If you read entire Bible, you’ll discover that it talks a lot about blood. And if you read carefully, you’ll see that it’s all pointing to theblood of Jesus—His sacrifice.
When we’re born, we’re born in blood. We will have this dependence and association with this substance all our lives—even as I speak blood is being pumped into my body and your body—when our bodies stops pumping blood and it ceases to course through our veins, we die. Leviticus 17:11 tells us, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.” That was written 2000 years before Jesus was even born! The centrality of blood for humanity was established by God in the sacrificial of the first people He created. So hear this: It is blood that makes one right…atoned….at one with God. From the beginning, blood was holy, sacred and unique in God’s eyes. It represents life, purification, newness.
It’s also true that no sacrifice or shedding of blood for sins has been offered, per the God’s instruction, in over 2100 years. You will recall all that the prophets and Jesus Himself had said would happen to the temple in Jerusalem, where all sacrifices were once made. It all happened in 70 A.D. when Titus commanded his Romans soldiers to lay siege Jerusalem.
During that long siege a terrible famine raged in the city and the bodies of the Jews were literally stacked like cordwood in the streets. Mothers ate their children to preserve their own strength. The toll of Jewish suffering was horrible but they would not surrender the city. When at last the walls were breached Titus tried to preserve the Temple by giving orders to his soldiers not to destroy or burn it. But the anger of the soldiers against the Jews was so intense that, maddened by the resistance they encountered, they disobeyed the order of their general and set fire to the Temple. As you know, there were tons of gold and silver there which had been placed in the Temple for safekeeping and used for decorating the temple. This melted and ran down between the rocks and into the cracks of the stones. When the soldiers captured the Temple area, in their greed to obtain this gold and silver they took long bars and pried apart the massive stones. Thus, quite literally, not one stone was left standing upon another. The Temple itself was totally destroyed, though the wall supporting the area upon which the Temple was built was left partially intact and a portion of it remains to this day, called the Western Wall.
So the temple is gone, but for over 4000 years a sacrifice was required to atone for sins, for a cause or a special event. A blood sacrifice covered the sins of a nation, family or individual. Prior to Jesus the blood sacrifice was the only was to atone for sins. Think of the hundreds of thousands of beautiful, innocent animals that were slaughtered for the sins of men.
Most of us here have had a pets. And a good many of you have raised livestock. There’s a bond between a good pet owner or owner of livestock and his animals. You can tell a lot about a person when you see how they care for their pets or livestock. Up until the temple was destroyed in 72 AD, Jewish law prohibited torturing or mistreating livestock, and, for example, cutting the limb from any living animal, and required that animals meant for human consumption had be slaughtered as humanely as possible. It’s a good law that should be practiced by those that hunt or fish as well.
Even today, for food to be kosher, an animal must be slaughtered through a process in which the animal is killed with a single stroke of the knife. To kill an animal in a Kosher manner is generally understood to cause less suffering to the animal than modes of slaughter that do not guarantee immediate death.
So then, and now with Jews, it is not allowed to torment the animal by cutting the throat in a clumsy manner, by piercing it, or by cutting off a limb while the animal is still alive. The ancient Hebrews, and Christians today, are permitted to eat meat, but are commanded to take precautions to ensure that our love of meat does not cause unnecessary suffering to animals. Thus, the first five books of the Bible prohibit both cooking a young animal in its mother’s milk or taking eggs or chicks from a nest while the mother bird is present (Deuteronomy 22:6). These two laws indicate a concern for the emotional pain of the mother bird or cow, who should neither see nor participate in the killing of her children.
I share this because there’s something fundamentally wrong with anyone that takes pleasure in killing or hurting an animal, or assumes that the animal has no feelings. Our God says that it does! I am not suggesting that anyone here turn vegan, but the animals are God’s gift to us, but we’re also tasked with caring for them. When they were sacrificed, they shared in our redemption and restoration to God. We’re blessed to have them!
In addition, we should careful of how we understand and explain the shedding of blood to children. “The common understanding of a sacrifice goes like this: "God is holy and perfect. We are not. Therefore, God is angry with us and has decided to kill us because of all our sins. But because He’s merciful, he’ll let you bring an animal to him and will have the animal killed instead of you. Thankfully, Jesus came to be the one who gets killed by God instead of us. Jesus rescues us from God, so now we can go forever to the happy place after we die and not the bad place.
