The bible says much about the blood of Jesus, but until the Lord led me in the study of flesh and blood, I could not even begin to comprehend the meaning of Calvary. God's plan for man's redemption began at creation--even before the fall of man.
Man and animals were created with blood as the life of their flesh. Blood ran in the veins for no reason other than to reveal His plan to bring real life by the shedding of Jesus' blood. This is obvious with the Hebrew word for "blood" meaning, "that which when shed causes death."1 God's plan was that His people should be tutored in the shedding of blood, putting flesh to death until Jesus came to shed His blood.
The purposes of God are so intricately interwoven in our lives, yet we are taken up with this life and cannot see Him. Symbolism goes far beyond what is commonly understood. Within every aspect of life there are elements of eternal reality that should keep us mindful of our wonderful, marvelous God.
An example that reveals life according to God's scheme and how it relates to the life of the flesh is portrayed in the human body. When the blood flow is cut off from part of a limb, it results in numbness and, at times, much pain. If the blood flow is not allowed to return to the area, the limb will become gangrenous and die. Spiritually speaking, death to flesh can also be a very painful process. How many are truly willing to submit to the process necessary to crucify the flesh-life?
Leviticus 16:27-28 speaks of the filth of flesh in describing the sin offering. The blood of a bull and goat were brought in to make atonement for sin, while the skins, flesh, and dung were to be taken outside of the camp to be burned. With the life of the flesh having been poured out to make atonement, all that remained was dead flesh which would decay. It was necessary for the skin, which represented nakedness, and the "dung [Hebrew: excrement]"2 produced by flesh to be completely destroyed by fire. After handling the filthy flesh, the person who burned the animals required cleansing before he could return to the camp where the people were.
According to the Law, if a man were to eat blood he was partaking of the life of the flesh, and would be cut off from among his people. It was symbolic. And it was a vital aspect of the tutoring of the people Israel. "For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul." (Leviticus 17:11 NKJV). There was no atonement available for those who ate the life of the flesh. This part of the law was given as an example to show how partaking of the life of the flesh would end in eternal separation from God.
Throughout the centuries, Israel should have learned the importance of the symbolism in bloodshed bringing death to flesh. They had constant reminders with the annual sin offerings made through the putting to death of the flesh of specified animals. Instead it became ritualistic, so that when Jesus came as their Messiah to shed His blood to free them from the flesh, they rejected Him. Paul gave a clear explanation in Romans 9:31-33, when he said that Israel failed at following after a law for righteousness because "they sought it not by faith, but as it were by works. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone even as it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stone of stumbling and rock of offence [Greek: cause of displeasure]:3 and he that believeth on him shall not be put to shame." The "Rock of offence" was to the Jews a cause of displeasure. It pleased them more to be taken up with the works of the law than to be watching for their Messiah, of whom the Law had prophesied.
Taking communion is very much a ritual in many churches today. It ought not to be so. Jesus instructed us to partake of the sacraments "in remembrance" of Him. The wine symbolizes His blood, the life of His flesh, which He poured out so man could have eternal Life. The bread symbolizes His body, which was broken for us. In partaking of these two elements, we are symbolically partaking of His life. Rather than being mere religious rhetoric, remembering the Lord's death should be a celebration of what was poured out for us that we might die to our flesh and have new Life in Him.
The Scripture passage on communion is one of the most familiar ones.4 If we choose to partake in the life of the flesh, going through the motions of partaking of Jesus' life as one born again, we are not discerning His body. If we eat and drink "irreverently,"5 it is as though we are guilty of shedding the Savior's blood. Only those truly born again and living in a relationship of trust in Jesus have a right to participate in the sacrament of communion. To do otherwise is to deceive oneself and bring about consequences such as weakness, sickness, or death.6
Jesus referred to Himself as the Bread of Life when He said, "the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world." (John 6:51b NKJV). He is the true "Manna" from Heaven. He also said that His blood is drink and that, if we will eat His flesh and drink His blood, we will have eternal Life. This shows even more the fulfillment of the Law in His provision of Life through His shed blood. Remember, under the Law it was wrong to eat blood and those guilty would be cut off. But now Jesus says, "[U]nless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you." (John 6:53b NKJV). When Jesus is our Life we abide in Him and He abides in us. But if we do not partake of Him, we are yet flesh--there is no Life in us.
1. Hebrew #1818
2. Hebrew #6569
3. Greek #4625
4. 1 Corinthians 11:27-30
5. Greek #371
6. Greek #2837