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The instruments of salvation (II): The Blood

"For, as life, it is the blood that makes atonement" (Lev 17:11)

Why blood? The blood has a very special meaning to any of us, for it represents life; if we lose blood we become weak and if we lose a great amount of it we may lose life. As to understand its sacred meaning in relation to life, the Scriptures teach us to take much care in not consuming the blood of animals (cf Gen 9:4; Lk 19:26; Act 21:25) and also to avenge the shed blood (cf Gen 9:6; Dt 32:43).

The law of the Old Testament explains: "For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you making atonement for your lives on the altar; for, as life, it is the blood that makes atonement" (Lev 17:11). In this way Yahweh revealed to Moses that:

  • The blood represents and in it resides the life of the person.
  • The shedding of the blood is necessary to make righteousness when sin is present.
  • God does not desire our death, although we are sinners.
  • God provides the blood to be shed in place of ours.
  • God’s people must understand the power of the blood and use with faith this blood that God provides to redeem them.
  • The sacrifice is offered to God on the altar with the dual purpose of obtaining pardon, atonement, and to reestablish communion with God through a blood covenant or pact.

A teaching on blood. As we have seen in relation to the cross, also along the salvation history there is much teaching on the blood and its meaning. In their turn, these teachings speak to us of the blood shed by Jesus Christ in his Passion and Death on the Cross.

Cover. In this narrative of Genesis, "the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden" (Gen 3:8) because of their sin. The justification of the man was: "because I was naked; and I hid myself" (Gen 3:10). In fact, when sinning, "they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves" (Gen 3:7). For the first time man became aware that he was naked, that he was in need of something, and that he needed a cover. Before sin, the glory of God was man’s cover, the original sanctity, the righteousness man walked in, covered him. But while losing this because of sin, man finds himself naked and he has to hide his misery and his sin for in this condition he cannot remain in the presence of God. Man’s solution: covering himself with fig leaves. In our days, we men, many a times try to hide our real self and to appear as just before God with the work of our own hands, with our own righteousness. But God did not accept that cover as valid and made himself a cover for man: "And the Lord God made garments of skin for the man and for his wife, and clothed them" (Gen 3:21). Here we see that it is God who provides a valid cover to hide the sin of man so that he can remain in God’s presence. But, let us notice that this cover had to do with blood. God killed animals to use their skins as cover. Some commentators say that when the man and his wife received these garments, the skins were soaked in blood, so that they were really covered with the blood of the sacrificed animals, as not to die.

The idea of dress speaks of protection, shelter, defense, hiding at the same time our shame: all this the blood does for us. Abel and Cain learned from their parents what was pleasing to God and learned these principles. However, only Abel obeyed and offered God what he was asking for, and as such was counted as righteous. When Abel was murdered by his brother his blood was claiming for revenge and justice. Now, we have "a sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel" (Heb 12:24), the one of Jesus Christ, the Just, the Holy Lamb. That is our true and final cover, provided by God, and which does not claim revenge, but mercy and forgiveness.

Salvation. More than 500 years have passed after the Covenant that God had made with Abraham, when the descendants of Abraham cried out to God (cf Ex 2:24) and God delivered them from slavery to Egypt. How valuable was that blood Covenant with Abraham (Gen 15)! God sent plagues to Egypt, the last of them affecting the firstborns. God saved the people of Israel from the death of the firstborns and the Pharaoh had to allow the Israelites to leave the country. They were saved and set free by the blood of a year old, spotless lamb or goat that they had to sacrifice: "They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. […] The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses were you live" (Ex 12:7.13).

The two doorposts and the lintel: on the sides and above and the cross is revealed! sprinkled with the blood of a lamb. The Cross of Christ is the true door of salvation, that stops death and opens for us the road to freedom; his blood redeems and saves us. The Blood of Christ is a sign for our house!

Cleanliness. Leprosy was a cursed infirmity besides being infectious, and those who were suffering from it had to live outside the camp or outside the city, away from the family and their house, with their entry forbidden. But when a leper was cured, he could lead a normal life, recover his family and his possessions and be reintegrated in the camp. For this he had to submit himself to a ritual of cleanliness (cf Lev 14): outside the camp, a priest would sacrifice a bird and with a hyssop sprinkle the former leper with blood. The blood was collected into an earthen vessel, which also contained water; cedarwood, crimson yarn, hyssop and another live bird were also used for this ritual and for this they were dipped in the blood of the slain bird. Immediately after this, the one that was being purified was sprinkled seven times with blood, and then declared purified. The live bird was then released.