Is this story recognizable to you? If so, you’re not alone. The main problem with this story is that it contains enough biblical language to pass for what the Bible actually says about animal sacrifice and Jesus’ death. However, when you step back and allow Leviticus and the New Testament to speak for themselves, you can recognize this story as false. These misconceptions about God’s character most often originate in Leviticus and then go on to fundamentally twist our understanding of God in the rest of the Old Testament. This misunderstanding has a domino effect—it distorts what we believe about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection in the New Testament." (Adapted from “The Bible Story”)
Our God is a loving God that cannot tolerate sin, this is true, and because of sin we will all die one day, this is also true. But God did not call for us to kill animals so that they could take our place. It was the shedding of blood that removed the stain of sin and the penalty of separation of God for eternity. God loves us—and frankly loves the animals that were killed for the shedding of blood.
But we’re reminded in the letter to Hebrews that the Old Testament blood sacrifices were temporary and atoned for sin only partially….for a short time; hence the need to repeat the sacrifices yearly. But when Christ entered the Most Holy Place, He did so to offer His own blood once for all time, making future sacrifices unnecessary. This is what Jesus meant by His dying words on the cross: “It is finished” (John 19:30). Never again would the blood of bulls and goats cleanse men from their sin. Only by accepting Jesus’ blood, shed on the cross for the remission of sins, can we stand before God covered in the righteousness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).
What is sin and why does it require atonement? Sin is the act that vandalizes, infects, and defiles God’s good world. This idea is rooted in the depiction of human rebellion found in Genesis 3-11. Sin is the result of fractured relationships, and it leads to power struggles, violence, and widespread, systemic evil.
Animal sacrifice was a common practice in the ancient world. But it has a totally different meaning and significance in the Bible—the Israelites are not dealing with the angry, volatile gods of their ancient neighbors.
For the Israelites, cutting an animal’s throat and watching its blood (that is, its life) drain from its body was a visceral symbol of the devastating results of their sin and selfishness. The stakes are high—human evil releases death out into the world. Your lies, boasting, cheating, profanity and lusting might not seem like a big deal to you, but’s it’s corrosive to your soul and those with whom you live and work—it’s a contradiction of what God wants for you and who He is.
However, the animal’s death was not just a reminder of sin’s tragic consequences. The animal’s life was also offered as a symbolic substitute. If sin vandalizes God’s world with death and pain, then God has every right to make people face the just consequences. But God loves his creation and does not want to kill them, so the animal’s life is symbolically offered as a ransom payment that would cover them.
Blood represents life—the lack of blood is death. At the temple blood was believed to symbolically wash the temple of death and defilement —so it was sprinkled around the temple. Blood was placed on the doors of Hebrews when the death angel came to Egypt and killed the first born—-the blood on that door protected them from God’s anger towards the sin of the Egyptians. Any Hebrew that did not put blood on the top of the door and sides of the door experienced death.
The symbolism of animal sacrifice in the Bible is a concrete expression of God’s justice…. and grace. It reminded the Israelites of the serious nature of sin and the consequences. Ultimately, these sacrifices showed the Israelites how much God wanted to stay in his covenant relationship with them. He wanted them to become the kingdom of priests he called them to be.
John was a Jew and a disciple of Jesus who grew up going to Jerusalem for Passover every year and offered many sacrifices in the temple throughout his life. He also spent time with Jesus in Galilee and Jerusalem. And most significantly, he was one of the only male disciples who watched Jesus die on the cross. When he reflected on the meaning of Jesus’ death and how it was a sacrifice for our sins, he did not say anything about God’s anger or how he wanted to kill people—just the opposite. He speaks of Jesus’ sacrificial death as the ultimate expression of God’s love.
John said: “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
How was Christ blood shed for us? It’s said that during the flogging right before the crucifixion He bled 1/3 of his blood. When his hands and feet were pierced more blood was spilled, and when His side was pierced and blood and water poured out, it was evidence that died of a heart attack from all the trauma to His body, the suffocation He was frighting on the cross, and the colossal loss of blood.
But my friends, there is power in Jesus blood that Jesus sacrificed for you and me—and not just the power to to save us. But also to sanctify us. In most churches, both Protestant and Catholic, the focus in the sanctuary is the altar—-and in some churches it is made of stone to represent an ancient altar were the sacrificial animal’s blood was spilled. We see the altar representing Christ’s spilled blood and broken body. Every few months we place upon this altar symbols of the body and blood of a lamb—-the Lamb of God. Frankly, it’s proper that the altar, or offering table, is central to our architecture in churches—it’s all about the blood, spilled on God’s altar for us. We’re justified by Christ’s blood….and we experience progressive sanctification by that same blood.
Have you been washed in the blood? And if you have, are you allowing His Spirit to bring you to the sanctified place He wants—He died to save you and to bring you perfect and holy to God. You’re the only one that can slow down the process of being made holy….