story and they all said the same thing. Whatever it was, they were convinced. They may have been crazy, but as I say, I wouldn’t rule out the chance it may be true. The Messiah could be among us.”
Several weeks passed. All he could think or talk about was the exciting possibility that the Deliverer may have come at last. Compelled to follow up on his deepening conviction, David again set out for the Jordan River where John continued his evangelism and call to repentance. John’s appeals for renewed commitment to God grew with increased vigor; each word charged with a pleading love.
David felt the tug of the Holy Spirit calling him to repent. He thought back over his life. Many evil things that he had said and done came vividly to his mind. He had not always taken a lamb as required to receive pardon. He just didn’t think it seemed fair, so he always carried around a load of guilt and shame mingled with his confusion. David longed to be free. He desperately wanted to forsake his sins and find the soothing comfort that forgiveness and pardon would bring.
David bent down, unbuckled his sandals, removed his outer garment, and waded out into the gradual current of the baptismal site.
Once again he stood in line waiting his turn, but this was altogether different from the visit to the Temple. Instead of the bleating sheep and casual talk he hears whispered prayers and the easy splash of water falling from faces filled with joy.
David’s turn came. He told John his name and a brief history of his life and willingness to have his sins washed away. John raised his hand to heaven and prayed, then lowered David beneath the gentle waves. Standing to his feet, he drew a deep breath and pushed the water from his eyes. He felt clean; accepted of God.
Like the others, he arose with a different view. Colors seemed to have a brighter crisper shine. Bird songs sounded like a heavenly call to worship the Creator God. As he pressed his foot into the last muddy step up onto the shore he lost his footing and fell back. An alert young man quickly reached out of the crowd, grabbed his arm, and pulled him safely up onto the bank.
David turned to thank the helpful man and before he could say a thing a rugged looking character blurted out, “Hello there brother, my name is Simon. And what do they call you?”
David liked him at once. They soon realized that they had much in common – a hunger for the truth. Anxious to discover what Simon might know about John’s recent announcement about the Lamb of God, David asked; “Do you think the Messiah is coming soon?” “Soon, why no, He is already here!” Simon added to the hearty response by slapping David on the back and giving a little squeeze to his neck.
“Here, what do you mean here,” David inquired.
“Is John the Baptist the Messiah?”
“No, but I know where you can find Him.” “You do? Can you take me to see Him?”
Simon smiled and said; “If you promise to believe what you see.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“You’ll see – you’ll see.”
Meeting the Master
Simon climbed up the bank through the attentive crowd and onto the main road with David close behind. Somewhat out of breath trying to keep up, David inquired; “What’s He like?” “Like I told you down by the river, you’ll just have to come and see. This man Jesus is like…” Simon stopped mid step in the middle of the road and paused. For the first time Simon seemed to be out of words. He raised his eyebrows and shrugged. He finally lowered his shoulders and said, “Well, He is like everything the Scriptures said He would be.”
As they continued their brisk walk Simon shared story after story of the wonderful things that Jesus had said and done. Soon they came upon a small grove of palms where Simon abruptly turned off the road and down into a narrow ravine.
“Where are we going?” David asked as they advanced between the boulders.
“It won’t take long to get there. It is a bit out of the way but for good reason. I’m taking you to a special meeting place. I felt impressed to bring you here and I know the Master won’t mind. But you must promise not to tell anyone where this is. Now and then we need to secret away from the growing crowds, so we try to keep this place all to ourselves.”
“Don’t worry, Simon, I understand. My lips are sealed.”
Before long they could hear distant conversations. Around the next corner, what had been a narrow ravine widened into a small amphitheater. As they approached, a friendly voice rang out; “Hi there, Peter, who’s that you have with you?” David turned toward Simon with a puzzled look and said; “Peter? I thought your name was Simon.”
“Well, it is, but just the other day Jesus gave me a new name. I am not quite used to it yet. Some of the other disciples call me Simon Peter. That is a bit too long. We’ll just go with Peter.”
“David, I want you to meet one of my best friends. David meet John: John, this is David.”
John shook David’s hand. “Welcome, David, Jesus should be along any moment now. He needed to go over to Capernaum for a little while, but He should be back soon. I’m assuming that is who you came to see,” he said with a smile.
David grinned; “Yes, as a matter of fact.”
“Have a seat and put your tired feet up, David,” Peter said pointing to a nearby rock.
