“And if you call on Him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds,
conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile,
knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers,
not with perishable things such as silver or gold,
but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”
1 Peter 1:17-19
After Adam and Eve chose to rebel against God, bringing sin into a perfect world, the Lord sacrificed animals to make clothing for them (Genesis 3:21). Innocent life, taken because of sin. But that sacrifice was with “perishable things.” A much greater sacrifice was to come: God sacrificing His own Son for our sin, One not just innocent but holy, that we may be clothed in white, our dirty rags exchanged for righteousness through His death.
Dwelling on this brings an important element to the vision detailed in Zechariah 3. Jesus tells the high priest, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments” (Zechariah 3:4). The way Jesus accomplished this was not a mere declaration or an easy act – He gave Himself as a sacrifice. The Lamb of God, sent to Earth for slaughter, to ransom with His own blood all who would believe in Him and to demonstrate victory by rising again from the dead.
Jesus took our iniquity away and put it directly on Himself, taking also the full wrath of the righteous, holy, just God. Having done this, having willingly chosen this sacrifice for those actively in rebellion against Him, Jesus takes the position of their (our) Savior and Advocate, which we see powerfully displayed in this picture:
“Then [the angel] showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the LORD said to Satan, ‘The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?’ Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments…And to him He said, ‘Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments” (Zechariah 3:1-4).
This is the sacrifice. This is what it took to save us. This is what the Father gave and what Jesus chose in order to say to us He has taken our iniquity away and will clothe us in pure righteousness. This is the love, the glory, the hope, the power displayed in the cross. And this is the gospel, the calling, of which we are to walk worthy. We have been ransomed with the precious blood of the Son, the holy Lamb of God, to the praise and glory of His name.
“But He was wounded for our transgressions;
He was crushed for our iniquities;
upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on Him
the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and He was afflicted,
yet He opened not His mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so He opened not His mouth…
Out of the anguish of His soul He shall see and be satisfied;
by His knowledge shall the Righteous One, my Servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and He shall bear their iniquities.”
Isaiah 53:5-7, 11
“Then I saw in the right hand of Him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?’ And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy…And one of the elders said to me, ‘Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that He can open the scroll and its seven seals.’
And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain…And He went and took the scroll from the right hand of Him who was seated on the throne. And when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,
‘Worthy are You to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for You were slain, and by Your blood You ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and You have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.’
Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!’ And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’”