The Cross and the Blood of Christ

"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." I John 1:7.

Exodus 24:4 And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. {5} And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the LORD. {6} And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basins; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. {7} And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient. {8} And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words.

Toyohiko Kagawa:: "THIS is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many unto remission of sins," (Matt. 26:28) said Jesus. In these words he taught us that this blood had a direct relation to the salvation of the human race.

It is clear that Christ had this conception from the time of his early ministry in Galilee. Paul accepted this idea and also regarded the blood of Christ as indispensable for the salvation of mankind. "God set forth Jesus to be a propitiation through faith in his blood." (Romans 3:25.) We find the same thought in Peter, as for example in I Peter 1:18,19: "Knowing that ye were redeemed with precious blood, even the blood of Christ." This was also the faith of Christ's disciple John.

Why is it that Christ and also his disciples believed that there was a special connection between the salvation of mankind and the blood of Christ? In the history of religion, we find that there has been that connection from earliest times. In the nomadic period before agriculture was developed, a sheep was man's most valued possession, and by far the most precious part of the sheep was its blood. Thus the blood of the sheep came to be the most precious offering which mankind could make God and to have a supremely solemn and sacred meaning.

The Shedding of Blood and Emancipation

On the night when the Hebrew people were to be rescued out of slavery in Egypt, God commanded that a sprinkling or smear of blood be placed upon the door-posts of their dwellings. It was no accident that blood should thus become the mystic symbol of the freeing of the Jewish people and should be kept in memory by the Festival of the Passover. The name "Passover" was given this festival because the angel passed over the houses on whose door-posts there was a sprinkling of blood [or God passed over them to protect them]. It was a time when the Jewish people gave expression to their devotion and complete submission to God by bringing him their most precious possession and joyfully flinging it down at his feet. Thus the belief was deeply impressed upon their hearts that as blood was indispensable for the freeing of their people from slavery, so it was also necessary for the freeing of the soul from sin. As a primitive people they had no philosophy, but they felt that blood was necessary to life, and therefore blood became a symbol of life.

The Strange Power of Blood

Blood has a strange power. First, it cleanses the body of impurities, draws away the pus from injured tissues and restores them. Second, it even has the power of rebuilding tissues that have been destroyed. It builds not only skin and flesh, but, as in the case of the fingernail, it has the mysterious power of reproducing the structure and form as well. Third, the blood has the power of controlling the development of any part of the body, a power which reaches into the future.

Thus with the soul as well as the body. The blood not only brings redemption from sin but has the power to bring about development even to the point where a man feels himself to be a child of God. This conception of the mysterious power of blood was evidently that of Christ and his disciples. But the theological scholars of the nineteenth century were too rationalistic and rejected it. They did not see religion as related to life. They thought of the soul as an abstraction. But the soul does not exist apart from life.

The power of blood means the power of love! If blood can bring recovery to the sores of the body, love has the power to redeem the wounds of the personality. If blood has the power to restore broken-down tissues, love can make the wounded personality whole again, until it becomes a child of God. It is the teaching of the New Testament that the sacrificial love of Christ has this power to redeem and make restitution for all the past sins of humankind. Not that physical blood can redeem the sins of the soul; but to love other men enough to be willing to pour out your blood for them, this is the acme of spiritual love. Such love has the power to redeem and in this lies the hidden reason why Christ poured out his blood upon the cross.

The scholars of the nineteenth century could not understand how Christ could die as a substitute for man, but for Christ and his disciples the concept of a substitute contained no difficulty. In Matthew 20:28, we find Christ saying, "The Son of Man came to give his life a ransom for many." Here the blood of Christ, that is, of one individual, is regarded as the indemnity or reparation which saves many souls. In a previous chapter we noted that old question, raised perhaps by the brethren of the first Christian community, "How can one individual become the salvation of many?" and the attempt in the fifth, chapter of Romans to answer it through the law of inheritance. The circulation of the blood in the human body, however, provides a sufficient explanation.

