Jesus, our unblemished offering

Peter Leithart is the president of the Theopolis Institute[1] and blogs at First Things.[2] In his August 12, 2016, post titled, “A commendation of Leviticus,”[3] Leithart affirms the “moral import” of Leviticus. In particular, he notes that the book’s “ceremonies symbolize” its “moral teaching.” Furthermore, its “morality grows out of the liturgical habits it instills.”

In keeping with Old Testament scholarship, Leithart draws attention to the emphasis on holiness in Leviticus. This includes the tabernacle and it furnishings, along with the Aaronic and Levitical priests and the ceremonies they performed in the Tent of Meeting. There is also the book’s “concern for pollution,” whether it be “bodily processes that defile” the portable “sanctuary” or “sins” that desecrate the “land.”

Connected with the above, as Leithart observes, is the stipulation in Leviticus that the various sacrifices and offerings had to be unblemished (that is, free from physical defect) in order to be acceptable to God. I have made a comparable observation in my research and writing on Leviticus 22:17–25.[4] This includes the recognition that the disqualification for physical imperfections wasn’t due to any moral failure. Rather, the issue was one of ceremonial cleanness or uncleanness.

Photo Credit: Loren Kerns via Flickr

Just as important, in my view, is the theological backdrop the preceding verses furnish for the emphasis in the New Testament on Jesus’ being the perfect, atoning sacrifice for believers. For example, Hebrews 9:14 states that Jesus “offered himself unblemished to God.”[5] Similarly, 1 Peter 1:19 reveals that the Son, through His death on the cross, was comparable to a “lamb without blemish or defect.” In short, Jesus is our unblemished offering.

From a pastoral perspective, these truths provide the incentive for believers to grow in holiness. A case in point is Ephesians 5:27, which depicts the Son as presenting the “church” to Himself, in which His spiritual body is “radiant,” “holy,” and “blameless,” and not having any “stain,” “wrinkle,” or “blemish.” According to Philippians 2:15, God’s children are to be proactive in becoming “blameless and pure,” as well as irreproachable and innocent, within a society characterized by dishonesty and perversion.

There is also a future focus to the truth of Jesus being our unblemished offering. Second Peter 2:14 reveals that the Messiah will vindicate His followers at His second advent and welcome them, “spotless” and “blameless,” into His holy presence. Luke 14:13 and 21 suggest that Jesus’ heavenly banquet will include those who were once “poor,” “crippled,” “lame,” and “blind.” In fact, those who have been humbled by this world are more likely to accept Jesus’ invitation, and there is no indication they will be rejected by the Savior’s offer.

Even today, the Spirit continues to invite each person to come and partake of the heavenly banquet the Savior makes freely available. They can do so knowing that Jesus will guide them through their troubles. This includes making their trust in Him their central focus when facing difficult times ahead.

[1] https://theopolisinstitute.com[.] The stated mission of the Theopolis Institute is to teach “men and women to lead cultural renewal by renewing the church.”

[2] https://www.firstthings.com[.] The publisher of First Things is the Institute on Religion and Public Life, which describes itself as an “interreligious, nonpartisan research and educational organization.”

[3] https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2016/08/a-commendation-of-leviticus[.]

[4] What follows is adapted from Lioy, The David C. Cook NIV Bible Lesson Commentary 2015–16 (2015; Colorado Springs: David C Cook; pgs. 124–6).

[5] All Scripture quotations are taken from the 2011 edition of the NIV.

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