The leprosy represents the curse of sin, as an infirmity that covers man and prevents him from entering the kingdom of God and from enjoying the riches of the Father’s house and from life eternal. According to some authors, the two birds represent the Death and the Resurrection of Christ, the cedarwood represents the cross and the yarn his Passion and the hyssop the faith through which we apply his blood over our life to be declared cleansed.

The seven times that the blood was sprinkled represent the seven times that Christ shed his blood: from his forehead (cf Lk 22:44), face (cf Is 50:6), head (cf Mat 27:29-30), shoulder (cf Mt 27:26), hands (cf Ps 22:16), feet (Ps 22:16) and side (cf Jn 19:34).

Protection. A new sacrifice was made when the one who had been purified entered the camp (cf Lk 14:10ff) and blood was applied to the lobe of his right ear, and to the thumb of his right hand and to the big toe of his right foot. Once this was done, the purified man could enter his tent and the Tent of Meeting, to have communion with God. These three applications of blood remind us of the three enemies we have: the blood covers our ear to protect us against the voice of the devil, the accuser; it covers our right thumb as symbol of protection against the flesh and its concupiscence; and covers the right big toe as protection for our steps, so that we may not fall into the charming and deceitful ways of the world, but instead walk in the Spirit. After its application to these parts, the remaining blood was poured over the head, to cover and protect our entire being from the crown of the head to the sole of the feet. Again the power of the applied blood!

Atonement. Literally speaking "to atone" means "to cover". Atonement for sin with blood "covers" us so that we human beings and sinners are declared innocent and our sins are blotted out.

  • In the Law of Moses it was established that sacrifices should be offered for sin. The sacrifice was carried out in the external part of the Tabernacle or of the Temple. The blood of the sacrifice was taken once a year, on the Day of Atonement by the High Priest to the Holiest Place -the Holiest of the Holies- and the seat of mercy was sprinkled with it. This seat was the pure gold lid that covered the Ark of the Covenant. If God accepted the sacrifice, the atonement for the sin of the people would to take place.
  • The priest would lay the hands over the animal that was going to be sacrificed and whose blood was going to be shed as atonement for sin. By the laying of the hands, the sin of the people was placed over the animal that was going to be sacrificed. Jesus Christ is the slain Lamb "without defect or blemish" (1 Pt 1:19) who "by the hands of those outside the law" (Acts 2:23) was slain in our place.
  • As in the altar of sacrifice (cf Lev 17:6) the Blood of Christ covered the beam of the cross that supported the same Christ. This sacrifice of Christ took place outside the city of Jerusalem, so the blood had to be taken to the Holy of the Holies. For this, Christ went into the heavens, and acting as High Priest for all men of all times carried his own blood before the throne of the Father, presenting it for the redemption of the world, on an altar of gold before which the seat of mercy was a mere shadow. The Father accepted the sacrifice and thus through the Blood of Christ, we were reconciled with God!

Purification. The same Law and the sacred vessels dedicated to the worship (cf Heb 9:21-22) were sprinkled with blood and thus purified and consecrated. The faithful can also apply the blood of Christ over his belongings purifying and consecrating them to the Lord.

Pact. The image of a "pact of blood" among men represents the strongest pact that can ever be made on the earth, a pact that cannot be broken, a sacred pact that lasts until death. But, how much stronger is the divine pact of blood! From Noah (cf Gen 8:20), to Abraham (cf Gn 15) and his descendants (cf Gen 17), to Moses and the people of Israel (cf Ex 24:8), the pacts between God and men have been sealed with blood.

Among the Semites, when two men made a pact between them they used to cut the sacrificed animal into two halves placing one in front of the other and to collect the blood that was to be used to seal the pact. Then both men moved between the two halves of the animal in an "8" shaped movement. With this ritual they were saying: "If you die before me, I will take care of and provide for yours; if any enemy attacks you, I will fight for you; if you or your household is in need, I will defend and keep watch over them. And if it is me who dies before you, or I find myself in any difficulty, you shall keep watch over me and over my household. This pact is until death and also beyond: for it commits our descendants, those after us". When such pact was between the king and a vassal, the king need not to move between the two halves of the animal, for his word was law, his word was pact; only the vassal used make such move and to commit himself to serve the king, while the king committed himself to protect and to consider the man as his vassal, with all duties and privileges that this entitled.

