We can have no relationship with God without blood.
Some Christians would rather this not be so, desiring a clean and easy path to reconciliation with God. They want to take showers, put on clean clothes, liberally apply hand sanitizer, and stroll boldly into God’s presence. They want nothing to do with blood. Blood entails violence. And violence, they say, is always unnecessary. All we need is love.
Unfortunately, humans wrecked the opportunity to operate in that way. We’ve blocked our own pathway to God by selfishness and, yes, violence. The wages of sin, the apostle Paul wrote, is death (Romans 6:23). Death is when blood stops flowing. It pools. Our bodies harden. And they put us underground.
Is putting a body in a box and piling six feet of dirt on top of it violent? Is it violent to take that body-in-a-box and burn it? Our world is marked with all sorts of unpleasant things, and death is one of them.
We associate blood with death, and blood makes us uncomfortable because of that. The only time we see blood, a lot of blood, is when something has died.
But blood ultimately is a symbol of life. Without blood, no human being could live. When the blood is taken away, life stops.
The people of Israel saw this play out in real time. The oxen were sacrificed. The blood drained out of those animals. The symbol of life was held in a bucket.
Moses read the Book of the Covenant – we assume this to be Exodus 20-23 – and he sprinkled the blood on the people. They were marked by this symbol of life and sacrifice. The animals were offered fully to God, given over entirely to him – symbols of the people’s dedication now to God. The oxen were given over in the people’s place. This also was a picture of atonement, after all (Hebrews 9:22). The people were never going to be able to keep the Law.
Moses called the blood of those animals, now thrown onto the people, “the blood of the covenant.” It sealed the deal. It marked how things would go between a holy God and his unholy people. Death, unfortunately, would always be part of the project. And so would blood. Sin remained with God’s people. They were not yet holy.
And so the people could have no relationship with God without blood – and sacrifice. Neither can we. But somehow God has made this work in our favor.
When Jesus offered the bread and the cup to his disciples at the Last Supper, he said the wine represented “my blood of the covenant.” This was something new – and something old. Our covenant with God is sealed not by the blood of oxen – by the blood of non-human things. Rather, it is sealed with the blood, the symbol of life, of the perfect man. Jesus gave himself entirely over to God, recognizing our inability to keep the Book of the Covenant – and our need for forgiveness.
Jesus’ blood is a sign of life. This is the blood we ought to desire – sprinkled on us.
This gives meaning to the Lord’s Supper we take each Sunday. Here is the blood that binds us to God.