David sat down and rested against the dirt bank. As he looked about at his new found friends, he noticed something similar yet different about them. Not that they looked or dressed alike, it was something in their eyes: a soft gentle look that sweetened the air in their cozy little hideaway. It felt good to be there.
Just then, they heard the crunch of gravel under feet in the dry creek bed. “Hello,” greeted a melodic voice. It actually sounded more like several voices, all in perfect pitch. The disciples each responded with pleasant words of welcome, sitting up a little straighter as if in the presence someone very important. “This must be the Master,” David thought.
He hoped to remain unnoticed for a time as he studied the Man. David was sure that this was the One singled out by John the Baptist that day the sky opened up. To look at His clothes and His weathered skin, one would hardly judge Him worthy of such attention, but something emanated from His very being that commanded respect. He had a noble, dignified bearing – the presence of a King.
Jesus sat down on a rock left vacant just for Him and breathed a sigh. Bending down, He began to untie His sandals – then He paused, fixed His eyes on Peter and asked; “Peter, who is the young man that you’ve brought with you?” David’s heart missed a beat. How did the Master know who had brought him there?
Peter lighted up like a student with the ready answer. “His name is David, Lord. He heard about you down at the Jordan and wanted to see for himself what Your Kingdom is all about. He was baptized just this morning.” Several “amens” gave a hearty approval to the announcement.
Jesus fixed His penetrating eyes on David and said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. Come, learn of me and you shall find rest unto your soul. You truly were baptized of John with water, but I have come to baptize with the Spirit and with fire.”
Awed by the Master’s presence and words, David just sat and listened. He wasn’t always sure what Jesus meant, but he recognized that everything He said had great importance.
For several hours Jesus shared from the Scriptures and told parables about His kingdom. He spoke of spiritual renewal and overcoming sin. He talked about the meek inheriting the earth. This concept challenged all his previous notions about the kingdom to come. “The meek could never hope to win a battle against the Romans”, he thought to himself.
David wanted to raise his hand and ask a few questions, but it was getting late and Jesus ended the session with a prayer. With the kindness of heavenly love He smiled at each eager student and bade them all a “good night.”
David awoke to the sound of a crackling fire and conversations kept low out of respect to those still asleep. He stretched and rubbed his eyes. “It’s true,” he thought to himself, this wasn’t all just a wonderful dream. Crouching near the fire, Peter and John propped sticks with chunks of bread over the amber coals.
As David sat up, John glanced his way and whispered; “Good morning David. Did you sleep well?” “Not too bad considering I didn’t bring my bed roll along. By the way, John, where is Jesus? I saw Him lay down just across the way from Andrew last night.” John pointed up the hill and said; “He went somewhere up that way about an hour ago for His morning prayers. We don’t ask Him where He goes. He often comes and goes somewhat like the wind, but He always comes back. And when He does there is a soft glow on His face. I’ve never seen anything like it. I heard it said that Moses’ face would light up like that. Mine hasn’t yet, but maybe someday.” Peter poked him in the ribs and said; “that will be the day.” Everyone shared a good laugh.
By now the volume turned up on the conversations as everyone began to stir. Soon Jesus returned and sure enough David could see the shining in Jesus’ face that John had just described. “See what I told you?” John whispered to David. He nodded but kept his hand from shooting up and asking Jesus about His mysterious radiance.
At Jesus’ direction they all knelt down for their morning prayer. It felt like His presence cleansed the very air that surrounded them. No one said it, but just being near Him changed how everything looked, creating almost tunnel vision where the surroundings dissolved into the background. Time and space itself seemed to bend in His direction and bow to the King of Kings. An electrifying power moved among them, bathing every nerve with a heavenly current.
After breakfast, they each quickly gathered up their things. Peter took one of the roasting sticks and scattered what remained of the coals. “Come on, David, join us for the day and see for yourself what I’ve been going on and on about. I haven’t been just blowing wind. I may talk a lot, but it’s because I have a lot to say about the Master.”
“Thank you, Peter, I would love to tag along, but I must be heading on toward home by tonight. My father needs my help with some lambs that were just born last week. It seems like we are always busy with something.”
“You need to be careful with that,” Peter warned. “I once had a thriving fishing business, but that doesn’t seem so important now.” “I can see what you mean. This is the most incredible encounter of my life, Peter. I don’t blame you for giving up your boats.”
Peter led the way up out of the ravine, leaving by a different way than they had come to avoid giving clues to the waiting throngs where their private meetings took place. Across the field they could see the main road busy with traffic.
