This Friday, the world celebrates Good Friday, which of course commemorates the day that Jesus Christ was nailed to a cross on the hill called Golgotha, shed His blood and died to pay the price for all the sins of the world…a one-time ransom payment that was deemed acceptable and “payment in full” by God the Father to acquire the forgiveness we all need to restore us to a right relationship with Him, and to set us free from the deadly stranglehold God’s enemy, Satan, has on us all…due to the fall of man that began in the Garden of Eden roughly six thousand years ago and has condemned human beings to suffer and die ever since. Yes its true…sin has grave consequences.
And what name has been given to this process of reconciliation between sinful mankind and a loving redemptive God who sent His own Son to become the sacrificial lamb (which is why John the Baptist said, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”) for all the other children of God who had fallen under the curse of sin, following an act of disobedience by the first two people on Earth? Atonement.
The word “atonement” can be traced back to the Old Testament Jewish “Feast of Atonement,” which was the day set aside, once a year, for the High Priest to go into the Holy of Holies and make the “atoning sacrifice” for the sins of the people of Israel, as commanded by God. Today, the Jews refer to this feast day as Yom Kippur. The ceremony involved two goats being brought before the priest. One goat would be chosen as the one to be sacrificed, a foreshadowing of the Messiah (Jesus) who was to come and pay the price to set the people free. The second goat was called the “azazel goat,” and it was set free and chased outside of the camp (and in latter years, sometimes it was chased off a cliff).
It all provides us with a vivid picture of this process of atonement, whereby sin is transferred from one person (who was once guilty, but by the process is cleansed and forgiven)…to the One who was provided as “the sacrifice” to stand in the place of the guilty party and take the punishment meant for them. Thank you, Lord!!
Oh, and as a side note, some point to the two goats as a prophecy that was fulfilled when Pontius Pilate brought out two “so-called” criminals, Jesus and Barabbas, and stood them before the crowd and asked which one should be set free, and which one should be put to death. The crowd, as we know, chose Jesus to be the one who would die and Barabbas to be the one who was free to go. Pretty incredible, right?
Now, of course, those are the spiritual correlations that symbolically connect what we celebrate as Good Friday to the Feast of Atonement and the merciful process of transferring the sins of many to One who was sinless, but willing to take the punishment due the guilty parties. I, myself, have always been uncomfortable with referring to the day our Lord and Savior was put to death as “good anything,” but I understand it refers to the fact that through that selfless act, we are made clean…and that is a wonderful thing, indeed. But is there another picture we can paint that can help us to better understand “the result” of this process of redemption and just how important it really is? Yes, I think there is.
Since I have been a musician for over fifty years, one who started out playing accordion at age seven, then later abandoned the squeezebox for piano and organ, and later, also guitar and bass…my eyes were opened a bit more to this process recently, when I looked into the meaning and origins of the word “atonement,” and found out that it basically means “in tune” or “in harmony with.” WOW….OK….now that is something I can sink my teeth into.
It turns out that the word “atonement” comes from the joining of the word “at,” and the word “on” (or “one”)….so it could be said that the word atonement is a process by which we are made “at one,” or “brought back into harmony” with our loving Father in Heaven.
Doesn’t that make your heart happy to hear? We can say, with confidence, that by His death and the shedding of His precious blood, our Lord and Savior…Jesus Christ…we are brought back into harmony with God and, once again, made “One with Him.” For me, as one who has sat down many times and began to play a piano that was badly in need of a tuning, it makes a world of difference. And for those of you who have gone to hear a band or orchestra play, and although they may have been very talented, they neglected to properly “tune up” before they began playing, you will likely enthusiastically concur. It taints the performance, even a very good one (get it…we can do plenty of good things…but if we have not been “atoned” or “brought back into harmony” with Him…the good performance is wasted).
Now, you may be aware of this, or maybe not, but there was an album by the classic rock band REO Speedwagon called, “You Can Tune A Piano, But You Can’t Tune A Fish” (I loved that album…they were very good!!). So here is a question…are you a piano? Or are you a fish? I can almost hear you thinking, “What in the world does he mean by that? But, bear with me.
A piano (or a guitar) has strings that, by design, have the ability to be tuned. Those who invented these instruments realized that they sound beautiful when tuned and played properly. But, they also realized that the strings have a natural tendency to stretch or fall “out of tune.” So they come with the ability to “atone” (we say “tune”) the strings to bring them back into harmony with each other. Good thinking on part of the designer, I’d say. A fish…on the other hand…does not come with such an ability. No, not even a tuna fish…ba..dum..dum.
If you believe in God, you believe that all human beings (believers and unbelievers alike) were made by a super-intelligent designer, who knew from the inception of His plan that we humans would be given “free will” and thereby likely to fall “out of harmony” with Him. So He needed to provide a mechanism, a process, by which these precious instruments (His children) could be restored to a proper state of tonality….and have our “sour notes” made beautiful…once again.
It is my belief, or maybe I should say observation, that there are two kinds of people in the world…those who seem to have an internal mechanism or ability that allows them to somehow see or understand that they are “out of tune” with the One who made them and are able to learn that there is a process by which their Maker allows them to be “atoned” ( or put back “in tune”). I will call them the pianos. And then, there are those who do not seem to have that ability and many of them, sadly never will. I will call them the fish.
And isn’t it interesting that when Jesus called His disciples, He said He was going to make them “fishers of men”….and giving them the ability to lead people into a process by which they are turned from “fish” into “pianos.” How amazing is that? In Christ, we (like those first disciples) have been given the power of the Holy Spirit by which we can help those who could not see their way to atonement….to finally see the light. HALLELUJAH!!!
So maybe on this Friday, as we ponder the “gift of reconciliation” that we have received through the Lord’s selfless sacrifice at Calvary, we can lift up a song of thanksgiving and praise and sing it full-voiced, knowing that we have been “atoned” and put back in harmony…brought “in tune” with our merciful Maker. Have no fear…no matter what your voice sounds like to the human ear….it will be sweet music to His.
OH HAPPY DAY….WHEN JESUS WASHED OUR SINS AWAY!!!
(author of “Unlocking Creation,” “The Red Letter Parables, and “God’s Nature and the End of the Age”…..available exclusively through Amazon)