Unnoticed Connections in Scripture: Lesson 3: Blood

God’s Prohibition

In the Old Covenant, God forbade His people to drink blood.  After the flood, God commanded Noah, “You must not eat meat with its life, its blood, in it” (Genesis 9:4).  Later, during Israel’s wilderness wanderings, God explained more fully why they were not to drink blood or eat meat with the blood in it:

For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have appointed it to you to make atonement on the altar for your lives, since it is the lifeblood that makes atonement… The life of every creature is its blood. [Leviticus 17:11,14]

  • What atoned for the people’s sins on the Old-Covenant altar?

 

Under no circumstances, could the Israelites eat meat with blood in it (Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 7:26; 17:12, 14; Deuteronomy 12:16, 23-25; 15:23).  For those who violated God’s directive, this was the result: “Whoever consumes any blood will be cut off from his people” (Leviticus 7:27).

  • What does being “cut off from his people” mean?

 

We understand, in part, why.  For God used the blood of an animal to atone for the people’s sins.  We now go to the pages of the New Testament to help us understand what we don’t intuitively get.

Read 1 Corinthians 10:18-21

  • What did Paul forbid the Corinthian Christians to do? (vs. 20-21) Why? (vs. 18)

 

To eat and drink of a sacrificed animal is a sacrificial participation with the sacrificed animal and those who sacrificed it.  The Israelites were allowed to eat the flesh of animals sacrificed to God, but not drink its blood.  For the flesh does not contain the life but only the blood.

On its own, however, the blood of these animals couldn’t do anything.  So the “life” in its blood contained no power beyond the temporal life it gave the animal.  So why sacrifice any animals if its blood was useless beyond itself (Hebrews 10:4)?  Though a sacrificed animal could not create forgiveness, it nevertheless could convey it!  For God attached His promise to those sacrifices, a promise that linked the people to the atoning blood of His Son, Jesus, would come to sacrifice.

Jesus’ blood can give life beyond Himself!  The implications of this surpass the prohibition in the Old Covenant.  Forbidden to consume blood because it contained the animal’s life ultimately pointed the people to consuming the Messiah blood because it did contain life—eternal life!

 

Jesus and the Drinking of Blood

Read John 6:47-51

  • In this passage, in what way are people to eat “the Bread of Life”?

 

  • How do we know? (Hint: how does Jesus start this section in vs. 47)

 

Read John 6:52-56

“feeds”: Greek, trogo, “chew”.  Here, Jesus switches verbs to denote a physical chewing, switching from the metaphorical to the literal.

  • What eating is Jesus referring to here?

 

  • How is this similar to the ideas Jesus used in John 3, in His conversation with Nicodemus?

 

 

If Jesus was being literal, His listeners would understand what He said as something forbidden by God’s Law (Genesis 9:4, Leviticus 3:17, Deuteronomy 12.23) and be offended.

Read John 6:66

  • How do the people respond to what Jesus says?

 

  • What does this reveal about how they understood Jesus’ words?

 

Those hearing Jesus’s words understood them to refer to sacrificial eating, which they reveal by their aversion to what He said.

Without understanding Him as the Messiah, Jesus was being sacrilegious when He spoke of needing to eat His flesh and drink His blood (note the “unless”).  If drinking animal blood was profane, how much more the drinking of human blood!  Nevertheless, Jesus vowed, “My blood is true drink” (John 6:55).

 

Excursus: The Link between Faith and the Lord’s Supper

Jesus said His disciples needed to “eat his flesh and drink His blood” (vs. 53-54).  Why?  To “eat” and “drink” Christ is to receive Him, so the life He is becomes life for another.

The phrase, “eating His flesh” expresses an intimate union with Jesus—a communion.  This is what believing in Him entails and leads to—an intimate union with Christ.  Instead of the biblical Communion, the Protestant world refers to having a “personal relationship with Jesus”; however, they miss what brings about and is involved with this “relationship” or communion.

Jesus joins belief and eating His flesh and drinking His blood together.  That’s why Christ says more than “Truly, truly, I say to you: Whoever believes has eternal life” (John 6:47).  To stop there is to stop short of Jesus’ full saving message.  Jesus also says, “Whoever chews on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the Last Day” (John 6:54).

In John 3:3-8, Jesus referred to baptism.  In John 6:53-58, He referred to the Lord’s Supper.  It doesn’t matter that Jesus had not yet instituted His Supper (or Baptism), for Christ was speaking of what was to come, such as his crucifixion (John 3:16).

 

Blood = Life

  1. The blood is the life (Deuteronomy 12:23).
  2. The life of any flesh (any living creature) is its blood (Leviticus 17:14b).
  3. The life of any flesh (any living creature) is its blood as its life (Leviticus 17:14a).
  4. The life of any flesh (any living creature) is in the blood (Leviticus 17:11).

Jesus revealed He came to “give His life a ransom for the many” (Matthew 20:28).  To “ransom” (“redeem”) a person or other creature is to buy him back with something of value.  Often one was redeemed with silver, but certain creatures were redeemed by sacrificial blood.

No greater ransom exists than to give one’s life, which was what Jesus came to do.  How can we not think of the ransom Jesus paid to rescue us from sin’s slavery?  Our faith is built on the foundation of this ransom.  We rest not on bases of perishable silver or gold but on that of the blood of Christ.

1 Peter 1:18-19:

You were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of an unblemished and spotless lamb.

Since “the life is in the blood,” to give one’s life is to give one’s blood.  The Hebrew mind would intuitively understand that Jesus came to “give His blood a ransom for the many.”  To offer up one’s life, in the sacrificial sense, is to offer up one’s blood.

When Jesus instituted His Holy Supper, He said of wine in the cup: “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood…” (Matthew 26:27-28).  Only Matthew’s account retains the little word “for” (Greek, gar).  Jesus identifies why Christians should drink from the cup of His Supper: “for this is my blood.”

God’s people are not to hesitate or fear drinking Christ’s blood in His Supper.  No, they are to drink it because it is His blood!  God prohibited drinking blood in the Old Covenant for the same reason Christ invites us to drink His blood in the New Covenant, His Supper: Blood is life.

 

The Resurrection and Blood

Unlike all the Old-Covenant sacrifices, Jesus came back to life after being sacrificed.  This enabled Him to invite what had been unthinkable: the drinking of undefiled blood.

Psalm 30:9: “What profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the pit?”

In the Septuagint, the word for “pit” is “decay” (diaphthora).

Acts 13:37:

For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, but he whom God raised up [Jesus] did not see corruption [diaphthora].

Here we find the same Greek word is used to tell us Christ’s body did not decay in death.  Since the “life is in the blood,” Christ’s blood does not fail to profit us, for He did not decay and rose from death.

In His Supper, we drink in the blood of the Christ who died but is alive.  To drink His blood is to drink in His life, and to drink in His life is to cancel sin and death.  When we drink Christ’s blood in His Supper, we are receiving the life of God, which is an act of true worship.

John 6:54-55:

Whoever feeds [trogo, “chews”] on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.

John 14:6: Jesus said to him [Thomas], “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 15:4-5:

Abide in me [Jesus], and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches.  The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me.

1 John 5:12: Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

2 Peter 1:3-4:

[Jesus’] divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.  By these, he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

  • Link together “life,” becoming a partaker of Christ’s divine nature, and escaping corruption to the lifeblood of Jesus.

 

Link to the next Lesson.

 

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