“See all those people?” Peter asked. “Many of them have come a long distance looking for Jesus. I guess word has gotten out that His is in this area. The crowds are getting harder to control every day.”
As soon as they reached the road, someone recognized Jesus and cried out, “Master!” Immediately dozens of people swarmed in on every side. Peter motioned to John and the 10 others to push back a circle of room for Jesus to work. They locked arms a slowly but firmly walked back to create an eye in the middle of a storm of eager faces. It was a mixed multitude of hungry souls. Some people sought for healing, some came to hear what Jesus had to say about the kingdom with political interests and questions, while others wanted their sins forgiven.
David joined the security team and watched in astonishment as each one received Jesus’ sympathetic words and healing touch. From a wretched beggar blind form birth, to a baby with a crooked spine, Jesus healed them all. At last every moan of sickness ceased and every question received reply.
Jesus motioned to the disciples, and they started down the road toward Jerusalem. David bade them farewell and way turned the opposite way toward Bethany. Upon reaching the top of the first hill, he paused and looked back. Clusters of people still lingered where Christ had been, looking in wonder upon the ones recently healed. Some raised hands toward the sky in worshipful praise while others shook their heads as if trying to wake up from a dream.
Shouts of joy and praise echoed through the hills. In the distance, Jesus and the disciples rounded the last corner and disappeared from sight. A thrill swept over David with the thought: the Messiah has come! Overflowing with stories, David hurried toward home.
Celebration and Tears
As the days and months went by, following David’s close encounter with Jesus, his entire family and surrounding neighbors followed closely the news of the ministry of Christ. From time to time Jesus and the disciples would pass through Bethany during their travels, and David would join them for the day. He wanted to enlist full time as a disciple but his duties at home kept him a part time companion of the twelve.
In all, David witnessed hundreds of people returned to full health, but Jesus did more than heal disease. On one occasion he witnessed the feeding of more than five thousand men along with their wives and children. And all this food came from one small lunch! Even bread in the presence of Jesus became more than what it was.
David felt this powerful leavening effect on his heart every time he went on the road with the Master. On returning home that night, he brought home a piece of the miracle bread to show the family. Everyone wanted a taste, but David insisted they put in on a shelf for all to see for at least a day or two.
But the greatest miracle of all came from Jesus’ lips. His wisdom challenged the keenest of minds, yet the simple and ignorant alike understood. Never did a man speak as this Man.
Over three years had passed since the time of David’s baptism. Many hoped and believed that Jesus would soon ascend the throne as King of Israel. Nothing seemed to stand in His way. A general excitement and anticipation could be felt by all as the time for the Passover festival approached. Would this be the time?
Once again David joined the traffic negotiating the wheel ruts toward Jerusalem. The festivities of the Passover would soon begin and he wanted to witness the ascension to the throne. History was about to be made and he didn’t want to miss out seeing his beloved Master given the position He truly deserved.
As David neared one of the last villages before the descent into Jerusalem, he could see and hear a commotion up ahead. “Jesus must be somewhere nearby,” he reasoned. Sure enough, as he approached he could hear Peter’s familiar voice instructing the people to move aside.
“Hey, Peter!” he called out.
Peter turned to see who had singled him out of the crowd. “Hi, David, you’re just in time.” “I am? just in time for what?” Peter motioned rapidly for David to hurry up. “Come give me a hand. Jesus has just mounted a donkey to ride into Jerusalem. It looks like we will soon witness the Master’s coronation, if we can just get all these people out of the way.”
David pressed through the crowd and spotted Jesus sitting upon the young colt with His good friend Lazarus leading the way. Quite an amazing sight: a man that had been dead for four days holding the reins of the animal carrying the One who called him forth from the grave. A swelling of enthusiasm lit fire like a blaze through dry grass. Hosannas and shouts rang out with palm branches waving and coats being thrown down. The donkey’s hooves never touched the ground for the abundance of garments laid in his way.
By the time they reached the crest of the last hill overlooking Jerusalem countless thousands joined the Royal parade blending their voices in one roar of praise. The Deliverer had at long last come to free Jerusalem! They could already taste the victory and feel the power of rising up to oust the Romans and take back control of their Promised Land.
In full view of the splendid scene spread out below, the entire jubilant crowd stood still in awe and silence of what appeared soon to be returned to rightful control. The pure white marble of the Temple glistened in the setting sun. Jerusalem shined like a bride prepared for her husband and King. But joy was missing on the face of the beloved Redeemer.
