November 30, 1999
For those who are not squeamish, watching a televised heart transplant offers incredible drama. As the patient is made ready, the surgical team sets up a bypass. They circulate the patient’s blood through a machine that acts on behalf of the damaged heart. After carefully removing the old heart, the skilled surgeons sew in a new one with unbelievably tiny stitches and painstaking care. In the back of your mind, you know that a donor died to give life. This adds to the drama.
After the new organ is in place, the machine is reset and then the amazing climax --- as warm blood is routed through the new heart, suddenly it begins to beat, all by itself. Even the surgeons are in awe. Obviously, without blood living creatures cannot remain alive yet warm blood is only a liquid, merely a conduit for oxygen and nutrients. What a wonder that it has life-giving power.
Blood is a predominant factor in the Bible. While we think about its life-giving properties, blood also points to death. In the Old Testament, about two-thirds of the times blood is mentioned, it relates to the violent taking of life and most of the other usages talk about animal sacrifices.
Pagan religions offered sacrifices yet the Old Testament Jewish system was unique. Their offerings were connected to God’s revelation of how sin must be punished. He said, “The soul that sins must die.” When His people offered their sacrifices, the blood reminded them of the holiness of God and the seriousness of sin.
For them, blood also meant atonement. God hates sin and His Word repeats that “the soul that sins must die” yet He is also compassionate. He promised to send a substitute in good time. While they waited, He told His people that they could substitute an unblemished lamb to atone for their sins.
We do not understand these practices yet there was more to come. The New Testament fully brings out what God had in mind by demanding an atoning sacrifice. While some passages also talk about violent death, the major theme is the blood of Christ shed on the cross for sinners. This too is violence, yet it happened that we might have eternal life.
Blood is the evidence of the death of a substitute. From the perspective of a holy and just God, we deserve death because each of us violate His holy standard. Each of us sin and that sin separates us from God. Physical death makes that separation permanent unless God accepts a substitute.
Amazingly, He does. God made Christ “sin for us.” Jesus shed His blood to pay our penalty. He is the promised sacrifice “presented as a sacrifice of atonement” for those who put their faith in Him. As Scripture says, “Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life!”
The blood of Christ signifies death yet in some mysterious way it has power for life. Ephesians 2 says that even though we were far away from God, the blood of Christ brings us near. Hebrews 9 says “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” for our sins. Jesus spoke of the symbol of the communion cup when He said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
Hebrews also tells us that His blood cleanses our conscience from dead works that we might serve the Living God. 1 Peter says we were “redeemed from our empty way of life by the blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” 1 John 1:7 says “the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.”
Warm blood motivates life to a new heart. This operating room drama is exceeded only by God’s amazing parallel surgery: the blood of Christ moves Him to give us new hearts!