Key verse: Leviticus 16:16
Big idea: Holiness comes from atonement.
Have you ever moved a problem around without solving it? Putting off a tough conversation, moving a mess from a room where the company is coming to a room where they won't go, or refinancing a credit card with a personal loan are all examples or delaying a problem without really doing anything about it. This is usually a foolish approach unless you know that you will have help cleaning tomorrow, some good advice for your conversation this afternoon, or a substantial pay raise coming. Then, you delay the inevitable sickness until the cure is ready, and the movement is not rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic but a steady push toward the finish line.
That, in many ways, is what the Old Testament sacrificial system did. Sin cannot be eliminated by good works, any more than decades of community service can offset a murder. The animal sacrifices showed that sins deserved death, and gave them a chance to plead for forgiveness, but it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins (Hebrews 10:4). So in Leviticus 16, we learn that the sins of the people accumulated in the Temple - moved, but not expunged. The problem was pushed forward, but not dealt with. Once a year, the High Priest was allowed to enter the Holiest Place (the Holy of Holies) where God dwelt. Cloaked in incense, He went in and put blood on the mercy seat, pleading for forgiveness at the spot which represented the very throne of God.
This occasion, called the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) in Hebrew, was when the whole nation fasted and mourned their sins. There were two goats selected, one of which was sacrificed and made an offering to God. The High Priest confessed the sins of the people over the other with his hands on the head of the goat, transferring the guilt that had accumulated in the sanctuary on that animal, which was then driven off into the wilderness. Of course, even this did not really deal with sins. But it pushed them forward a little farther, until the true Sacrifice came, who carried our sins from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). Atonement was necessary, but the true Day of Atonement was the Passover when Jesus died on Calvary.
Discussion idea: Leviticus 16 is explicit that the sanctuary was cleansed on Yom Kippur. How do we know that transfer of Jesus was the final solution to the problem of sin, and not just another stopping point?
Prayer focus: Praise God for the finished work of the Cross, that our sins are forgiven now and forever.
Key Verse: Luke 2:52
Big Idea: The Son of Man grew as a man.
In the first chapter of Luke, we saw that Jesus is truly the Son of God: entirely human. In Luke 2, which includes the only description of Jesus' childhood, we see a different side of the same truth. When Jesus became a human being, He did not stop being God, but He did choose not to take advantage of the privileges that included. He added to His divine perfections all the frailty of humanity: hunger, exhaustion, and infancy. Jesus entered our world as a baby, born into poverty, and laid in a manger.
When Jesus was 12 years old, His parents took Him to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, as they did each year. But Jesus, on the cusp of manhood in Jewish culture, spoke with the teachers of the Law in a way that amazed them. Mary and Joseph left Jerusalem to begin the journey home, and did not realize that He had been left behind. When they returned, they worried about where He had been, but He explained that He had been in His Father's House, about His Father's work. But while He knew who His real Father was, He submitted to Mary and Joseph, learning obedience. Although He is, and always has been, all-knowing and all-powerful, He grew in wisdom and size and deepened in His relationships with His Heavenly Father and with other people.
Consider for a moment that Jesus took on humanity so completely that He needed to learn to walk, to hold a spoon, and to be the Man He had come to be. The Infinite One grew. What is the implication for our lives? We can follow the path that Jesus has shown us and grow too, not being satisfied with what we have already accomplished, but maturing in body and mind and spiritually growing in love for God and other people.
Discussion Idea: What part of growing up is/was hardest for you? How does the example of Jesus' growth encourage you?
Prayer Focus: Pray for the strength of God to grow and for the wisdom to know how to grow.