Tears swelled in Jesus’ eyes; not the tears of joy but of a heart rending grief. Jesus wept. He reeled side to side uncontrollably, piercing the enraptured silence with the loud cries of a man at the death of his bride. What could possibly be wrong? The onlookers wondered.
Jesus stretched His hands out toward the city below and with pathos cried out: “Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes.”
Though Jesus’ sorrow defied reason in light of what was assumed to soon take place, no one asked Him why. Jesus then motioned to Lazarus, and they continued down the winding road toward Jerusalem. Donkey hooves could be heard clicking against the cobblestone as the subdued crowd made their way into town.
The Lamb of God
The city bustled with an influx of Israelites from every part of the country gathering for the Passover feast. David walked through the busy streets toward his uncle’s home where arrangements had been made for him to stay during the Holiday season.
As he passed by the Temple his thoughts went back to that first time he had come to town with Timmy and Papa. He still cringed to think about that day. David stopped in the middle of the street. Others hurried by toward their destination irritated that he made them step aside. “What are you looking at?” growled a Temple guard. “Move along!” David just stood and stared at the line of sacrifices awaiting execution spread out in endless procession down the crowded boulevard.
David remembered the sermon appeal that John the Baptist made when he so dramatically interrupted himself with the announcement; “Behold the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world.” David returned to real time and continued down the street toward his uncle’s home deep in thought.
While observing Jesus in His day to day ministry, David understood why John had referred to Christ as the Lamb of God. He was kind and gentle, innocent and harmless as a lamb; but what about the sacrificial end game where the lamb is killed? Where does that fit in? “Surely the Lamb of God would not be killed!” David reasoned. “How could anyone, even the cruelest of criminals, much less one of the priests, put a knife to Jesus’ throat?”
All the deep contemplation made his head hurt, but the time flew by and soon he was at his uncle’s front door. After settling in, David set out at once to try and find Jesus. Surely He could answer his questions. Back and forth he hurried through the busy streets, stopping at the shops inquiring to the Master’s whereabouts. No one had seen Him or the disciples.
David’s search took him back to the Temple where had stood just a few hours before. Hearing Jesus’ name mentioned in a nearby group of worshipers, he quickly moved in to investigate.
“Do you know where He is?”
“Who are you looking for” the man replied.
“Jesus, you know, the Master who healed the multitudes and raised the dead; I heard you mention His name.”
“No, I’m sorry; I don’t know where He is right now, but you should have been here an hour ago. I’ve never seen anything like it. Jesus walked into the temple with a whip in his hand and you should have seen them run. Cattle and sheep and money changers came scrambling out of the court like they were being chased by a lion. He really upset things in there. When the dust settled, you could have heard a feather drop. I can’t recall the Temple ever being so hushed and reverent.
Then this Man, Jesus who some are calling the Messiah, sat down on the steps as if He owned the place. Can’t say I blame Him, I am sick of the way our glorious Temple has been turned into a den of corruption. He then talked with those of us who stayed by rooting Him on. Children climbed up onto His lap and crowded in close at His feet as He told us stories and wonderful things about His Father in Heaven; it was beautiful!”
Another man chimed in; “Sorry, friend, we don’t know where He is right now, but it looks like we might have us a new King, that is if the Sanhedrin fails to get their hands on Him first. They are steaming mad about what He has done. The money changers are especially livid. If you look up there by the north porch you can still see them on the walkway picking their spilled coins out of the cracks. It made quite the clatter when your Master flipped over the tables.”
“Thanks for the information, gentlemen.” David said as he turned back toward his uncle’s home. “Could it be true? David wondered. No, the priests would never dare to touch Jesus. Would they?” Now all he could do was pray and wait.
A few days passed before the festivities of the 14th day of the first month: then late one night the unthinkable happened. The clamor of an angry mob passing through the alley outside David’s window awakened him with a start. Peering through the shutters he saw the torch lit face of Jesus and fists in the air. David quickly dressed and followed at a distance, trying to avoid being discovered.
Heartsick, David watched as they wrenched Him back and forth among themselves, spitting on and striking His lovely face. Now and then a demon possessed hand would reach out and yank a tuft of beard from His chin. From one sham of a trial to another He was beaten, lied about, and mocked.
At last Christ stood before the Roman Governor. His calm and noble bearing enraged the mob but amazed Pilate. A gentle sweetness surrounded Him while the vulgar taunts and ridicule ascended like the stench of death from the rabble below. The contrasts glared. Even Pilate, the Pagan ruler, recognized at a glance Jesus’ unsullied purity.
