CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

God's Word on Sunday: God gives His word; it won’t be broken

  • May 30, 2021

Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, June 6 (Year B) Exodus 24:3-8; Psalm 116; Hebrews 9:11-15; Mark 14:12-16, 22-26

Blood is one of the most powerful symbols in the world.

For many, blood is frightening and even revolting, but not without a certain fascination. In the Scriptures, it was believed to bear the life force and to have a sort of numinous power. Blood that had been spilled cried out from the Earth for vengeance.

In Exodus, blood over the doorposts of the Israelites saved them from the destroying angel during Passover. Blood had to be drained from slaughtered animals before they were eaten. Most of all, blood was used to seal treaties and covenants, signifying the seriousness of the matter and giving the covenant a binding force. Even today, we still speak of something being signed in blood.

In the Exodus account, Moses read the provisions of the covenant to the assembled people of Israel. With one voice, the people had proclaimed that they would do everything that the Lord had commanded. Moses sprinkled both the altar and the people with the blood from the sacrificial animals. Once again, the people voiced their acceptance and compliance. There is irony in this, for we are aware that they betrayed God many times on that journey through the wilderness and paid the consequences.

Humans are weak and fickle and often run at the first sign of difficulty. But the covenant had been sealed in blood and even though the people were unfaithful, God was not. God was always there for them when they were in trouble. God also took them back again and again, wiping away their transgressions and giving them another chance.

We might think that sealing covenants with sacrifices and blood is a bit melodramatic and over the top. For us, a signature is usually enough, and sometimes an oath. But we are also a culture that suffers from a “commitment deficiency.” Agreements and covenants are often treated as temporary and provisional. We can be exacting in what we expect from the other party and rather fuzzy on our contribution.

Giving one’s promise and solemn word must never be taken lightly, especially regarding our commitment to the Lord and our promise of discipleship.

The author of Hebrews framed his theology in terms of the temple sacrifice, something that does not have much meaning in a modern context. He argued that the blood of Christ’s sacrifice was superior in power and efficacy, eliminating the need for any other form of sacrifice.

The sacrificial blood of animals granted ritual purity for the parties involved. The blood of Christ, however, grants purity before God, the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life. Christ’s sacrifice is not temporary or fleeting but permanent and eternal for God is always faithful and present.

Everything had been arranged for the Passover meal. The disciples were directed to approach the contacts that Jesus had in the city and to follow their lead. What followed at what we call the Last Supper was short and simple but profound. It was nothing less than the establishment of another covenant. This time the body and blood of Jesus would provide the seal and bond of the covenant.

When believers partake of the Eucharist, it is an acknowledgement and reenactment of this covenant. Jesus certainly fulfills His part of the covenant — He faithfully provides presence, guidance and blessings. It is a constant reminder of the price that has been paid for our liberation and redemption. But what about our obligations?

Our participation in the Eucharist is a public affirmation of fidelity to the covenant, which for us means loyalty, discipleship and willingness to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. The Lord’s Body and Blood are also relational, being symbols of solidarity and reverence for the entire community of believers and ultimately all people.

It is not a private devotion or personal spiritual charge for the week. It is signing on again for our journey towards the Promised Land and renewing our commitment to loving service. Rather than something that only takes place only on Sunday or at church, it is a divine pattern and way of life for all believers.

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