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The story of Jesus Christ is bloody—bloodier than most of us are willing to contemplate. Centuries of artistic expression have whitewashed the horror of Calvary. Instead of a naked convict, we have the loincloth-clad Christ. Instead of a face ripped, bloated, and bleeding from hours of beating, we have serenely closed eyes. The thorns aren’t imbedded and crushed into His head; instead, they are lightly placed—the blood simply a trace. True, we are given pierced hands and feet and the deadly wound in His side. But all these appear on an otherwise unscathed hide. And thus, our view of His sacrifice has been sanitized of its primary offering—blood.

Blood is disturbing. Blood is offensive. Whenever we see it outside the body, we instinctively know that something is wrong. There are many people who don’t need to bleed to go into shock; all they need to do is see it and they faint! Is it any wonder, then, that the blood of Jesus Christ has been bandaged up for discussion in polite company? We witness to the world of Jesus bringing them joy, of Christian principles and the Golden Rule. But how often do we tell them that they must be bathed in the blood of the Only Begotten?

Constantine the Great outlawed crucifixion in the fourth century A.D. It wasn’t until late in the sixth century that crucifixes began to appear in churches. This means that by the time artists began depicting the crucifixion, no live witnesses of this terrible form of execution were left. But this was not the case in the life and times of Jesus the Messiah. Crucifixion was a fact of life.

Matthew 16:24-25
24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross , and follow me.
25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

We have the cultural insulation necessary to allegorize these words of the Master, but those who walked with Him didn’t. Execution in their day wasn’t behind closed doors away from the public eye. No, one could watch his countrymen die by the hundreds and thousands as they bled and rotted on rough stakes of wood planted in the roadside. The cross meant suffering. The cross meant pain. The cross meant death. And the cross was bloody. These words of Jesus were hard words (and still are!). And they aren’t alone among His hard sayings.

John 6:53-56
53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.
54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
55 For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.
56 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.

If you have had Holy Communion even once in your life, you may feel somewhat confident in your understanding of these verses. I know that I have often felt this way while reading them. But before we smugly assume to know what the Lord meant by these words, we should hear the testimony of those who heard Him speak it.

John 6:60-61, 66
60 Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?
61 When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you?
66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

Blood words are hard words. Before we simply theologize these words of the Lord Jesus through judicious use of symbolism or church sacraments, we should consider these His disciples—people who heard Him teach it “live” and were unencumbered by the language and cultural barriers to understanding that we face—even they found it too hard a saying to follow. Was it because they didn’t understand it, or because they understood it all too well?

Matthew 26:26-28
26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.
27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;
28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

Jesus presented His blood in covenant language. His disciples, devout Jews, could not have missed the import of placing His blood in the context of the “new covenant.” No covenant was made without blood. He was prepared to shed His own to remove sin from mankind. But mankind must eat and drink.

This is an aspect of the faith many Christians take for granted and which many non-Christians find odd, if not abominable. How can one man die for another? And why should another’s blood avail for me? Man’s pride exhibited in self-righteousness fights against the grace which would freely set him at liberty.

The main religions of the world try to deal with sin by behavior modification (i.e., ascetic disciplines) or denial (i.e., man isn’t intrinsically sinful), but rarely if ever by blood. Even Judaism, whose past is awash in the blood of animal sacrifice, came to the conclusion not long after the destruction of the second temple that blood wasn’t really as much a requirement of God as it was His concession to them because of their pagan past!

Atonement and remission of sin through the shedding of blood is the theological riverbed of all Scripture. If we don’t understand this basic principle in the economy of God, we are destined for spiritually impoverished lives. To gain all that God has for us, we must follow the blood trail.

It is my hope that this study can serve as a trail guide to understanding the importance of the blood of Jesus Christ and how we are to apply it to our lives. I have employed two primary paradigms for the presentation of this material: 1) the Law instructs us about Christ, 2) the natural order teaches us about the eternal power of the Godhead. Let us examine the second premise first.

The Creation Teaches Us about the Creator

Romans 1:20
For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse…

The entire material realm wasn’t simply made as a habitation for man. It was created with the intent that it should educate him to the unseen qualities and character of the Godhead. This truth is what brings excitement to scientific study. When we study the creation, we should learn of the Creator. The things made instruct us of their Maker. The natural order teaches us about the spiritual.

1 Corinthians 15:46
Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.

Though this verse is speaking specifically about Adam and Christ, it illustrates a principle in the economy of God: first the natural, then the spiritual. This is one of the reasons why God asks for obedience in order for us to gain understanding. It is in the doing of natural things that often times seem foolish (e.g., preaching, washing of feet, tithing) that spiritual lessons come. He put our treasures in earthen vessels; He intends those earthen vessels to be means of instruction.

John 3:12
If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?

Throughout His discussion with Nicodemus, Jesus used natural things (birth, sight, water, flesh, wind) to teach about spiritual things (the kingdom of God, Spirit, being led of the Spirit). Nicodemus’s lack of comprehension elicited the comment by the Master, “If you don’t understand what I’ve told you about the earth, Nicodemus, how are you going to understand anything I have to say about heaven?” We need to believe the lessons He teaches us through the earthly things so that we can move on to the heavenly realities. This is the educational program of God.

Human Blood – Some Natural Facts

Having seen that the natural order teaches us about the unseen world from which the eternal power of the Godhead emanates, let us now turn to an examination of human blood.

An average male of around 150 pounds has a blood volume of about 5.3 quarts. This is more blood than a four-cylinder car has oil! The body doesn’t need this much blood to operate, but maintains this blood volume in case of emergency. This is why we can survive even substantial bleeding.

