We all have to admit that blood is vital. I often see blood drives for the Red Cross, especially after a disaster happens. I would estimate thousands of people have had their lives saved through transfusions. Life itself has a bloody beginning – those who have seen a birth know this. Even children act differently around blood. I have seen children get scrapes that look painful but have no bleeding, and the kid plays like nothing happened. Take that same child who then gets a painless prick and drop of blood, and screaming and tears ensue. Some grown adults faint at the sight of blood.
What is so special about blood?
For me, blood has a different meaning than it does for most people I know. You see, I’m a recovering cutter. It all started out simply; I hadn’t even heard of cutting or self harm before. I was 15 and a sophomore in high school. I was cutting a pill in half for my cat one day, and I sliced my finger by accident. My immediate thought was, You idiot. You deserved that. That one thought began three years of addiction, after which began my lifetime journey of recovery.
Part of my depression involved hating myself. I recounted every little thing I did wrong each night. The guilt and regret turned into self-loathing, and I wanted to punish myself for being someone I couldn’t love. Bleeding was my punishment. Once I lost enough blood to feel tired and fuzzy and calm (hence the addiction), I had served my penance.
However, blood also had a different meaning to me as a Christian. I had been brought up in a Christian home, school, and church, but I lost my faith at the age of 13. I believed in God’s existence, but I did not believe He loved me. If He loved me, He wouldn’t have let me suffer all that I had been through in my early teen years. However, God’s love is real, and it is strong, and it eventually became undeniable to me. I began to love God, but I doubted how anyone – especially a perfect God – could love me.
Blood has significance in Christianity from the beginning of time. Once sin entered the world and brought death with it, the first thing God did was promise Salvation. This can be found in Genesis 3:15, “He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” God is telling Satan that Satan will strike Jesus’ heel, and while Satan may cause damage and appear victorious – especially when Jesus died – it is really Jesus who would defeat sin and death by living a perfect life, dying, and rising again. Why? Because our sin cannot be washed away by anything except blood.
The Old Testament is full of ceremonial laws concerning animal sacrifice. Before Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice, people had to atone for their sins. Think also of the blood of the lambs on the doorposts of the Hebrews in Egyptian slavery on that night of the first Passover (see Exodus chapter 12). Think of the eating instructions given in Levitcus 17:14, “For the life of every creature is its blood: its blood is its life. Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, ‘You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood.'” Think of the Covenant of Circumcision. Think of the animal skins God gave Adam and Eve to cover their nakedness. The killing and skinning involved to make these clothes in order to cover their sin and shame also involved the shedding of blood. (If you want to read more about blood and the Old Testament, click here for a good article.)
The New Testament is just as bloody. The crucifixion alone is the most gory account I have ever heard. Think of the 40 lashes from a whip that had stones and broken bits of glass or clay in the strands. (Flogging was more than being whipped. Why 40 you ask? Because flogging was so severe, 40 lashes was the legal limit put in place to prolong suffering while preventing death. This law was so strict, many floggings ended after 39 lashes just in case of a miscount.) Think of the crown of thorns set and pressed onto Jesus’ head, and then beaten down with a stick. Think of the wooden cross, full of splinters, as He carried it upon His shredded back to the hill at Calvary and also as He hung there. Think of the nails that went through His feet and wrists. When He died, the soldiers made sure He was dead by thrusting a spear into Jesus’ side, and blood and water flowed out. (The water is evidence of death due to pericardial effusion and pleural effusion. You can read more about it here.)
The year The Passion of the Christ came out in theaters, I went and saw it. I had never seen such a brutal, bloody portrayal of the crucifixion. Some people thought this aspect of the movie was unnecessary. For me, however, it was absolutely necessary. I needed something to reach into my numb mind and shock me back to life. I finally understood the prophecy in Isaiah 52:14, “…His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and His form marred beyond human likeness…” Most of all, I finally realized that Jesus did this for me. He didn’t simply die; He suffered, and He suffered greatly. Christ did this not for everyone but me; He did it for everyone and me. He endured the flogging and the marching and the nailing and the hanging so that I would never have to endure endless guilt and shame because I have been offered forgiveness through His selfless act.
Yet, there I was, thinking my barcode lines so carefully placed could pay the price! How foolish. All along, I had nothing to offer. I couldn’t save myself. And all along, that was okay because Jesus Christ saved me. “For by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not by works, so that no man can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
After the movie, I remember sitting on the floor in the theater hallway with my best friend’s arms around me as I sobbed. She didn’t say anything. She knew about my cutting and depression – in fact, she was the one who forced me to get help. And she helped me then by sitting with me as I sobbed with gratefulness that I didn’t have to pay for what I’ve done and that I didn’t have to fear hell because Jesus did those things for me.
It took me a few more years to stop cutting, because the addictive qualities are real. I wasn’t miraculously and spontaneously healed. But from that day on, I had the motivation and the forgiveness to try again. This year, May 2015, will make it nine years since I have been clean and entered recovery. I couldn’t have done it on my own.
Ever since that year, Good Friday has meant more to me than I can explain with mere words. My heart swells and aches with His love. Every Easter since that year, I cannot contain my joy that Jesus made it possible for me to live in heaven with Him because He rose again on Easter morning and defeated the grave.
It doesn’t end with me. This applies to you. Whether you are someone who feels you can earn heaven by being “good enough” or someone who feels utterly hopeless, Jesus died for you and paid the price for you. Don’t reject Him. This life is hard; don’t go it alone.
Isaiah 53:5 – “By His wounds, we are healed.”
God’s blessings to you this Easter weekend.