The action of blood is universal; it functions throughout the body, feeding the nerve tissues, the digestive organs, the bones, the muscles and circulating throughout the whole system, having the power to restore any part of it. It is the same with love. Love is endowed with the power to redeem and heal throughout the past, present and future, every part of the whole. The supreme manifestation of that love is the blood which Christ shed on the Cross. We believe it to be the manifestation of his love and are enabled to believe in the forgiveness of past sins and the healing of past offenses.

The Source of Future Life

But the blood not only heals past sins; it also gives fresh hope to those who are crippled, and who long to become whole again. God forgives all the failures of mankind, throughout all the past, out of consideration for Christ's sacrifice. The ransom which Christ paid is not a price paid for redemption alone. For the sake of redeeming mankind, he has also met the responsibility of the human race towards God. We have allowed the debt we owe to God to go unpaid; some kind of effort is necessary to recall us, who have wandered away, to the right path, and to restore us to our true selves. This effort - an effort so great it thrills us - Christ himself put forth. This price which Jesus paid is like the work of the blood in healing old wounds. It is a costly work. The blood surrenders itself as a sacrificial ransom, fully and freely pouring itself out for the sake of the injured part of the body. So Christ died that others might be resurrected into new life.

Through the recovery afforded by this love-pattern, mankind is thus granted the possibility of being restored once more to the status of a child of God. Faith in this possibility is indeed faith in God. This is wholly the gift of Christ for there is no reason, apart from his love, why faith towards God should spring up in our hearts.

When Christ poured out his blood upon the Cross, he set mankind an example before God. To the extent to which mankind shows forth love of this sort, it becomes unnecessary for the God of heaven and earth to seek for a more perfect manifestation of love. If human beings advance to the point of pouring out their life blood for others, they are then fully restored, fully recovered.

We cannot doubt that the blood of the Cross is the purest and most precious blood ever shed in all history. This is the blood which is to save mankind, to redeem sinners, and make the human race into children of God. The world has seen much shedding of blood, blood shed for private advantage, or to satisfy selfish desires. But the blood which Christ shed was to save mankind. This blood is life itself. "With a spear they pierced his side, and there came out blood and water," (John 19:34) writes John in his Gospel, and the words are full of deep meaning. For nineteen centuries this blood has been the fountain of life and healing for the souls of countless millions. We appreciate anew the lines of the hymn which William Cowper sang:

"There is a fountain filled with blood,
Drawn from Emmanuel's veins."

Through this blood-stained love which gave up life itself, we must receive the forgiveness of all our past sins, and the healing of all the wounds of our hearts. Through this marvelous fountain of Emmanuel's blood we are to accept healing from all sin - sins which others see, and sins they cannot see - our individual sins, and the sins of society.

Prayer

Our Father in Heaven: We thank Thee that through the blood which Thy son Jesus Christ shed upon the Cross, all the old wounds and injuries of our hearts are healed and we are cleansed. We praise Thee that it has been made plain that no matter how great our sin, it is possible for us to be wholly saved. We are deeply grateful, Lord, that whether shut within prison walls, we grieve over the sin of murder, or whether appalled by the horror of the sins we have committed, we stumble out in the forests of the mountains, we can believe that through the precious blood shed on Calvary's mount, we can once more be made into men. Our sins and offenses are not Thy responsibility, nor the fault of society. They are the [deliberate] mistakes which we have made through our own selfishness and careless conduct. We thank Thee that Christ revealed such tremendous love towards us sinners. We believe in Thy great love, and taking Thee simply at Thy word, unworthy as we are, we accept Thy salvation and are born anew. With our eyes filled with tears of thankfulness, we can only long for Thy love and come home to Thy bosom. Amen! Amen! We offer up our praise before Thee for the merit of the Blood of the Cross.

Chapter 8 of Meditations on the Cross by Toyohiko Kagawa. Translated by Helen F. Topping and Marion R. Draper. 1935.


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