The Wonderful Cross: The Blood of Jesus, Part 1

In November 2004, Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago joined several other hospitals around the country experimenting with the use of a synthetic blood substitute called Polyheme. Loyola made the decision to equip some of their ambulances with this blood substitute, which was a big deal because ambulances usually do not carry human blood since it requires refrigeration. Ordinarily, patients would receive a saline solution IV in the ambulance to hold them over until they arrived at the hospital. The idea was that Polyheme could be used with patients of any blood type in the hopes that it would save the lives of trauma patients before they got to the hospital.

But clinical trials would later show that patients who received this experimental blood substitute actually fared worse than those who received the standard saline IV. Ultimately, Polyheme failed to gain FDA approval. In the final verdict, Polyheme was deemed an inadequate substitute for real human blood.

The Scriptures declare that there is no substitute for the blood of Jesus Christ. As we continue our series on the cross today, we focus in on the power of Christ’s blood shed for us, which is an idea that dominates the New Testament.

Did you know that references to the blood of Jesus in the New Testament are three times as frequent as references to the death of Jesus? That’s a fascinating statistic. The writers of the New Testament are constantly pointing us to the importance of the blood of Jesus.

Why is that the case? Well, the writers of the New Testament aren’t trying to be grotesque by talking so much about blood. And they weren’t simply using a metaphor that could easily be replaced with another. No, the Holy Spirit inspired them to teach about the salvation that only comes through the blood of Christ — because there is just no other substitute for it. In the words of the old hymn, nothing but the blood of Jesus can save us.

The modern church would do well to remember this truth. In many churches today, you don’t hear much about the blood of Jesus. And there are probably plenty of well-intentioned reasons for this. But if we’re going to stay true to the content of the New Testament, you simply cannot avoid the blood of Jesus. The New Testament writers have a lot to say about it.

Of course, these New Testament references to the blood of Jesus often hearken back to the sacrificial system we read about in the Old Testament. The Jewish sacrificial system prepared the people to understand what the writer of Hebrews says so succinctly:

Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

Hebrews 9:22

A great deal of what the Hebrew writer describes is found in the Old Testament book of Leviticus. If you started a daily Bible reading program in January, then you’ve probably hit Leviticus by now. Leviticus describes the requirements for those Old Testament sacrifices and a lot of it seems really tedious to us. But this might help you as you read. In the book of Leviticus, the gap between God’s holiness and our sinfulness is so great that the sacrificial offering has to be made on a regular basis. That’s what these sacrifices were all about: temporarily bridging that gap. Through these sacrifices, God has graciously provided the means for the continual restoration of the people, in spite of their sinfulness.

Here is one passage that essentially summarizes the entirety of the book of Leviticus:

For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.

Leviticus 17:11

I like the way Fleming Rutledge puts it: “The OT sacrificial system has a gentleness about it that is hard for us to see from our distance, but perhaps we can grasp the general idea of God’s patience and kindness in giving his perpetually wayward people the means to stand before him.”

All of those laws in Leviticus that deal with the offerings were designed to point beyond themselves, to teach us that atonement for sin costs something. These laws were not capable of providing ultimate forgiveness; as it says in Hebrews 10:4, For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. No, these laws were simply signs pointing to a deeper reality — pointing us to Jesus. It’s as if the entire Old Testament was pointing to what God would do through the cross of Christ.

That is why the blood of Jesus is so important.

This entry was posted in Faith, God, Jesus, Kingdom Values, Preaching, Quotes, Scripture, The Wonderful Cross, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.