I used to cringe at the song, “Nothing but the blood of Jesus,” or when I heard someone refer to being covered by his blood; it sounded so, well, gory. But there is no getting around it: blood is at the very heart of the story of Jesus.
Therefore it must be I who was missing something.
I began to pray for greater understanding, and slowly I am beginning to grasp both the necessity and the beauty of Jesus’ shedding of blood.
I’m not there yet, and I’d welcome your additional insights in the comments to this post. (I offer my understanding with the caveat that this concept is a cornerstone to our faith. I hope this post can serve as a jumping-off point to your own deeper discovery.)
Why blood for goodness’ sake? Why is God so punitive? Why couldn’t he just clear the board and forgive our sins without the need for blood?
God is love. God is life.
Sin is death. You’ve heard the passage, “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23).
Those wages are not so much “collected” by God as they are the inherent, inevitable cost of sin. Sin by its very nature is a separation from — and if uninterrupted by repentance, a severing of — our connection to our life source.
God is holy and just.
I’m watching the Netflix docuseries,”The Keepers,” and I am sickened by the sadistic acts of the man who abused and exploited so many innocent girls at Keough High School. If he had been brought to trial and 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.”
In order to forgive others, we must trust that justice will be served in some realm, here and now, or eternally.
Similarly–when we are in need of forgiveness for doing wrong to another–justice also must be served.
Counting the Cost
Here is where our misunderstanding of sin leads us to say, “But what if I’m a good person overall?” “And what about little sins like telling a white lie; that can’t possibly lead to death?”
When we consider ourselves or others to be “basically good people” we are deceived about our true sin nature. Jesus said in response to being called “good Teacher”:
“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 not fully surrendered to God, then we begin to see that there is no such thing as “a little sin.”
That is because sin is not an act so much as a state of mind. Sin is just a manifestation, a symptom of inward rot taking place in our souls, 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 away from God and moving deeper into a state of sin, indulging our flesh, which leads to death.
Once for All
So if all sin leads to death, then the only remedy for our sin is death, which requires the shedding of blood…blood being the essence and symbol of life.
God proclaims this truth from the very beginning. In Genesis, after the fall, God sacrifices animals as a covering for human sin, for Adam and Eve.
In God’s covenant with Abraham God embraced the tradition of Abraham’s time for sealing contracts. Animals were sacrificed, and the carcasses split in two and laid facing each other. Each party then would pass through the carcasses as a physical sign: “If I break this covenant, may the blood be on my head.”
Once Abraham prepared the sacrifices, 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.”
God passed through twice, symbolically stating, “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 significance of 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 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’s why without Jesus there is no hope for salvation.
Absent his shed blood and his resurrection — his victory over the death that sin introduced to the world — there is no hope for the world at all.
Read more on this topic:
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