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, and the pastor sat in the front of the sanctuary behind a large thick curtain. But there was great love and compassion present in that room as the church people 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 traveling down 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 it was all behind me, but it was in front of me also. People were looking for me, and they would find me very soon. But 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. I was lead to the pastor behind the curtain when I told them I needed help. He was a gentle man and his eyes were heavy with compassion as I explained that I was broken down and that I needed help. He nodded in agreement and gave me a seat in the church.
The group started singing songs I had never heard. These people were singing with great earnestness, as if they were deeply committed to their song. Didn't the pastor realize I was in a great hurry? There were people looking for me. I needed to go, but I was captivated by the sincere performance of the church people. Unfortunately, I simply didn’t have time for the service to end, so 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.”
If only that were possible--not to sin. What was I saying? These were church people. They probably never sinned. They were different from me, for I had hurt people. I had done things that were very wrong, I had even shed 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, God wouldn’t have liked me had we met, for I had hurt people throughout my life.
Unfortunately, I had waited too long to leave, for I could see the people who 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 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 for a long time,his time for justice has come.”
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, and 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. I was 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.” They 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 and 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. But 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 and ripped and gouged. I tore huge chunks of its wool away, yet it never ran from me; it never resisted. I spit at it and 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 and the alter of the church 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 that were supporting it, so I laid my hands on the curtain and ripped it in half. I took the sharp end of the pole and jammed it deep into the side 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 vail I had rent.
Suddenly I realized that the lamb was Jesus, the Lamb was from God, and 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.