Blood is a most interesting thing. I find it particularly curious watching the reactions of children in this regard.
Most often, when a child gets an injury, he or she will run to a parent or other adult and scream, through tears, “Is it bleeding?”
You never know how they’ll take the answer. Often, if the answer is “yes”, the crying cranks up a few decibels.
For some reason, in their minds, the presence of blood on the outside of the body is cause for anguish and despair. They can’t handle it.
If, however, the answer is “no”, there are a couple of options regarding how they will handle it. Shockingly, some of them immediately cease sobbing.
Somehow, the knowledge that there is no blood has completely soothed whatever pain they once had.
Or, perhaps, they were being a little dramatic about the pain in the first place. Others come to the understanding that a lack of blood doesn’t necessarily translate to a lack of pain. In any case, one cannot deny the fascination.
The presence of blood—more specifically, the sight of it—captivates the attention.
Nowhere is this more evident than in our society’s television shows and movies.
I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve been very much into the CSI shows—and some others of its kind. You can’t really turn on a major network without seeing some sort of show similar to that.
Crime dramas are all the rage, but we’ve moved past Sherlock Holmes searching for hidden clues. Now we get an up close look at blood and DNA analysis.
While I find some of these shows entertaining, I must confess that they probably desensitize us to a lot of different things.
Violence and bloodshed and gore don’t cause people to swoon the way they used to.
Interestingly enough, the Bible has an awful lot to say about blood. It also includes its fair share of bloodshed and violence.
As we gather on this Good Friday evening, you might think you know where I’m going with this. We’re going to talk about Jesus and His suffering on the cross.
Of course, you would be correct—in part. But, actually, we are going to start by looking at one of the bloodiest and goriest passages in the Bible.
Surprisingly enough, it comes from the book of Leviticus. We won’t be looking at the blood of humans, however. Instead, it will be animals, whose blood is shed.
It will all come in the context of sacrifice. What we find in this chapter are the sacrificial ordinances that God required of His priests.
I’ll begin reading with verse 3 of chapter 4. (Read Leviticus 4:3-12.)
Immediately, I want us to notice the scope and severity of sin. Did you see what all these sacrifices pertain to, according to verse one?
“When anyone sins unintentionally,” the passage begins. Do you know what that tells me? You and are going to sin. It’s inevitable.
What we are talking about here are those things that we do without even meaning to—or perhaps without even knowing it.
Forget—if that’s even possible—those sins we do intentionally, those harmful and hateful choices that we willfully make all the time.
Even our mistakes require the shedding of blood—blood of sacrificial animals.
Do you know what this does? This eliminates that possibility that, deep down, you are really a good person.
There’s no more of this, “Well, I’m sure God will accept me because I’ve basically made good choices, especially compared to those around me.”
Even the unintentional sins require a sacrificial death. We cannot find ourselves guilty of shifting the standard.
Think about it like this. My favorite basketball team played a rival earlier this season. And we destroyed them—by nearly 30 points.
We had a ton of steals, a ton of slam dunks, and just looked awfully impressive. Local media praised the team, stating that we were coming together and really figuring things out. Things were looking up for the rest of the season.
The next game? We got smashed. Everyone wondered what went wrong. But the truth of the matter was this. That rival, whom we whooped up on?
They were terrible. Beating them didn’t make us a good team. The standard for good basketball certainly wasn’t that monstrosity of a team.
Try as we might to look good in comparison to others, there is none who is good—at least, according to the Bible.
All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, again, according to the Bible.
Even what we might call our “little sinful mistakes” require sacrifice. From the early days of the Bible, these sins meant an animal had to die.
And, to be sure, it was a bloody, bloody death. Take a look, once again, at our passage. The blood of the animal was sprinkled before the Lord.
It was sprinkled on the curtain that led into the sanctuary. What’s more, some of the blood was smeared on the horns of the incense altar located in the tent of meeting.
And then, the rest of the blood was poured out at the base of the altar. Other passages speak of the priest needing blood on an ear lobe, a thumb, and a big toe in order to carry out certain duties.
And this bloody process was not a one-time thing. It was repeated, over and over again. Not only that, but different sins required more sacrifices.
Check out further verses, beginning with verse 13. (Read Leviticus 4:13-21.)
The bloodshed continues in verse 22. (Read Leviticus 4:22-26.) And there’s even more, picking up in verse 27. (Read Leviticus 4:27-31.)
Interestingly enough, we’ve only scratched the surface of the blood shed in regard to these sacrificial offerings.
Were we to cover all of it, we might be here for the rest of the night. But I think we’ve read enough to know this. This temple area reeked of violence, bloodshed, and death. And it came about because of sin.
So why so much blood? Later on in Leviticus—chapter 17, to be precise—we read that God told Moses that the life of a creature is in the blood.
Let’s try to put it together, logically. Sin requires blood. Life is in the blood. Therefore, sin requires life to be taken and given to God. It requires the sacrifice of a life. In other words, it requires death.
This actually jives with what we read in the NT. “For the wages of sin is death,” Paul wrote to the Romans.
There must be blood, in order that justice is served and sin’s punishment is fulfilled.
Should you continue to read on in Leviticus—perhaps even do a detailed study of the sacrificial system for the people of Israel—you would notice something.
The process never stops. The sin never stops, and neither do the sacrifices. There was no chair allowed in the sacrificial area of the temple.
This was because there would never be a time when a priest could sit down, having completed his sacrificial duties.
In truth, believe it or not, the temple was one of the most violent and disgusting places imaginable.
But that bloodshed was the very thing that, at least temporarily, appeased God’s demand for justice in regards to the sins committed against Him.
Yes, every sin is ultimately a sin against God. And, yes, the blood atoned for the sin.
Why? Is it because there is some sort of magical quality to blood? No. It’s because God said so. The life is in the blood, and that life covers sin.
As you might expect, this leaves us with a majorly pressing question. At what point does it all cease? At what point is the price for sin finally paid off?
It’s also often asked, moving ahead to the NT, why Jesus had to suffer in the way He did. It’s not simply the cross, though we will certainly get to that in a minute.
And, though they are spiritually significant, I want to move past the emotional torture Jesus faced—the mocking, the spitting, the insults, and the abandonment.
There was a lot of bloodshed on that Friday. Very early on in His trial, He was beaten on His face. Could the skin have broken open and blood come forth?
Some historians hold that the crown of thorns upon His head might have event made contact with His skull.
There was, without question, blood coming from those head wounds. He was also flogged—likely using a torture device designed to rip the flesh away from the body.
His back was likely exposed and bleeding severely. And then came the actual crucifixion. His hands and feet were literally nailed to that wooden pole.
Once again, there was more blood. Later, His side was pierced. Yet again, there was still more blood. To be sure, it’s a terribly gory scene.
But is it really gorier than what we observed in the temple from our OT account? Yes, we are dealing with a human dying—a God-man, in fact—rather than animals.
But still, should this be a gigantic surprise that this sort of bloodshed was involved, if indeed we truly believe that Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice for our sin.
Ultimately, animals cannot remove the sin of humanity. That whole system was a so “temporary fix”, of sorts, pointing to something greater to come.
Jesus, in truly human form, became that ultimate sacrifice. He endured such awful bloodshed, in part, because it had been foretold long ago.
But what else do we learn in regards to His sacrifice? Why does blood have to be involved? And why so much of it?
To answer that—and I’m certainly not saying that I’m qualified to answer it completely accurately—I’d like us to think back to where I started.
Haven’t we always seen blood as something serious? Even in our adult years, we use phrases such as, “Blood is thicker than water.”
We donate blood. We know that blood diseases are some of the worst. We view some injuries as “not so serious” if there is no blood involved.
Perhaps, blood plays such a dominant role in sacrifices for sin because God wants us to understand what a serious business sin is.
We sometimes play it off with seemingly harmless phrases such as, “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission.
But apparently God even takes the unintentional shortcoming seriously. And forget about ranking sins—especially in a way that make yours seem more palatable.
It’s all in there. Murder, theft, and adultery are in there, to be sure. But so are grumbling, worry, bitterness, gossip, hatred, and lustful thoughts.
It’s all a nasty offense to God. It’s a foul stench rising up to Him. It’s a slap in His face. And it all requires blood.
We so often snicker at or shrug off sinful gestures and actions. We make light of them, using scenarios as fodder for jokes or funny stories or internet posts.
God’s Son, Jesus, died as a result of those sinful gestures and actions. The only ones snickering that day were His enemies.
The only ones making light of His plight on that Cross were those who didn’t understand Him, or why He came, or what the Cross was all about.
Yes, sin is serious business. It is rebellion against God, and the punishment is death—not merely a peaceful death, but a bloody and violent end.
And it was God’s desire that Jesus take that punishment for us. Scripture says that He was pleased to crush Him. And that’s what we commemorate on this Friday.
For the disciples who followed Him, they didn’t get it at the time. There was a whole host of folks who didn’t get it. What were they to do now?
Their leader—the one they claimed to be the Messiah—was dead, buried in a tomb.
We are blessed to know the rest of the story. We are blessed to know about Sunday.
But, for now, let’s allow this moment to soak in. Let’s appreciate the death of God’s sacrificial lamb on that cross.
Let’s remember that it’s our life—our blood—that should have been poured out on that day. And let’s remember a God who cares for us that much.