After addressing the mob and listening to their demands, Pilate turned and studied Jesus’ face. The wounds gaped and His eyes were nearly swollen shut. Every abuse was hurled at Christ in an attempted to obscure the beauty of Holiness, but in the end the crude attacks only proved to make the contrast stark between evil and righteousness.
Pilate had judged and condemned countless criminals. But never before had he seen a man with such nobility and kingly bearing; not even in his observation of whom the world honored as great men. “There must be some mistake,” Pilate thought. “This man is innocent.”
He emerged on the balcony and tried to reason with the rabble, but they would not listen. Preferring to release this unusual prisoner, yet fearful he might lose his position as Governor if an insurrection should break out, Pilate leaned over the rail and asked, “What should I do with this man?” “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” came back in a wild demonic chant.
Reluctant, yet cowardly and cruel, Pilate weakened. He made one final attempt to release Jesus by offering up the hardened criminal Barabbas. Surely the comparison of Barabbas to this Holy man would bring sanity back into the minds of the jealous priests who thirsted for Jesus’ blood! His weak-kneed attempt failed to assuage the hellish rage. The decision was fixed.
As a token disclaimer, Pilate ceremoniously washed his hands in a silver bowl and dried them on a fresh towel as he issued the sentence of death. The water may have cleaned his hands but his conscience was another matter; never again would he enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep. When he closed his eyes, all he could see was the swollen bleeding face of the Son of God.
Stripped to the waist, Jesus received the final scourge. As pools of blood collected on the floor beneath the whipping post, David again called to mind the innocent lambs and the blood at the base of the Altar of Sacrifice.
A purple robe was brought forth in mock ritual and placed upon His shoulders. Someone from the crowd took a stick and smacked the cruel crown made of thorns forcing the needle pointed barbs deep into Jesus’ scalp. Drops of blood mingled with the sweat. No human had ever been treated with such chalice and disrespect. Wicked men bowed and danced. A guttural laughter erupted from the crowd, and fallen angels reveled at the sight.
At the height of this shameful display, two soldiers dragged in the rough hewn cross and dropped in on Jesus’ wounded back, ordering Him to march at once toward Golgotha. Jesus groaned under the weight but without complaint inched along under the load.
As He struggled up the hill, the beatings and loss of blood caused Him to stumble and fall under the load. It seemed He could not continue. David rushed to see if he could help, but the point of a spear forced him back. Snatched from among those near by the armed procession a strong looking man of African descent was ordered to pick up the cross and carry it to the place of execution.
Jesus staggered to His feet and looking toward David smiled knowingly. David’s heart thrilled with love and pity. Tears streamed down his cheeks. Then Jesus tried to comfort him with the words, “Don’t weep for me, David; weep for your people.” One of the guards pushed his shield into Christ’s tortured back and the procession continued.
Upon reaching the top of the hill, the two thieves also sentenced to die, struggled with and cursed the guards while Jesus calmly lay upon His cross and stretched out His hands. Ropes were cinched tightly around His wrists and legs securing His weight to the rough beam since the spikes would fail to hold Him up for long. Maximum suffering was the purpose of the cruelties heaped upon the prisoners and nothing was overlooked.
The hardened soldiers then hammered crude nails through the hands and feet of the condemned. Extreme suffering was their means of control and considered part of what was required to subdue unwilling subjects. Jesus was no exception to this policy.
The Son of God flinched with each stroke and prayed to His Father. Looking at the soldier with the mallet gripped in his hand, He said, “Father, forgive them for they have no idea what they are doing.”
All heaven wept. Legions of holy angels pressed around their beloved King, waiting – hoping for the word to snatch Him from these sinner’s hands and return Him to the throne above. The orders didn’t come, for God must now unmask the fiend that also lurked nearby unseen inspiring each insult and cruel assault. This was Satan’s moment of victory – at least it seemed that way.
Love unspeakable shone forth in vivid contrast to hate and sin. Drop by precious drop the Lamb of God spilled His blood on the rocks below. The atonement had begun.
Nature itself turned from the awful scene. The sun refused to shine and an eerie blackness engulfed the cross. Jagged bolts of lightning streaked toward the Sacrifice. Heaven and hell converged. Type had met antitype. The Substitute must die.
All taunts and laughter ceased. Many ran from the scene beating their chests and wailing for fear. A guard standing nearby confessed. “Of a truth, this is the Son of God.”
