It is a little known fact that Luke’s record of our Messiah’s ministry starts with an allusion to the Atonement Sacrifice. Luke alone gives an account of the timing of this event, and also shows how the people themselves unwittingly declared how Yeshua would take the sin of the nation upon Himself.
Knowing about the Day of Atonement is paramount to understand the story behind the story that Luke gives witness to. Considered the most important of the Appointed Days in God’s Calendar, The Day of Atonement is the only day of the year with a command for Fasting. In fact, since the Day of Atonement is intricately connected to Judgement, most Jews engage in a partial fast for a full 40 days before the Day of Atonement. The 40 Days start with the 6th month of God’s Calendar (known as Elul) and end with the Day of Atonement, which is the 10th day of the 7th Month, equalling to a full 40 days of Repentance. It is a time for Repentance and preparation of one’s life to stand before God. While it is not clear whether this tradition of Fasting existed back in 1st Century times, is it not wonderous that Yeshua(Jesus’ true name) fasted 40 days in the same season of Elul and The Day of Atonement?
How do we know that His Ministry started in the time of the Day of Atonement? There are several hints given to us by Luke. Let us review his account in Chapters 3 & 4.
1.John preaches repentance –
Not only does John preach Repentance, a key aspect of meditation as it dawns toward The Day of Atonement, he also speaks of the coming Judgement as seen below.
Luk 3:3 And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;
Luk 3:7 Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
Luk 3:9 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
Luk 3:17 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.
2.Yeshua’s 40 day Fast –
Yeshua is baptized by John(Luk 3:22,23) and proceeds directly into the Wilderness of Judea(Luk 4:1) and remains there fasting for forty days(Luk 4:2). After being tempted of the Devil, He teaches in Galilee, and then comes to Nazareth – His hometown and steps into the Synagogue.
3.The Reading in the Synagogue –
Traditionally on the Sabbath, people meet in the Synagogue and read a Portion of the Torah (5 Books of Moses) & the Prophets which is done in a planned manner. Isaiah is read in close proximity to The Day of Atonement, and it just so happened that Yeshua was delivered the scroll of Isaiah on this particular Sabbath Day.
Luk 4:17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,
4. Isaiah 61, Judgement & the Jubilee
Yeshua reads the following passage, stopping abruptly without reading everything proceeding “The Day of Vengeance”. “Proclamation of Liberty” is intricately connected to the “Year of Jubilee” which is announced on The Day of Atonement. The Day of Vengeance or His Second Coming, was yet to come. So it makes sense that He stopped before this part, but reading the full verse, we see that He consoles everyone who repents and is in Ashes, mourning & heaviness – which are central themes of The Day of Atonement.
Isa 61:1-3 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.
Lev 25:9,10 Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubile to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land. And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubile unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.
5. The Sacrificial Goat which took all the Sin of the Nation upon itself –
On The Day of Atonement, the High Priest enacted a sacrifice to atone the sins of the nation. This twin sacrifice had two goats, one of which was taken before the High Priest, who then proclaimed all of the Sins of the nation on its head, and was then led away to the wilderness.
Lev 16:8-10 And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for the scapegoat. And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the LORD’S lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering. But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.
Lev 16:21,22 And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness.
It is traditionally known that this goat was pushed off a cliff by the person who led it away signifying the complete erasure of the sins of the people.
The Rabbis, interpreting “Azazel” as “Azaz” (rugged), and “el” (strong), refer it to the rugged and rough mountain cliff from which the goat was cast down (Yoma 67b; Sifra, Aḥare, ii. 2; Targ. Yer. Lev. xiv. 10, and most medieval commentators) Jewish Encyclopedia
The Sages taught: The word Azazel indicates that the cliff the goat is pushed from should be rough and hard. I might have thought that it may be located in a settled area. Therefore, the verse states: “In the wilderness.” And from where does one derive that the goat is pushed from a cliff? The verse states “gezeira,” indicating an area that is sharp, like a cliff. Yoma 67b – Talmud
Now read what happens after Yeshua reads the Scripture in Isaiah and has a dispute with the people in the Synagogue. The crowd unwittingly proclaims that Yeshua will be the sacrifice which takes away the sin of the nation, by trying to take Him to a hill and thrusting Him down from it.
Luk 4:28,29 And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong.
6. The High Priest & the Atonement Sacrifice –
As the author of Hebrews make mention, the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies only once a year – on the Day of Atonement(Exo 30:10), and he would also take the blood of the second goat which was applied inside. Hebrews clearly connects the Blood of the Atonement Sacrifice to Yeshua’s blood. He would be the High Priest of the Nation and the Sacrifice for the Sins of the Nation.
Heb 9:6,7 Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people:
Heb 9:11,12 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.
It is very likely that Luke knew of the Atonement Sacrifice and the connection of Messiah to the redemption of the Nation as seen in the Scriptures. When Luke heard this account from witnesses before he wrote his gospel(Luk 1:2), he would have immediately connected the dots of the Goat which was led to the cliff with Yeshua who was almost thrust down in the same way, in the days of Repentance – The Day of Atonement. I am in no way saying that Christ was almost thrust down the cliff exactly on the Day of Atonement, but it was definitely close in proximity to this all important day, and the event itself definitely alluded to Him being the Atonement Sacrifice for all of us. As we repent for our own sins through fasting, let us remember the sacrifice that was made for our iniquities, transgressions and sins – our Saviour and Lord – Yeshua Ha Maschiach (Jesus the Messiah).