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It's all about the blood

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Sermon for Good Friday April 6 2007

Text:  Isaiah 52:12-15

Title:  It’s all about the blood.

          Grace and peace to you in the name of Him who shed His blood for us, Jesus the Christ.

          President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said to reporters this week as he announced the release of British sailors who Iran claimed had trespassed in their territory, "On the occasion of the birthday of the great prophet (Muhammad) ... and for the occasion of the passing of Christ”, he was giving a gift to the people of Great Britain.  Wow, what a swell guy Pres. Ahmadinejad is.  While he heads a nation that trains and exports young Muslims whose sole purpose is to kill other people, including children, while he leads a Muslim state that keeps its people in bondage, while he works feverishly to develop nuclear weapons, and while he seeks the destruction of free countries like Israel and the United States, he also, in this statement, makes Muhammad the equal of Jesus Christ.  Predictably, he ignores the real message of Easter, that of this same Jesus Christ rising from the dead.

          Most people in the world just don’t get Good Friday.  And even if they do, they pay no attention to it because they want to go directly to Easter.  In fact, as Dr. Steve Brown reminds us, Easter is always preceded by Good Friday.  The Christian belief in eternal life is directly connected to our sin and death.  On Good Friday, Jesus Christ paid a debt that He did not owe in order to forgive the human race a debt they had earned but could never pay.

          Personally, I don’t much like Good Friday.  I stand here dressed in black to honor the Biblical account of the final passion, the suffering, the torture, the agony, and the death of Jesus of Nazareth.  Despite my knowledge that we all will, in just three days, be gathered here again rejoicing in the risen Christ, Good Friday on the surface is never too “good.”  Why?

          The best answer I have for you tonight is that it starts with and ends with the blood of our Savior.  Did it have to be this way?  Was the bleeding, the slow oozing away of His life, really the only means by which He could rescue us from the just punishment for our sin?  When we wrestle with this issue in the Bible, the clear answer is yes, it was the only way.

          The Hebrews believed that life itself was contained in the blood.  God forbid the eating of blood because He considered shed blood to be death, as related in Leviticus 17:14 “For the life of every creature is its blood: its blood is its life. Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off.

          God also forbid the shedding of blood, as related in the Fifth Commandment, “You shall not murder.”  The nations surrounding Israel commonly practiced all manner of human sacrifices in their efforts to please “gods” that were made in the image of men and women.  The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob changed that practice, which led ultimately to the covenant at Sinai, where laws protecting human life were given to the people God had chosen to change the world.  Believe it or not, we today are the inheritors of that same covenant.

          But the people of God continued to sin, and they continued to suffer the consequences of their sin.  Their only option was to follow God’s designated method of worship that included rites of atonement.  The sacrifice of animals was designed to instruct the people that only the shedding of blood, perfect and innocent blood, was sufficient to atone for their sins.  The  sacrificial system pointed toward God’s promised redeemer, and it also pointed to the reality of death in a way that would cause them to turn from their evil practices.  Unfortunately, the blood sacrifices of animals had limited effect, because

·        They became mere external ritual, failing to meet the demands of the law.

·        They were worthless without the people’s obedience to God.

·        They were unable to cleanse the conscience of the guilty, who had sinned against God & each other.

          It seemed that the sacrificial system would go on forever, and yet have no effect.  But Isaiah tells the people that God would do something so outrageous that nations would be startled at the sight, and kings would close their mouths because of Him.  Those who would oppose God’s Servant would finally see what they had never seen before, and understand what had never been heard by them before.

          The trail of Christ’s blood begins in Bethlehem eight days after He was born, when Mary and Joseph brought Him to the synagogue to be named and circumcised.  I’m sure that Jesus had his share of cuts and scrapes while He was growing up, but His life was one of perfect obedience to His Father and to His earthly family.  His ministry was one of hardship and preparation for what He would be called upon to do for the people of the world He had come to save.  Finally, beginning in the Garden of Gethsemane, His blood begins to flow for the last time.  The temple guards, the high priest’s cronies, Herod’s soldiers, and finally Pilate’s palace thugs beat and flay and pummel Him until He is not even recognizable as a human being.  Jesus leaves a trail of blood from Gethsemane, to the temple, to Pilate’s fortress, to Herod’s palace, back to Pilate’s fortress, along the Via Dolorosa, and finally to the place of the skull, an outcrop of rock beyond the city wall’s, where the remainder of Jesus’ precious blood would soak the ground at the foot of His cross. 

          On this day, using Jesus on the cross, God put an end forever to the need for any blood sacrifice as His way to reconcile sinful humanity with their holy God.  The tight clasp of evil, sin, the devil and death has been loosened forever by the sacred flow of Christ’s blood.  It took the cross to awaken some of the people to the shocking reality that they were sinners and estranged from God.  For the rest who depended on their feeble reason and self-serving desires, they would have to await the coming of the Holy Spirit for one final chance to turn to Him who was lifted up for the entire world—a stunning, shocking picture of how far our loving, merciful Father would go to draw us back unto Himself in and through His only Son.

          Many people today, as we learned earlier, see Good Friday as that day when a man died.  He might have been a prophet, he might have been innocent, he might have done good things.  But no god worthy of our worship would allow His own Son to die on a cross, would he? 

          As the world continues to spiral downward into the abyss, as human beings shed each other’s blood in total defiance of God’s command that we shall not murder each other for any reason, we as believers know what Christ has done for us on the cross.  And what follows is the “Good” of this Good Friday that Jesus has called us to proclaim.[1]

1.     Acts 20:28  “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.”   He bought us with His blood.

2.     Hebrews 9:19  “For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people…”   His blood makes us holy.

3.     1 Peter 1:19 “. . . but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”   His blood makes us perfect.

4.     Romans 5:9  “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”  We are justified by His blood.

5.     Ephesians 1:7  “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.”  We are redeemed by His blood.

6.     Colossians 1:20 “. . . through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”  We are reconciled by His blood.

7.     Hebrews 13:19 “So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.”  We are sanctified by His blood.

8.     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 cleanses us from all sin.”   We are purified by His blood.

9.     Revelation 1:5 “. . .  from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.”  His blood sets us free from the power of sin, death and the devil.


          Hear the response of the great multitude gathered in heaven to glorify the Lamb of God as He comes forward to take the sacred scroll from God the Father. 

Revelation 5:9  “And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” He, Jesus, and only Jesus, is worthy of all honor, glory and praise, because He ransomed us from our due punishment with His very own body and blood. 

          Today, and in the days to come, as long as God gives us this life to live, we can be so bold, in any circumstance, to proclaim Him as our Lord and Savior.

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Knowing the reason for, the power of, and the benefits given of His blood, let us now worship Him our Holy King in Word and Song.

And now may the peace of God that surpasses all human understanding guard our hearts and minds through the shed blood of Jesus our Savior through the power of the Holy Spirit, Amen.


[1] The numbered texts are drawn from the article “blood” from Mounce’s Expository Dictionary of the Bible

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