Several years ago, I lost a lot of blood which required a blood transfusion. I remember how much I felt like part of the life had been sucked out of me—even weeks afterward. It made me appreciate how vital blood is to life. Similarly, Leviticus 17:11 says that “The life of the flesh is in the blood.” In Hebrews 9:16-22, the author graphically depicts how the Levite priests would cut the throat of the sacrificial animal and sprinkle the blood on the tent, all the vessels which were used for worship, and even the people:
For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
I must admit that I have always found these explanations of the Old Testament sacrifices quite gory. And I can even imagine the wretched metallic smell that would have permeated the whole area. I don’t know about you, but I am truly an animal lover. It is hard for me to picture the life draining from a sweet lamb or a powerful ox.
The Necessary Sacrifice
Yet, the blood was necessary because our sin, even just one, is really that bad and worthy of death. Al Mohler in his exposition of Hebrews says, “The substitutionary animal sacrifices in the old covenant were vivid reminders that transgressors deserved death.” In other words: the blood is a picture of the costliness of sin.
It is easy to become accustomed to our sin or to justify it. The more we see sin in our culture and in our own hearts, we lose sight of the pure ugliness of each sin we commit. We forget that each sin requires atonement, a gory blood sacrifice. As Mohler says, “While the old covenant required incessant and imperfect offerings that could not purify the depths of the human heart, Christ accomplished final and full purification.”
As we approach Easter and all that it reminds us, let’s picture the sacrifice it truly represents. Let us picture the blood pouring forth and the life draining from our precious, perfect Savior as he gave his last breath on our behalf. Let’s remember that it is our sin that put him there.
It reminds me of the hymn “Jesus Paid It All,” first written in by Elvina Hall in 1865 and sung in churches all over the world:
Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow