Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:4-5


From the beginning of this Lenten season with Ash Wednesday, we have made a Lenten journey. We have known all along that this journey would come to this day—to Good Friday, to the cross. We know because we make this journey every year. Every year we walk with our Lord to Calvary, step by agonizing step. Because of this Lent brings no joyous spring to our steps, and perhaps we wonder why this day is called “good.”

To understand and to give meaning to our journey, we must go back 3,500 years: to the days of Moses and the wilderness wanderings of the people of Israel. It was then that the journey of Lent began.

God had promised His people that He would dwell with them, and so He gave Moses instructions for the construction of a tabernacle, a “traveling church.” In the center of that tabernacle was the Most Holy Place: God’s throne room, the place where His Presence would dwell among His people. But God’s presence brings difficulties. How can unholy, sinful people dwell in the presence of the One who is Holy? How can the unworthy be in the presence of the Righteous One? How can man be face-to-face with God? “Our God is a consuming fire” Scripture says (Heb. 12:29), and the people of Israel knew this quite literally, for God was visible among them, leading them as a pillar of cloud and fire.

The people were terrified by God’s presence. But, He wants to dwell with His people, and so He established a way for Him to dwell among them. The Lord instituted the Day of Atonement. On one day each year, the high priest was to go into God’s throne room, the Most Holy Place in the tabernacle. On that day he took the blood of a goat there, to atone for the sin of the people. He went to cleanse them of their sins, so they could dwell with God without fear of His judgment.

But: did you know that on the Day of Atonement there were not one but two goats? One was sacrificed, and its blood was poured out in the Most Holy Place. The other goat was the sin-bearer. God instructed Moses to have the high priest place his hands on its head, confess the sins of the people and put them upon it, and then have that goat sent out into the wilderness—the place of Satan, the father of sin. All the sins of the people were carried away from them by this sin-bearing goat.

Two goats—one which was the sacrifice to wash away the sins of the people with its blood, and the other which bore the sins of all the people away from God and to Satan. Isaiah tells us that Jesus is the fulfillment of both goats! “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” Jesus is both the Sacrifice and the Sin-bearer. This began with His Baptism, in which Jesus took on Himself the responsibility for all sins. “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” John the Baptist said of Him after baptizing Him (John 1:29). Jesus then left His baptism to carry our sins out into the wilderness to do battle with Satan by overcoming his every temptation; but that was only the beginning of His sin-bearing journey. Christ’s journey as our Sin-bearer continued throughout His earthly journey until, on Good Friday, He came to the cross. As Christ carried His cross to the hill called Calvary He carried the sins of the world, that He might be lifted up for them.

What do you see when you look upon that cross? See your sins, for Jesus carried them to that hill and away from you. See your shame, for the One who became your sin hung there naked. See your Sin-bearer completing His journey as the sacrificial goat who is stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted for you and for all people. His blood is shed that we might be forgiven. “He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed.” Isaiah shows us both goats. Isaiah shows us Jesus!

And so the journey that began with the children of Israel in the wilderness, the journey that was more clearly defined by the Day of Atonement and the two goats, this journey is fulfilled in Christ. Jesus is THE atonement! Our Lenten journey brings us to Jesus. Even now, as we look upon the tree of the cross, we see the two goats of the Day of Atonement fulfilled in the one Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

The Sin-bearer is raised high and lifted up upon the tree. The blood of the Sacrifice is sprinkled upon all nations. Christ Jesus pours out His blood to atone for the sins of all mankind. The Lamb without blemish or spot cleanses us from every spot and stain. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way” — this is true. But “the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Jesus bore that sin. He atones, pays the price; and we are redeemed. “IT IS FINISHED!” He declares.

When our Lord and Savior hung His head in death, an amazing thing happened. The sky went dark, and the earth shook. The rocks split, and curtain of the temple—the barrier to the Most Holy Place—tore in two from top to bottom. The Most Holy Place was revealed. Jesus, the Sin-bearer and the Sacrifice, took His very own blood into the Most Holy Place and poured it out before God. Jesus, the greatest and last High Priest, went into the Most Holy Place—not with the blood of a goat, but with His own blood; and this blood cleanses and brings atonement to the world. Marked by that blood in your baptism and receiving it in His Supper in faith, you can now live with God without fear.

It is finished! The journey that began so long ago has come to this place, and it is finished. The Lamb of God—Sin-bearer and Sacrifice—fulfills and gives meaning to our journey as we travel with Him from our exile in the wilderness of sin to the cross. That instrument of torture and death has been transformed into a life-giving tree for all people. And so it is that this day, in its tragedy, is truly good! We now have the good news that our God, the holy and mighty One, travels with us, and we with Him, in peace.

In the blessed name of Jesus. Amen.