For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21
What follows is an excerpt from In the Shadow of Aran by Mari Jones. The book is a collection of stories from farm life which, although written some years ago, contain spiritual lessons for us today.
The poets have written a great deal about the delights of spring, and indeed it is a very pleasant, if busy, time of year for the shepherd. As he makes his round of the fields, he constantly has the pleasure of seeing a new little life making its appearance, followed by the delight of seeing the growing lambs gambolling and running as though they were in professional racing!
Sometimes a long, hard winter will result in the expectant mothers among the sheep being in poor condition. At such times the shepherd finds himself working against nature, and that is always a hard struggle. When a weakened sheep gives birth to a lamb, she will walk away from it in a leisurely way, without a backward glance or a bleat, as though nothing had happened, though her poor little lamb is crying after her as though his heart would break. The sheep, because of her weakness, has not enough nourishment to support herself, much less to suckle her lamb – and this is just nature’s mysterious way of preserving the sheep’s life.
It is possible that at the same time there may be another sheep, in better condition, which has lost her lamb. The shepherd will flay that dead lamb very carefully. Then he will drape its skin like a cloak around the rejected lamb, making holes in it for the head and feet to come through. He will then put the lamb, draped in the skin, with its adoptive mother (the sheep which lost her lamb) in a confined corner.
There is great speculation as to the reception it will get, for every creature is so keenly observant and so fiercely possessive where its own is concerned. The sheep will sniff and smell the lamb carefully, from its head to the end of its tail. One can see that she is in doubt. She seems to be saying: ‘How on earth does this smell of my lamb?’ She goes on sniffing, she breathes heavily through dilated nostrils. At last the skin has done its work! Some sheep take more time than others to be persuaded that the lamb is theirs.
The shepherd is very happy to be able to turn them out to the freedom of the fields, sure of each other, a truly devoted couple. He knows that every woolly privilege that the mother sheep would have bestowed on her own lamb will now be bestowed on the little adopted one.
There is something very like this in Christianity except that the robing here is a matter of divine providence and not of deception. God in His holiness cannot receive creatures like ourselves, so utterly different from Himself. Our only hope is His way of salvation. This is the way ordained of God, that Christ through His death should take our sins upon Himself, so that we might justly be clothed in His righteousness. So, in His sight, we should be as though we had never sinned. Wonderful salvation!
And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Matthew 22:12-13)
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (Romans 13:14)