I was watching an episode of Rod Serling’s 1970’s hit show Night Gallery yesterday, and aside from simultaneously feeling nauseous and creeped out, I had a realization.
The episode takes place in 13th century Wales, where famine is destroying the country. An old man has just died, so his family is looking for a sin-eater to come and relinquish the man of his sins. The belief is that this person, known as the sin-eater, comes and feasts on fine foods from the chest of the corpse and, once the meal is complete and the proper prayers are recited, the sins of the deceased enter into the soul of the sin-eater. He screams in agony and the family watching knows that the dead man is relieved of his trespasses.
If you know anything about Rod Serling, creator of The Twilight Zone, you know that creepy and weird is just what lives inside his head. The episode follows a midget as he rides his pony 12 miles to fetch the sin-eater, who, it turns out, has also just died. His wife coerces their son to go instead and eat the sins of the dead man. And then of course, there is a twist, but I won’t spoil it.
As I was watching this episode with my friends, I remarked to them how vastly different this culture is from our own. They lived in a culture of fear, and we live in a culture of freedom; theirs is one of strict adhesion to a code of right living, ours of relative licentiousness and instant gratification. I told my friends how easy it must have been to share the gospel in a culture like this, because they already have the first half of it down: all men are sinners and need someone else to come and take the punishment off of them. Meanwhile, in our society today, we spend hours talking with people just to get them to see how fallen mankind is! To borrow from the rap group we all should be listening to more, Beautiful Eulogy,
There used to be a time when we were fine living life with no particular religious bend. Pretending to be our own gods, inventing our own system of belief so as to not depend on anything other than our own self-governing consent. Defending an impending doom with no perceived need to concede or repent. Presuming our innocence in a sense dissent. The sting of death was only the inevitable end of everything we could never rightly understand or comprehend.
Most people I talk to on the street would consider themselves a pretty good person. This is not only wildly opposed to the sacerdotal system of fear and penance of 13th century Wales, but to the Bible. According to the Bible, each and every one of us is in desperate need of a Sin-eater; someone to come and take the wrath of God upon Himself. We have no hope, and were it not for the Glorious Son of God, we would be reduced to something out of Night Gallery, begging the gods to pardon one man’s sins and pour them on another.
How great is God’s grace that He does not simply shift our sins around, as one spreads piles of mulch over a dying garden, but He absorbed ALL of them at the cross.
Our sins are not merely redistributed, but beaten, conquered, and destroyed by Jesus. Beautiful Eulogy concludes the verse of the song:
We used to fear the unknown until God made himself known and atoned, mending the relationship between God and men. Giving His life as a ransom for many when he died and ascended, and in that one event the certainty of eternal death was circumvented, making a way for the day when history stops and time suspends. Spending eternity in fellowship that never ends. We see the greatest expression of God’s love extended in that moment when those who were once enemies instead became God’s friends…Cause death is gone, and all the effects of, evil and wrong will be conquered when His kingdom comes.
I’ve been listening to this song for over two years and my throat still swells and I get shivers when I hear it.
Seriously. Go listen to it.