Your palms are sweating, your mind is racing as you scan the variety of confectionery gifts. The stakes are high. You do not want to mess this up! Then a soothing thought relaxes the tension in your neck: “It’s the thought that counts, right?”
What about when you are presenting a gift before the Holiest of All? His holiness is not simply a presence, but a power that cannot accept a fleck of impurity otherwise it would be tainted. What about when you come before the presence of God to offer Him the gift of worship? What if there was a hidden motive imperceptibly lurking in your heart? You can see how well that turned out by reading about the sudden death of Uzzah. To answer your question, the thought doesn’t really count for much.
God made preparations for this insufficient approach in worship with the Israelites by way of the mediator. Aaron wore a plate on his turban which was engraved with the words “Holiness unto the Lord,” for the express purpose to “bear the iniquity of the holy things” (Exodus 28:38). How do holy things have iniquity? Interesting phrase, but what it tells us is that all the rituals of the Israelite’s worship were still not acceptable. All the sacrifices and incense burning and washings and candle lighting were not enough to cover the impurities of sinful man. The holiest work they could offer was still tainted. The High Priest ceremonially bore away the impurities in order for God to receive their worship.
Charles Spurgeon wrote about the reflections of a Dr. Payson who wrote, “My parish, as well as my heart, very much resembles the garden of the sluggard; and what is worse, I find that very many of my desires for the melioration [improvement] of both, proceed either from pride or vanity or indolence. I look at the weeds which overspread my garden, and breathe out an earnest wish that they were eradicated. But why? What prompts the wish? It may be that I may walk out and say to myself, ‘In what fine order is my garden kept!’ This is pride. Or, it may be that my neighbours may look over the wall and say, ‘How finely your garden flourishes!’ This is vanity. Or I may wish for the destruction of the weeds, because I am weary of pulling them up. This is indolence.” Spurgeon commented, “Even our desires after holiness may be polluted by ill motives.”
As you read John the Baptist’s announcement, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” you are hearing the pronounced expectation of Christ the sacrifice and mediator all in one (John 1:29). As the perfect sacrifice, He was capable of bearing all of the sins of humanity. As our mediator, he was enabled to bear our impurity away so we might have access to God. “My righteous servant [shall] justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:11). “He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself…so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many” (Hebrews 9:26, 28). “That we being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24).
As Matthew Henry explained, Christ bore our sins “for us and from us.” He, the Holiness of All, perfected what was lacking in our nature.