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Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Why was Jesus crucified?

Sometimes, my mind wanders all over the place!  Sometimes, it even arrives at a worthy destination!  This afternoon, while working-out on the cross-trainer (was there some sort of psychological word-association?!), I found myself thinking of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, on the cross at Calvary.  The question that arose in my mind was simple: Why did He have to die such a horrible, bloody, death?  Why was He not knocked unconscious, and then suffocated?  Why did He not drown?  Why was He not starved to death?  Why did He not just die in His sleep?  Why did he have to shed blood?

The answer, I knew, is found in the Letter to Hebrew disciples of Jesus: "... under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins." (Heb 9:22; RSV).

It was so from the very beginning.  When our first human parents sinned, they tried to cover their sin by their own efforts.  "... they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons." (Gen 3:7; RSV)This wouldn't do.  So, we read, a little later on in the narrative that "... YHWH Elohim made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins, and clothed them." (Gen 3:21; RSV).  Father God made a covering of skin - and that required, not only the death of an animal, but a bloody death - as anyone who has skinned an animal will know.  "... without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins."

For years; for decades; for centuries; for millennia; this was the pattern.  In the Tabernacle and, later, the Temple, the Jewish priests would offer blood-sacrifices for the sins of the people.  Once each year, on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest went into the innermost sanctuary - the Holy of Holies - taking blood from the sacrifice and sprinkling it on the Mercy Seat that formed the lid for the Ark of the Covenant, "... for himself and for the errors of the people." (Heb 9:7; RSV).  "... without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins."

"But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) He entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption." (Heb 9:11-12; RSV).

The hymnwriter put it like this: "Not all the blood of beasts on Jewish altars slain, could give the guilty conscience paece, or wash away the stain.  But Christ, the heavenly Lamb, takes all our sins away; a sacrifice of nobler Name, and richer blood than they." (Isaac Watts).

He shed His blood, that I (and you!) might be saved; that there might be no further need for animal sacrifice.  As He hung on the cross, and just before He died, He uttered one word: "Tetelesthai" ("Finished"; John 19:30).  But this wasn't the weak whimper of someone who has realised that he has been vanquished; that all of his struggling has been of no avail.  This was the mighty, triumphant, shout of One Who knew that He had completed the work for which He had taken on human flesh.

Mrs Alexander got it right in another of the old (and, often, more theologically accurate!) songs: "He died that we might be forgiven; He died to make us good.  That we might go, at last to heaven, saved by His precious blood."

Paul wrote: "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished upon us." (Eph 1:7-8; RSV); while Peter reminds us: "... you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot." (I Peter 1:18-20; RSV); and John assures us that "... the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin." (I John 1:7; RSV).

"Oh, precious is the flow that makes me white as snow!  No other fount I know - nothing but the blood of Jesus." (R.Lowry).

At my first (physical) birth, when I was delivered from my mother's womb, I was covered with blood that would have been, almost immediately, washed off.   When I was born again, it was the blood - the shed blood of Jesus - that cleansed me, and made me whole!

Hallelujah!  What a Saviour!  Have you been washed in the blood?  Have you?!

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