Millions of people have seen "The Passion" - Mel Gibson's film about the crucifixion. If you saw the film and read the reviews, you probably saw and heard how violent and bloody the film was. Of course there's a good reason for this; crucifixions were violent and bloody affairs. They were designed to frighten and terrorize those who witnessed them, and seeing lots of blood usually did the trick. I'm sure Mel Gibson had this in mind when he made his movie, but I wonder if he also realized that the presence of so much blood also had another important significance. A significance concerning the essential relationship between mankind and God.
You see, whenever I read about the priests and their work in the Old Testament I am struck by the layers of rules and regulations that prohibited the ordinary person from coming close to God. Today, of course, we close our eyes and through prayer can communicate directly with God. In the Old Testament only the priests could come close to God in temple service, and only the High Priest could actually be in the presence of God, as it were, once per year to offer the sacrifice of atonement. And not even all priests could serve! You had to come from the right family to secure an opportunity to serve God. However, as Leviticus 21 and 22 inform us, if you had married a divorced woman or someone out of your tribe; if you had any kind of physical deformity or illness; if you had skin rashes or broken a bone; you could not serve as priest or minister in the temple, which was the only way to come near to God.
Mel Gibson's movie, however, and its graphic description of the shedding of Christ's blood brings into focus the idea that it was this blood that changed once and for all the way that we would relate to God, and He to us. So in this Mini Book I'd like to break this thought down by describing the three things that the blood of Christ actually purchases for you and me.
Entry into the Most Holy Place
In Matthew 27:51, Matthew tells us that after Jesus shed His blood and died on the cross, "...the veil of the temple was torn in two..." This veil was a thick embroidered veil that hung between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies in the temple. Only the priests could go into the Holy Place to perform their daily ministry, however, the Holy of Holies that was separated by this veil was entered into only once per year and then only by the High Priest on the Day of Atonement. When this veil was miraculously torn in two at Jesus' death it signified several important things:
- The ministry of the priests as the mediators between God and His people was over. From now on there was to be no closing off of the holiest place where God was; it would be accessible to all.
- Through the blood of Christ, His disciples would be purified so as to allow them to go into the presence of God. In Hebrews 9:1-14 the writer explains that the Holy of Holies and its furnishings represented the true Holy of Holies in heaven, and with His blood sacrifice Jesus had entered into that place to make a way for us there. The author summarizes this idea in chapter 10 when he says,
Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh.
- Hebrews 10:19-20
This means that there are no longer any restrictions for believers to enter into God's presence. Not only are we not restricted by our various imperfections, we get to enter into the very presence of God, not just His symbolic presence as was the case in the Old Testament temple service by the priests.
Now, because Jesus shed His blood, every sinner, every weak and ill person, every widow or divorcee, every man or woman regardless of race or background can come into the presence of Almighty God and make their requests known to Him personally. His blood buys us entry into the divine throne room that was denied for so long to so many.
The second thing the blood buys...
Right to Minister
In the Old Testament I mentioned that only a certain tribe, the Levites, could serve at the temple. To try to do so without being a member of that group would cost you your life. And those who would actually offer sacrifice had to come from a certain family within that tribe. Of course, if there were any kinds of imperfections, even these people were disqualified from service.
But now, through the blood of Christ, all kinds of persons are made worthy to follow and minister in the name of Christ. Paul mentions the background of some of these in I Corinthians 6:9-11,
Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is now the pedigree of most of those who will serve in the kingdom of the Lord Jesus, and they can serve in good conscience because the blood of Jesus has qualified them for ministry. Paul was extremely sensitive to this idea because as one who was guilty of persecuting and killing Christians before his conversion, he felt especially unworthy to serve the Lord. However in I Corinthians 15:9-10 he declares the wonderful reason why he's been given this magnificent opportunity.
I am the least of all the Apostles and am not fit to be called an Apostle because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God, I am what I am...
He could have said "by the blood of Christ" I am what I am, same thing. Cowards, murderers, prostitutes, as well as simple people like fishermen, seamstresses, and slaves were all made worthy to serve the living God in a more dynamic and effective way than even the priests and their elaborate ceremonies of the Old Testament ever did; all because of the blood of Christ.
In the Old Testament only a few were selected and purified to render a limited service to God. Now, everyone purified by the blood of Christ can serve God each day. Education and training provides you with skills in ministry, but it's the blood of Christ that buys you the all important right to serve the Living God of heaven.
A guy with a college degree in religion can call himself a minister, but without the blood of Christ he isn't God's minister. And so, Christ's blood buys entry, the right to minister, and...
The United States uses various strategies to arrive at peaceful relations with other nations and regions in the world. Sometimes it may use a show of military force or provide economic incentives to reach its political goals. The blood of Christ works in this way. It has paid the price for peace in two areas:
Peace Between God and Mankind
When Paul says that Jesus, "...having made peace through the blood of His cross..." Colossians 1:20, he's talking about the conflict between God and man due to man's sins. Each person violates God's commands in one way or another and brings judgment and punishment upon himself. There is no peace between an angry God and a guilty sinner. But Jesus' sacrifice makes atonement for all these sins and restores a peaceful and non-judgmental relationship between God and sinful man. He explains this in Romans 5:1 when he says,
Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God...
Peace with oneself and a sense of peace and security in general are not possible unless a person is at peace with God. The blood of Jesus secures that peace with Almighty God once and for all.
Peace Between Mankind
All those who are at peace with God can now be at peace with their neighbors - wherever they are. The blood of Christ brings together all people into a fellowship of grace and forgiveness that supersedes all the barriers of race and ideology. Paul described this joining of separate cultures under Christ in this way:
But now in Christ Jesus, you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
- Ephesians 2:13
This verse refers to the joining of the Jews and Greeks in Christ. No two cultures could be more different in history, language, and custom than the Jews and the Greeks in the first century. And yet, it was these very groups who were brought together by their common belief in Jesus Christ. It wasn't simply a question of a shared set of religious customs but rather an understanding that despite their outward differences, inwardly they were all sinners needing the blood of Christ to bring them to God, make them worthy to serve, and guarantee their purification from sin.
The blood of Jesus not only unites disparate groups under the lordship of Christ, but it also moves those within this fellowship to treat the rest of the unbelieving world with compassion and the offer of salvation. Whether united by His blood or reaching out to proclaim His blood, or persecuted because of His blood; those who have come under the power of the blood of Christ have peace within and without.
Summary / Invitation
The next time you take communion and are thinking or praying after drinking the bit of grape juice, remember that it represents the blood of Christ shed expressly for you, and realize that without the blood of Jesus your prayers to God would not be heard. Your service to God would not be acceptable. Your sins would not be forgiven. Your heart would never be at peace. My encouragement therefore is two fold:
- When you do take communion, be thankful. It's the one time during the week where you can truly focus on the heart and soul of your faith and appreciate the reason why you have what you have. Be sure you make the effort to take communion every Sunday and have a thankful and reverent heart when you do. My second encouragement for you to consider in reference to the blood of Christ is this...
- Don't kid yourself. Don't fool yourself into thinking that you can serve God or please God, or have peace with God without the blood of Christ. The blood of Jesus is the only way to come to Almighty God, there is no other way. Paul tells us that:
...we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins
- Ephesians 1:7
Peter says that we must:
...obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled by His blood...
- I Peter 1:2
Don't put off obeying Jesus and washing away your sins in His blood by being baptized in His name, just as Paul did when Ananias said:
Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.
- Acts 22:16