This month, Christians observe the most special week of the year. Although the rest of the world champions Speed Week, March Madness, or even Christmas, those who follow Jesus realize the eternal significance of all that happened over the next eight days. That’s why we call it Holy Week.
Beginning with Palm Sunday and culminating with Jesus’ resurrection, our forgiveness and redemption were secured during the course of this brief time period. Hundreds of Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled and the entire trajectory of eternity was radically altered.
But what happened this week had its beginnings in eternity past. I Peter 1:19-20 tells us that Jesus was selected as the Chosen Lamb before God even created the world. When Adam and Eve sinned, God, in mercy, sacrificed some animal not only to make clothes to cover their nakedness but to shed its blood to cover their sin. This is the first recorded death, but this blood trail leads throughout the Bible right up to Jesus’ cross.
In Genesis 22, God stopped Abraham from killing his son and provided a ram for the offering instead. Earlier, God had also sealed His covenant after Abraham faithfully slaughtered and prepared an animal according to God’s directions.
The Book of Leviticus is a very bloody one as it lays out the specific types of sacrifices God required for each violation of His Law. In the years that followed, hundreds of thousands of bulls, goats, sheep, and doves were killed to fulfill God’s righteous requirements. At various times, blood was also sprinkled on objects as well as the people themselves to solemnize God’s covenant with them.
When Solomon dedicated the Temple in 1 Chronicles 29, he presented a thousand bulls, a thousand rams, and a thousand lambs. Years later, during a time of spiritual renewal, 2 Chronicles 30 tells us that the Israelites slaughtered two thousand bulls and seventeen thousand sheep and goats.
Although there is no mention of blood in either of these verses, it is clear that an incredible amount of blood was shed to atone for their sins and to provide food for the gathered Israelites. In addition, every morning and evening, lambs were sacrificed at specified times according to God’s commands as well as the Passover Lambs killed for each family annually.
The Bible is a very bloody book. Why is this? Leviticus 17 tells us that “… it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” Hebrews 9:22 summarizes it clearly, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” This is an eternal principle established by the Creator that He demands be kept. Even many pagan cultures recognize the need for blood sacrifices.
This then is the blood trail from Eden that ultimately leads to Jesus’ cross. John the Baptist called Jesus the “Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” Jesus was the only perfect human without sin or blemish that could pay for the sins of all humanity once and for all.
When the centurions jammed the thorns down on Jesus’ head, and when they whipped His back with bone and iron, and when they nailed His hands and feet to the tree, and when they shoved a spear into His side, Jesus’ blood flowed freely as they sacrificed and crucified the King of Glory.
After Jesus died, the Bible mentions no more bloody sacrifices. Although the Jews continued these practices for about another 25 years, the Temple was soon destroyed and all such sacrifices ceased. The perfect Lamb had been offered and the full price for our sin had been paid. The Bible’s blood trail ends at Jesus’ cross.
As we observe the holiest events in human history this month, let’s thank, worship, and praise God for giving His Son and for Jesus’ willingness to shed His own holy blood to save us. May we accept His sacrifice in place of our own.