There is a long history of using “blood” as a synonym for “life”. We recognize the significance of the circulatory system, and how dependent our lives are on our blood flowing as it should. Lose enough blood, and we die 1. The Bible uses this synonym to describe the sacrifice needed to “atone” (compensate) for sin (Leviticus 17:11). It signifies giving all that there is to give.
The Old Way
Throughout the Old Testament, no sacrifice was complete without the lifeblood of an animal. There were offerings of grain, oil, or other goods for various reasons. But to cover the guilt of sin required the sacrifice of a living creature (Leviticus 1, Hebrews 9:6-7). The respite was short-lived, however. People continued to sin, so the sacrifices had to be repeated over and over.
The reason for such a heavy cost of life to atone for sin is justice. The cost is equivalent to the offense, and rebellion against the Creator of all that exists is not a trivial offense!
The high cost is also simple cause and effect. Sin is declaring independence from God, who is the Source of life. Naturally, that separation from God results in the loss of that life 2. How could it do otherwise? It is the equivalent of a plant cutting itself off from its own roots: It may take a little while for the leaves to turn brown, but it is guaranteed to happen.
The sacrificial system allowed people to avoid paying that cost personally, at least for a while, by transferring it elsewhere. But again, animal sacrifice was only a stop-gap, insufficient to fully cover what is necessary to restore the broken life.
The New Way
The New Testament asserts that the ultimate “living creature” was God Himself, the second Person of the Trinity. He became a man, so that He would be able to bleed and die and act as sacrifice to cover the sin of those who accept Him. When the Eternal becomes the sacrifice, then the resulting deliverance is also eternal. No further sacrifice will ever be needed for those who are covered by Jesus (Hebrews 10:11-14). The writer of Hebrews puts it this way:
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?Hebrews 9:11-14, 24-26
For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
When I stop to really think about it, I realize how truly incredible this is. No other religion in the history of the world has claimed a deity that gives so much to His followers. Every other religion has either:
- Nothing, no deity at all;
- An impersonal force; or
- A deity (or more than one) that must be appeased or cajoled, and who answers (or not) at its own selfish whim.
Only Christians worship a God who loves us enough to sacrifice Himself for us. Jesus’ sacrifice defeated sin and its resulting death. It makes it possible for my broken relationship with God to be reconciled, and restored to what God always meant for it to be. I can be reconnected with my Root, and live again!
That is why Christianity is filled with songs like “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood” 3, “Are You Washed in the Blood” 4, “There is Power in the Blood” 5, and “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power” 6. Three hundred years ago, a man named Isaac Watts wrote a song that says this far better than I can…
See from His head, His hands, His feet,When I Survey the Wondrous Cross 7
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?