Trembling, David fell to his knees and prayed, “Oh, Father save your Son – save our King.” As he lifted his eyes toward the cross he saw Jesus’ face light up with that familiar glow and heard His loud cry; “It is finished. Father, into your hand I commend My Spirit.”
Thunder rumbled through the billowing darkness like an angry growl and the earth shook under their feet sending rocks tumbling down the hill. Everyone still lingering at the scene fell to the ground as Jesus’ noble chin dropped motionless to His chest.
Meanwhile back in the Temple the evening sacrifice was being readied for the kill when an unseen hand ripped the veil from top to bottom, exposing the Most Holy Place. The startled priest on duty dropped the knife and the lamb scampered off toward freedom. His obligation was at an end. No one tried to stop him as he zigzagged through the streets, out the city gate and into an open field.
The End and the Beginning
David lingered in prayer near the cross, his hands held tight against his cheeks as he rocked back and forth with a low whimpered cry. “Christ had called others froth from the grave, he thought, maybe He could…..Oh, Father, let it be so. Please bring Jesus back to us.” David continued in prayer until he noticed the stones pressing into his knees. But Jesus did not revive.
Bewildered, David wandered back to his uncle’s home and packed his things. He rested on the Sabbath according to the law, and at first light the following morning, started off for home.
A dense fog settled in adding to the gloom. David’s sandals made a lonely clap – clap echoing through the deserted streets. Suddenly, the ground shook again but this time it felt as though the earth would tear apart. Doors and windows rattled and flew open. A few bricks landed nearby. David jumped back and looked up to see if others might also be raining down.
The guilty city stirred to life. David hurried toward the nearest unlocked gate, wondering if the wrath of God had rightfully come. Soldiers met him on the way with ghost white faces.
They seemed confused and frightened. He heard rambling accounts about bright lights and angels and graves bursting open. David quickened his pace toward the open road.
Many anxious days and nights passed in the cottage near Bethany. Yearning for answers, David searched the ancient scrolls borrowed from a local Rabbi. Then one day a frantic knock startled everyone inside the shepherd’s home. Before David could reach for the latch, a familiar voice called out, “David, are you in there?”
“Peter!” David quickly replied and swung wide the door. They hugged and slapped each other on the back. “Come on in, it is so good to see you.”
“Thanks David, it’s good to see you too!”
“Jesus wanted me to be sure and let you know…”
David interrupted; “Jesus?”
Peter continued, “Yes, David, Jesus has risen from the dead and He sends a special greeting to you. You are much loved and He wants you to come and meet with Him tomorrow.”
David could no longer stand with the shock and joy of the news. He fell to his knees and Peter knelt down beside David placing his arm across his shoulder. Tears once again streamed down David’s face but this time for joy. David could not speak so Peter was the one to offer up a prayer of gratitude and consecration.
“Oh God our Father, we thank you for your Son. Thank you for showing us who you really are. Keep us ever in your will – forgiving us and cleansing us from our sins. And may we always love as Jesus loves. Amen. “
For several hours Peter shared with David what had taken place since that dramatic Sunday morning. David added his portion to the storyline as he related his close encounter with the bewildered guards on his way out of town. In the light of the news Peter had shared, it all made sense.
Peter stayed the night, and the next morning they set out together to rendezvous with the others whom Christ had invited.
Most of the morning they hiked through the rolling hills avoiding the main road. Then Peter took a turn down a gentle slope and they descended into a grassy meadow dotted with wild flowers and shrubs. Many had already arrived, sitting in small groups a short distance apart. Others began to join them from all directions in swelling numbers until the meadow was nearly filled. In all, five hundred men and women congregated that day, eager to see for themselves the Risen Lord.
The question was asked in every group: “Where is Jesus?” At the height of their anticipation, a soft light began to glow in the middle of the waiting throng. Those nearest the light move back and soon the small groups became one with the Savior standing in their midst.
Every knee bowed as Jesus spoke familiar words of blessing and salutation. Then they all stood to their feet and shouts of praise rang out. Heaven and earth rejoiced. The people danced and sang: “Oh, death where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory.” No greater joy had anyone standing there known, no sweeter sounds could the hills resound than this spontaneous and unstoppable expression of Love. Pure and undefiled affection reached out from every heart and embraced the One altogether lovely. Jesus saw the fruit of the travail of His Soul and was satisfied.
