NO MORE DEAD GOATS: why you’re no better than a pagan worshipper

When Jesus uttered the words “It is finished” that same day in a pagan temple a family brought a goat to be slaughtered, but for them there was no sense of “It is finished.” For they had brought a goat before and they would inevitably bring a goat again to be slaughtered. They loved their god and with all the best intentions wanted nothing more than to please him, and so diligently they offered exactly what the they thought he asked of them. This would end up being an ongoing ritual for the rest of their life. Years upon years of dead goats but for them there was no “it is finished,” no assurance that their god was appeased.

There is a story of a boy running through his house, arms stretched out wide, pretending he was an airplane. As he rounded the first and second corner he knew he could fly faster if he was only able to cut the corners a little tighter. Approaching the corner of hallway he calculated out the best flight path. But this time he cut it too close and clipped a picture hanging on the wall. The picture fell to the ground and broke it’s frame. This was his parents’ favorite picture. His first instinct was to sweep up the broken glass and hide the picture. “Maybe they wouldn’t recognize it was missing,” he thought. The feeling of guilt was overwhelming him. “Of course they’re going to notice it’s gone” he convinced himself. He needed a new plan. He would take all of his savings out of his piggy bank and buy them a new frame, and if that wasn’t enough he would do extra chores around the house. He would mow the lawn for a month, he would do the dishes for the next two months. Before his parents even had time to notice anything had even happened, let alone respond with loving grace, their little boy who they loved more than anything had thoroughly punished himself, heaping on self-condemnation.

All of us are, to some degree, just like that little child with God. When we do something wrong, or when we slip back into that all too familiar sin, our first instinct is to hide. Without thinking we grab the broom and start sweeping up the broken glass, and hope God doesn’t notice. But then the guilt starts to overwhelm, it eats at us. “Of course he’ll notice, he notices everything.” So then we must take more drastic measures into our own hands. We must repay him somehow. We must do something to show him how sorry we really are. “I’ll give more money or volunteer more. I won’t take part in Church activities for awhile. I know what He’s thinking, I should probably hold off on the “Jesus stuff” until I have my act together. I’ll save him the breath, I already know what he thinks of me; I’ve let him down once again and I’ve REALLY disappointed Him this time.” Before we even approach God, we have already thoroughly punished ourselves. We have served a sentence, God never condemned us to.
Today let us hear the words afresh: “It is finished.” The guilt that we heap on ourselves, the hiding and the shame, the paying-God-back with good behavior – aren’t those all just modern day forms of sacrifices they used to bring to the pagan temples. Aren’t these things really just more dead goats? Can you reflect on the cross and lovingly gaze on your Jesus who gave everything for you? Consider what are some of the ways you punish yourself so that God doesn’t have to. What are the ways you try to pay God back? What are the ways that you hide your sin from Him? What are your sacrifices, your dead goats? And can we hear him say, “I don’t want any more dead goats. I don’t want you to punish yourself with guilt, and hiding, and repayment. I love you and want you to run to me.”