Saturday, April 16, 2022

There is life in the blood. . .

Sermon for Good Friday (C) preached on Friday, April 15, 2022.

In Leviticus 17, the Lord says: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood.”  This is set against Genesis 9 where the permission to eat meat came with the caveat that the meat must be cooked so that it does not retain the blood.  “You shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.”  It has always been a curiosity for some and an obsession for others – what to make of this prohibition of blood.  Perhaps we have been looking at the wrong blood.  There is nothing in the blood of animals to pay the price for sin and yet the sacrificial blood commanded by God was counted for the forgiveness of sins – not because of its power but because it prefigured the blood that would pay the price for sin and release the life hidden therein.

In the passion of St. John just read we heard how our Lord suffered and died upon the cross.  How the soldiers came to break his legs in case he was not yet dead – lest the spectacle of a body on a cross cast a damper on the Passover Sabbath.  But there was no need to break the bones.  Jesus was dead.  So they pierced His side instead.  Though some make little of this detail, St. John is adamant.  “One of the soldiers pierced [Jesus’] side with a spear, and at once, there flowed blood and water.  He who saw it has borne witness – his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth – so that you also may believe.”

The clue to this is found is Leviticus 17.  The life is in the blood.  The life is God’s to give where and to whom He pleases.  Not the blood of beasts and not even the blood of men but the blood of the one Man, the God-man, Jesus Christ.  Jesus prophesied the water in John 7.  “From within Him shall flow rivers of living water.”  Leviticus prophesied the blood.  But both the water and the blood flow from Jesus, who gave Himself for the life of the world and now gives Himself to us where the water and blood still flow.

No word in Scripture is incidental.  It is God-breathed and divinely sent.  It is not simply true but efficacious, delivering what it speaks and doing what it promises.  There is a life giving water that flows from Jesus and we go down into that water in baptism.  There, according to St. Paul, we are connected to the cross.  We die with Christ and in Christ His death for sin.  We rise with Christ in Christ as His new creation.  And the Spirit is at work in that water to impart faith to our fearful and doubting hearts.  And the food of our new life is the blood of Christ.

There is life giving blood that flows from Jesus and we meet that blood in the Holy Supper. What was once forbidden is now commanded because of Christ’s life in it. “Take, drink from it all of you.  This is My blood of the new and eternal covenant.”

The wine of His Supper is set apart by His Word to be His blood and that blood that was forbidden in Leviticus is now commanded to us to eat and drink.  God forbade consuming blood until the right blood was revealed, the blood that cleanses us from sin and bestows upon us all the blessings that blood purchased and won.  The old symbols have come and gone.  Circumcision is fulfilled in baptismal water for male, female, Jew, Gentile, slave, and free.  The sacrificial blood of the Temple and the cup of the Passover have come together in the cup of our Lord given to us to eat and drink in His name.  There is life in the water and in the blood and now that life is given for you and me to receive with faith, thanksgiving, and joy.

It is the great connection between Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday.  Wine that is His blood given and shed for us and now given to us to drink by His command and with His promise.  The baptismal water that is the first command of Easter after our Lord’s resurrection.  And it is tied together by the body of Christ handing from the tree.

Dear people, beloved by God.  From the side of Jesus flows the water of His promise and the blood of His testament.  It is all for you and for me.  We deserve none of His kindness and none of His mercy but He has lavished upon us all good gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation.  That is why we call this Friday good, why we gather to tell over and over and over again the story with all its details of how Christ went to the cross, how He suffered in our place, and how He died for us the death to sin that sets us free.  That is why we gather to welcome the lost into Christ’s body through the miracle of water and the Word that is baptism.  That is why we come to drink the blood of Christ hidden in wine.  There is life in Christ and that life of Christ is delivered to us where His side still bleeds both water and blood the flow with forgiveness, life, and salvation.

Hebrews ties this together well.  “The old system, under the Law of Moses, was mere shadow and dim preview of the good things to come... The sacrifices under that covenant had to be repeated over and over again, year after year after year.  They were never able to provide perfect cleansing.”  The old is now gone, a footnote in history.  The new has come.  The blood of Christ that paid the price for sin and death once for all is now come to save us.  We have been covered by the true Passover blood and saved from death and we have been raised to new life in the baptismal water of new and everlasting life.

Calvary stands as the mountain on which the life hidden in the blood was released for all.  The cross is the place where the living water that flows from Christ was released to the whole world.  And it flows for you, for me, and for the whole world. So let us not stay.  We remember His death with thanksgiving in our hearts.  But we meet that life-giving death not in the imagination of our minds or the descriptive words; we meet it in the water of life that is baptism and in the cup of salvation that His blood for the life of the world in the Sacrament of the Altar.  From that water and blood, the Spirit comes, faith is born, and we are planted in the kingdom that endures forever.  There is life in the blood.

In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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