I used to cringe at the song, “Nothing but the blood of Jesus,” or if I heard someone refer to being covered by his blood; it sounded so, well, gory.
Why blood for goodness’ sake? Why is God so punitive? Why couldn’t He just clear the board and forgive our sins without blood?
Blood is at the very heart of Jesus’ story and thus our salvation story. Rather than continue to avoid it, I began to pray for greater understanding, and slowly I’m growing to a deeper understanding, although I still have a long way to go.
(I offer my learnings here with the caveat that this is a cornerstone of faith, and there are far better sources than me on this topic. I hope my post will serve simply as a starting off point to your own exploration.)
God is love. God is life.
The wages of sin is death.
Sin is death. Sin by its nature is a separation from — and if uninterrupted by repentance, a severing of — our connection to our life source. I believe that those wages the Bible speaks of are not so much “collected” by God as they are the inherent, inevitable cost of sin.
God is holy and just.
I’m watching the Netflix docuseries,”The Keepers,” and I am sickened by the sadistic acts of one man who abused and exploited many innocent girls at a Baltimore High School. If he had been brought to trial and simply given a slap on the wrist, those whom he harmed, and all people of goodwill, would be legitimately outraged.
We yearn for justice to confront evil and set the world right. We desire and expect God to be just in his response to sin, especially toward those who injure us.
“Vengeance is mine says the Lord.”
Counting the Cost
When we are in need of forgiveness, justice also must be served. Here is where our misunderstanding of sin leads us to say, “But what if I’m a basically good person?” “And what about little sins like telling a white lie; surely that doesn’t lead to death?”
When we consider ourselves or others to be “good” we are deceived about our true sin natures. In response to being called “good Teacher” Jesus said:
“Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.”
When we acknowledge the darkness that lurks in all our hearts, the dastardly things we have done or know we are capable of doing when we are not fully surrendered to God, then we begin to see that there is no such thing as “a little sin.”
Sin is not an act so much as a state of mind. It is just a manifestation, a symptom of inward decay, a cancerous rebellion that attacks and eventually kills its host if unchecked.
There is no stasis in life; we are either moving toward God and dying to our sin natures daily, or we are turning from God, moving deeper into sin, indulging our flesh, which leads to death.
Once for All
So…if all sin leads to death, then the only remedy for sin is death, which requires the shedding of blood…blood symbolizing the essence of life.
God proclaims this truth from the very beginning. In Genesis, after Adam and Eve fall, God sacrifices animals as a covering for their sin.
In God’s covenant with Abraham He followed the social convention for sealing a contract. Animals would be sacrificed and the carcasses split in two, laid facing each other. Each party would pass through as a physical sign that proclaimed: “If I break this covenant, may the blood be on my head.”
Abraham prepared the sacrifices for his covenant with the Lord; however; he “fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him.”
“When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking fire pot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces.”
Do you see what is happening here? God passes through twice, symbolically taking the consequence not just for himself but on Abraham’s behalf as well. By passing through for each of them God was saying: “If I fail to keep the covenant I will die, and if you fail to keep it I will die for you.” (Read more about this amazing moment.)
Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up….
“You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.”
Caiaphas unwittingly prophesied the rationale for Jesus’ substitutionary death in advocating for his execution to the Sanhedrin.
Yet in order to be a just sacrifice for the sin of humanity, Jesus himself had to be without sin…otherwise he’d simply be dying for his own sins. The message of the Gospel is clear:
Jesus came and led a perfect life; he suffered and died in our place, for our sins, so that we could be forgiven and reconciled to God.
That is why Jesus’ shed blood and his resurrection — his victory over the death that sin brings to the world — is the only hope for us all.
Genesis 15: God confirms the covenant with Abram: http://bit.ly/2s9q7uD
Learn the Bible: Blood Sacrifices: http://bit.ly/2s9xQIX
The Blood of the Lamb, by Timothy Keller: http://bit.ly/2s9r0TT
Lamb of God, by Jill Carattini: http://bit.ly/2s9qRzU