Jesus is Better Than Leviticus
What better way to talk about Leviticus than by starting with Matthew 5:17?
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them…”
Teaching this passage to the youth group was rough. Not only does the Law-Gospel subject span the entire Bible, not only is it incredibly controversial, and not only does it poke the bear of “why condemn adultery but not poly-cotton lovers?” but it also feels incredibly academic. How Jesus fulfills the Law in a technical, redemptive-historical sense but doesn’t abolish it isn’t exactly the most youth-y of topics. Besides that, it just didn’t edify me. I felt no response of worship in my heart. No sense that I had to preach this to my students. No urgency in my delivery. So in my frustration, I made a challenge to God. I told Him that if this were true, that Jesus really fulfilled the Law, I was going to open to a random page in Leviticus and needed Him to show me. God needed to prove that this passage meant something to me personally. And He did. I angrily opened up to Leviticus 23 and in a moment of Holy Spirit-driven something, I saw that Jesus really was better than Leviticus.
Jesus says it this way: “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will provide rest for your souls.” The Sabbath measured rest in hours and minutes, a time set apart from work and apart from stress. But Jesus is the better Sabbath. His rest is measured in joy and peace in the middle of all the stress, suffering and work. And as weary as we are, we can always respond to the call, “Come to me.”
In the Old Testament, the angel of death passed over the homes of the Israelites who had spread the blood of a lamb on their doorposts. But Jesus is the better Passover. While God passed over one people group, in one nation, during a brief window in Israel’s history, Jesus offers death’s passing over to all people, in all nations, for all time. While it is glorious that the Israelites were freed from physical oppression by ruling powers, we are freed from the slavery of our own desires.
The Day of Atonement
The same sacrifices were offered for the same sins each year by generations of priests. These priests stood daily. They stood because sacrifices had to be carried, fires had to be stoked, animals had to be slaughtered, and blood had to be spilled. They stood because the sacrifices never ended, to atone for incessant sins. And these daily sacrifices culminated in the Day of Atonement. The high priest would also stand, but this time in the Holy of Holies. Soaked in bull’s blood, the priest would sacrifice and then step away knowing that those animals couldn’t fully take away human sin and that next year, he would have to stand again, until a better sacrifice could be offered.
And that better sacrifice was Jesus, sacrificed once, for all sins. The priests stood daily, but Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power. And after making purification for sins, Jesus sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:3). There was no more blood to be spilled. Jesus’ final, sufficient and full sacrifice did away with the once-a-year-visitation to the Holy of Holies, and the Holy of Holies entered us. The Holy Spirit now dwells and makes his home in us.
An Eye for an Eye
Leviticus demanded proportionate retribution for crimes committed—an eye for an eye, skin for skin. And in infinite wisdom, our infinite God expressed His infinite retribution for our infinite rebellion, not on us, not on the guilty parties, not on the law-breakers, but on Jesus. The only sufficient eye for the eye we insulted. In His love and by our faith, it is not our eyes He demands, but His own.
Jesus is better than Leviticus.