The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. Hebrews 13, verse 11.
Word came out today that Charles Manson died over the weekend. Charlie masterminded the 1969 grisly Tate-LaBianca killing spree, convincing his young, drug-addicted followers to savagely murder for him. Manson had lived a tortured life of abuse and crime, and the late 1960s counter-culture was a petri dish in which he enthusiastically grew the bacillus of true hatred. Charlie didn’t kill anyone himself: he directed others to do it for him. Originally sentenced to death, Manson’s sentence was commuted to life in prison after California changed its death penalty laws. In the (over) 45 years since, Manson gave no sign that he repented of his heinous crimes, and there’s no reason to believe he did so at his end. Hell may very well be one soul richer this morning.
Do you think Jesus is grieved at that? I do. I’ve talked about how Jesus loved Osama Bin Laden, Adolf Hitler, and the most notorious people in history. He created each of us as “very good” and loves us unconditionally. Even mass murderers, criminals, and people who do the worst things we can imagine. So if Charlie checked into a hellish eternity yesterday, it happened in spite of Jesus love and that must sadden our Savior. It’s as if His sacrifice was burned up for nothing.
The verses associated with this one talk about sin offerings. During the time after the Ten Commandments, God revealed to Moses how He wanted His people to recognize their need for atonement. The Israelites could no more atone for their own sins than we can, so God provided them with a system of animal sacrifices that would remind them of their spiritual dependency on Him. Once a year, a Levite high priest would slay an animal, sprinkle it’s blood in the Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle, and ‘make atonement’ for all the peoples’ sins. Afterwards, what was left of the animal would be taken outside the camp and burned to ashes, then the ashes would be sprinkled in a place that had been made ceremonially ‘clean.’ All this was done to remind Israel that it was sinful and that it should depend completely on God for its salvation as much as it did for it’s three squares, air, shelter, and safety.
You know where this is going: Jesus was our sin offering. Jesus was the ultimate offering to God Almighty to atone for our myriad sins and appease His holy, righteous anger. His blood sprinkles on all of us. He was executed outside the city, buried outside the city, even rose outside the city. Jesus Christ did for mankind the most important thing that mankind couldn’t do for itself.
When we turn our backs on this truth, we are keeping Jesus outside our camp. “I’d never do that. I’d never act like the Manson Family” you or I would say. But have we considered how we do it every day? Every time we embrace even petty evil, we side with what defined Charlie Manson. I’ve never killed anyone but I’ve harbored deep grudges and hatred. I’ve followed idols. I’ve hurt and destroyed things Jesus commanded me not too. I’ve done evil just as you have, and when I have I have sided with the evil that drove Manson. What do we make of Charlie?
In-between drugs, sex, violence, and helter skelter, Manson once declared himself to be Jesus. His followers believed it and did his bidding. I was only a small child when all this happened, and I grew up learning about the things the “Manson Family” did in its savage killing spree. It was confusing and hard to understand, how someone could orchestrate such unspeakable evil and convince others to follow. But now that I’m an adult, I look back and realize it really isn’t very hard to understand. Evil is as old as Eden and as common as the air we breathe. Charlie kept Jesus outside the camp of his life for all his life. He rejected God’s invitation to be at peace, and in doing so he led astray other equally confused people. In rejecting Jesus, there could be no sin offering for Charlie but himself, and all that’s left now are worthless ashes. I believe that must grieve Jesus. I picture Him today, sitting alone and contemplating the loss. We walk up to Him and say “is everything ok Lord?” “Yes,” He might reply, “but I’m a little sad right now because one of my dear people has gone.” He might even have real tears in his eyes for Charles Manson and everybody else who goes astray forever.
Mass killing has become common place in our society; that’s a legacy of the Manson Family. None of his followers has ever been released from prison (though one is up for parole at this time). One of his acolytes even tried to a president. Yet the evil Charles Manson came to represent is his legacy. Manson was consumed by it. That evil tries to permeate everything we do, and it works on us daily to separate us from God because evil is lonely and desires bad company. It rages at all that is good in the world. Will you let it overtake you? For those of us left behind, this message is clear. Don’t be Charlie.
For further reading: Leviticus 16:15, Exodus 29:14, Leviticus 4:12, Leviticus 4:21.
Lord, bless You for Your deep mercy, for Your sacrifice, for Your unending love. Help me to turn away evil in my life today by relying fully on You.