Vampires are all the rage right now.
QUICK QUIZ: If you have time, take a moment to brainstorm as many vampire-themed movies, television shows, and books in our culture as possible.
In less than a minute, here’s my list:
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer television show
- Anne Rice novels
- The Vampire Diaries television show
- The Twilight movie series
- Love At First Bite movie
Strangely enough, I haven’t seen or read any of these!
This fascination with blood really concerns me—especially because it’s particularly prominent among young, adolescent girls. I know, because I have two 12 year old daughters.
Something inside tells me this predilection for blood goes deeper than stories of romance and forbidden love.
We’re yearning for something: love, but also forgiveness, perhaps even sacrifice.
Today’s reading addresses all three.
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Exodus 29. The focus of this chapter is the purification of Aaron and his sons as priests of Israel. Many of the instructions in this chapter aren’t for the squeamish, which we’ll examine a little closer in The Word Made Fresh.
Here are a few thoughts about the chapter:
Anointing Aaron and his sons in Exodus 29:7 follows a ceremony that would later be used in anointing a king. Anointing oil was symbolic of God’s endorsement and the presence of his Spirit.
The horns on the altar in Exodus 29:12 symbolized God’s presence and power. By placing the blood of the sacrificed bull on the horns, the priests were acknowledging the presence and power of the God who gives life, and purifying themselves of their sin.
The purpose of the sin offering (Exodus 29:14) is explained in The Bible Background Commentary: “A sin offering was designed to purify a person who had become unclean through contact with impurity (physical or spiritual) or because of some event (nocturnal emission in Deut 23:10). It was also used in consecrating priests, since they were required to maintain an even higher standard of purity than ordinary Israelites. The animals which were used in these rituals received the sin and impurity of the persons for whom they were sacrificed. Thus their entire substance was contaminated and could not be consumed or used to produce anything. Every portion of the sacrificed animal must be disposed of, with the organs and fat burnt on the altar and the flesh, hide and bones burned to ash outside the camp.”
Blood was applied to the earlobe, thumb, and big toe (Exodus 29:20) so the priest would “hear the word of God, perform sacrifices with his hands and lead the people to worship with his feet” (Bible Background Commentary).
Slaughtering so many animals every day (Exodus 29:36-37) seems extreme, even in a culture that practices animal sacrifice. God required them to do it because anything made by human hands—like the altar—was inherently impure. Continued sacrifices were required as a way of continually cleansing it.
The purpose of the Altar of Incense was to symbolize the presence of God and shield the priest’s eyes from seeing God (Exodus 30:1-10).
Matthew 26:23. Jesus said, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me.” This is an obvious reference to Judas. Not so coincidentally, one method of receiving communion is called intinction. That means the participants tear off a piece of bread and dip it into the cup before partaking it. I prefer this method over any other because it reminds me that I betray Jesus every day…which is why I need communion.
Matthew 26:26-29. Jesus is the sacrificial lamb, whom we eat—just like the priests did in the Old Testament.
Matthew 26:39,42. Jesus didn’t want to go to the cross. Twice he said (my paraphrase), “God, if there’s any way I can get out of this, please help me. But if not, I’m ready to go to the cross.”
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
I love being a pastor, but I don’t know if I’d want to be a priest in the days of Moses. I’ve seen some bloody church messes in my day, but none of it compares with the daily job description of the priest.
The daily mandatory animal sacrifices meant certain priests spent all day butchering bulls and lambs. Imagine coming home from work every day (except the Sabbath!) covered in blood.
If you grew up in an evangelical church, you likely had an altar at the front of the sanctuary where people could give their lives to Jesus or receive prayer. But the altars of old were worlds different than the altars of today. Blood and guts everywhere. The smell of burning meat. Who would want to respond to an altar call like that?
I mean, what’s the big deal with all that blood???
As squeamish as it makes me feel, the blood served as a visual reminder that sin carries serious consequences. Someone must die for our sin. Assuredly, the daily fight with the animals that struggled to stay alive made a deep impression on the priests of the seriousness of their sin.
Which brings us to the Lord’s Supper in our reading in Matthew.
Jesus sat at the table with his confidantes. One would soon betray him. The others would abandon him. Yet Jesus offered them his body and his blood through the bread and the wine. Then Jesus became the sacrifice we read about in Exodus.
The seriousness of our sin demanded the price of not an animal, but the life of the Son of God.
Jesus shed his blood on our behalf—on your behalf—because sin is serious.
What unbelievable love!
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- Where do you see yourself in our reading from Matthew 26?
- What thoughts and feelings stirred inside you as you read the words, “Jesus shed his blood on our behalf—on your behalf—because sin is serious”?
- How should we respond?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.