What is your first thought when you see large qualities of blood outside the human body? Probably it is not an appreciation of the pretty colour.
About a year ago, we had our daughter over for a visit. At one point, Abby walked out of the bathroom covered in blood. It was in her hair, on her face and all over her arms. The shock of seeing that was probably the closest that I ever had to having a heart attack. Thankfully, not only was it not her blood, it was not really blood. It was fake blood that belonged to Justus’s Halloween costume. What a relief! But it was a reminder of how we respond to the presence of blood. It causes a panic.
Blood is a common image in both the Old and New Testaments. But that doesn’t mean that churches are always comfortable with it. I served on staff at a church that a policy of not singing any songs, old or new, that mentioned blood. They were afraid that visitors would think we were a cult. I was scheduled to preach one Sunday and my passage mentioned the blood of Jesus. I wanted to conclude my sermon with a hymn about the blood of Jesus. Since this was against policy, I had to argue for it. I finally convinced the team to do the hymn if I introduced it with some teaching about the blood. I did so and there was indeed a visitor there that Sunday. But instead of being offended that I mentioned the blood, she was offended that from her perspective I didn’t put enough emphasis on the blood. She a tore a strip off me in the greeting line at the end of the service. Of course there was a search committee just a few people behind her that had come to here me preach. Thankfully they still hired me despite the accusations of heresy by our visitor.
The passage that we are looking at today deals with blood. Some people, when looking at the Passover, focus on the Passover meal. While that is interesting, I’m going to focus on the blood of the lamb and what that means for us as followers of Jesus.
We need to put this passage into context. At this time the Hebrew people had been in slavery in Egypt for many years. God raised up a man named Moses to bring them out of slavery. A simple request from Moses to Pharaoh was not going to do the trick. Moses had to demonstrate power by calling down a number of plagues on Egypt. This was important because, although one level this was a conflict between Moses and Pharaoh, it was really a conflict between the God of Israel and the gods of Egypt. Conclusive power was the only way to end the conflict.
The final plague was to be the death of the firstborn sons of the Egyptians. This sounds extremely harsh to us and it should make us feel uncomfortable. However, we should also remember how this all started. The Hebrew slaves had multiplied and Pharaoh fearing their numbers, ordered the death of all male babies. Moses was one of those babies that the Egyptians had attempted to kill. I believe that the death of the Egyptian firstborn was a direct response to what the Egyptians had done to the Hebrews. That doesn’t make it feel good but it does provide some reasoning. The tragedy that took place was started by the Egyptians. Actions have consequences.
The Hebrew people had the warning that the death of the firstborn was coming. They were told to kill a lamb and to mark their doors with the blood of the lamb. When the angel of death came, he would pass over the homes with the blood. This didn’t mean that the Hebrews were perfect or sinless. It simply meant that they were throwing themselves on God’s mercy and the blood of the lamb, an animal associated with innocence, was the symbol of this faith. By the time the day was over, the Hebrew people were safe from God’s wrath.
The Last Supper
Let’s fast forward over a thousand years. The Jewish people were still celebrating what God had done in the days of Moses and how they received their freedom. One group of these Jews was led by teacher named Jesus. Jesus and his friends had arrived in Jerusalem to eat the Passover meal together. This would be the last meal that they would have together. This was no accident. Jesus could have come to Jerusalem at any time of the year and his enemies would have been happy to arrest him. But Jesus purposely chose the time of Passover. Just as God had freed the Hebrews from physical slavery, God was about to free his people from spiritual slavery. Once more blood was going to play a prominent role and again it would be the blood of a lamb. Just not a literal one. Much earlier, John the Baptist pointed at Jesus and said, “Behold, the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world.” Jesus was the perfect Lamb, his blood would do what the blood of a literal lamb could never do.
Jesus, during the Passover meal, took familiar parts and infused new meaning. Jesus took the bread and broke and said, this is my body which was broken for you. He took the cup and said this is my blood which was shed for you. The next day, his body really was broken and his blood was really shed. The Passover Lamb, the Lamb of God was killed and his blood was more powerful than anyone could have possibly imagined.
What does this mean for us? It is much more than ancient history or abstract theology. This blood is applied, not to our door posts but to our hearts. This means that when God looks at us, he doesn’t see our mistakes and faults. God sees the blood of the Lamb and we have no need to fear. The blood of the Lamb gives us reason to hope. We know that we fall short of God’s standards. There is no division between the sinners and the saints. We are all in need of God’s mercy. And with the blood of Christ, that mercy is available to all.
I began by reminding us that the appearance of blood usually makes us think that there is something wrong. Let me tell you another story. My father got sick in his early 70s. His bone marrow stopped producing blood. Completely. He could not make any of his own blood. That could have easily been an instant death sentence. But thankfully regular transfusions of other people’s blood gave us three more years with him, three more years for him to enjoy his two oldest grandchildren. In his case, blood was not something to fear, it was something that gave hope.
The blood of the lamb gave hope to the people in the time of Moses. The blood of the Lamb of God gives us hope today. We don’t have to walk around dejected because of all the ways that we miss the mark. The blood of Jesus covers us and it is that blood that God sees. This blood should fill us with hope.