Scapegoat . . . it’s a word I’ve known all my life, but only recently did its significance dawn on me. When we think about a scapegoat, we think about the person at the office who gets blamed for something they didn’t really cause. Or the basketball player who forgets to box out his man, allowing the other team to score the winning basket. All the other plays in the game, both good and bad, are forgotten. It’s that one play . . . that one guy . . . who gets the rap for the loss. He’s the scapegoat. Unfair but real just the same.
Wikipedia says, a scapegoat is “a person or animal which takes on the sins of others, or is unfairly blamed for problems.” The concept comes originally from Leviticus where we’re told how the High Priest put both his hands upon the scapegoat’s head and confessed the sins of the people, thus laying their sins on the goat and removing them from the people. The goat was led away into the wilderness and intentionally lost so the sins of the people could never be found again.
I’d never thought of Jesus as a scapegoat, but Charles Spurgeon did. In one of his devotional, Spurgeon quotes Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” He also points to John 19:16 where it says, “They took Jesus and led Him away” (both emphases mine). Just like the scapegoat in the Old Testament.
I’ve always felt sorry for the scapegoat, but that’s not the right response to what Jesus did. He was not a victim, He was a volunteer! He volunteered to be the scapegoat . . . for you . . . for me . . . for all of us. He doesn’t want us to feel sorry for Him, he wants us to appreciate Him . . . to live a life of gratitude for what He did for us . . . for His willingness to take on our sins. Instead of feeling sorry, He wants us to respond by forgiving ourselves and others and by loving Him back and showing that love by loving others every minute of every day.
It’s easy for us to walk right by the word ‘sin.’ It’s not a popular word these days. To ‘sin’ is to ‘miss the mark.’ To fall short of perfection in God’s eyes. Today, we kind of ‘pool’ our sins with everyone else’s, diluting them by making them a global thing. We hide behind “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). But after we die, we’ll each face God. We’ll be accountable for our sins . . . all of them. As the verse above says “we have turned every one to his own way.” Sin is individual and so is accountability. If we’ve asked our Heavenly Father . . . our ultimate ‘High Priest’ to place our sins onto Jesus (the ultimate scapegoat), we’ll be accepted into the eternal Presence of the Trinity. If we haven’t, we’ll face the judgment of a holy and just God Who cannot be in the presence of sin. And that means we will spend eternity not in His presence. That would be hell.
Prayer – “Thank you Lord Jesus for volunteering to be my scapegoat. I am so undeserving. I am humbled by the reality that you love me that much. I will live today in gratitude for what You’ve done, showing compassion, love and forgiveness for every single person I encounter. In your beautiful name. Amen.