Sunday, December 18, 2011

Blood of the Lamb

“Is it really necessary for us to kill something just because we make a mistake?” Enosh asked as he walked next to Father.

“It is the way of forgiveness,” his father responded. “It is what God asks of us.”

“How did it start?” Enosh asked, stepping quickly to keep up with Father’s long stride. “I mean, I know who made the first sacrifice, but why does it have to be like this?”

Father shifted the position of the lamb he carried on his shoulders. “You know this, Enosh! You tell me why?”

“Because God said so.” Enosh stated.

“Yes, but why?” Father asked.

“Because Adam and Eve broke the rules.” Enosh said.

“The first sin,” Father said. “And the first sacrifice.”

“But why?” Enosh asked again. “Look! The city!”

They had just come around a corner on the mountain trail and now the city of Jerusalem lay in the clearing below them.

“Look at the temple!” Father said, pointing to the middle of the city. The temple’s white marbled splendour was hard to miss. It was like a pile of fresh snow in a dirty city.

Father gave Enosh a gentle shove and headed down the trail. “Come on, let’s get down there!”

Enosh took one last look at the city. Coming up behind Father, Enosh studied the lamb draped across Father’s shoulders. The lamb’s little head peered over the edge of the precipice, down at the city.

“He has no idea,” Enosh said as he fell into step with his father.

“Hmmm?” Father said.

“The lamb,” Enosh said, looking at the small legs father was holding loosely against his chest. “He has no idea that his throat is about to be slit from ear to ear.”

“That’s a bit gruesome,” Father said.

“But it’s true,” Enosh said. “Isn’t it? The priest is gonna hold him down on the altar and pull a knife against his little neck and all his blood will spurt out and he’ll die.” Enosh said all of this with a matter-of-fact seriousness, trying to act like it didn’t bother him.

“True enough,” Father said. “That is what will happen.”

“I still don’t get it,” Enosh said. “Why does our lamb have to die?” His voice betrayed him, cracking, as he spoke. “Or any lamb? They didn’t do anything wrong.”

Father stopped on the side of the trail and squatted down. He lifted the lamb off his shoulders and placed it in front of himself. Enosh came around the other side of the lamb and ran his fingers through its soft coat.

“Enosh,” Father said.

Enosh looked up and blinked against the tears. He looked across the lamb into his father’s eyes. “Yes, Father?”

“Offering a sacrifice teaches us three things,” Father explained. “First, we give one of our own animals, not a stray or a wild animal, so we feel the loss. By giving up something we value, we take ownership of what is about to happen.”

Enosh looked down at the lamb and slowly back up to his father. “But it’s sad. It hurts in here,” Enosh pushed his fist into his stomach. “It’s hard to breath.”

“That’s what sin should do to us,” Father said, “every time.”

Enosh nodded.

“The second thing we learn,” Father continued, “when we offer a sacrifice, is that God wants to forgive us. But it’s a difficult thing. Sin is like death. It takes God’s breath away, too. Only through a blood sacrifice can sin be forgiven. I don’t think I understand it any better than you do, really. But God said it, and so we do it. One day we will all understand.”

Enosh was surprised to hear his father say he didn’t understand. He thought his Dad knew everything! He explored his father’s face. “So, you mean, it hurts God when we sin, just like it hurts us when we make a sacrifice?”

Father nodded.

“That makes me like God a bit more,” Enosh said. “I mean, a lot more than when I thought He just wanted us killing animals all the time.”

Father smiled. “And that, my son, is the third thing every sacrifice teaches us. God wants us as close as possible. By forgiving us, God is able to invite us closer. And we are able to approach Him.”

Enosh and Father tussled the lambs fur awhile longer and then father lifted it onto his shoulders and stood. Silently he walked toward Jerusalem. Enosh followed.

When they arrived at the temple, Father left Enosh by one of the courtyard gates. He was only ten, too young to go in. From where he stood, he could clearly see the altar.

It wasn’t long before it was Father’s turn. He lifted the lamb off his shoulders and handed it to the priest. The priest laid the lamb on its side and held it down firmly with one hand. With the other hand he drew a knife quickly and deeply across the little lamb’s throat.

Enosh saw blood gush out, into a bowl, and past the bowl onto the ground. The lamb twitched and jerked before going deathly still. The priest dipped his fingers into the bowl and applied blood on the horns of the altar. Then he poured the rest of the blood across the top of the altar.

Enosh shook his head sadly and a shiver ran up his spine.

Father nodded at the priest and walked toward the gate. Enosh quickly spun, putting his back against the wall outside the gate. Soon father emerged.

“Come along, Enosh,” father said, “All done.” Then after a pause, Father added, “Well, until next time.”

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