I realise that Christmas is only a week away and blood isn't the usual Christmas topic but this morning in my prayer room I was struck with an insight. One part of my prayer time is with a goblet of grape juice ("wine"), which represents, which is, the blood of Christ. But what does it mean? What am I doing when I drink that cup?
Blood has always been the spiritual cleanser. God accepted Abel's gift of a slain lamb on the altar but did not accept Cain's gift of fresh produce. That gift or more precisely God's acceptance of it cost Abel his life! The patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, all made blood sacrifices or offerings to God. In the days of Moses, that requirement was codified with more specific instructions. Blood sprinkled on people and their clothes was an act of cleansing, purifying, a sign of the covenant that made them a different and separate people from those around them. Today, if we get even a drop of blood on our clothes we wash it out thoroughly but back then, it was a welcome thing--and not just one drop but many.
This was an outward cleansing, a cleansing visible to anyone who saw them. In the days of Jesus, this cleansing had been so highly developed that Jesus criticised the religious leaders of being whitewashed tombs, of cleaning the outside of the cup but leaving the inside dirty. Blood was used to signify cleansing but it was never to be consumed. This was one of the few Old Testament laws that was maintained and reaffirmed at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15).
And yet, on the night Jesus was betrayed, he told his followers to drink his blood, completely contravening the past, present and future laws. "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." (Matthew 26:27, 28 NIV) Jesus was concerned with the inside of a person far more than the outside. Drink my blood! Instead of sprinkling it on your skin and clothes, pour it down inside of you!
The reason for the law against drinking blood was blood is the life of the animal or person (Leviticus 17:10-14). But I would argue that that is precisely why we are to drink the blood of Christ. We drink his blood because we want his life inside us. As we drink his blood, we take into ourselves Jesus' life, his very essence.
And by drinking his blood, we declare ourselves culpable for his death; we declare our need for his blood and thus our need for his death. In North American law, people who benefit directly from a crime are often considered as guilty as those who commit the actual crime. Look at section 212 of the Criminal Code of Canada: "Living off the Avails of Prostitution." It is not the prostitutes themselves that are targeted but the pimps who benefit financially from what the prostitute does (and Marita, if you've made it this far in reading, I'm thinking of the exam you just wrote for the course "Sex and the Law"--have I represented this accurately?). The woman who hires someone to kill her husband to get his life insurance is as guilty as the man who pulls the trigger.
In the same way, I am guilty of the death of Jesus even though I wasn't there shouting, "Crucify him!" or hammering the nails into his hands and feet. Guilty because I come beneath him as he dies on the cross and, with open mouth, catch the blood that falls. Not a drop is to be wasted. That's his life flowing away! But let it flow into me! Let his blood and his life be in me!