Leviticus 16:7-10. 7 Then he shall take the two goats and set them before the Lord at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 8 And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for Azazel. 9 And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the Lord and use it as a sin offering, 10 but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the Lord to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel.
Each year Israel celebrated the Day of Atonement, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. The day all the nation’s sins are forgiven. The one day a year that the High Priest entered the holiest place in the tabernacle to confess the sins of the people.
In the Old Testament the ceremony involved two goats. One goat died and one goat lived. One goat was sacrificed to God, and one goat was sent off into Azalel, the wilderness of chaos and disorder.
Sometimes we call the goat that lived the “scapegoat.” The priest would put his hands on the scapegoat’s head symbolizing the transferal of sin onto the animal. Then the scapegoat would be set free. Sent off into the desert symbolically carrying the sins of the people away for another year.
Today we use the word scapegoat to mean someone who deserves the blame for something. In our psyche, “scapegoating” happens when we project our anger, frustration, guilt and shame onto someone else. Usually someone vulnerable. If someone else is to blame, then I can’t be. Right?
Who do you blame for your problems? Who do you project your guilt on to? “If only my boss would respect me.” “I wouldn’t be so controlling if you had been a better mother.” “Troy is holding the whole team back.” “If Mr. Warner would learn how to teach I wouldn’t be failing his class.” “Your behavior is tearing this whole family apart.” “I’d be happy if you could just open up and talk to me more.” “All these immigrants are hurting the country.” “If God loved me I wouldn’t have all these problems.”
Of course the difference between this and what is happening in Leviticus is that in Leviticus the people are actually recognizing their very real guilt before God. The Hebrews didn’t blame the goat for their sin. They gave their sin to the goat. The scapegoat wasn’t the problem. The scapegoat was the solution. The savior.
1500 years later when John the Baptist saw Jesus he cried out, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Jesus is the world’s true scapegoat. Ironically, Jesus would be “scapegoated” by the religious elite of his day. Blamed for all of Israel’s problems. Killed to keep the peace with Rome. But little did they know that Jesus is our scapegoat in the truest biblical sense of the word. Jesus took our sin and curse upon himself. He carried away every one of our sins, not just for the year, but for all of time. As far as the east is from the west. Cast into the depths of the sea.
But Jesus did more than just carry our sins away into the wilderness. Unlike the goat, he came back! In his dying Christ carried away the sins we placed upon him, but in his resurrection he returned in victory to place upon us his new life. His guilt free, shame crushing, jealousy defeating life of perfect love.
“To live is Christ” means we never have to carry the weight of our own sins again. There is no more need for a scapegoat. Jesus has carried away our sins once for all time. And now there is no need for “scapegoating.” No need to shift our guilt onto others, for Christ has shifted his righteousness onto us.
In what ways are you blaming others for your sins and problems? In what ways are you carrying around the weight of your own guilt?
You in Christ
In Christ all of your sins are forgiven and removed. What would your life look like today if you really believed this?
Christ in you
Instead of “Scapegoating” others today, how can you offer the forgiveness of Christ and move forward in love?