After the wonderful and worthy praise Jesus held out His nail pierced hands and motioned toward the ground. With the happy throng seated and comfortable, Jesus began to recite from the Scriptures all the things concerning Himself and how it was predicted that He would be rejected and die at the hands of His people.
During a time when the Savior welcomed their questions, David raised his hand and asked, “But Master, why did you have to die such a cruel death? I saw what they did to you. Why?”
Jesus’ face grew sad. “David, that the Father may be glorified in the Son there was no other way. The people whom I came to save rejected me and this was the only way left for me to shed my blood and thus satisfy the claims of the law. It is a hard thing now for you to understand, but in all things, even in what seems to be a failure, the Father is glorified and justice is served. Before I went through those horrible events I too had questions.
But I know that all things work together for good. I submitted to My Father’s will and left the results in His hands. My Father and I love the world and are willing to do anything to show just how much.”
David followed up by asking; “But couldn’t the Father have changed the law just a little to save you from such a horrible death?”
“No, David. It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one little part of the law to fail. You see, the law tells us of the Father’s perfect character. His character cannot change nor can the penalty of violating His law of love be set aside, even for Me. I traded places with you and died the eternal second death for your sins. Do you understand what I am offering you, David?”
Addressing the entire company rapt in attention Jesus said: “Think on this. The words that I speak and the works that I do are not of Myself, but of the Father. God the Father and the Son are One and are the same yesterday, today, and forever. Come, learn of Me, receive of My Spirit, and you shall walk even as I walk in the law of liberty. You shall be able to do the works of My Father also as I have done. Open your heart and We will come in and commune with you and write Our laws upon your heart and mind that you may be one with Us as We are One.”
Then Jesus breathed His Spirit upon them and faded from view. A reverent hush settled over the crowd. They seemed transfixed, bathed in peace and love. For a long moment no one wanted to move or speak. They could still smell the fragrance of Heaven. Enraptured and aglow with the influence of the Divine, the group quietly dispersed back to their homes with praises on their lips and stories to tell.
Ascension and Commission
Peter invited David to go with him to Jerusalem for a few days and David happily accepted. For several miles they walked along through the trees along back country roads without a word, savoring the recent memories.
Once inside the city, Peter led the way to the upper room hideaway, slipping through back alleys and doubling back. They at last reached the secret stairway and waited for a moment, looking both ways to see if someone had followed. “Shhh…” Peter cautioned as they climbed the creaky steps. At the top of the stairs, Peter knocked three times on the bolted door, paused for a moment then knocked again. Latches clicked and the door swung open just enough for them to slip inside then went quickly shut.
The candle lit room teemed with curious faces. “Tell us the news,” a voice called out. Just as Peter started to speak, a familiar voice gave the greeting, “Peace be unto you.”
Unseen, Jesus had followed them into the room. His infant church needed a constant supply of comfort and instruction, and for forty days following the resurrection, He nurtured His little flock with a maternal care.
The final day of His earthly ministry had come. Jesus lead a small group through the city streets and out into the countryside a short distance to Mt. Olivet. As they walked along, Jesus instructed them to return to Jerusalem and wait for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. At the crest of the hill He stretched His hands out to them in a blessing and slowly rose from the earth. Peter lunged forward to touch his Master one more time. He jumped as high as his legs could muster but too late, Christ had risen out of reach. Higher and still higher He ascended as the disciples waved their arms and called out loving farewells and pleas to return.
In disbelief and sorrow they looked at one another, then back to the clouds squinting, searching for one last glimpse. While all eyes vainly scanned the atmosphere for their beloved Master and Friend, two angels appeared beside them and said: “Why do you spend your time looking up into heaven? Don’t be troubled in your heart for this same Jesus will come back just like he went up into heaven. Go back to Jerusalem and wait for the blessing you are about to receive.”
Of course Peter had something to say so he turned to question the heavenly messengers, but before he could blurt out a word they disappeared. “Now what?” they thought to themselves. Even Peter had nothing to add at this point.
Reluctantly they headed back toward town, meditating on and discussing Christ’s instructions. Quickly word spread among the believers and over one hundred and twenty crowded into the upper room to await the baptism of the Holy Spirit, searching their hearts and confessing their faults one to another.
David sent word back home to Bethany that he would be in Jerusalem a little longer than expected, but form that time forward David would return home only to visit and share the latest news regarding the growing church. One passion filled his life – the world must know about the Lamb of God!