In the sacrifice of Abraham "When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, "To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates" (Gen 15:17-18). The glory of God passed between the halves of the animals, sealing the pact, and God swearing by himself, for he had no one greater than himself upon whom to take oath. This was a double sealing of the pact of blessing Abraham, by being his God and by giving him a land as inheritance and a descent that could possess it. The torch that passed through the blood, carrying the fire from heaven, speaks of the cross of Christ that sealed the New and most perfect Covenant through which God has sworn to bless us.

On the cross, the glory of God passed through the torn body of Christ when he "breathed his last" (Mt 27:50), sealing the indelible and eternal pact. By it, whoever comes closer to the cross and believes in the Savior is a new creature made God’s child. Christ said: "give me your sin and I will give you my righteousness; give me your death and I will give you my life; give me your sickness, and I will give you my health; give me your poverty, I will give you my riches; give me your misery , I will give you my glory; give me your curse, and I will give you my blessings; surrender yourself fully to me, and in exchange I will give you all of me! It is all done and sealed with my blood! I love you and you were mine, and now all of mine are yours, are your inheritance."

God commanded Abraham to keep circumcision (that implies a little blood shedding) for him and his descent as a sign for the people of their Covenant with God (cf Gen 17). Now we the followers of Christ are called to circumcise our hearts, acknowledging our belonging to Christ and not to the world, giving our life —more than our blood—and surrendering our obedience to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

The solution. The Blood of Christ reveals itself as the solution to:

  • Appease the just wrath and the just judgment of God on account of our transgressions, as it is the "blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel" (Heb 12:24) and the adequate wage for the sin against the holy and eternal God.
  • To make atonement and for forgiveness of sins: "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of his grace" (Eph 1:7).
  • As to attain redemption: "For you have been brought" (1 Cor 6:20), as Peter has said "with a precious blood" (1 Pt 1:19).
  • Justification: "We have been justified by his blood" (Rom 5:9), "justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus" (Rom 3:24-26).
  • Reconciliation with God: "For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshy body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him" (Col 1:19-22).
  • To cleanse our conscience and set us free from our past guilty: "For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, how much more will the Blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from the dead works to worship the living God!" (Heb 9:13-14).
  • To wipe away all curse: "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us" (Gal 3:13).
  • To admit us into the presence of God and into a communion with him, setting us free from the abyss that separated us from God: "Therefore, my friends, since we have to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh) and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water" (Heb 10:19-22).
  • To attain victory over Satan: "But they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony" (Rev 12:11).
  • To break down the wall of enmity and to reconcile all peoples of the earth: "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it" (Eph 2:13-16).
  • Seal the blessings of a new and more perfect Covenant. He himself said: "For this is my blood of the covenant, which is being poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Mt 26:28).
  • And we have received an eternal inheritance: "For this reason he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, because a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant" (Hb 9:15).

That precious Blood! Peter says: "You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake" (1 Pt 1:18-20), for us to be "sprinkled with his blood" (1 Pt 1:2).

The Redeemer was teaching about himself that "The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many" (Mt 20:28). Surely he shed his blood, his life, the most precious gift one can imagine. If we compare it with the riches of the earth we are foolish, but if we compare it with the treasures of heaven, we will come to know that it is the greatest of all them. And this precious Blood of God’s Son was shed on the cross of Calvary for me, for each one of us, as a perfect gift of love, love "to the end" (Jn 13:1).

There is only one thing upon which it remains for us to reflect: if this shedding of blood has been for each one of us, how precious our life is for our Savior! Indeed we are his treasures and he does not want a single one of us to be lost!

Then, how much care should we take, not to trample this precious Blood and not to undervalue such a sublime grace!

  • "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; for indeed our God is a consuming fire" (Heb 12:28-29).
  • "How much worse is the punishment do you think will be deserved by those who have spurned the Son of God, profaned the blood of the covenant by which they were sanctified, and outraged the Spirit of grace?" (Heb 10:29).

Questions for sharing:

  • Mention the different uses and applications of blood in the Old Testament. Refer to the practical value for us of anyone of such examples in the light of Christ the Redeemer.
  • Can we apply the Blood of Christ on us? How?
  • What does suggest to you the idea that the Blood of Christ was shed for you salvation?

 

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