Have you ever played Word Association? It is a simple game in which someone says a word and another person responds with the first word that comes to their mind. For example, if I said “cat” you might immediately answer “dog”. Or if I said “moon” you might reply “stars”. Pretty simple right? As you might expect, playing Word Association can be quite fun and inciteful.
Certain words can be linked to one another by either their meaning, usage, or for a host of other reasons. This is certainly true for Biblical vocabulary as well. Christians connect the name “Jesus” with titles such as “Messiah”, “Savior”, and “Lord”. They associate the concept of “hope” with words such as “confidence”, “assurance”, and “expectation”. These and other correlations are helpful to those seeking a greater understanding of Scripture.
For the purposes of today’s message, let’s turn to the Bible and briefly consider the relationship between 2 important words. They are “blood” and “life”. The key verse that ties these words together is Leviticus 17:11 which states: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.” This statement makes it clear that, in God’s economy, blood represents life. The blood that was shed on the altar flowed from and was symbolic of the life that was given in order to secure atonement from sin.
The name of today’s sermon is “A Better Sacrifice (Part 1)”. It is the first of 2 messages that focus on the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. As Christians, whenever we talk about the blood of Jesus we should think about His life which He freely gave for us. When we say that Jesus bled for us, we mean that He died for us!
I. A QUESTION ABOUT THE BLOOD (v13-14)
The writer introduces his discussion of Christ’s sacrificial death with a question. He challenges his readers to consider which was greater - the sacrifices of animals during the tabernacle and temple era or the recent sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary? In the remainder of this chapter he will compare and contrast these 2 sacrifices in order to emphatically demonstrate the superiority of one over the other.
According to the Law, “the blood of goats and bulls” that was shed during animal sacrifices was used by the priests to secure atonement from sin. So also, “the ashes of a heifer” were used to bring about purification for those who had been defiled (Numbers 19:1-10). Both the blood and the ashes sanctified “for the cleansing of the flesh”.
When Jesus gave His life on the cross, His divine blood cleansed the “conscience from dead works.” During His death, all 3 Persons of the Trinity were present. Jesus offered Himself to God (the Father) through the eternal Spirit (The Holy Spirit). Jesus’ death on the cross and His subsequent resurrection are the most significant events in history.
II. THE NECESSITY OF BLOOD (v16-22)
Covenants between God and man cannot be established or made valid apart from “death”, which is symbolized by the shedding of blood. There is some dispute over the proper interpretation of these verses, but the language used seems to suggest that the person who made the covenant must themselves die. Perhaps this is more akin to receiving an inheritance after a family member passes away. Jesus gave His own life to enact the New Covenant, while the first covenant was “inaugurated” with the blood of animals. However, it is noteworthy that Moses did die prior the Hebrews’ entry into the Promised Land.
A special ceremony was conducted to introduce and initiate the Old Covenant (Exodus 24:3-8). Having received the Law from God, Moses recounted it and then wrote it down in a book. After reading this book aloud to the children of Israel, Moses collected “the blood of the calves and the goats” which he’d previously sacrificed and sprinkled it on both the people and the book. He said, “This is the blood of the covenant which God commanded you”. Furthermore, he sprinkled the “tabernacle” and “vessels of ministry” as well.
“According to the Law… all things are cleansed with blood.” Blood was used in order to sanctify or set someone or something apart for God’s purposes. It was used to purify anyone or anything that had been defiled or become unclean in some way. It was used to atone for the sins of individuals and well as the nation at large. God’s established precedent was clear - “Without [the] shedding of blood there is no forgiveness”. Jesus did not seek to avoid this requirement, but rather to fulfill it.
III. THE POWER OF CHRIST’S BLOOD (v15, 23-28)
Jesus died on the cross, spilling His own blood, in order to obtain “redemption of the transgressions” of men. These sins, which are violations of God’s law as prescribed “under the first covenant”, have been forgiven and “the promise of the eternal inheritance” is now available to all repentant sinners who place their faith in Christ. His blood doesn’t just purify the flesh, but also purifies the soul thereby reconciling man with God.
As discussed in a previous message, Jesus entered into a better, heavenly sanctuary where God himself abides. There He offered Himself “once” as the eternal sacrifice for humanity’s sins. It is not necessary for Jesus to offer Himself again or suffer repeatedly because His death on the cross covered all sin past, present, and future. It was all encompassing and fully complete. Jesus’ sacrifice did not merely “cleanse” temporarily, but rather “put away sin” permanently.
Like Jesus, “it is appointed for all men to die once”. After physical death “comes judgement”. Those who have never been saved will face condemnation and punishment. However, those who are born again and covered by the blood of Christ will receive “salvation without reference to sin” because their sins are forgiven! This will take place when Jesus returns “a second time” and it gives all Christians a reason to “eagerly await Him.”
God is just. He demands a life for a life. Therefore, at just the right time, the LORD sent His only begotten Son to uphold this righteous requirement. God did not suspend, amend, or ignore the conditions He’d set. Instead, He loving gave that which was most precious to Him in order to redeem fallen humanity.
Jesus came to earth for one main purpose - to give His life so that sinful men might live. His death was the ransom that set us free. It paid the debt of sin that you and I owed. Jesus became our substitute and bore the penalty that we deserved. His blood washes away our sin fully and eternally. His death was and is “a better sacrifice”.
If you have never accepted Jesus as your Savior, I urge you to do so right now. He died in order to forgive you of your sins, reconcile you to God, and give you the promise of eternal life! What could be better than that? Turn to Jesus, repent of your sins, confess Him as Lord, place your faith wholly in Him, and receive the life that He alone offers.