Scapegoat (Leviticus 16)
In the middle of Leviticus, we read about a special offering. On one day of the year, the Day of Atonement, the High Priest was to enter the Most Holy Place with two goats. He was to take one goat, chosen by casting lots, and kill it. This goat served as an offering to make atonement for the people. Its blood and body stood in the place of the Israelites, taking the punishment for their sins. It died in the stead of the Hebrew sinners.
The second goat followed a different narrative. The priest was to take the second goat and lay his hand on its head. Then, he would confess the sins of the people, transferring the sins to the goat. Afterward, a trusted man would take the goat and release it into the wilderness, "carrying on itself"(16:22) the sins of the people, never to be seen again. After the high priest had completed the rituals for both goats, the people were cleansed from all of their sins and could dwell again in relationship with a loving God, bridging the gap from the perfectly Holy to the hopelessly unholy.
The Day of Atonement is great for the Hebrews, but, as often happens in the book of Leviticus, I am stuck with the pressing question of "so what?" Why should I care about the Israelite rituals for atonement? We don't follow their rituals anymore, so why does this matter? What can I take from this seemingly irrelevant passage?
As we read further in the story, we get the answer. Jesus is our atonement. Jesus died, His blood spilled for our sins. Jesus took our punishment for us, dying a death He did not deserve, just like the goat in Leviticus. But that's not all. Notice where Jesus died. Mark 15:20, 22 states "And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him. They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means 'the place of the skull')." Jesus died outside of the camp. Jesus took on the sins of the people and was led away. In doing so, Jesus fulfilled the part of both goats in Leviticus, fulfilling His role as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of you, me, and everyone else. In so doing, God personally reconfirms His covenant with His people, displaying His love for all to see.