At sunset this month on September 22, many Jews will observe the most holy day in Jewish faith.
Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement – dates back to the days of Moses when God instituted the observance so that, through repentance and blood sacrifice, the sins of the people could be forgiven. You’ll find reference to Yom Kippur in Leviticus, chapters 16, 17, and 23.
As part of the ritual, God instructed the High Priest to sprinkle the blood of a sacrificial animal on the Mercy Seat which covered the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark was a wood box overlaid with gold, atop which were two gold-cast angels called cherubim. Inside the Ark were the tablets of the Law God gave Moses on Mt. Sinai. It was that Law which Israel broke not long after God gave it to Moses.
When the High Priest sprinkled the sacrificial blood on the Mercy Seat to atone for the sins of the people, God chose to not see the broken Law, but rather the sacrificial blood. It was that blood that reconciled God again with His people.
Yom Kippur, then, provides us a picture – a figure – of what Israel’s Messiah would do, not in figure but in reality, 1500 years later. As the Holy Spirit told Israel through the prophet Isaiah:
But He (Messiah) was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. (Isaiah I53:5-6)
Again, the Holy Spirit tells us in the New Testament book of Hebrews: But when [Messiah] appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle . . . not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained [for us] eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:11-12)
And yet again, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, John the Baptist said of Jesus before baptizing Him in the Jordan, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)
The Jewish nation no longer has a sacrificial system of atonement – principally because they longer have a Temple or a priesthood to make sacrifice. But everyone today – Jew and non-Jew alike – has welcomed and free access to the atonement God has provided to wipe away our sins.
That access has a name. We call Him, Jesus the Messiah. Many know Him as Jesus the Christ. It is Him alone whom God designated as our atonement. He alone is our High Priest whose own blood sprinkled on our hearts covers our sins. He is our sacrificial atonement that reconciles us with God.
Have you ever asked Jesus to cover your ‘ark’ with His blood? Have you ever asked Him to make atonement for your life stained with the guilt of breaking God’s laws? You don’t need to wait for September 22 to receive full and complete reconciliation with God.
St. Peter urged those gathered in Jerusalem for another Jewish holy day – Pentecost, and if he were standing before you now, he’d say the same thing:
"Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” (Acts 2:38-39)