What do we understand by the phrase Jesus-Christ-Our-Scapegoat?
In today's vernacular the word "scapegoat" is used to describe somebody who has been victimized, targeted, and put on the receiving end of undeserved blame and maltreatment. Other modern bywords that also infer that a person is a scapegoat are "fall guy", "patsy", "sucker" or "whipping boy".
In the Social Sciences and the fields of psychology and sociology the practice of singling someone out for blame has led to the coining of the verb "scapegoating".
However, the word "scapegoat" as used in the term “jesus-christ-our-scapegoat” carries a far deeper meaning with roots stretching back into ancient history.
Credit: Google Images
A foreshadow of Jesus-Christ-Our-Scapegoat.
Records from Ancient Syria for instance, dating back to the 24th century BC relate to ritual purification being part of the king's wedding ceremony. This entailed hanging a silver bracelet from the neck of a she-goat before driving her off into the wasteland to perish.
The was motivated by the belief that this type of ceremony would banish evil forces from the community and were prevalent in the Ancient Near East.
Some of the earliest records of humans instead of animals being utilized as vehicles for driving evil out of a community come from Ancient Greece. Their version of scapegoating was to take someone from the lower fringes of society (a criminal, or a cripple, or a beggar) ritually subjecting them to beating and stoning, then driving them out of the community.
This kind of scapegoating is still being practiced in many primitive societies to this day.
Throughout Africa tribal "medicine men" or women, known in Southern Africa as "Sangomas", still officiate over such rites for the purpose of driving out "Evil" in what is termed "cleansing ceremonies”.
The author, a number of years ago in Zambia, was present at such a ritual.
The farm laborers and their families were housed in a communal compound consisting of self-constructed huts. Tales had started filtering through about mysterious supernatural events manifesting themselves from time to time. This culminated in some women and young girls allegedly waking up in the morning with something black smeared round their mouths.
Eventually a deputation came forward requesting permission to do something about it. Accordingly arrangements were made for a local "witch doctor" to come and "cleanse" the compound. I went along to watch the proceedings which commenced with a simple ritual.
Two young men were chosen to assist him. After a number of intonations being chanted the sangoma mixed a potion with a bit of water and flicked it into the eyes of the two chosen volunteers.
They immediately became transformed, crouching as if constrained on a leash. Their dilated, searching eyes flicked around wildly, apparently seeing something no one else could observe. At his instructions they started darting around like sniffer dogs let loose, eventually converging on a specific hut.
They entered the hut and we could hear them rummaging around inside with the sangoma egging them on from outside. Suddenly he crouched round a corner and started scrabbling at the thatching while calling out to them "Search here! Search here!". Before long they emerged with a small bottle. I am sure it had been planted there!
The sangoma triumphantly grasped the bottle, unscrewed the cap, and shook out the contents. Apart from a few charms there was also something else he immediately drew my attention to. Knowing my skepticism, I suppose this had probably been included to impress everyone.
Standing out from the other charms was a lock of blonde human hair, purported to be mine! He alleged this was intended to ensure that, as his employer, I would always be favorably disposed towards him thus assuring him of job security.
The owner of the hut was a soft-spoken unobtrusive individual. He was a good worker, but an introvert and a bit of a "loner". This probably was instrumental in him being singled out. He just stood there, dejected and fearful, offering no resistance or argument. Overwhelmed by the accusing hostility directed towards him.
Before long he had packed his meager belongings and left the farm. I am sure to this day that he was entirely innocent, but fear - not only of physical harm but also the fear of aggravating the supernatural powers deemed to be possessed by the sangoma.
The other residents, happy in the belief that the source of evil had now been eliminated from their midst happily returned to their huts, looking forward to being able to sleep peacefully once more.
There seemed to be absolutely no empathy for the poor scapegoat! I pray that his life ahead eventually led him to also come to know Jesus-Christ-Our-Scapegoat.
The scapegoats that we read of in the Bible however differ entirely from the practices related above. These were all based on the concept of expelling "external evils" deemed to be plaguing the community.
In contrast however, the concept behind the scapegoats referred to in the Bible are that they served as vessels for the atonement of the “personal”, as well as the “corporate sins" of the Hebrew nation! Not blaming external “evil forces”, but rather confessing to “internal personal guilt” that called for atonement!
The English word "scapegoat" is a translation of the Hebrew term "la-aza'zeyl" found in Leviticus 16:8 in the Torah and Old Testament of the Bible. It infers "the entire removal of" or "the sender away" of sins.
The Hebrew celebration known as The Day of Atonement dates back to the Exodus of the Hebrew from slavery in Egypt. It was one of the major worship ceremonies practiced in the original Tabernacle and then for ensuing centuries was carried over to the Temple worship in Jerusalem.
In Ancient Israel, regular "sin offerings" using animals to figuratively cleans an individual by transferring his sins onto the sacrificial animal were practiced daily. Once a year though, on the Day Of Atonement, the High Priest would sacrifice a bull as "sin offering" for his own sins after which, to quote Wikipedia:
"Two goats were chosen by lot: one to be "The Lord's Goat", which was offered as a blood sacrifice, and the other to be the "Azazel" scapegoat to be sent away into the wilderness. The blood of the slain goat was taken into the Holy of Hollies behind the sacred veil and sprinkled on the mercy seat, the lid of the ark of the covenant. Later in the ceremonies of the day, the High Priest confessed the sins of the Israelites to Yahweh placing them figuratively on the head of the other goat, the Azazel scapegoat, who "took them away" never to be seen again. The sin of the nation was thus "atoned for" (paid for) by the "The Lord's Goat" and "The Azazel Goat".
The "Lords Goat" clearly foreshadows what we read of in the New Testament in Hebrews 13:24:
"You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance like the blood of Abel." NLT
The "AzazelGoat" is clearly a foreshadowing of Jesus-Christ-Our-Scapegoat!
Credit: Google Images
To Christians, both of these rites are regarded as a foreshadowing of (and must therefore find their ultimate meaning in) the future sacrificial Crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Christians believe that, through dying on the cross, Christ not only "propitiated" God's wrath over sin, but also "expiated" us from carrying the burden of sin, by actually doing away with it as Jesus-Christ-Our-Scapegoat.
By "propitiation" we come to understand the notion of "imputed righteousness". We believe that even though we still remain sinners, from God’s perspective, we appear as being covered and shielded by "the righteousness of Christ" and are therefore "counted" as righteous!
By "expiation" on the other hand, we come to understand that we have actually been physically "cleansed" of our sins and thereby "made righteous". Jesus does not just hide our sin but in fact completely removes them, enabling us to "appear righteous" in the eyes of God!
Jesus, being both Jesus Christ "The Lords Goat", as well as "Jesus-Christ-Our-Scapegoat" therefore fulfilled both of these rolls. He is our savior and our redeemer fulfilling both of these sacrificial rolls, not because we deserve it, but out of His love for us! Ephesians 2:4-9:
"But God, being rich in mercy, for his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus;for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, that no one would boast."
Jesus-Christ-Our-Scapegoat is no "fall guy", "patsy", "sucker" or "whipping boy". He is God Incarnate, taking upon Himself the punishment we deserve - not just to balance the books, but to wipe our slate clean.What Amazing Love!
What blessing of grace to be able to know Him as "Jesus-Christ-Our-Scapegoat!"