A nose is a small thing, occupying relatively little real estate in the middle of your face. Not much to it—until it starts to bleed. How can such a small part of your body produce so much blood? It’s truly amazing.
I know this because one of my daughters has started getting bloody noses on occasion. There doesn’t seem to be any good reason for it. One moment she’s sitting at the dinner table, and the next she’s running for the kitchen with blood trickling down her face.
The nose bleeds themselves aren’t too much of a problem. After sitting quietly for a while, she dries up and gets on with life. What is a problem is the fact that blood is messy.
I have to admit that I’ve lived a relatively sheltered life. Growing up, my family wasn’t into hunting. So I’ve never experienced the “joy” of soaking my hands in the blood of some freshly killed animal as I clean and gut it for the trip home. (By the way, why do we call this “dressing” an animal? I’ve always found it a bit morbid to say that you killed an animal and then dressed it for the ride home. I immediately get a mental picture of some hunter with a dead deer propped up in the passenger seat of his truck wearing a hunting coat, knit hat, and sunglasses. It’s rather disturbing.) I’ve also managed to avoid being around any major accidents or other situations involving large amounts of blood. Usually the closest I get to a bloody mess is when I haven’t cooked the steaks long enough and one of my girls throws a fit because she doesn’t like the reddish juice seeping from the meat when she cuts into it. Like I said, pretty sheltered.
But now I understand how messy blood can be. It gets everywhere. And it seems to multiply somehow. If you’re not careful, one bloody nose can easily take out a shirt, a pair of pants, several towels, a table, a floor, and if you’re lucky, the cat. And, of course, blood is really hard to clean out of anything. If you’re daughter gets a bloody nose in the middle of the night, be prepared for some serious bloodstains in the morning.
So, if you need to clean something, here’s my suggestion: don’t put blood on it.
Yet that’s exactly what they do in the Old Testament. Got a dirty altar? Sprinkle some blood on it (Lev 16:19). Dirty house? More blood (Lev 14:52). Dirty person? Yep, again with the blood (Lev 14:25). It was so common that the author of Hebrews comments, “under the law almost everything is purified with blood” (Heb 9:22).
That just doesn’t make any sense to me. If I’m trying to clean something, the last thing I’m going to do is throw blood on it. Why not rub in some wine and chocolate while you’re at it? You could make it like one of those commercials that tries to show how their product can clean even the toughest stains.
My problem, of course, is that I just don’t look at blood the same way they did in the Bible. For me, blood is just that red, sticky stuff that you instinctively know is supposed to stay on the inside of your body. But the Bible sees more. Sprinkling blood on something powerfully declares that the whole world has been broken by sin, and that it is only through the shedding of blood that the corrupting power of sin can be washed away.
But, of course, sin is far too great a problem to be dealt with just by sprinkling a little animal blood on an altar or smearing it on an earlobe. Things like that are great for reminding us of the problem and pointing toward God’s promised solution.
Then Jesus came. And we killed him, shedding his blood on the cross. And his blood sprinkled on creation brought forgiveness and cleansing into the world.
Jesus himself told the disciples before he died that his blood would be “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sin” (Mt 26:28). Indeed, that is what we celebrate every time we take communion – the sprinkling of Jesus’ blood on the altar of God’s creation so that it might be cleansed from the power of shoah. And, just in case his disciples may have missed it, Jesus makes it very clear that he’s talking about the New Covenant. Do you remember the New Covenant? That’s what God promised back in Jeremiah 31.
Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah….I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people….For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more (Jer 31:31-34).
With the blood of Jesus, the New Covenant has arrived at last. The promised forgiveness is finally here. Through Jesus, God’s people can be “white as snow” again (Isa 1:18). “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph 1:7).
If you just bought some new sheets, I recommend keeping the blood away. If you’ve been polluted by sin and are in desperate need of forgiveness and reconciliation, being stained with the blood of Christ is your only hope.
The good news is that Jesus’ blood brings cleansing and forgiveness to a corrupt world.
[This is an excerpt from a book that I'm writing about the gospel, Good News for the Living Dead: A Fresh Take on the Gospel Story. You can read the other excerpts and keep track of new ones as they become available on my blog.]