The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. Hebrews 9, verse 13.
We shouldn’t kid ourselves and assume that, because we live in a modern world, we are intellectually superior to people from the past. After all, if you lived in 1917, you lived in the most modern time ever known to man. Ditto 1817, 1717, 1617 and all the way back in time. The time in which you live now is the culmination of all the technology and learning that took place before you. Some day, if we live long enough, we’ll see that, indeed, that time will become the culmination of all the technology and learning before it. The timeline of man mostly shows gradually increasing mastery of knowledge and technology over time. Yes, that includes the massive losses of knowledge and technology that came with the declines of the ancient Egyptian and Mayan cultures as well as the descent into the Dark Ages after the fall of the Roman Empire. Generally speaking, as time goes on, our knowledge increases along with our ability to capitalize on that knowledge by improving our technology to accompany it. We may not know how the Great Pyramid was stacked together (or why) but we have split the atom, cured polio, and sent humanity’s knowledge far beyond the edge of our solar system and all that in just the last 80 years. We’re pretty darn modern!
So how come so many people in our world haven’t gotten beyond the ancient concept of animal sacrifice? It was superseded at Calvary by a one-time-only human sacrifice of the only divine being ever born here. The idea of sacrificing animals to atone for man’s sins seems primitive. Don’t the Jews get it? No, they don’t sacrifice bulls, sheep or doves anymore either, though there is a serious movement abroad to rebuild the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and resume animal sacrifice after a 2000 year hiatus. Don’t they understand that isn’t necessary anymore? Don’t the Muslims understand that their religion is pagan and primitive even if it doesn’t require animal sacrifice?
Don’t they indeed. And don’t you or I get ‘the big head’ about our faith, assuming we are better than people who don’t follow Jesus. We aren’t. God sees through us and our self-righteousness. And He sees that all of us, blood or ashes or none, are outwardly unclean. Sure, we can clean up pretty but that stink on the outside only sinks deeper through the skin. It’s what comes out of a man’s heart that makes him unclean. Sure, animal sacrifice is a primitive thing. It’s brutal, nasty, and violent. So, too, is your average Snoop Dogg concert…or maybe even Jimmy Buffett. But even Calvin Broadus, Jr and Mr. Buffett need saving. Jesus died for them as much as He died for you or me. He died for intellectuals, too.
All of whom are still unclean, just like self-righteous me. I’m as self-righteous as you can find, and I’m ashamed of it. Every time I try to get in the last word (as recent as this morning online), I’m ashamed again of how badly I fail at this. Yet I’m supposed to be educated, enlightened, and a follower of Jesus.
In ancient days, God gave His chosen people commands on how they should worship Him. He did this to allow them to worship Him in ways they could understand based on the world in which they lived. By our standards, it was crude, barbaric, and primitive. How much more civilized, then, are we to periodically partake of bread and wine in sanitary little cups? It’s praise to that same God, accepting Jesus’ admonition that “this is my body” and “this is my blood.” That isn’t a little bit strange? Whether you look at communion as the exact presence of Christ or a representation of Him, don’t go away thinking that, by modern standards, this ancient ritual isn’t a veiled celebration of a barbaric sacrifice…
…a barbaric sacrifice that made mankind whole again. It made man sanctified, justified, and made righteous again, clothed and bathed in the holy blood. I said it just the other day: I don’t fully understand the connection. We don’t have to. Instead, we GET TO see that, however He did it, God purified us from the inside out by the holiness of that sacrifice. Blood and heifer ashes aren’t needed anymore. Quite honestly, more blood isn’t needed, either. There’s nothing you have to do to make it better, and nothing you could do. We might have quicker technology than our ancestors, but we need Jesus to save us just as much as they did. We may look clean on the outside, but deep down inside, without Jesus, we’re modern filthy dirty.
For further reading: Hebrews 10:4, Numbers 19:9 and 17-18, Jeremiah 31:31-34, Matthew 15:19.
Lord, Your sacrifice was once for all. It was brutal and I can’t imagine how You even went through with it. Thank You.