The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. (Romans 8:3)
Relate: Richard Munslow was the last known sin eater. In the late nineteenth century, he sought to revive a practice that had faded from history many decades earlier. Even a hundred years earlier it had been written about as an old custom less frequently practiced. Usually, the sin eater was a social pariah, an outcast and someone living in extreme poverty but this was not the case for Richard Munslow. He was simply a father stricken with grief.
Richard was a fairly well to do farmer in the village of Shropshire near the border of Wales and England. He had lost one child a few years earlier but then, in the space of a week, his three other children died. It was then that he took on himself the mantle of the sin eater. The way this custom worked, a loaf of bread was placed on the recently deceased before they were placed in the ground. Then, as those who are mourning looked on, the sin eater would come and eat the bread (along with some ale). It was believed that this bread was soaking up the sin of the dearly departed and that the sin eater when he was eating it, would take those sins into himself. In payment for this service, the poor sin eater would receive the spending equivalent of about $5.00. I fully agree with those who have called this the worst freelance gig in the history of… history.
React: I thought of Richard Munslow when I read this verse out of Romans. Whether he believed the old folk ritual or not, I can completely understand his impulse. What loving parent would not gladly take on the suffering of their child so that they can be free? If this is true of an earthly father, how much more so of our heavenly Father?
Jesus truly was the Sin Eater. No, he didn’t go around at funerals eating bread. Every time Jesus showed up at a funeral he turned it into a party. But Jesus did actually take into Himself the sins of others. What could not be done any other way, God did by sending His Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. In this way, sin was condemned and a way has been made for us to be free. There is no more beautiful illustration of love than the incarnation and the cross.
Thank You. When there was no hope for me, You made a way. When I deserved nothing but death, You died. You came. You took my sins upon Yourself, and then You left them condemned and paid for at the cross. Now I have no need for someone to eat bread at my grave. I have no need to work or earn or anguish over my faults and failures. They are gone. Now I am free.