I have been reading through the Old Testament book of Leviticus recently, and found one passage particularly relevant and interesting. Much of Leviticus deals with the "Law", and the many "do's and don'ts" associated with the finer points of the Law.
I have always found the notion of the "Blood of Jesus" to be a very mysterious yet beautiful thing. Of course from my cultural background, "blood" doesn't stir up the most pleasant connotations. Most of the associations would have to do with pain, injury or even death, mostly unpleasant thoughts...
People often ask questions such as "Why did Jesus have to die?" or "Why did He endure such a bloody and painful death?" ... And that is not to mention the fact that Jesus told His followers to even "drink His blood" as in the following passage:
Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink." John 6:53-55
Of course, this statement had much to do with Jesus preparing the ground for the idea of Communion. It is also interesting to look at these comments in their context. He said these words not long after the miracle of "feeding the 5000" found earlier in John 6. After seeing that miracle, many of the people seemed to be hoping that He would give them "Manna" or something similar:
So they asked him, "What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.' "
Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."
"Sir," they said, "from now on give us this bread."
The Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never go thirsty."
If Jesus' blood is misunderstood now, surely it was no less controversial back when Jesus walked the earth.
In my reading of Leviticus, I am beginning to see why it may have been way more offensive than it seems to be even today. The section I was reading was discussing all the various requirements of the Levitical priests. There was much discussion about the sacrificial offerings that were to be made on behalf of the Israelites, as well as the laws they were to follow. Many of the sacrifices had to do with sprinkling of an animal's blood to bring the person back into God's favor ("make atonement" is the official term). The altar or other parts of the area in which the ministry was taking place were sprinkled with the blood, and sometimes a person had blood sprinkled on them, or put on parts of their body.
It is apparent that the blood is of utmost importance, symbolically bringing about the person's forgiveness of their sins, etc. In that context, here is the passage that caught my attention (God is speaking through Moses):
"Any Israelite or any alien living among them who eats any blood--I will set my face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from his people. For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life. Therefore I say to the Israelites, 'None of you may eat blood, nor may an alien living among you eat blood.' "
After reading that, I understood a little better why even Jesus' disciples (later in the passage from the book of John) seemed to be taken aback by this teaching:
On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?"
Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, "Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life..."
The thought of drinking His blood (or eating His flesh, for that matter) must have been more than just repulsive for all the typical reasons, but also because the idea of drinking blood was clearly against their Law.
Now, as Jesus explained to them, He was speaking to them in spiritual terms, not of drinking His earthly blood, but of the pure spiritual "blood" that would bring about their cleansing in a complete and final way. The "blood" and "body" that are commonly thought of as the elements of Communion.
The very fact that the Israelites were forbidden to drink blood makes Jesus' command for us to drink His blood even more striking to me. It seems to be contradictory, but I think perhaps it points out that His "blood" is the only blood that is OK to "drink" ... And the verse in Leviticus seems to give a clue as to why this blood is so significant.
As stated in the earlier passage: "For the life of a creature is in the blood", and "it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life."
So, the way I read it, Jesus is (among other things) beckoning us to drink His blood to be filled with His life; and to let His blood make "atonement" for us (that term has been aptly explained in this way: "at-one-ment") ... reconciling, or making us "at one" with God the Father. When we let Him into our lives, and "drink Him in", His very blood begins to course through our veins.
Now that's mysterious and miraculous if you ask me...
If you already have a close friendship with Jesus, I pray that as the Easter season approaches, He will fill you anew with the wonder of the gift of His blood that not only covers you, but also courses through your veins.... And if you do not yet have a relationship with Jesus, I hope that you will consider allowing Him to enter into the "door" of your heart, take up residence within your life, and let His "living water" and His precious blood quench your thirsty soul.