Nothing about Christ’s crucifixion happened by accident. Christ’s sacrifice was foreshadowed in every sacrifice since Genesis. God prepared His people for generations with the idea that a sacrifice could atone for their sin. Leviticus 17:11 says, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood and I have given it for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement, by reason of the life.” The wages of sin is death. Something had to die. Something PERFECT had to die.
The first time blood was shed in the Bible was after Adam and Eve sinned and God killed an animal to use its skins to clothe them. This was a sacrifice for individuals. The first Passover, where families killed a lamb to put its blood on their door so the angel of death would pass over, was a sacrifice for families. The burnt offerings that Israel offered for years were sacrifices for the nation, and Christ’s sacrifice of Himself was for the world. The animals used in sacrifice always had to be acceptable to God. They had to be perfect. As Christ was.
The sacrifices taught; that by using perfect animals and holy priests, that God is holy. By demanding exact obedience to how they were to perform the sacrifices, that they were to have total submission to God’s laws, and by using animals of great value, the high cost of sin and the sincerity of their commitment to God.
Sacrifices symbolically transferred our sin to the animal and then the animal died instead of us. In Hebrews we learn that the sacrifices the Israelites were offering weren’t good enough. Hebrews 9:9 says, “gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot perfect the conscience of the worshipper.” All the cleansing the priest did was external and the sacrifices were a pale copy of the true sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which came later. Also they had to sacrifice over and over again. Jesus’ sacrifice was once and for all.
God begins to tell His people that He expects more from them then their offerings. 1 Samuel 15:22 says, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice.” Psalm 51:17 tells us, “The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart.” Paul tells us in Romans 12:1 to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.
Sacrifices were important because they prepared people for Christ’s sacrifice. Jesus’ sacrifice was perfect because He perfectly lived God’s will. He was perfectly obedient. Only he could truly make us right with God and give us the power to stay that way.