The family of Aaron had unique responsibilities which included making burnt offerings, “and were appointed for all the work of the place most holy, and to make an atonement for Israel” (1 Chronicles 6:49). Atonement or kâphar (kaw – far´) in Hebrew, was the process whereby the sins of the Israelites were covered over by the blood of the animals that were sacrificed on their behalf.
A young bull was designated for the sin offering. “After the elders laid their hands on the bull (to transfer the people’s sin to the bull), the bull was killed. The priest then brought some of the blood of the bull into the tent of meeting and sprinkled it seven times before the veil” (3722). This ritual enabled the people’s sin to be forgiven. “The Day of Atonement was celebrated only once a year. Only on this day could the high priest enter the holy of holies of the tabernacle or temple on behalf of the people of Israel and make atonement for them” (3722).
Most people probably think that Jesus’ death on the cross was a mistake, that the Jewish council that condemned him to death did not know what they were doing. The responsibility of making atonement for the people was specifically placed on the high priest because of the seriousness of the problem. If the people’s sin was not atoned for, they would not receive salvation when they died.
The council’s decision making process for putting Jesus to death is recorded in John 11:47-53:
Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; and not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.
The word translated expedient, sumphero (soom – fer´ – o) means to bear together. It is derived from two words, phero (fer´ – o) which means to bear as in bearing or bringing forth fruit (5342) and sun (soon) which means with or together (4862). The idea behind these words is prosperity, to gather much fruit and receive benefit from it. So what Caiaphas was saying was that Jesus’ death would bring forth the fruit or final result of all of their sacrifices for the people’s sin.