Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 2:13d “. . .by the blood of Christ.”
The transition of Gentiles from “far off” to “nigh” was made possible by a historic event, the death of Christ. To bring us near, God’s Son had to shed His blood. This shows how far away we Gentiles actually were.
Blood is the red fluid which circulates in the arteries, veins, and capillaries of vertebrates. It conveys oxygen and nourishment to the tissues and removes from them carbon dioxide and other waste matter. Being essential to human existence, “blood” is often used as a symbol of life itself.
Because a perfect Savior freely poured out His life-blood as a ransom for sinners, “the blood of Christ” has taken on extraordinary meaning. To believers, “the blood” is a phrase pregnant with staggering significance. It is shorthand, an abbreviated way of calling attention to the numerous and varied ramifications of Christ’s redemptive work accomplished on the cross.
Some object to the word “blood.” I hasten to object to their objection. Some denominations have deemed the word “blood” as gory butchery, and have taken from their hymnals songs which use the term. The cross is often considered scandalous, and a stumbling block (1 C 1:23), by the overly refined. We reject such finicky spirituality with but a wave of the hand and press on to celebrate the theme we love. While the ninnies whine, the rest of us go merrily on our way, singing, “There is power in the blood of the Lamb; Are you washed in the blood; The blood will never lose its power.”
“Our gospel is a gospel of blood; blood is the foundation; without it there is nothing” (Lloyd-Jones). Taking out the blood of Christ would leave the New Testament without a theme and without a purpose.
I admit, “the blood” is not a pleasant thought. It conjures up images of slaughter and suffering. It is painful to realize our praises can rise only because of a Savior’s cries. We can sing solely because He moaned. We are able to pray only because He agonized. We can rejoice because He wept.
A death involving blood, by definition, indicates the loss of comfort and gladness, and signifies cruel death, harsh demise, painful death. Jesus’ death was caused not by natural causes or disease, but “by the sharp sword of divine vengeance” (Spurgeon). A blood ransom was needed. The soldier’s spear in His side was but a picture of God’s sword sheathed in His heart.
The death of Jesus was horrible and gruesome. Our church’s Easter pageant accurately depicted what actually happened. Some mothers had to take little children out of the services because they were crying in the scenes where soldiers were cruel to Jesus. I am thankful there were hearts in the audience tender enough to cry about it. Someone ought to cry. We should never become steeled to what is entailed in the phrase “the blood.”
We are sometimes guilty of trying to divert attention from the crucifixion’s horror. Years ago I talked with a dear friend, Kevin Larkins, to see if he would do some landscaping for our church. I asked him to design on our hillside a cross-shaped display of flowers. He immediately objected, saying we would be guilty of sugar-coating and beautifying something about which we should never forget its terribleness and ugliness. I did not necessarily agree with Kevin’s concern about flowers in the shape of a cross, but I rejoiced to hear a saint expressing concern about keeping the death of Jesus in proper perspective. It was a terrible remedy for a terrible malady.
Ours was no small problem needing a little cure. We had a deadly disease which required nothing less than the healing blood of divinity. We reverently say even Jesus could bring us nigh only one way, by His blood.
Fortunately, when Jesus did spill His blood, He shed it not only for Jews who were “nigh,” but also for we Gentiles who were “far off.” John the Baptist declared (JN 1:29), “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of. . .Israel(?)”–NO! He takes away the sin of the whole world. John the Beloved (1 J 2:2) said Jesus is the propitiation “for the sins of. . .Israel(?)”–NO! Jesus is the propitiation for the sins of all the world.
Even we lowly Gentiles are redeemed by Christ’s blood (EP 1:7), and can sing, “Redeemed how I love to proclaim it, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.” Even we coarse Gentiles are cleansed by the blood (1 J 1:7), and one of our number could write,
There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains. (Wm. Cowper)
We insignificant Gentiles even enter into the holiest by the blood (HB 10:19). If we say this too loudly, Caiaphas will roll over in his grave.
Let the Circumcision no longer demean the Uncircumcision (EP 2:11). We are second class citizens no more. In the past, Jews had a symbol of faith; Gentiles had none. When asked what was the token of their salvation, the Jew could reply, “Circumcision.” The non-Jew had no answer to this question, but now the believing Gentile can reply, “The blood of Jesus.”
