Sacrificial Love

Torah Portion: Tazria (Leviticus 12:1–13:59)
Gospel Reading: John 16:21; Hebrews 12:2
Commentary by: Kelsey Bryant

“Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4–5, NASB)

Leviticus is known for its purity laws that guard the holiness of Yahweh’s dwelling place. The list of commands starts in a logical spot – at childbirth, the beginning of life. Yet when we contemplate Leviticus 12, we see that the childbirth laws can also teach us about Yeshua’s mission.

As any mother will tell you, for mother and infant both, childbirth is hard (probably the biggest understatement of all time). It’s probably the most painful ordeal the mother will ever experience. This was especially true in the world of the Bible, when women had no choice but painkiller-free labor. But the result (ideally) was a new life. Fertility is a form of “eternal life” because in a way the lives of the parents live on into their children’s lives, their grandchildren’s, their great-grandchildren’s, and so on. Thus, in order for there to be ongoing life, there has to be great pain.

But it is as Yeshua described in John 16:21 when He was encouraging His disciples, “Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world” (NASB).

Likewise Yeshua had to go through immense anguish to give us eternal life:

“For the joy set before Him [He] endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2b)

Like a woman risking her own life to give life to a child, Yeshua gave His children life by laying down His life to the death. But it was for the joy set before Him and the love He has for us. The result was worth every throb of agony:

“But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.” (Isaiah 53:10, emphasis mine)

The word offspring is zera in Hebrew, which you may recognize as part of our Torah portion’s name. Tazria is translated as “she shall conceive seed.” That connection was what set me on the trail of this week’s exploration in the first place. A mother treasures her children and endures the pain of bringing them forth because she loves them and wants to give them life. She even endures separation from society and most importantly God’s dwelling place for a time, for childbirth renders her unclean and unable to visit the Tabernacle/Temple until she is cleansed:

“Then she shall remain in the blood of her purification for thirty-three days; she shall not touch any consecrated thing, nor enter the sanctuary until the days of her purification are completed.” (Leviticus 12:4)

When she is cleansed, she can draw near to God with a special offering. This reminds us of Yeshua who was dead for three days (ceremonial uncleanness and death are often linked) and afterwards ascended to His Father (John 20:17).

Oh how Yeshua loves us – with a love even greater than that of a mother’s:

“Can a woman forget her nursing child
And have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.” (Isaiah 49:15)