John 18:1 – 19:42, Isaiah 52:13-53:12, 2 Corinthians 5:14-21
Larry L. Beane II
In the name of + Jesus. Amen.
When God created all living things, and everything was good, when there was no death, no pain, and no suffering, there was something miraculous hidden inside every breathing animal and both human beings who then lived. Nobody ever saw it, and yet all had it. It delivered life to every cell in the body and converted the oxygen in the air into the very things needed by the living creatures for metabolism. It ran like a flawlessly flowing river throughout the intricate canals in the body. To this day, each person has tens of thousands of miles of navigation within the body, and somehow, this life-bearing substance, called blood, is channeled in the exact right amounts to the exact right places.
Nobody ever saw blood until the fall. Not animal blood. Not human blood. The first blood to be seen was sacrificial blood, when God Himself shed the blood of animals to make garments to clothe the shame of Adam and Eve.
The harmony of the world was ruined. Man feared God. Animals feared man. Man feared animals. And all living creatures feared death. The sight of blood outpoured was an appalling sign of mortality and impending death.
And when the world only had four people on it, one brother shed the blood of the other brother. And when this bloodshed happened, God said, “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.”
The result, the wages of all of this sin, is death itself. Bloodshed begets bloodshed. And that which was once hidden and beautiful in its godly form and perfect function became open and exposed and horrific to see.
The history of man, and even the history of nature apart from man, is a blood-soaked narrative of violence and death. And even when someone dies more or less peacefully, the blood stops flowing, the cells wither away, and the spirit flees from the body. The blood clots and rots and eventually returns to dust: “Remember, O man.”
And since the wages of sin is death, God in His mercy, provides for us. He established a system by which the blood of innocent animals could be offered as a payment for the sins of man. And while more bloodshed doesn’t really improve the situation, it pointed forward to a day – a Friday, to be more precise – when a blood would be shed that would cancel the debt and settle the blood-score forever.
For under the old covenant of animal sacrifices, the world continued its spiral into increasing debt of sin and death. The deficit became greater with each passing generation. What was, from the start, a debt that man could never pay was to become so astronomical that a kind of bankruptcy was called for. There needed to be a settlement between creditor and debtor. There needed to be forgiveness. But the bill still had to be paid by someone else. The blood of bulls and goats could not do it. The blood of sinful humans could not do it. The staggering cost could only be paid by the blood of God. But how to shed the blood of God? How to sacrifice God? How can God die for His creatures whom He loves?
This, dear friends, is the mystery of the Trinity. Jesus is God’s Son, and yet He is God. Jesus is eternal as God, but is temporal as man. And in His divine human body He sheds His divine human blood. He pays the cost – from the sins of Adam and Eve, from the injustice of those first animal sacrifices, from the first murder of Abel by Cain, from the injustice of all the wars and all the crimes and all the martyrdoms of the innocent and the retributions of all the guilty in the history of the world – past, present, and future – combined.
Jesus came into our world to be the Lamb that is not merely a Lamb but is a Man; a Man who is not merely a Man, but is God; a God who is not merely a God in Spirit, but a God with a beating heart and with arteries and veins and a body pulsing with blood – pure, innocent blood such as the world has not seen since the creation itself. “Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.” But He opened His veins to shed His blood.
And this blood, His blood, the blood of God in the flesh, was offered at the cross, shed, spilled, and poured out upon the earth. His blood covers all men and their children, like the blood of the Passover Lamb painted like a cross above the abodes where the faithful dwelled to protect them from the angel of death.
The Lord’s passion is a gruesome and bloody account. The miraculous blood that was to remain hidden inside of all people was shamelessly exposed in order to offer redemption to all people. The blood designed to travel within the body as a life-force now travels through space and time, delivered by faith, to people around the world, through tens of thousands of miles of navigation traveled by preachers of the Good News that because of the blood of Christ, your sins are forgiven and your death is but a temporary annoyance. For because of the payment of the debt, we have seen a “ministry of reconciliation” between God and man. The debt is paid in full. We will live forever, and this new life of the new creation is restored by the very blood of God.
And what’s more, dear friends, this blood is hand-delivered to you by God Himself through messengers all over the world. This blood is not gory and appalling, but is sweet and given to you to drink as the fruit of the vine, served with miraculous bread that is the very body of Christ, a restorative of life and a cleanser of our polluted and death-laden blood.
This is how it is that a day of blood is called “Good Friday” by Christians around the world. On this day, the lost goodness of creation was restored. The goodness of pure blood, something unknown to the world since the fall in Eden – emerged anew as a payment for the sin of the world, and that same blood was made available to you in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.
And though we still sin, we have sorrow and repentance and forgiveness – the “ministry of reconciliation” – delivered in the blood of Christ. And though we still die in this flesh, we have the promise of the “resurrection of the body and the life everlasting” by means of the blood of Christ. And though we continue to live in a world of bloodshed and disharmony, we have the blood of Christ and the command to share that blood with our fellow sinners and mortals, so that they too may join us, with cleansed hearts and with divine blood coursing through our veins, on that day in which we rise from our graves, even as we look forward to the remembrance of the Lord’s resurrection that followed on the Good Sunday after the Good Friday.
Let us receive this miraculous blood and this life-giving body of Christ in wonder, awe, and joy. Let His blood be in us, on us, and pleading for us with every beat of our hearts as we are cleansed by the very good blood of God unto eternal life. Amen.
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Father Beane serves Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, Louisiana.