Muslims say Jesus' sacrifice was unnecessary because their Allah is almighty, and therefore does not need sacrifices to forgive the sins of mankind. On the other hand, some Jews totally reject the idea, calling it "a human sacrifice" that is totally alien to the Scriptures. So who is right?
As with all things to do with Christian doctrine, we will turn to the Bible to see what it says. First we'll take a quick trip through Bible history to see where the practice of making sacrifices unto God began.
Some believe that the very first time that blood was shed to cover up the sin of man was after Adam and Eve fell in the Garden of Eden. Moses records that event for us in just the third chapter of the very first book of the Bible, the Book of Genesis (Bereshis in Hebrew).
It was man's sin that had marred YHWH's perfect world, and yet it was He Who acted immediately to correct it. Nothing had ever died in the Garden until that day, but since fig leaves would never have sufficed as protective wear for Adam and Eve, a loving God continued to look after the two despite their sin against Him:
21 The Lord God made clothing out of skins for Adam and his wife, and He clothed them. Genesis 3
It is a logical assumption that God was forced to shed the blood of the first animal or animals to clothe the two sinners, hence the belief of some that this was the first sacrifice for the sin of man.
In the chapter immediately following, we see Adam and Eve's children also making their own offerings unto the Lord:
3 In the course of time Cain presented some of the land’s produce as an offering to the Lord.
4 And Abel also presented an offering—some of the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions. Genesis 4
Many years later, God decided He had had enough of the sinfulness of man. He called out Noah and his family to build an ark to save them from the flood He was about to send on the earth. Noah built the ark and the flood came and destroyed all other life on the earth. Once the waters had receded and he was back on dry ground, what did the grateful Noah do?
20 ... Noah built an altar to the Lord. He took some of every kind of clean animal and every kind of clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. Genesis 8
As early as Genesis 7, or about 4,50 years ago, YHWH had already identified to His people which were the clean animals and which were unclean as sacrifices to Him.
But we're not quite done yet following the trail of this teaching.
Some time after the flood, perhaps around the time of Abraham, we meet another servant of God. He, too, regularly made sacrifices to God:
5 Whenever a round of banqueting was over, Job would send for his children and purify them, rising early in the morning to offer burnt offerings for all of them. For Job thought: Perhaps my children have sinned, having cursed God in their hearts. This was Job’s regular practice. Job 1
And then there was "the father of faith," Abraham. He is called that because the Lord tested him in a way that He had tested no one else before or since. YHWH called Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, to Him. Abraham had waited many years to finally be given the child of the promise (Genesis 15), but now here is God asking him to offer him up!
YHWH spoke to Abraham and told him (italics mine):
2 “Take your son,” He said, “your only son Isaac, whom you love, go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” Genesis 22
As they are making their way up the mountain, Isaac asks his father a question:
7 ... “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
8 Abraham answered, “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”
But the Angel of the Lord stopped Abraham just in time, saying,
12 ... “Do not lay a hand on the boy or do anything to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your only son from Me.”
13 Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught in the thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram and offered it as a burnt offering in place of his son.
14 And Abraham named that place The Lord Will Provide, so today it is said: “It will be provided on the Lord’s mountain.” Genesis 22
But did the practice of making sacrifices to God end that day on Mount Moriah?
No, it did not. More than 4 centuries later, YHWH brought Moses into His service to call His People out of the land of Egypt, where they had been living in slavery.
As He was about to bring Israel out of Egypt, YHWH instructed Moses to tell each Israelite family to select for themselves an unblemished animal, slaughter it, and brush some of its blood on the lintel of their homes. YHWH explained:
13 "The blood on the houses where you are staying will be a distinguishing mark for you; when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No plague will be among you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt." Exodus 12
26 When your children ask you, ‘What does this ritual mean to you?’
27 you are to reply, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, for He passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and spared our homes.’” So the people bowed down and worshiped. Exodus 12
Every year since then, the Jews have celebrated Passover by eating the roasted meat with unleavened bread and bitter herbs in remembrance of how YHWH delivered them from slavery.
YHWH then taught Moses the Law so that he could teach it to the Israelites. It was Moses who God instructed to institute the daily sacrifices in the Tabernacle, following a precise procedure that was given to him by God, including how the animals and other sacrifices were to be prepared and offered unto YHWH daily for the sins of Israel and of the world.
As YHWH told Moses:
11 "For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have appointed it to you to make atonement on the altar for your lives, since it is the lifeblood that makes atonement." Leviticus 17
In the centuries which followed, Israel remained under orders to keep Moses' Law. None of Israel's leaders was ever exempt from having to keep the Law, from Joshua to King David and King Solomon. All of them were under God's mandate to make these sacrifices and offerings.
When at last a Temple was built in Jerusalem, the Temple which King David had wanted to build to honor YHWH but which was instead built by his son Solomon, the daily sacrifices continued as they did in the more mobile Tabernacle, but in a much grander setting.
And just as Aaron and all his successors had done since Moses' time, each year the High Priest would enter through the Veil which separated the inner temple from the Holy of holies where God's Presence dwelt to make an offering for the sins of all Israel and for the world. And YHWH would signify His acceptance of the offering through consistent miraculous signs year after year.
These practices continued even to the time of Jesus, as we read in the Gospels. Jesus and His apostles all kept the Jewish feasts, Passover among them. Then one day, John the Baptist crossed paths with Jesus:
29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"
Why John chose just that phrase to describe Jesus would become apparent just 3 years later when, on exactly the Feast of Passover, the Lord caused the words of the prophet Isaiah to come to pass at the cross (italics mine):
When You make Him a restitution offering,
He will see His seed, He will prolong His days,
and by His hand,
the Lord’s pleasure will be accomplished. Isaiah 53 HCSB
Here is the same verse in the Complete Jewish Bible:
10 yet it pleased Adonai to crush him with illness,
to see if he would present himself as a guilt offering.
If he does, he will see his offspring;
and he will prolong his days;
and at his hand Adonai’s desire
will be accomplished. CJB
And now in the Orthodox Jewish Bible:
10 Yet it pleased Hashem to bruise him; He hath put him to suffering; when Thou shalt make his nefesh an asham offering for sin, he (Moshiach) shall see zera [see Psalm 16 and Yn 1:12 OJBC], He shall prolong his yamim (days) and the chefetz Hashem (pleasure, will of Hashem) shall prosper in his [Moshiach’s] hand. OJB
Jesus became our High Priest Who will never need to make another offering ever again because He Himself was the One Perfect Sacrifice for the sins of man once for all.
27 He doesn’t need to offer sacrifices every day, as high priests do—first for their own sins, then for those of the people. He did this once for all when He offered Himself. Hebrews 7
How do we see the principle of Leviticus 17:11 applied in the New Testament in Hebrews 9?
22 "In fact, according to the Torah, almost everything is purified with blood; indeed, without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins." (CJB, Complete Jewish Bible)
It was the perfect and sinless Jesus Who, through the shedding of His blood on the cross, secured for us our salvation, the forgiveness of our sins.
But is there any evidence that Jesus' sacrifice was accepted by YHWH, apart from the testimony contained in the historical document we call the New Testament?
It appears that there is indeed some additional corroboration from Jewish Talmudic sources about those miraculous signs that YHWH used to do.
The Jerusalem Talmud records:
"Forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the western light went out, the crimson thread remained crimson, and the lot for the Lord always came up in the left hand. They would close the gates of the Temple by night and get up in the morning and find them wide open." (Jacob Neusner, The Yerushalmi, p.156-157).
This passage is echoed in the Babylonian Talmud:
"Our rabbis taught: During the last forty years before the destruction of the Temple the lot ['For the Lord'] did not come up in the right hand; nor did the crimson-colored strap become white; nor did the western most light shine; and the doors of the Hekel [Temple] would open by themselves." (Soncino version, Yoma 39b).
You will find a more complete explanation of these signs in the article linked to below entitled, "Talmudic Evidence for the Messiah at 30 C.E.," but suffice it to say that YHWH ceased to do the miracles associated with the annual offering at just about the same time that His one and only Son was put on the cross and died.
Stop for a minute and let that sink in.
All through the years that the Jews had been making offerings to YHWH for the forgiveness of sins, He had sent them signs to show that their offerings had been accepted.
But after His Son died on the cross as the once-for-all replacement for all other sacrifices, once His blood had been shed as the seal of the New Covenant, no further bloodshed and sacrifice was necessary. And so YHWH stopped accepting any other offerings.
Those miracles stopped because the greater miracle of lives being changed from the inside out -- of sins that were like scarlet now being made white as snow -- those had begun. Sinners like you and me could now be restored to a right relationship with God.
It is exactly as Jesus said,
6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." John 14
The Father had made the message frightfully clear that Messiah's death on the cross was important. After all, YHWH had caused it to be accompanied by, among other things, darkness (from noon until Jesus' death at 3pm), an earthquake, and the ripping in two of the very same Veil which used to bar access to all except for Israel's High Priest.
A ripping which serves to convey the message to all who will hear the the heart of the Father in the words of the Son:
16 “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life."
This was the mighty love that drew Messiah to that cross. A selfless and unbelievably generous love that was poured out for you and me on that cruel tree 2,000 years ago.
Jesus went to that cross willingly every step of the way because He knew your soul was worth it.
It was for you that He endured the cross.
It was for you that He bled and died.
And it was for you that He rose again after three days...
so that you might live with Him forever!
If you have not done so yet, would you give Jesus your heart today?
It is the best way to express your thanks for what He did for you.
With thanks to Dr. Michael Brown, who mentioned the Talmudic reference in one of his debates with a rabbi.
YHWH, Provider of the Lamb
Bible Verses Which Discuss the Passover Lamb
Talmudic Evidence for the Messiah at 30 C.E.
Talmud - Yoma 39a - 39b
Read Isaiah's Prophecy of the Crucifixion of God's Suffering Servant in Isaiah 52:13 to 53 here