THE IMPORTANCE OF THE PRECIOUS BLOOD OF JESUS
Since the time of Christ, people have stumbled over the doctrine that Christ had to shed His blood to atone for our sins. When Jesus announced to the twelve that He had to go to Jerusalem where He would suffer and die, the apostle Peter rebuked Him, saying, “Lord, be it far from thee, this shall not be unto thee.” (Matthew 16:21-22). The apostle Paul wrote, “For the word of the cross, to them indeed that perish, is foolishness….” He went on to say, “But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews indeed a stumbling block, and unto the Gentiles foolishness: But unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18, 23-24).
Liberal theologians hate the idea of Christ’s blood paying for our sins. They have called such views “slaughterhouse religion.” They ridicule Christians who believe in a God who would be petty enough to be angry over our sins, and pagan enough to be appeased by blood.
But from the start of human history, God has made it plain that forgiveness of sins is only possible through the shed blood of an acceptable sacrifice. When Adam and Eve sinned, they became aware of their own nakedness and sewed fig leaves together to try to cover their guilt and shame. But God did not accept their approach. Instead, He clothed the guilty couple with the skin of a slaughtered animal (Genesis 3:21). In so doing, God demonstrated in a graphic way the horrific penalty of sin, but also His great mercy in providing an acceptable sacrifice.
God no doubt explained to Adam and Eve and their children the type of sacrifices that He would accept. Abel obeyed God by bringing a sacrifice from his flock, but Cain presented to God an offering from the fruit of the ground. God had regard for Abel’s offering, but He had no regard for Cain’s offering (Genesis 4:3-5). In anger, Cain murdered his brother. And in his pride and rebellion, Cain became the father of those who hate God’s ordained way of offering up a lamb that was slain. It is interesting that he refused to shed the blood of a lamb and yet he was willing to shed the blood of his own brother.
Pagan religions have always practiced appeasing the gods or spirits through blood sacrifices. Sometimes they have even gone so far as to offer human sacrifices, including their own children. But we would be mistaken to think that the Jews adopted their sacrificial system by copying the pagans.
Perhaps some in the Hebrew Church had unbelieving Jewish friends who ridiculed them because they believed in a crucified Messiah. But the entire Jewish system of worship was based on blood sacrifices, and that God instituted that system to point ahead to the one all-sufficient sacrifice of Jesus Christ made present each time we have the Mass. To go back to the old system would be to return to a system that never could cleanse their consciences and to abandon the eternal redemption that God provided in Christ. In our text, he hammers home the point that forgiveness of sins comes only through the blood of Christ. “without shedding of blood there is no remission [of sin].” Hebrews 9:22
1. Everyone needs forgiveness of sins because our sins have alienated us from God.
You can deny guilt and become hardened to the point that your conscience no longer bothers you, but if God is holy and if you have violated His holy standards, you stand legally guilty in His courtroom. So the main issue with guilt is not just guilty feelings, but it is also, in the words of NCSI's Abbey Sciuto, “actual forensic liability.” If God condemns you in the day of judgment, your guilt becomes eternal. God’s decreed final penalty for sin is eternal separation from Him in the lake of fire (called “the second death,” Revelation 20:14).
Sinners usually deny their need for God’s forgiveness by diminishing the holiness and justice of God and by magnifying their own goodness or merits. They wrongly think, “Surely God is love, and a loving God wouldn’t send a good person like me to hell.” But the Bible is clear that God is not only Love but He is also absolutely holy and just. He will punish all sin. His love does not mean that He sets aside His holiness or His justice. The Bible is also clear that we are far more sinful in God’s presence than we ever imagined. We are born alienated from God because Adam’s guilt was imputed to us. We quickly added our own sins to Adam’s guilt! We incurred guilt by violating God’s holy standards, both by our deeds and thoughts.
Being alienated from God, we need a mediator to reconcile us to Him. Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5). “He is the mediator of a new covenant” (Hebrews 9:15). If you have ever been involved in a legal dispute, a mediator may help the two sides come to a satisfactory agreement. He listens to the terms of both sides and tries to work out a solution. Christ knew God’s absolute holiness. He also knew man’s enormous debt of sin. He took on human flesh, lived in complete conformity to God’s holy standards, and then offered Himself as the price of redemption that God’s justice demands. In so doing, He brought God and Man together (see 2 Corinthians 5:18-21).