Using a knife, the Jew performed a one-time rite to picture faith. A Christian Gentile also enacts a one-time rite to picture faith. The believer stirs the waters of baptism to symbolize one’s acceptance of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus as the means of salvation.
The Jew wore his badge of circumcision as a continual, lifelong reminder of faith. A Christian Gentile also has a continual, lifelong reminder of faith. In the Lord’s Supper we hold in remembrance the truth that the life of Jesus poured out is the only way we were enabled to come to God. We partake not merely bread, but broken bread, the symbol of a crushed body. We drink not only juice, but juice separated from the bread, a symbol of blood separated from the body, and thus an apt picture of death.
Gentiles suffer from disadvantage no more. The Jews could rightfully say Gentiles were not parties in the old covenants, but we are alienated no longer. Jesus said, “This is My blood of the new covenant” (MT 26:28). And though we Gentiles missed out on the former covenants, we are now participants “through the blood of the everlasting covenant” (HB 13:20).
“The blood” is everything to us. We glory in Jesus’ perfect, sinless life. We triumph in His victorious resurrection, and eagerly anticipate His triumphal return, but the heart and soul of everything we believers hold near and dear is grounded in Jesus’ death. Paul’s words to the Corinthians were well chosen, “I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 C 2:2).
Let nothing preempt the proclamation of the cross. Spend more time talking about the crucifixion than about any other particular subject. Jesus died for the sins of the world. Tell it to everyone everywhere everyday!
If you would draw sinners, preach the blood. It captures attention. Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (JN 12:32). The crucifixion continues to be the magnetic appeal, the arresting attraction, of Christianity. It remains the most powerful wooing agent we have. The blood brought me into the kingdom. My dad’s telling of Jesus’ death on the cross broke my heart, and drew me to salvation.
The beauty of Christ is epitomized at Calvary. He wins more love there than He could ever win elsewhere, because the story of the cross personalizes the Gospel. The beauty of Golgotha is that it applies to each individual. Many have died heroic deaths, but the telling of their stories does not compare to talking of Calvary. The death of Socrates has no special claim on our hearts. The death of Lincoln does not command allegiance from us. Thousands have died as martyrs, but Jesus’ death is different in that everyone can say of it, “It is for me, as much as if I were the only one Jesus died for.” As we rightly portray the blood of Jesus, a sinner is forced to deal with the truth that this One died for me, for my sin, in my place.
The shedding of Jesus’ blood was the worst crime ever perpetrated on earth. His crucifixion was the ultimate manifestation of man’s sin at its worst, but also served as the climactic manifestation of God’s love. The event which exposed the true enormity of wickedness in man’s heart also revealed the vast love in God’s heart.
Do you wish to speak eloquently of God’s love? “The blood” says it all. To save us, God the Father gave up One who was the center of His heart. In turn, that One had to empty His heart of blood. “It flowed from his head, thorn-girt, that it might atone for sins of thought; from his hands and feet, fast nailed, that it might expiate sins of deed and walk; from his side, that it might wipe out the sins of our affections, as well as tell us of His deep and fervent love, which could not be confined within the four chambers of His heart, but must find vent in falling on the earth” (Meyer).
The shed blood of Jesus pictures a divine life laid down, a priceless gift given in behalf of others. However, it is all for nought in an individual’s life unless the benefits of the shed blood are personally appropriated.
When Moses read the book of the covenant aloud, the people vowed, “All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient” (EX 24:7). Only after they made a valid commitment did Moses sprinkle them with the shed blood of sacrifices. The benefits of sacrificial blood must be appropriated. Shed blood provides no advantage until applied on the basis of commitment. Once the Israelites made a proper commitment, and once blood was applied to them, a beautiful thing happened. For the first time, YHWH was called “the God of Israel” (EX 24:10). The title and the relationship it depicted were made possible by shed blood applied on the basis of commitment.
Appropriating the sacrifice of Jesus means confessing, “It should have been my life poured out, and I acknowledge this by pouring out my life unto God.” Life is man’s most precious physical possession. Since God gave His most precious possession in Jesus’ deed, man’s only adequate response must be to offer nothing less than his most precious possession to God in return.