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Archive for April 30th, 2014

Today’s Old Testament reading is Exodus 24: 1-18 as on Maundy Thursday.  It is a bloody scene when Moses, Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel go up the Mountain, offer sacrifices, then:

And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

The shedding of blood means laying it on the line.   Blood means God means His forgiveness. It is only after Moses sprinkles the “blood of the covenant” upon  Moses and company that they  can approach the Lord and see Him in all His clarity and more:

“…and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. 11 And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank.”

The blood of the old covenant meant the select few could eat and drink with the Lord, now by His own Blood, we can eat and drink His Body and Blood and clearly see and know by faith the Lord for us sinners. His blood once and for all cleanses and does not need to be sacrificed again and again. Only by His shed blood do we know by faith the transparency of His love and mercy for all.

Look at the painting above by Lucas Cranach and I  concentrate on only one part of the painting:  the blood pouring out of the crucified Jesus’ Body onto the three gentlemen standing to right of the crucified.  I will tag them:  John the Baptist, Lucas Cranach and Martin Luther.  The depiction of blood coming from the side of Jesus on the Cross, usually going into a chalice, was a common one, instead it goes upon the head of Lucas Cranach.

 We want a Christianity devoid of blood, a blood-less Christianity which is what we get in a lot of churches, even those purporting to be conservative (at least politically) as they go on about the “abundant life” and such. “American Christianity is far less bloody than it used to be” (Rev. Russell Moore).  And it seems that American society is whole lot more bloody than it used to be. Such Blood-less churches will engender the walking dead, not those dead in their sins, but alive through Christ.   We are reading the Bible aright for it is by His Blood we are saved and this is sheer Gospel for All Saints and all the saints :

“…you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. ”   1 Peter 1

 The blood of Jesus is poured out  and Luther points to the Bible.  The Bible has 3 Scripture passages on it and two are:

 Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so also must the Son of man be lifted up, so that all [who believe] in [him may have eternal life](Jn 3:14).

 “The blood of Jesus Christ purifies us from all sin” (1 Jn 1:7). 

If you asked any or all of the saints, are you a saint because you are good, what do you think their response might be?  No! Just the opposite!  The One who is good became all my bad and shed His blood for me that I may be His. Why would the painter include himself in his own painting?  Because by His blood, Cranach is telling us that he is forgiven, included and stands upon the Rock of our salvation.The Lord gives the gift of life. These weren’t bloodless Christians as we are not. And the painter is saying to us by the blood of Christ you can picture yourself here as well because you are!  

“I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won [delivered] me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, in order that I may be [wholly] His own, and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.” (LutherThe Small Catechism, teaching on the 2nd Article of the Creed)

He breaks the power of canceled sin;
He sets the prisoner free.
His blood can make the foulest clean;
His blood avails for me.

For Christ alone, whose blood was shed, can cure the fever in our blood.

And this is what all the full blooded and forgiven saints sing. The third verse, to which Luther’s finger points directly:

“Therefore let us approach the seat of grace with joyousness, so that we may receive mercy within and find grace in the time when help is needed” (Heb. 4:16  

 

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