As a side note. To all those who would question the Catholic teaching on “no salvation outside of the Church.” It must be understood that The Church is the bride of Christ. (Ephesians 5:25) She was born out of his side when He was pierced with a spear at Calvary. (John 19:34) She is bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh. (Genesis 2:23) She is His body. (I Corinthians 12:27) So when St. Paul says that Jesus Christ is the mediator it includes His whole being. It means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body.
Let us keep in mind that after death we are going to stand before a holy God. We mediator to reconcile him to God before that day comes. Jesus Christ is the only such mediator. His shed blood is the price of redemption for sinners who surrender their lives and put their trust in Him.
2. God’s method for the forgiveness of sins has been the shedding of blood.
God decreed that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). In Leviticus 17:11, God explains why blood must be shed: “Because the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you, that you may make atonement with it upon the altar for your souls, and the blood may be for an expiation [amendment] of the soul.” God’s justice demands the payment of the penalty, which is death. In His mercy, He will accept the death of an acceptable sacrifice in the place of the death of the sinner. The system of animal sacrifices under the old covenant pictured and pointed ahead to Christ, the lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world (John 1:29).
Blood graphically pictures the costliness of sin.
In Hebrews 9 the word “blood” occurs six times in verses 18-22, plus “death” or “dead” three times in verses 15-17. Have you ever thought about how gory and messy the Jewish religion was? Everything was sprinkled with blood. The priests slaughtered dozens and sometimes hundreds or thousands of animals at the altar. They took bowls full of blood and sprinkled it on the altar. The carcasses were burned on the altar, so that the smell would have been constant and overwhelming. To be transported back in time and witness the sacrifices at the tabernacle would be a shocking experience for most of us. The blood graphically pictured the cost of sin.
If there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood, then the opposite is also true: with the shedding of blood, there is forgiveness! As we saw from Hebrews 9:9, the Old Testament sacrifices could not make the worshiper perfect in conscience. They sanctified for the cleansing of the flesh, but “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God”!
We would not associate sprinkling blood on things as cleansing them, but rather, as staining them. If you’ve ever gotten blood on a nice shirt, you know that you need to rinse it out quickly or it will permanently stain your shirt. To think of taking blood and sprinkling the book, the people, the tabernacle, and all the sacred vessels seems like it would dirty them, not cleanse them.
But modern medicine has revealed how accurate it is to speak of the cleansing property of blood. Dr. Paul Brand, who specialized in the treatment of leprosy, wrote about how the blood is designed to cleanse the body of toxins and wastes that are built up in the tissues:
“No cell lies more than a hair’s breadth from a blood capillary, lest poisonous by-products pile up…. Through a basic chemical process of gas diffusion and transfer, individual red blood cells, traveling slowly inside narrow capillaries, simultaneously release their cargoes of fresh oxygen and absorb waste products (carbon dioxide, urea, and uric acid). The red cells deliver these potentially hazardous chemicals to organs that can dump them outside the body.”
He goes on to tell how the lungs and kidneys, plus the liver and spleen, work to cleanse the blood of these poisons to keep our system cleansed and healthy. Each red blood cell can only sustain the sequence of loading and unloading these chemicals for about a quarter million circuits. Then they are broken down and recycled by the liver, while the bone marrow releases new red cells to continue the process (about four million cells per second!).
God designed this as a beautiful picture to show that just as blood cleanses our bodies from poisons, so the blood of Christ, applied to our hearts by faith, cleanses our souls from the poison of sin. The blood of Christ was shed to provide the cleansing from sin and forgiveness that we all need.
Catholic doctrine teaches the faithful that the blood of Jesus Christ is part of His Sacred Humanity and hypostatically united to the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. Let us show honor toward the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ during this month of July.
ETERNAL Father, I offer Thee the most Precious Blood of Jesus Christ, in satisfaction for my sins, in supplication for the holy souls in Purgatory and for the needs of Holy Church