September 28, 2014.
“Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”
A while back I did a post on the importance of the resurrection. Today I would like to take some time and examine the importance of the cross, or rather, the importance of the shedding of our Savior’s blood on the cross as it relates to the salvation of our souls. All three aspects of Jesus’ time here on this earth are very important- His life, death and resurrection. We have talked about His resurrection and the implications that it has towards our resurrection in the likeness of His, but equally important was His death on the cross and His blood that now cleanses us from our sins.
Now, I understand that this might not make sense to some of those outside of Christ. I’ve even talked to some in the church who don’t know why it was necessary for Jesus to die the death that He did on the cross. I do not believe that there is one concise answer to give as to why it was necessary, but rather there are multiple reasons that it must have been so. I would like to examine a few today in effort to help anyone better understand the necessity of the cross.
1. The death of the testator.
Before we get to the reason why Jesus was to die on the cross, a gruesome death, first we need to establish why He needed to die in the first place. Rather, why He chose to die. You see, Jesus was the only person to ever walk this earth who did not have to die. He was sinless, blameless before the Lord. The powers of sin and death that have plagued this world since the fall of man did not have dominion over Him.
“And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
So we ask the question, why then did Jesus go to the cross? Why did He willingly lay down His life for us? First we must deal with the technical side. When you write a will, leaving your possessions to designated people and leaving instructions about your funeral or whatever you put in your will, is that in effect while you are alive? Well of course not. The whole purpose is for it to go into effect after you die. “For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive,” as the Hebrew writer comments. Jesus was establishing His will, or His testament, when he was here on earth. He was making a new and better covenant with mankind, one that would be able to cleanse the sins of all who would come to Jesus. There would be no end to this healing, to this ransom. But for the will to go into effect, the testator first had to die. So Jesus died on His own account, laying down His life for us. Not because He had to, but because He wanted to in order that we might be saved. He laid down His life so that He could take it back up again. And it is in this hope that we are saved, that we know that if we have been united in a death like his, we shall certainly be united in a resurrection of life like Him (ref. Rom. 6:1-5).
So we see that death was necessary for the establishment of the new and better covenant (ref. Heb. 7-8). But you may object, “But why? The first covenant didn’t require anyone’s death.” Is that so?
2. Blood- the life source.
When Noah first exited the ark into the cleansed world after flood, God tells him that the animals are given to him as food, but He gives him this warning:
“But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.
“Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image.”
From an early stage, God revealed to the sons of man that blood was vital to life, symbolically equating it to life, referring to it as ‘lifeblood’ in this passage. Jews were not to consume blood under the old covenant. With this in mind, one can see the importance of blood and how relevant it was to the Jews under the Old Covenant. This is why sacrifices were made to atone for the sins of the people, and everything was spiritually cleansed with blood- “Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” (ref. Heb. 9 above)
But there was a problem with this. The blood of bulls and goats could not forgive sins. It was not powerful enough. It was not clean enough. What was necessary was, metaphorically speaking, a perfect lamb without blemish. The son of God whom death and sin had no power over. He was the necessary sacrifice.
“For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”
Even though the Jews were offering sacrifices year after year, these sacrifices were just keeping sin at bay until the ultimate sacrifice was to come and wash away all sin, before and after His death and resurrection. The Jews were ever looking forward to the coming Messiah, but I don’t think they fully understood what He was coming to do. Since He did come as a lamb without blemish, as the chosen sacrifice of God, He was able to lay down His life for us that we might be wash clean in His blood.
3. Washed clean in the blood.
And this is why the cross was necessary. If Jesus had died without shedding blood, then the covenant would not have been established. You see, it was very important that the death of the sacrificial lamb involve the shedding of blood, because it is by this blood, and nothing else, that are sins are forgiven. “[W]ithout the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” But Jesus came to die, allowing his blood to flow over our broken hearts and lives so that we might be able to stand before the Father blameless, just as He is.
“Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
White in the blood of the Lamb. This statement makes no sense outside of the spiritual understanding. We are washed white because of the cleansing power of the blood. It is His blood that continuously cleanses us and though which we are set free. “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” We are purified in the blood of the Lamb, to walk in newness of life. How did we reach the blood?
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
Paul then goes on to say how our old self was crucified with Christ. What vivid imagery! So that now we have been united in a death like His, crucifying the old self on the cross and reaching the blood of Christ, then we are raised to walk in the newness of life. We are united with Him through His resurrection.
So we see that the shedding of His blood on the cross was so important. But I think there is one more thing that we must realize about the cross, however.
4. No greater love.
Yes, the shedding of blood was necessary, but why did it have to be from the cross? Why did Jesus have to suffer torture as He died? Could He not have shed blood in a less painful way? I suppose the simple answer is ‘sure,’ but I think the reason for the cross runs deeper than this. I think that for the love of Christ to be proclaimed throughout the ages, a drastic death had to take place. I think it is one of the only things that would get our attention. Sure, it is one thing, and a great thing, for one who is blameless to lay down His life for us. But to lay it down in such a way that meant He would go through torture? Especially when He didn’t even have to die? And what’s more, He did it all while we were yet in our sins! When we deserved nothing!
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.”
i believe that there was a reason that Jesus was sent to this earth in the time of the Roman empire, where crucifixion had been specifically designed for a painful execution. I believe that Jesus was willing to go through this to show us the great love He has for us, and to make it hard for anyone to deny that love. I believe the cross was necessary because we are so skeptical, so stubborn and so unwilling to see the truth.
I believe the cross was for us. And that is why it was necessary.
Suggested Daily Reading: Romans 6, Hebrews 8-10.
To Him be the glory ever.