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Meaning of Communion: Blood
The Sacraments, Lesson 10
When I was a kid, my family lived on a farm. Every January, it was lambing season, and inevitably, some of the lambs either lost their mothers during the birthing process, or the mom rejected the lamb. Therefore, we ended up with a handful of bottle lambs throughout the season. For my sister and I, these lambs were our friends. We would play with them and help feed them. We would love on them. And when they were old enough at weaning time to be combined with the rest of the lambs, those lambs still recognized us and came running when we went to visit, even while all the other lambs ran away. And every year, when those lambs were sold, we were always so sad. We knew it would happen, but it was still hard because we knew many of those lambs would end up at the slaughter house.
Maybe that’s why the story of Passover always tugs at my heartstrings. I just imagine those families taking in a lamb and caring for it. The kids may have gotten attached and saw those lambs as a friend, even if they were warned what would happen to them. But those lambs were destined to be a sacrifice. The blood of the lamb was essential to saving the life of the firstborn.
In the same way, the blood of Jesus was essential to saving the life of every human who would choose to believe in him. That’s what we remember when we take the second element of communion: the juice/wine.
Blood as Protection
During the original Passover, the Israelites were instructed to paint the doorframes of their houses with the blood of the Passover lamb. This would protect anyone in that house from the destroying angel that God was sending to kill every firstborn.
Exodus 12:6-7: 6 “Take care of them [the lambs] until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. 7 Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs.”
Exodus 12:12-13: 12 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.”
When the plagues in Egypt were at their worst, God sent a way for the people of Israel to be delivered from the pain and agony of losing their firstborn child. He sent a plan of protection. But it wasn’t without cost. They had to choose a perfect lamb, one without defect. One that could have supplemented their flock or brought a good price at market. They had to care for that lamb, and then when they were probably a bit attached to the lamb emotionally, like I was as a child, they had to slaughter it. It was the only way to save their family. The blood on the doorposts was their path to protection.
Blood as Atonement
In the Old Testament, Passover was not the only time that blood had to be shed. The Israelites also had a system of sacrifices to worship God and atone for their sins. I talked about this in more depth in a Bible Essentials lesson.
God clearly saw blood as necessary for the atonement of sins.
Leviticus 17:11: 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.
It wasn’t enough to say, “Here, God, here’s a lamb” or a goat, or a bull, or a dove, or whatever animal you could afford. It wasn’t enough to bring gifts of grains and oils or jewels and precious metals. An animal had to be killed. Blood had to be shed. A life had to be sacrificed to atone for the sins of the people. The Bible tells us that the penalty for sin is death.
Romans 6:23a: For the wages of sin is death.
Even from the very first sin, it appears that God killed an animal and used the skin to make clothes for Adam and Eve.
Genesis 3:21: The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.
And thus, death and shed blood was introduced as a result of sin. This system of shedding the blood of an animal is seen all throughout the Old Testament and even into the New Testament. The only way to atone for sin before a holy and righteous God was to sacrifice a perfect animal, shed its blood, and place that sacrifice on the altar. This was the pre-Christ path to forgiveness of sins.
When Christ came to earth, the system of forgiveness changed forever. Once his blood was shed as the perfect sacrifice, we no longer were required to make a yearly sacrifice to atone for our sins. Jesus was the final sacrifice of atonement.
Romans 3:25-26: 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
Jesus didn’t have to shed his blood again and again. His one final sacrifice was enough to cover the sins of all people for all time. We looked at this more in depth in our Bible Essentials lesson on Hebrews 9, but this concept is repeated again in Hebrews 10.
Hebrews 10:11-14: 11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest [Jesus] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
So many verses in the Bible refer to Jesus’s blood cleansing us from sin. Here’s just a small sample:
Matthew 26:27-28: 27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
1 John 1:7: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
Ephesians 1:7: In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.
Revelation 1:5b-6: 5 To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
It’s clear from Scripture that Jesus’s blood was shed to atone for our sins and allow forgiveness for our sins. But Jesus’s blood also protects us. What does it protect us from? God’s wrath!
Romans 5:9: Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!
Jesus’s blood covers our sins, so when God looks at us, he sees the righteousness of Jesus rather than the filthiness of our sins. This appeases his wrath and allows us to be in relationship with him. It allows us to draw close to God.
Colossians 1:19-20: 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him [Jesus], 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Ephesians 2:13: But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
This fulfills the greatest purpose of God creating humans: For us to be in relationship with him.
In the Old Testament, the blood of one lamb brought protection. The blood of a lamb or bull or goat brought atonement for sins. Then that had to be done again, and again, and again. Only through this continued system of sacrifices and obedience to God could humans have any hope of a relationship with God. Now, through Jesus and his shed blood, we can have all of these things. We are protected from God’s wrath through forgiveness of our sins. Being covered by Jesus’s blood allows us to draw close to God and be in relationship with him. And when we celebrate communion and drink the wine or juice as a symbol of Jesus’s blood, it continually reminds us to remain in him.
John 6:53-56: 53 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.”
As we take communion, let it be a time of reflection. Reflect on the way Jesus endured the torture of his body and the spilling of his blood in order that you might have forgiveness of sins and be reconciled to God. Let it be a reminder to remain in him. If we remain in Christ, we will receive eternal life. This is the gift we have all been given, if we accept it.