Have you ever wondered if Jesus offered sacrifices himself, before he died on the cross? You likely thought he wouldn’t have to because Jesus never sinned. This blog is about the sacrifices in Leviticus and about living as a clean and unclean Jew during bible times. You will likely change your mind about whether Jesus must have offered at least some sacrifices. He didn’t sin, but we just don’t get what it was to become ceremonially “unclean” so easily.
WOULD JESUS BECOME CEREMONIALLY UNCLEAN?
What if Jesus tripped and fell on a dead rodent? What if Christ walked after dark and ran into a cobweb with dead flies on it? Or woke up and realized he just smacked a mosquito that was biting him in his sleep? These things would make him unclean.
All flying insects that walk on all fours are to be regarded as unclean by you…. You will make yourselves unclean by these; whoever touches their carcasses will be unclean till evening. Whoever picks up one of their carcasses must wash their clothes, and they will be unclean till evening.Leviticus 11:20-25
When Jesus touched the leper in Matthew 8:1-4, he became ceremonially unclean. When the woman with a flow of blood touched him in the crowds, he became unclean (Luke 8:43-48). Note also about the sin offering in Leviticus 4:1-35,
These violations are perpetrated “unintentionally,” that is, they are committed inadvertently or unwittingly. Thus, an individual’s ignorance or lack of awareness regarding God’s law is a mitigating circumstance. These sins are clearly less serious than sins that are intended, ones that are in direct defiance of God and his law. In Numbers 15:22-31, the latter is seen as deliberate and committed with “a high hand” (v. 30). Yet it should be noted that even unintentional sins need to be taken care of through sacrificial ritual…despite a lack of intentionality.An EP Study Commentary Leviticus
Do I think Jesus ever had to offer any sin offerings for such unintended offenses? I’ll first be blunt, then explain: I think so. I know he didn’t sin. I also believe he had a misunderstanding at least once with his parents. I wouldn’t call that sin, myself. It was a misunderstanding. We all have them. They’re not a big deal when we learn to forgive and be gracious to each other.
But it doesn’t change the fact it was unintentional, and an offense to his parents. Of course, they realized they were wrong when he explained. But Jesus also went above and beyond what was required of him to be righteous, to take sin on himself for our sake.
DID JEWS FROM FAR AWAY OFFER SACRIFICES?
But what about the Diaspora, i.e. Jews that lived far from Palestine? What about the Galilean Jews who lived a week’s walking distance (one way) from Jerusalem? They couldn’t offer sacrifices anywhere else but in Jerusalem. Alfred Edersheim has reliable answers for this from ancient Jewish sources:
…three festivals of Easter, Pentecost and Tabernacles, in which all males were to appear before the Lord in His sanctuary…. Indeed, the Rabbis expressly mention these three as marking the great festivals…the appointed festive offerings of the worshippers, which are not to be confounded with the public sacrifices offered on these occasions in the name of the whole congregation; and joyousness, with which they connect the freewill offerings that each brought, as the Lord had blessed him, and which afterward were shared with the poor, the desolate, and the Levite, in the joyous meal that followed the public services of the Temple.The Temple
HOW DID JEWS BECOME CEREMONIALLY CLEAN?
So how did the Jews become clean after becoming unclean? I learned while in Israel they had mikvehs they needed to immerse in. Archaeologists uncovered mikvehs even where the Hellenist Jews lived in the opulent cities Herod the Great built mostly populated with heathens. They had to bathe in bathtubs first, then immerse in mikvehs to become ceremonially clean.
There’s more to consider. Why was Jesus baptized? He never sinned so never needed to turn from his sin. Yet he told John the Baptist, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:13-15). Jesus set an example for us and identified with us in our sin so he could be made a perfect high priest for our weakness and infirmities (Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:15-16, 5:7-9). In Matthew 5:18 Jesus said, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” He had to fulfill it all himself, or it just wouldn’t get done!
Reading Leviticus should turn us to worship this Savior who did it all for us, so perfectly.
The above pictures were scanned from The Holy Temple of Jerusalem