The Blood of Jesus

crucifixionWhat will bring on the feeling of nausea most quickly for you? Is it the debris left on pavements by people who have drunk excessive amounts of alcohol the night before? Or maybe it’s those little presents left for you to step in by anti-social dog walkers who don’t clean up afterwards? Displays of wobbling body tissue resulting from a diet rich in carbohydrates is high on my list.  But what is most likely to cause you to faint? For me it is the sight of blood in the wrong place, especially my own. What is it about blood that makes us queasy, nauseous or likely to faint?  Perhaps it is because deep down in our subconscious we equate blood with life.  There are seven essential biological functions of blood that keep us alive.

  1. Red blood cells transport oxygen from the lungs to every cell in our body.
  2. White blood cells defend the body against invading microorganisms.
  3. Blood transports nutrients from the digestive system and when needed, from our storage reserves to every cell of the body. So fat is beautiful. Well some…
  4. Blood transports hormones from our endocrine glands to target tissues in need.
  5. Blood removes metabolic wastes from every cell to organs that excrete them.
  6. Blood helps maintain fluid balance in the whole body.
  7. Blood helps distribute metabolic heat within the body to maintain a healthy body temperature.

How does blood achieve these seven functions? Your body contains between 4.7 and 5.5 litres of blood which is between 7% and 9% of your ideal weight. Your heart pumps those 5 litres of blood through your body, every second of every day. About 1,665 gallons (7,571 litres) of blood a day passes through your heart. That is the equivalent of 83 gallons per hour, or more than 6 litres per minute. So it takes about one minute for all your blood to make the round trip passing through your heart. And when you are exercising and your heart is pumping faster, the round trip takes much less than a minute.  Blood is essential to life. God created blood to distribute oxygen and nutriments to every cell in your body and then remove waste and impurities from those cells. Blood literally cleans out the filth from your body. There is no other cleansing agent that can purify our bodies as well as the blood that is pumping through our veins right now.

Perhaps that is why the Bible speaks of blood so often.

“For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” (Leviticus 17:11)

We learn from this:

  1. Life is in the blood. Shed blood represented a death.
  2. The shed blood reminded of the seriousness of sin.
  3. The shed blood was the price of forgiveness.

Sin leads to death. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Death is the payment. Jesus took this to a whole new level.  At the Last Supper Jesus explained that the Passover wine represented his own blood.

“Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:27-29).

On another occasion he was even more explicit.

“Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:35)

In our Bible reading from Hebrews 9, we see the significance of the blood of Christ in relation to the Mosaic law regarding sacrifice and to the meaning of words of Jesus at the Last Supper.

“This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. When Moses had proclaimed every command of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.” In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:18-22)

Did you observe the significance of that last sentence?

“without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22)

There is no cleansing. There is no forgiveness apart from the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing demonstrates the costliness of forgiveness more.

Jesus paid on our behalf.  Let’s explore Hebrews 9 together and learn of the significance of the blood of Christ for our cleansing, for our forgiveness, for our very life.

  1. The Context: Jesus prefigured in the Temple sacrifices
  2. The Contrast: Jesus superseded the earthly sacrifices
  3. The Confession: Jesus saves by his unique sacrifice
  1. The Context: Jesus Prefigured in the Temple Sacrifices

The context, or the key to unlock our reading tonight is found in the preceding verse – Hebrews 8:13. Remember – there were no chapters in the original.

“By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.” (Hebrews 8:13)

Some theologians talk about the two covenants as if they run in parallel – one for the Jews and one for the Gentiles. Some predict that the Jews will rebuild their Temple, and reinstitute animal sacrifices. Many Orthodox Jews try and live under the terms of the Mosaic Covenant. But this verse and what follows insists there is no place for a temple because there is no need for one. What then was the purpose of the Tabernacle and Temple in the first place?

“Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary… But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still functioning. This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings – external regulations applying until the time of the new order.” (Hebrews 9:1, 7-10)

What do we learn about the first covenant?

  • The First Covenant was Restricted

Was limited geographically to an earthly physical sanctuary with specific furniture, strict regulations and fallible priestly mediators. (Hebrews 9:1-5). Only the High Priest could enter the sanctuary and only on one day of the year with blood offered for his sin and that of the people committed in ignorance… “the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed.” (Hebrews 9:7-8)

  • The First Covenant was Imperfect

The sacrifices were imperfect because they had to be repeated, “indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper.” (Hebrews 9:9)

  • The First Covenant was Temporary

“They were only external regulations applying until the time of the new order.” (Hebrews 9:10)

The sacrifices institutes under the first covenant could never take away sin – they merely provided a temporary covering which is why they had to be repeated. But more significantly they were temporary until the coming of the one perfect sacrifice. The One John the Baptist described as “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29).  This is the Context: Jesus was prefigured in the Temple sacrifices, limited, imperfect and temporary.

