Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Lamb

This is a simple story. It's also unedited, so thanks for your patience.

It was the oddest church I had ever visited; it was almost like a dream. In the back of the church, a lamb was kept in a small pen. The pastor sat in the front of the sanctuary behind a large thick curtain. There was great love and compassion present in that room as they tried to help me.

I had been traveling across the countryside deep into ranch land; there were no buildings or homes anywhere in site. I had been navigating a small road in a great hurry when I missed a curve and drove off the road and into a creek bottom. I was stuck. Worse than that, it was a Sunday, and there was no traffic, no one came by to help. I was in a terrible hurry, so I started walking. In the distance, I could see a church steeple barely peeking over the horizon. Heck, a church is an excellent place to go if you need help, so I started walking that direction.
I had never been much of a church person. In truth, I was not worthy. For I had done many things in my life that didn’t make sense, things that seemed all wrong, but I have no idea why. There were times that I hurt people, but hey, I had been hurt on many occasions myself, so what’s the big deal? As I neared the church, I could see many cars in the parking lot.

I looked back at where I had come and my past was all behind me, but it was in front of me also. There would be people looking for me, and very soon. However, inside that church… inside that church was immediate help.

As I stepped inside, I saw many warm faces, and I was greeted with a firm handshake. When I asked for help, I was lead to the pastor behind the curtain. He was a gentle man and his eyes were heavy with compassion as I explained my circumstances. He nodded in agreement and gave me a seat in the church.
The group started singing songs I had never heard before. These people were singing earnestly, as if they were deeply committed to their song, as if it meant something to them. I was in a great hurry, there were people looking for me. I needed to go, but I was captivated by their sincere performance. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time for this; I arose from my chair and started to the door. The pastor was watching me; he almost seemed to be crying. Their song continued, “Take me to the higher place that I might not sin against you, Father.”

Not to sin? If only that were possible. What was I saying? These were church people and they probably never sinned. They were different from me, for I had hurt people in my past. I had done things that were very wrong; I had even shed other people’s blood. Suddenly, I realized how unworthy I was to be in this church. These people acted as if God himself was going to walk into this room. I would have loved to stay and meet God, but somehow I knew it was impossible. There would be too much standing between us, too much of a gap, we would be incompatible. Besides, there were people looking for me, I had to go. Not only that, but God wouldn’t have liked me had we met, for I had hurt all of the people in my life.

Unfortunately, I had waited too long to leave, for I could see the people that were looking for me standing in the parking lot of the church. They were walking to the door. I was now trapped! They didn’t stop and shake the hand of the greeter, they just made their way to my side and quickly grabbed my arms. When I cried out, the pastor stopped the singing and came to my aid. He asked, “What’s going on?”
The taller man in a dark suit stepped between me and the pastor, who was still standing behind the curtain. “This man belongs to me. He has broken many laws and has been given the death penalty. He has been running from us, but it is now time for justice to be served.”

The pastor looked at me, “What have you done?”

That was just it, what had I done? Better than that, what hadn’t I done? I had stolen, cheated, lied. I was an adulterer and a fornicator. I aborted children before they were born. I guess that made me a murderer. I was a drunkard, and a wife beater. In fact, I was a drug addict and dealer. I don’t suppose that there was anything left for me to exploit, or explore. I had run the gamete for evil and wicked things to do. My whole life was a sham. I was very evil and wicked to the very core of my existence. If sin were a stench, then I reeked beyond measure. As I examined my life I replied to the pastor, “Everything. I have done everything.” I hung my head in shame, not worthy of his help. My life was worthless and I deserved the full measure of justice to be served on me. I had more than earned the death penalty.

The pastor looked at me, tears rolling down his face. He placed a warm hand on my shoulder and turned to the dark man. “What will redeem this man from his death?”
The official replied, “The death sentence was already passed, a death must take place.”

The pastor looked to the rear of the church and yelled out, “Bring in the lamb.” The parishioners brought him in, a young, gentle, perfectly white lamb. Its face was pure. There was great truth in this lamb. The pastor told me, “This lamb is perfect. It is blameless in every way. Only the blood of the innocent may redeem your death penalty. You will kill this lamb in your place, then you will be free.”
How could I kill this innocent lamb? It had done nothing wrong, and I was the one deserving to die, it was unworthy of my death. However, if killing this lamb bought my freedom, then why not? Maybe I could change and be a good person if I had a clean start. Deep down inside, I knew that I would go back to my old ways, but for now I could walk away a free man. I could walk away alive! And free! How could I kill it? How fast can he die?

I had no weapons, but I attacked the lamb. I beat it with my hands; I kicked it with my feet. I pulled, ripped, and gouged. I tore huge chunks of its wool away, yet it never ran from me. I spit at it, I laughed. I flailed it, but it wouldn’t die. I drug it up and down the isle of the church; I picked it up and threw it across the room. The lamb wouldn’t die. It was deeply wounded from the internal injuries, but life flourished deep within his heart. What I needed was a weapon. I needed to inflict bigger wounds. I looked up at the alter and saw a hammer and nails. I grabbed the lamb and threw it across the altar, stretching it out across the wooden counter. I grabbed the nails and started pounding them into the lamb’s flesh. All of the anger and hatred, all of the venom that drove me, with everything inside me I drove the nails deeper and deeper. I hated myself for what I was doing, but I hated this lamb more for not dying quickly.

It wouldn’t die. It only lay still and let me inflict it with one punishment after the other. I saw the curtain behind the altar and the poles supporting it, and ripped it in half. I took the sharp end of the pole into its side, deep into the heart of the lamb, and it died. I looked down at my hands, there was blood covering me. There was blood dripping off the altar and running down the aisle. There was blood on the veil I had rent. Suddenly, I realized that the lamb was Jesus, the Lamb was from God, it WAS God. He had taken my place, I had killed the very one that was trying to protect me. I had killed God himself. In my own fear and hatred, I had killed the blameless. In the rear of the church, my accusers turned and walked away. I realize now that they could no longer see me through the blood of the lamb I had shed.

2 comments:

Judy said...

So powerful. Thanks.

Alison said...

This is the second time I've read this. As with the first time, it's difficult to respond...it's often painful to look at the truth of what Jesus did and went through for us (and that my/our sin led to that), but I need the reminder often. I'm so grateful for His sacrifice.