We saw last time that the whole of these sacrifices in the first seven chapters are about having right relationship with God. We also saw that they are fulfilled in Christ, our Lord. So, when we approach these individual sacrifices, we should be able to see in them the work of Christ through and through.
In Leviticus 1, there are three different animals that can be offered: the herd, the flock, or the bird. Depending on your income, you are going to be able to offer these animals. Now, when the priest offers the burnt offering on your behalf, he offers a male animal without defect. It has to be spotless and without any defect. You’re not allowed to offer gimpy the three-legged sheep, nor his brother lucky the blind ram who is missing a tongue. When we look forward to Christ Jesus, we find words like, “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?” Jesus “committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in his mouth”. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf”. “We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weakness, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” Pilate even said of Him, “I find no guilt in Him”.
John 8:46, 1 Peter 2:22, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Hebrews 4:15, John 19:4
Now, the burnt offering was to be an atonement for the person (verse 4). Atonement is basically like antiseptic on a wound. The idea behind atonement is that it cleanses you, and then covers over the sin to allow it to heal. In this metaphor, we find that the atonement cleanses us of our sin, and bandages the wound so that it might heal, but we also know that there is going to be another time that we need to take the bandage off and allow the antiseptic to cleanse the wound again. There is both an immediate cleansing, but also the process of sanctification. We find verses like, “There is no condemnation in Christ”. Why? “He is our atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
Romans 8:1, 1 John 2:2
Notice in verse six that the offering is skinned and cut to pieces. Was Jesus skinned and cut to pieces? It depends on how you look at it. No, he wasn’t skinned and cut into pieces, but He was flogged and whipped, had a crown of thorns up upon His head, and was unrecognizable by His disciples after resurrecting. That comes about as close as it will come before death.
What about this bit about the altar? Did Christ die upon the altar? I would say yes, but not the altar at the Temple in Jerusalem. Instead, He was offered upon the heavenly altar. “When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.” “For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.”
Hebrews 9:11-12, 24
Now, there is one last detail to ask about. If offering with birds, the priest is supposed to toss the “crop and feathers” to the east side of the altar, where the ashes are (verse 16). Was Calvary on the east side of Jerusalem? There has supposedly been some new evidence that Golgatha was indeed just outside of Jerusalem’s eastern wall. In all things, Christ has fulfilled every detail of the burnt offering – thus eradicating sin in the believer and setting us free to draw unto God. As the author of Hebrews writes, “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”