  1. The Contrast: Jesus Superseded the Earthly Sacrifices

“But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

For this reason, Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” (Hebrews 9:11-15)

Key words: “but” (Hebrews 9:11); “how much more” (Hebrews 9:14); “new covenant” (Hebrews 9:15)

2.1 The New Covenant is Perfect

“But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands.” (Hebrews 9:11)

Notice the New Covenant is God’s initiative. He came from heaven to earth to save. Jesus was the perfect sinless one.

2.2 The New Covenant is Eternal

“He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.” (Hebrews 9:12)

From heaven to earth and from earth to heaven. He came in time to save us eternally. Once for all. Perfect, eternal

2.3 The New Covenant is Liberating

“How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Hebrews 9:14)

The New Covenant is perfect, eternal and liberating.

We are saved to serve. Freely, joyfully because we have been forgiven and set free, not just our bodies but our consciences also. Three words that sum up the grace of God revealed in the atoning, redeeming work of the Lord Jesus Christ. The New Covenant instituted in his blood is perfect, eternal and liberating.  So we have seen the context: Jesus prefigured in the temple sacrifices. And we have observed the contrast: Jesus superseded the earthly sacrifices. Finally,

  1. The Confession: Jesus Saves by his Unique Sacrifice

“For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:23-28)

This is where it gets personal. Let me ask you: “are you waiting for him?” Because, “Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many.” (Hebrews 9:28).

Are you assured that you are counted “among those who are called” (Hebrews 9:15), that you are among “the many” (Hebrews 9:28). How can you be sure? Are you longing for his coming or are you afraid of his coming? A slave is afraid when their master returns. A child is glad when their parent returns. Let us read 9:27-28 again,

“Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:27-28)

We will all die. That is the one certainty in life. One day we will face judgement. We know its true. If we long to see dictators, tyrants, war criminals and abusers judged, then our sense of justice or right and wrong is a sign that we cannot escape scrutiny either. The fact is there is just one of two places for your sin —either your sin is on you, or it is on Christ. If you have not accepted the sacrifice of Christ, if you are not trusting Him as your redeemer, then there is nothing ahead of you but the judgment of the Great White Throne. No one who appears there is going to be saved, but the good news is the blood of Jesus is the only remedy.

In every church service we include an opportunity for confession. It is not a formality. The apostle John writes,

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:7-9)

There will be an opportunity to confess our sins a little later in our service but I want to give you an opportunity now. In an unusual way. Robert Lowry wrote a hymn in 1876 with one haunting sentence repeated over and over again. We are not going to sing it – but I’m going to invite you to say it silently with me.

“What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

For my pardon, this I see,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
For my cleansing this my plea,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Nothing can for sin atone,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
Naught of good that I have done,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

This is all my hope and peace,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
This is all my righteousness,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Now by this I’ll overcome—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
Now by this I’ll reach my home—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Glory! Glory! This I sing—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus,
All my praise for this I bring—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”[i]

John Philips, the commentator observes,

“Today many look with revulsion on the shedding of blood that formed such an essential feature of the Old Testament religion. They consider with equal horror the New Testament’s teaching concerning Christ’s blood. They shudder with abhorrence at many of the gospel hymns that emphasize the efficacy of the blood of Christ. Those who thus scorn the shed blood have their eyes blinded both to God’s blazing holiness and to the dreadful, …nature of sin. Sin is a radical and terrible reality that calls for a radical and terrible cure.”[ii]

In Hebrews 9 we have discovered what makes Christianity unique among all other religions. We have realised the significance of the precious blood of Christ, poured out for us. Not a waste but the supreme sacrifice of love. Next time you see some blood spilt, remember the vital functions of blood. Remember the precious blood of Jesus. Remember the blood of the Jesus cleanses us from sin and removes all poisonous wastes from the world that will kill us. Remember the blood of the Lord Jesus transports nourishment into our spiritual cells so we can truly live. Remember the blood of the Lord Jesus will defend us against the powers of evil, keep us safe, give us peace and bring us home.

 

[i] Words & Music: Robert Lowry, in Gospel Music, by William Doane and Robert Lowry (New York: Biglow & Main, 1876).

[ii] John Philips. Exploring Hebrews. (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1992) p. 118.

 

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