Sunday, 17 April 2011
Palm Sunday, Year A, Shaftesbury
"His blood be on us and on our children" (Mt 27:25)
-I want to say a few words today about the meaning and significance of that verse. I want to say a few words about why we should WANT His blood to be upon us. In particular, I want to explain the interpretation of this verse given to us by the Holy Father in his new book. This is a horrific image. But it is a horrific image that conveys an incredible truth, a truth that fundamentally changes our relationship with the Almighty.
The Pope builds on the letter to the Hebrews (12:24) where the epistle makes a comparison between the blood of Able in the Old Testament and the blood of Jesus Christ. Able was murdered by his brother Cain, and the Bible tells us that Able’s “blood cried out” for vengeance and punishment upon the brother who murdered him. In this sense, to say, "let his blood be on us", is to invoke a curse upon yourself, and as these words were originally said by the crowd to Pontius Pilate they must have been said with contempt and dismissal of Jesus, dismissal of the significance of such a curse.
However, the blood of Jesus is different -it does not cry out for vengeance. As the Holy Father explains (Jesus of Nazareth. Part 2, p.187), the blood of Jesus Christ was not poured out AGAINST anyone, but rather was poured out FOR many, for the nations.
The blood of Jesus brings not a curse, but redemption.
The blood of Jesus brings the purifying power of His blood.
Let us consider for a moment how we would stand before the Almighty WITHOUT the blood of Jesus. Let us consider what would be the status of our relationship with the Almighty.
I stand before the Lord as a sinner. Daily, and hourly, I commit fresh sins against the Lord: laziness, wasted time, selfishness, impatience – continually failing in my sins to be the better person that God would have me be.
How then do I stand before the Lord? I stand separated from the Lord. And, my sins cry out for vengeance against me, as truly as the blood of Able cried out for vengeance.
What I need, is a new basis of my relationship with my heavenly Father.
What does the blood of Jesus do?
Scripture tells us, that the Christian stands "washed in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev 7:14 c.f. 1:5). Washed clean from our sins. Washed so that I have a new basis for my relationship with the Almighty.
And, the words of the Lord Jesus tell us something else about the basis, the new basis, for Christian’s relationship with the Lord: His is the blood of a "new covenant".
Now, the word "covenant" is not a word that we use in our modern language. But it is a concept that has similarities with the notion of a "contract" – it involves a commitment between two people, and establishes the basis of the relationship between those people. In particular, in the ancient near East a "covenant" typically established a bond, a relationship between a king and his people.
In the Old Testament, under the old covenant, the people of Israel had the basis of their relationship with the Almighty established by their faithfulness to the Law that He had given them. That covenant was established and sealed with blood (Ex 24:3-8): the blood of sacrificed bulls was scattered upon the people AND upon the altar -as a sign of being upon the Lord. The sacrificial blood sealed the relationship between them.
But, given that that relationship was broken again and again by the people by their unfaithfulness to the Law, by their unfaithfulness in sin, there was a need for a prophesied "new covenant"(Jer 31:31 c.f. Heb 8:6-13) -a new covenant built on a new basis.
The new covenant that Jesus brings is the covenant in His blood. And this is what we need. His is the blood of the new sacrifice, better than the blood of sacrificed bulls. His is the blood that we need to have upon us as the blood of the old covenant was on the people of the old covenant.
THIS IS THE POINT: the old covenant relationship was established by the blood of the sacrificed bull being cast “upon” the people; the new covenant relationship we now enjoy is likewise established by the blood of Jesus being “upon” us –even though that happens spiritually and not physically.
So, in conclusion, where does this leave me now? How do I stand, if I stand with His blood is "on" me? How do I stand if I stand washed in His blood?
I stand washed clean.
I stand washed clean, as often as I return to be washed again and again in the blood of the Lamb.
I stand in the midst of a transformation:
the blood that had been a thing of horror, and death,
the blood that had been the thing of a curse
that blood, has become a blessing,
the tree of death has become the tree of life
the blood of curse has become the blood of blessing and forgiveness and new life.
And so we would do well to take the words of the people long ago and make them into a prayer for ourselves, "His blood be on us and on our children" (Mt 27:25).
Glory be to Jesus,
Who, in bitter pains,
Poured for me the lifeblood
From His sacred veins!
Grace and life eternal
In that blood I find;
Blest be His compassion,
Blest through endless ages
Be the precious stream
Which from endless torments
Doth the world redeem.
Abel's blood for vengeance
Pleaded to the skies;
But the blood of Jesus
For our pardon cries.
Oft as it is sprinkled
On our guilty hearts,
Satan in confusion
Terror struck departs.
Oft as earth exulting
Wafts its praise on high,
Angel hosts, rejoicing,
Make their glad reply.
Lift we then our voices,
Swell the mighty flood;
Louder still and louder
Praise the precious blood!