Troublesome Topic: Why So Much Blood?

Lesson 5 of 12

Are you okay with how bloody the Christian religion is? Some people are not okay with that. Others don’t mind it too much but don’t understand why it needs to be so bloody. The best antidote is a fuller understanding of the true issues involved. With that in mind, let’s look at this together.

The Bible explains the need for blood in this way: “The life of a creature is in the blood” (Lev 17:11) and “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb. 9:22). Blood represented life; that was clear to the people of that day because they knew that if a living being lost its blood, it would lose its life. They knew the penalty for violating God’s covenant must be paid with one’s life. In God’s grace He allowed another living being, an animal that does not have a soul, to give its life so the person would not have to.

God was teaching the children of Israel that He is a holy God and His holy nature cannot be violated without dire consequences. He was teaching them that sin is a serious thing and must be treated seriously. And He was teaching them that sin is a life-and-death issue; the penalty for sin is death, that is why blood was required. It was a picture of one life in exchange for another. 

Think about the fact that everything in the tabernacle was dedicated by sprinkling it with blood, including the white robes of the priests! The altar for burnt offerings was sprinkled with blood many times a day. That blood would dry and turn black. Because the altar was made of bronze, we have a mental picture of it being shiny. But no! It was mostly black from all the layers of dried blood! And they would never have washed it off. That would have been unthinkable. I imagine that heating up the bronze would make the blood eventually crack and peel away due to the weight of the multiple layers. If it did peel and fall off, they would not have cleaned up the pieces that fell; they would have left them right there as a reminder. That’s how big a teaching tool it was in God’s eyes.

So what was going on?

Through the sacrifices God painted a picture, a picture, a picture, another picture, and then God sent the real thing—Jesus. The blood that was shed prior to the coming of Jesus was just a representation of the guilty person’s life. When the Son of God died it was more than a representation, more than a picture; it was the only sacrifice that God could actually accept in place of the guilty person. It was the most costly sacrifice ever made.

For us blood is something to avoid touching. Medical professionals put gloves on to avoid touching blood. We wash it off of things and out of clothes as quickly as possible. That is because we often hear how blood is a carrier of disease. They knew nothing about the disease side of things, but they knew that blood is the carrier of life. Modern medicine has not forgotten this, even though we don’t hear about it very often. If you go to give blood for the first time and the Red Cross personnel learn that you are a universal donor (blood type O-), you will start getting phone calls, texts or emails begging you to give blood on a regular basis. They really want your blood because it is the only kind they can use on ambulances or in emergency rooms where they don’t have time to do all the tests first. You can’t live without blood. Period.

The ordinary people participated in offering their sacrifice and the priests facilitated the process; it was a joint effort. By having them participate in killing the sacrificial animal, God intended to drive home the importance of blood and the seriousness of sin. God wanted them to be reminded of these things time and time again and the sacrificial system did just that.

Yes, Christianity is bloody. It is bloody because sin is ugly, and sin is serious. A tidy, clean, comfortable religion would never be able to deal with the sin issue. It would be too cheap to pay the high price that sin requires. Don’t cheapen salvation by lowering the price to be paid. If you don’t think a high price is needed, you don’t understand the problem. A high price is required because God is a holy God whose holy nature has been offended, and yet He wants us to return to a close relationship with Him. He cannot accomplish that while ignoring the separation caused by sin.

This emphasis on blood is not due to some grotesque or twisted character trait in God but is the fault of man himself. The need for blood in order to receive atonement for sins is a direct result of the fact that man, through his first representative, Adam, violated the covenant God had established with him. God had been clear that the results would be a terrible separation, called death. But God did not wish to remain separated from His creation, so He graciously offered a means whereby man could once again enjoy a close relationship with Him. However, that broken relationship needed to be addressed. Since sin is a serious, costly thing directly related to death, the atonement for sin is also something costly and involves death. The sacrificial system was a method God chose in part because it would teach man the important lessons He wanted him to learn about sin, atonement, life, and death.

What Was Being Taught?

The constant shedding of blood required in the sacrificial system of the Law taught that a high price is required by the seriousness of sin.

Every blood sacrifice involved the worshipper placing one hand (the right hand) on the head of the sacrificial animal. This symbolically transferred the guilt and sinful condition from the person to the animal. Thus, when the animal’s blood was shed, it was a substitution for the person’s blood which should have been shed.

The blood of the sacrificial animal was usually sprinkled on the sides of the altar. It was sprinkled on the altar so that God would see it and “remember” that this person has already been accepted as pure before Him. We usually have a mental image of the bonze altar being clean and shiny, but no! it was actually black with dried blood all over it! But in God’s eyes that dried blood was a beautiful sight.

The fact that it was sprinkled on all four sides of the altar means that God’s atoning is adequate for all aspects of our lives.

The next lesson for the mid-length series on covenants is A Mid-length Summary of Four Sacrifices.

The next lesson for the full series on covenants is How Do We Know What the Sacrifices Were For?

The next lesson for Why Is That in the Bible? is: Why Did God Hold Them Guilty for Unintentional Sins?