What's the point of Leviticus?

Ashley wu, brown '16 (neuroscience); shared fri. gathering, feb. 6, 2015------------

Hi everyone, I’m Ashley. Most of you probably know me. I’m a junior studying neuroscience at Brown. We’re going to start gathering now with the Weekly Question. This is something new we’re starting this year—every week, you can submit whatever faith-related question you want to an online form. You can find the form in the weekly newsletter or on our Faceobok group. Each week at gathering, one of the leaders will pick one of the questions and come up with an answer.

You can submit whatever question you want, but keep in mind that a student is going to answer—not a theologian, not a pastor. So if it’s a controversial or otherwise difficult topic, we might not be able to talk about it. But feel free to ask personal questions. For example, what’s your favorite parable? Or what was your home church like, if you had one? How were you baptized?

The question I’m talking about this week is, “What is the point of Leviticus?”

I’m just a student, so my answer won’t be a waterproof argument. But this is just my take on it, and I hope it’ll be interesting to you.

First of all, why even ask this question? If you have ever read Leviticus, you might know—it is a 27 chapter-long set of instructions about sacrifices, ceremonial cleanness, feasts and holy days, and other aspects of religious life. It can be very, very difficult to read. And what’s the point? We don’t make these sacrifices or follow these rites anymore. They’re an Old Testament thing.

Indeed, they are an Old Testament thing. When Jesus was crucified, buried, and resurrected, he wiped out the need for these rituals. All of the goats, bulls, and other sacrifices were to help the Israelites attain holiness, as God’s holy people. Sacrifices had to be made for all sorts of things: eating the wrong animal, celebrating different feasts, even giving birth. Sometimes I imagine if I had to do all this now, and I know that it would be too much. I could never remember to do all that God required of the Israelites, even if I had goats and bulls to begin with.

Just because Jesus came doesn’t mean that the need for these sacrifices has evaporated. Rather, Jesus is the sacrifice: the countless animals, the grain, the oil, the cedarwood. He makes his followers holy forever.

For me, reading Leviticus feels very tedious. But that small experience of tedium that I have when I read this book is tiny compared to what it must have felt like to live under the law of Leviticus. So for me, Leviticus is there to remind me what price Jesus has paid for me and to remind me of how good and precious the freedom I have now is.