Let me take you to school for a second, so I can show you that you’re not a pig. There was a Greek king named Antiochus IV, who ruled the Seleucid Empire from 175 BC to 164 BC. He was pretty powerful and swept away most of his enemies, until he met his match. He was finally defeated by Rome at a battle in Egypt. Humiliated and angry, he retreated north to his home.
Along the way, he stormed into Jerusalem and slaughtered many Jewish people. Taking out his frustration on the Jews, he banned Jewish practices, like circumcision and the daily offerings. His goal was to Hellenize the Jews, which meant that he forced them to adopt Greek customs and practices that went against God’s laws.
He even went so far as to barge into the temple and offer pig’s flesh on the altar. This was an abomination to God’s people! He desecrated the Holy of Holies in the temple. Then he dedicated the Jewish temple to the Greek god Zeus.
I’m sure he thought it was pretty funny to offer a pig on the altar in order to mock the Jewish people. Pigs were not appropriate sacrifices, but profane. The history books famously name this action “the abomination of desolation.” (See Daniel 11:31, too, which foretold it all in advance!)
When it comes to religion and faith in God, culture thinks that any pig will do. We’re taught that it really doesn’t matter what you believe in, just so long as you’re sincere. One way is not necessarily better than another way. Do you want to put a pig on the altar? Fine, go ahead, just so long as you mean it!
But, I have to tell you, I really struggle with this idea from culture. I struggle with believing that one thing is just as good as another thing. For instance, there are good donuts and bad donuts. There are good friends and manipulative friends. There are good seasons of life and bad seasons of life. It seems like in every other area of life, good and bad, right and wrong, are quite distinguishable. And nobody, after a rotten haircut or abysmal movie, walks out and smiles with satisfaction, “That was as good as all the others!”
When it comes to religion and God, why the heck do we think it’s all the same? Why are we afraid to see the differences? Why don’t we have the courage to say that one is better than the other? Why can’t we take ownership of our beliefs?
If you’re courageous, you’ll admit that not just any pig on the altar will do.
Why? We humans need someone who can adequately summarize our lives in order to stand in our place before God. Since we are corrupt and God is holy, then we need a substitute, both to absorb the wrath of God and to represent us in wholeness. We need someone to summarize our lives—and we are more than a pigs!
We need someone who was fully human, because we are human.
We need someone who was fully divine, because we sinned against God and owe payment to him.
Not just any pig will do.
Only someone who was fully human and fully God can adequately summarize our lives. Then this God-Man has to be offered on the altar as a sacrifice, paying the penalty for our sins and representing us before God.
Jesus Christ offered himself on the cross, standing in our place, summarizing our lives before God. His sacrifice not only took away my filth, but also gave me a clean slate.
Jesus Christ is superior to any pig.
You’ve heard it said, “No one can take your place,” but, that’s not completely true. Jesus Christ can.
Maybe we often think we’re worthless, because we allow so many worthless things to represent us and stand in our place. But we are more than our appearance, possessions, offerings, or achievements. We are worth as much as God was willing to give for us.
All I’m saying is, think about what your beliefs are saying about you.
You are more than a pig.
Sam Kee is a sinner, husband, father, and pastor.