Investigating the death of the Lord Jesus, I return again to the commentary He gave Himself.
Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22 all record His comments about the bread and the cup. “This is my body”- I suggest He was saying to the disciples , like the unleavened bread of the Passover feast, ‘ I have been sent by God, I am unleavened (undefiled) in the world, I am now available for sacrifice to God and for mankind.’ Luke confirms this by adding along with the apostle Paul - “given for you”.
Then He refers to the cup (apparently a special cup in the Passover ceremony), by saying “this is my blood”. The commentary He gives, explains the symbolism.
Matthew 26:28 “ blood of the covenant, poured out for many, for the forgiveness of sins”
“ blood of the covenant”- this would take every Jewish mind back to the communication of Jehovah to Israel through Moses. Their only acceptance in that covenant was on the basis of sacrifice, the basis of shed blood. The NT letter to the Hebrews explains in detail how this is relevant for believers today, with this summary – “ He (Jesus Christ) entered once for all into the holy places (heaven itself) not by means of the blood of goats and bulls, but by means of His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” (Hebrews 9:12).
So the question of ‘blood shed’ arises. This really deserves an extended study from Genesis to Revelation. In the brevity of this article I will give my summary :-
Genesis – When Abel was killed by Cain, God said “the voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground”
To Noah God said “you shall not eat the flesh with it’s life , that is the blood”
Exodus – to Moses God said “When I see the blood I will pass over you”
Again for Aaron “ He shall take some of the blood and sprinkle it with his finger on the front of the mercy seat.......”
Using a concordance to trace the frequent use of the term ‘blood’ and ‘blood shed’ I conclude that beyond the literal blood, was the meaning of a life taken, or given. Sometimes in war, sometimes by murder and sometimes by sacrifice. In the Old Covenant which was rather physical, God called for much animal blood to be shed, to be sprinkled in the tabernacle and temple. The Israelites were thus confronted with the costliness of sin, the cost of redemption, the cost of atonement and acceptance, forgiveness and peace. While the Israelites saw much of this, I suggest that the blood was primarily for the eye of God ( “when I see the blood” Sprinkled “in the holy place”). Yes the blood was a symbol of something, or someone dying in their stead.
So it was that sombre night in Jerusalem, the Lord said “My blood.... for YOU” (Luke 22) Thus the Lord describes His life being given for others.
In Matthew’s quotation, the Lord includes “ for the forgiveness of sins” - these Jewish disciples well knew that forgiveness came at a price – the sin offering, the trespass offering, and so the Lord in His death pays the debt of sin! The cross of shame becomes an alter of sacrifice!
Some have maintained that His blood was shed in the garden, by the crown of thorns, when he was whipped etc – well physically that may well be true, but following through the theme of sacrifice, I suggest His blood was shed when He ‘gave up His Spirit’. This was not something of man’s doing. This was the good Shepherd , according to the commandment of the Father, ‘laying down His life for the sheep (John 10). John records the soldier drawing blood and water from the Saviour’s side, which I see as the confirmation that death had already taken place. Paul , Peter and John all develop the truth that Jesus ‘yielded up Himself as an offering and a sacrifice to God on our behalf’.
When we come to the book of Revelation, the people are “ washed in the blood of the Lamb” . To the natural mind this is rightly obnoxious, but to those who understand God’s holy hatred of sin, the divinely instructed means of sacrifice the value of the Lamb of God -- this symbolic language is vibrant with precious meaning i.e. to be cleansed , accepted by virtue of the once for all sacrifice of Him who said “My blood shed for you”.
Little wonder that this ‘breaking of bread’ became special to the Christians. By this they could intelligently remember the Lord’s death. Intelligent about the event, but so much more – intelligent as to who died, how He died, why He died !
I would encourage all who are able, to search deeply into these heavenly truths. It will cause you to bow and worship.