This week, we are reflecting on the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross to save us from our sins, which we remember each year on Good Friday. To read the daily devos focused on Easter and the resurrection of Jesus based on Pastor Mark’s new book “Alive: 21 Reasons to Believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ”, click here. For a free PDF copy of Pastor Mark & Dr. Breshears’ Doctrine book, click here, and read chapter 8 about the cross.
Today, most people don’t raise or butcher the animals they eat. We pay someone else to do those things and buy our groceries at the store. In the ancient world, and in many places on the earth today, people lived on farms where they ate the crops they grew and animals they raised for food. As a result, they were a lot more familiar with blood and death.
In fact, one scholar suggests blood is mentioned 362 times in the Old Testament and around 92 times in the New Testament, even more often than the cross or death of Jesus. Thus, the idea of blood is the most common means by which the Scriptures refer to the death of Jesus.
Throughout Scripture, blood is inextricably connected with sin for two primary reasons. First, shed blood reminds us that sin results in death. Second, God is sickened by sin, which causes death, a connection first made in Genesis 2:17 and repeated throughout the Bible. The Old Testament often used the theme of blood to prepare people for the coming of Jesus to die for our sins. In fact, it was God who shed the first blood in human history in response to sin, slaughtering an animal to make clothes to cover Adam and Eve after the original human sin in Genesis 3.
One of the major functions of the Old Testament temple was the slaughtering of animals, as seen by the stream of blood that often flowed out of the temple. Blood is, in fact, a major aspect of Old Testament religion. There were some eleven different sacrifices that fit into one of the four groupings (burnt, peace, sin, or guilt) and sacrifices were made both in the morning and evening, all of which involved blood.
Despite all this bloodshed, the Old Testament sacrificial system was never meant to be something sufficient in itself. When Israel misunderstood the purpose of the sacrifices, putting their faith in the sacrifices themselves, there were three major problems:
- Bloodshed of a substituted animal did not forgive human sin (Ps. 51:16; Mic. 6:6-8; Heb. 10:4).
- It enabled hypocrisy; people could undergo external rituals such as offering a sacrifice without having truly repented of sin and trusted in God internally (1 Sam. 15:22; Prov. 15:8; Hos. 6:6).
- It was only preparatory, prophesying the death of God’s promised Messiah, and therefore incomplete until the coming of Jesus, who made the better new covenant possible (Heb. 7:22, 8:5-7,13).
Today, in the new covenant, we no longer need a priest because we have Jesus, who is our Great High Priest (Heb. 2:17, 4:14-15). We no longer need to offer blood sacrifices because Jesus is our sacrifice for sin (John 1:29). We no longer need to visit the temple to be near to God because Jesus is our temple (Rev. 21:22). We no longer need to celebrate the Passover because Jesus is our Passover (1 Cor. 5:7). And we no longer need to live in habitual sin because, through Jesus, we have been made holy and have been given new life (Heb. 9:26, 10:10).
How does Jesus’ example help you know how to love and forgive those who have sinned against you? Who do you need to forgive as God has forgiven you through the cross?
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