The Mirror in the Cross The Cross Was An Altar

By Tim Mize

The Bible speaks of the death of Christ as a sacrifice. Jesus Christ “hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor” (Eph. 5:2; see also Matt. 26:26,28; Heb. 9:26; 10:12; 1 Cor. 5:7). The cross, then, was an altar, and the death of Christ a sacrifice offered to God.

The death of Christ is our sacrifice to God. The children of Israel used to bring animals from their flocks and grain from their fields to God. In these offerings they sought and enjoyed fellowship with the Lord, and they worshiped, seeking to honor and please him. We, too, bring a sacrifice to God, but it is not one of flocks or fields. Jesus Christ is our sacrifice, brought to God by him for us.

This sacrifice is so great and so perfect that it has superseded all others. The children of Israel had to bring their offerings again and again. Our sacrifice, though, is so perfectly and powerfully effective that no other need ever be offered. We bring no other to God but this that was offered once for all (Heb. 7:26-27; 9:28; 10:1-2).

Our sacrifice has been offered only once. The meal of the sacrifice, though, is eaten again and again. When the children of Israel would sacrifice, they would usually take what was left of the offering and eat it as a meal (Deut. 12:7; see also Lev. 7:15-18; 1 Sam. 1:4-5,9; 1 Cor. 10:18). The yearly passover, for example, was concluded with a meal in which the sacrificed lamb was eaten. Is our sacrifice, too, one that includes a meal? According to Paul, we have a “table of the Lord” at which we eat the sacrificial meal (1 Cor. 10:22). In a manner of speaking, at least, the Lord’s supper is our meal of the sacrifice.

We see this, too, in Jesus’ words over the bread: “This is my body which was broken for you” (Matt. 26:26). These words would have evoked the worshipers of old, who would sit down after sacrificing with the sacrificed creature before them. Remember the occasion of these words. One such sacrificial meal, the passover, was spread on the table. As they ate the sacrificed lamb, Jesus took the occasion to take the bread and say these words. It was as if he said, “This lamb was sacrificed for you, but this bread is my body which is given for you.”

Jesus did not mean that this bread was his literal body. He meant that by eating this bread, they would symbolically eat the sacrifice. This supper would be “the meal” for that sacrifice about to be offered for them.

Let us understand, then, what we do when we eat. In eating this supper, we are letting that sacrifice be ours. We are acknowledging it as our own. We are affirming that the death of Christ is the one sacrifice by which we draw near to God, that through it alone we are worshiping him.

Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 13, p. 13
July 7, 1994