Such sadness, it broke my heart just to watch the video of the little boy holding a blue string tied around the neck of a small, black goat. Shot on the steps of a temple in Nepal, it barely needs the translation given in the captions. The child’s emotion speaks volumes.
In the background families chat and visit as they wait their turn to sacrifice an animal. Sitting on a stone step with his family, the child watches, listens, turns to his family and says, “Ouch.”
He points off screen and says, “goats are in pain there.”
Then reality hits him. This will happen to the little goat beside him. The lad begins to cry as only a young child can cry. They will hurt his goat.
The child looks up at his father, in tears and scolds, “No, no, no, no,” shaking his little finger back and forth. This he forbids.
Sobbing loudly, he wraps his arms protectively around the goat’s neck, pulls it close and wails heart wrenching cries, “No, no, no.”
The eye of the camera faithfully records the child’s insistence and finally the father’s promise, “We will not cut the goat. Okay?”
The child continues to cry, even as the family turns and begins walking away from all that endangered the goat.
I saw it and it broke my heart for two reasons. I remember being that child — a bit older to be sure. The scene was a cattle auction, not an animal sacrifice.
My dad had taken me as well as my sister, brother and cousins to the livestock auction where farmers and meat processors come to buy cattle for their herd or the slaughter house.
Sitting on the bleachers I quietly watched the cows walk by to the auctioneer, the bidding began and ended as each animal was sold. Milk cows moved to new farms, bulls went to the slaughter house, half grown animals sold to farms to be fed for several months then re-sold. Calves came to be sold as veal or to raise.
I was a farmer’s daughter. I knew what it all meant. I watched the auction. It was all just a fact of life on the farm until they brought out the tiniest calf with the cutest face. This calf was going to be sold just as many calves from our farm had been sold.
The bidding began, it rose, it ended. Throughout I sat silently watching and crying. It was such a little calf.
I didn’t say anything. I didn’t make a sound, but my sister noticed and said, “Joan is crying.”
I didn’t explain. I just wiped the tears away and never returned to the auction.
I prefer distance from the harsh necessity of animal auctions and slaughters.
Yet, I also needed this video to break my heart at the pain related to the sacrifice of the Lamb of God.
Watching the video I realized I had never thought about all the animals sacrificed for thousands of years in every culture, but especially throughout the history of the Israelis in the Old Testament. The video opened my understanding to the more personal perspective on centuries of fathers taking their children to the temple for the first time and a child’s first encounter with the sacrifice of an animal.
The sacrifices had to be made because “under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” (Hebrews 9:22)
From the time of Adam and Eve’s eating a piece of fruit, through the adultery of King David, to the time that Peter stood in the courtyard lying about knowing Christ and beyond, the sacrifice for sins had to be made.
No excuses, “It is just a piece of fruit, God.”
“I said ‘do not eat’.”
“She was so beautiful, and we really loved each other.”
“I said “do not commit adultery.”
“I was in a tight spot, Jesus. I was afraid I would be arrested.”
“I said do not lie. Do not deny me before others.”
And so a couple thousand years ago, Christ submitted to the arrest. As Isaiah said He was “Like a lamb that is led to slaughter.” The rope was put around Him. He was taken away and the blood began flowing with the whip, the thorns, the nails and finally the spear.
It hurt. The Lamb of God hurt and He died. “So also Christ died once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people.” Hebrews 9:28.
His death completed the need for a blood sacrifice. The sinless one had come and accepted all our sins as His.
Within a generation the sacrifices at the temple ended.
We no longer have to endure the ritual sacrifice. As they walked away the child’s parents said it should stop. Christ’s death took care of the need for anymore sacrifices. By God’s grace the penalty has been paid.
The crying at the pain suffered can end, but we never should forget.
Joan Hershberger is a staff writer for the El Dorado News Times. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org