On the tenth day following the ascension while bowed in prayer, the sound of a rushing wind filled the room. The shutters flew open and fireballs in the shape of tongues floated through the window and rested on the foreheads of each believer.
Sealed for their calling to minister, and electrified with the Holy Spirit, the one hundred twenty went forth on a mission to evangelize the world. In three and a half years of ministry the God/Man Jesus Christ forever changed our concept of the Father in heaven. And in the time of the Apostles the whole known world heard the message of love and redemption.
In Matthew 28:18 Jesus says, “All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.” It is the Lamb, holy harmless and undefiled where this power resides. His blood is where the power is felt and changes take place. And what is the purpose of this power? Amazing love! Infinite power in the hands of a loving God is reserved for one thing of highest concern: the salvation of sinners. And such a power potent with creative force is spent with lavish abandon on the hearts of those who meant Him harm.
The blood of the Lamb pleads with us to stop and think as we ready the sinner’s knife at His unresisting throat. What more could He do? What power is greater than the love of God as it is in Jesus.
Why did the law say to kill a lamb? I’m just beginning to comprehend.
“Behold the lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.” John 1:29
The words of Jesus were taken from the following passages. All information is taken directly or indirectly from the Gospels and this writer suggests a thorough study of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
- John 14:6
- Matthew 1:29
- Acts 1:5
- Luke 3:16
- Luke 19:42
- Luke 23:28
- John 19:30
- Luke 23:46
- John 17:1, 5
- John 16:12
- Luke 16:17
- John 14:10
- Matthew 26:42
- John 17:11, 21
- Romans 8:28
- Hebrews 13:8
- John 14:12
- Revelation 3:21, 21
- John 14: 23 22
The study of the Sanctuary will always be a part of the church on earth and throughout eternity. The theme is an endless one for the Creator is infinite. The study of the Sanctuary is all about His Character. Looking in from the outside we see what some would consider barbaric and cruel requirements. But when starting at the core, The Most Holy Place, we see what righteousness is and the consequences of the violation of His character. No good comes of sin and the complications and loss that is the result must be dealt with using equal parts of love and Justice.
The Sanctuary brings these two great themes together for the purpose of turning the sinner through love to a righteous life. Such a turn cannot be through any other means than that of God’s character for it is the “goodness of God that leads to repentance.” No force is employed to influence the heart. No will is arbitrarily bent in His direction. God will accept only the love of a free will choice.
That is why in the outer court our attention is gained right up front concerning the consequences of sin. But with the consequences a way of escape is offered. We then are led into the Holy Place of learning and growth and fellowship with the Divine. Once our minds are transformed and sin is fully rejected, then we are prepared to enter into the presence of a Holy God. Without such a preparation complete destruction would ignite the sin and sinner.
This may seem cruel and scary and of course, it is a sobering reality, but stop and think about it: could it be any other way? Could a perfect and holy God allow imperfection and unrighteousness intrude upon His space unchecked? He wouldn’t be able to retain such a title if He did. It is not an arbitrary and cruel thing for God to jealously guard the gates to existence for if He were to allow for any reason the entrance of sin into His universe unchecked the universe itself would cease to be. It is only by His word that the worlds exist and if His word would be diminished through compromise then the very fabric of life would unravel. You know, that whole time space continuum thing.
God is about healing and empowerment for living in Righteousness through faith. God is Love and all who follow Him will find their ultimate Joy and fulfillment.
David faced many challenges to his faith. We are no different. What appears cruel and unfair from the outside looks vastly different from the inside out. God hates anything that causes a separation and He will do anything and everything to make sure that people and things don’t fall apart.
The laws of physics are arbitrary and at many levels seem inconsistent. Who can know the mind of God? But we can rest assured that He knows what He is doing and is watching every move we make. He knows what it takes to create a universe and have all things hold together. He also knows what will be the environment where beings with choices can not only survive but thrive with unspeakable joy.
Is it not reasonable to trust Him? Through God’s wise plan, sin will never rise again. That means that the law will remain unbroken in a universe brought through the fire.
This is in essence the Gospel. What went wrong will be fixed. God has a plan and He has set in motion a way of escape for all who are willing to follow the Spirit where He leads. Listen for the Still Small Voice. Like with the three worthies in Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace of affliction, He will lead you through what appears to be destruction and certain death, but in the end will prove to remove only that which keeps you bound. Follow Jesus and you will find your way back home.
Some day all will be at peace with God and one another – world without end. Amen.
- Originally written: 1985
- Edited and revised: 2014