(A) The Blood of Jesus is Essential to Salvation
Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for [eis] the forgiveness of sins. (Matt. 26.26-28)
It must have been a moment mixed with the familiar and the unfamiliar. The setting is that of the Passover meal, part of the first of three original feasts the Hebrews were to celebrate as part of their heritage and covenant recalling the deliverance from Egyptian slavery by the Lord’s heavy hand (Exod. 12.14-27, 23.14-17). This was the familiar side.
In the Passover meal a lamb without blemish was slain, its blood was applied to “the lintel of the houses in which they eat” (Exod. 12.7). All this was to safeguard the Israelites from the coming Divine wrath upon Egypt for the slavery thrust upon them (Exod.1.8-14). The Lamb and the meal, and the blood poured out, was a celebration of redemption, freedom, and covenant.
The unfamiliar was, however, that now Jesus was taking upon himself the imagery and literal application of deliverance and covenant. Indeed, Luke tells us that Jesus made this observance of the Passover of particular importance by recording his words: “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (22.15 ESV).
Now in Jesus these concepts memorialized in the Passover meal, would be realized in the most truest sense – God’s lamb (= Jesus) is sacrificed so that Israel and the World may be redeemed, emancipated, and brought into the “new covenant” with God in the Kingdom of God (Luke 22.20). Or as Paul expresses it, “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5.19).
The most vital element we are considering here, the focus of our particular study is the blood of Jesus as a necessary component to understanding salvation as offered in the New Testament.
Blood is Essential to the Plan of God
The author of the book of Hebrews affirmed that ”without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (9.27). It therefore stands to reason that to obtain forgiveness of sins one must shed blood. Under the Mosaic system, animal blood was shed. This system existed as a shadow of things to come, and was not a permanent solution; in contrast, the death of Christ was fulfillment of the physical and temporary Mosaic system, and through it the perfect solution providing the shedding of blood once for all was found (Heb. 10.1-18).
To deny the essential nature of the blood of Jesus shed for humanity is to reject the fundamental premise of God’s redemptive work. Jesus is ”the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1.29). This connection with the iconography of the sacrificial lamb is fundamental to the Christian worldview (Rom. 3.23; Heb. 2.17). John says of Jesus, “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2.2, cf. 4.10).
The force of Matthew 26.26-28 is simply incontrovertable. The blood of Christ was shed so that many could obtain the forgiveness of their sins. This is a unique accent to the “Lord Supper” narrative introduced by Matthew in his Gospel account (cf. Mark 14.24, Luke 22.20).
The participants in the New Covenant which Jeremiah promised included that the Lord would “forgive their iniquity” and “remember their sin no more” (Jer. 31.34). Isaiah equally spoke of the Suffering Messiah, as one whose soul (i.e. his life, cf. Gen. 2.7) serves an offering for sin, through which he bears the sins of all, and makes intercessions for the transgressors (Isa. 53.4-6, 7-9, 10-11; cf. Rom. 5.6-8).
Two scholars have commented on this passage in such a way that their reflection deserves contemplation. Alexander B. Bruce, author of the celebrated The Training of the Twelve (1894), said the following about the forgiveness of sins actuated by the shed blood of Jesus:
For what else could the blood be shed according to the Levitical analogies and even Jeremiah’s new covenant, which includes among its blessings the complete forgiveness of sins?
In other words, it should be expected that God would fulfill his promises (in Isaiah and Jeremiah) through the shedding of blood.
J.W. McGarvey, once celebrated as the ripest Bible scholar on either side of the Atlantic, made the following statement:
These words disclose the prime object of the death of Christ. All other purposes which it served are subordinate to this, and all other blessings which his death secures to us are consequent upon this.
This is the foundation of our redemption. This is the beginning point. This is the fountain head faith must drink from to obtain forgiveness of sins. To access this in Christ blessing (Eph. 1.7), a person must respond in several individual, but complimentary, ways.
- Alexander B. Bruce, 1900, “The Synoptic Gospels,” The Expositor’s Greek Testament (New York, N.Y.: Doran), 1:312.
- John W. McGarvey, 1875, A Commentary on Matthew-Mark (Repr. Delight, Ark.: Gospel Light), 228.