Just had an out of body experience.
Once a year each Jewish father would appear on behalf of the family to offer a sacrifice for sin. When the moment of sacrifice came, the father would lay his hand on the head of the sacrificial lamb and the priest would slit its throat. The resting of the hand of the man on the head of the lamb symbolized the transference of the guilt of the family onto the head of the sacrifice. As the lamb bled out, the guilt of the family was removed.
Okay, so here was the “out of body” experience.
I have sung more hymns about the blood, read Leviticus more times, have for decades taught about the Old Testament sacrificial system as the backdrop for understanding what happened on that cross at Golgotha, and have, for crying out loud, recited the entire book of Hebrews enough times – and I’ve watched enough Dexter – that these words should have flowed right by like the lamb’s blood as it bled out.
But suddenly it clotted.
Suddenly I saw the words through the eyes of someone totally outside of a Christian framework, and instead of “wonderful” I saw “grotesque,” “bloodthirsty,” “violent,” “brutal,” “tragic,” and, well, “wrong.”
Yes, I know Jesus is described as the “lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” But, Abba, was this really your idea? Or did you accommodate yourself to our brutality – even as you now call us out of it? Have we painted the portrait of your love unto death with colors from such a brutal palette because those were the only colors we had and knew (know?) – you even borrowing our barbarous brush?
I know that the word “propitiation” is used in our English translations of the New Testament four times (for two different Greek words used to translate a score of Hebrew words in the Old Testament). I know the basic sense of the English word “propitiation” is satisfaction. Abba, does the blood of the lamb as it bleeds out truly bring you satisfaction? Is that what you feel as that blood runs between your fingers? Are you smiling, Abba? Really?
I know that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” in Leviticus. But I also hear you say that the blood of a single bull or goat never took away a single sin.
And you say you take no pleasure in it.
I suddenly find myself as Zipporah, confronted, by, whom? By you, Abba? By you, Jesus? By an angel? By one or One that was ready to kill Moses over his uncircumcised son. She hastily sliced off the foreskin of her boy and then, rubbing it on Moses’ feet (or perhaps his genitals, since “feet” are a common Hebrew idiom for genitals – yeah, I can see her lifting his robe and doing that!), spat out, “Chatan damim atah li!” “A bridegroom of blood you are to me!” Revulsion. Repulsion.
I know the theory and theology of “penal substitutionary atonement.” I know the traditional explanations of the Christ event. I get it. I do. And I know how scandalous it can be to our religious sensibilities to register horror rather than adoration at the literal thought of it. And though it’s certainly worthwhile for those who wish to do so to explore alternate atonement theories and paint alternative portraits using an alternative palette, that’s really not my intention here. I’ll leave that to better artists.
I’m simply registering the unexpected shock and horror of innocent blood running through divine fingers with anything remotely like “wonder” or “satisfaction” registering on that visage.
Should not horror be the predominant emotion in evidence on Good Friday – followed by thanksgiving that the horror of the cross made an end of sacrifice for sin, an end to the brutality,
rather than perpetuating or glorifying it (as we are yet so wont to do)?
do you eat the flesh of oxen,
or drink the blood of goats?
Abba, are you a bridegroom of blood to me?