But Jesus bled all He had for us. Well over a gallon of blood poured out of Him from the time He prayed in the Garden to when the soldier pulled the spear out of His side. As He bled for you and for me throughout His tortures, His body moved to compensate. His heart rate increased. His adrenal glands secreted epinephrine into the bloodstream, and His veins and arteries constricted to maintain blood pressure.

Sometime after the first precious quart was shed, He began to go into shock. His heart rate increased yet more, beating in love for you and for me. While His skin grew cold, sweat still poured out. His eyes dilated and His lungs became even more desperate for air. As one quart lost increased to two or three, vital organs began to fail and death became imminent. He hung on in weakness. Fighting through a mental haze caused by lack of oxygen, He managed to declare, “It is finished.” And then He gave up the ghost.[1] Unsure and surprised, the soldier thrust in his spear and extracted the last reserves of the cleansing blood and brought forth the testimony of the promised Holy Spirit (John 19:34).

His blood, like ours, was composed of red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and plasma. Red blood cells transport oxygen from the lungs to all of the body’s tissues. This is a marvelous reality which was revealed to Moses thousands of years before red blood cells were ever examined under a microscope and their oxygen-binding iron atoms discovered.

Genesis 2:7
And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

Upon receiving the breath of life from God, man became a living soul. The Hebrew word translated soul is nephesh. Later in the “volume of the book” it is revealed where nephesh resides.

Leviticus 17:11
For the life [nephesh] of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.

What modern science has taught us, the Bible has been declaring all along. The breath of life is in the blood—the red blood cells carry oxygen.

White blood cells help to provide defense to the body by digesting microorganisms and cellular debris. They also provide immunity to disease by producing antibodies. Where red blood cells bring life, white blood cells protect that life by attacking invaders.

Platelets are vital in coagulation. They stick to torn vessel walls and form the mesh upon which a clot builds. They also release chemicals that initiate the clot formation. Where white blood cells protect us from infection, platelets guard us after an injury.

Plasma serves as the transportation medium for the other major components of blood. The basic composition of plasma resembles seawater, consisting of water and dissolved salts. Aside from being the transportation system for blood components, nutrients, and waste products, it also helps maintain blood pressure and keeps an even heat distribution[2] and pH balance[3] throughout the body.

Meditation on these functions of the different parts of our blood should render insights into some of what the blood of Jesus Christ does for and in His Body, the Church.

The Old Covenant Is only a Type of the New

Hebrews 8:4-5
4 For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law:
5 Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.

All that Moses was instructed to build in the wilderness was a pattern of the reality which is in heaven. Every article of furniture, every piece of cloth, every arrangement and ceremony spoke of heavenly realities. As we look at them, we need to understand that they are only shadows and pray that the Holy Spirit would shed His light on them that we may behold them with unveiled face.

Hebrews 10:5-10
5 Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:
6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure.
7 Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.
8 Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law;
9 Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.
10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Verses 5-7 record our Savior’s parting words when He left the glories of heaven to unite Himself to mankind. “Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.” The word translated “book” is defined by W. E. Vine as follows:

Kephalis NT:2777, lit., “a little head” (a diminutive of kephale, “a head”; Lat., capitulum, a diminutive of caput), hence, “a capital of a column,” then, “a roll” (of a book), occurs in Heb 10:7, RV, “in the roll” (KJV, “in the volume”), lit., “in the heading of the scroll” (from Ps 40:7).[4]

This declaration was first written by the Prophet/King David. The scroll and volume available to him was none other than the Torah, the book of the Law: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These books describe the sacrificial system in painstaking detail. They all speak of Jesus and they are given to us to increase our faith.

John 5:45-47
45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust.
46 For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me.
47 But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words [Grk. rhema]?

Jesus lists faith in the writings of Moses as a prerequisite to faith in His sayings. His sayings are the rhemas of Christ, the hearing of which brings faith (Rom 10:17). This process feeds itself. It is the very writings of Moses which, when viewed with face unveiled, cause us to move from glory to glory by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Cor 3:13-18). As we examine the Torah with hearts open to the revelation of Jesus Christ, our faith increases in the words of Jesus. As we receive the words of Jesus in faith, faith comes more abundantly on us. As we return to the Law with increased faith, Jesus is revealed. As Jesus is revealed, our faith in what He tells us grows larger…and on it goes. If we are to have faith in the blood of Jesus Christ, we must learn and have faith in what Moses wrote about blood.

Redeemed by the Blood

1 Peter 1:18-19
18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;
19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot…

We were not bought with corruptible commodities such as silver and gold, but by the precious blood of Christ, unspoiled by any blemish or spot. His perfect blood brought forth a perfect union of God with man—access to the holiest of all by the blood of Jesus. His blood not only purchased us to God, it protects us from the enemy.

Revelation 12:11
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

It is by the blood we were redeemed. It is by the blood that we overcome. We need to hear the words that speak of the blood and the words that the blood speaks that our faith might increase, our fellowship deepen, and our warfare be victorious. And to this end we shall proceed.

[1] Insights on the effects of shock due to blood loss were gained from “Physiological (from cardiovascular disease).” Encyclopaedia Britannica from Encyclopaedia Brittanica 2004 Ultimate Reference Suite DVD. Copyright © 1994-2003 Encyclopaedia Brittanica, Inc.
[2] Plasma is 90 to 92 percent water. Water is the best liquid heat conductor except for mercury. Thus, plasma is able to absorb large amounts of heat and distribute it evenly and efficiently throughout the body.
[3] pH stands for “potential of hydrogen.” The higher the pH, the more alkaline a substance is; the lower, the more acidic. Plasma helps keep a steady pH balance in the body. If we become too base, our salt is only good for being trodden underfoot (Matt 5:13). If we become too acidic, our bitterness threatens to defile many (Heb 12:15).
[4] from Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Copyright (c)1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers.