Covered in Blood
v.20, 23-25a For by works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith.
Beloved in Christ, blood is important. Vital, in fact, for life. Without enough blood in our bodies we will surely die, for blood carries important nutrients, especially oxygen to all of our tissues and organs. Perhaps that is why the sight of blood, outside of our bodies, can cause such a panic. Many people faint at the merest sight of a drop of blood. Of course, at this time of year, Hollywood and other entertainment industries use spilled blood to strike fear into the hearts and minds of people with gruesome displays of people bleeding profusely, as we come upon this secular holiday of Halloween.
Well dear friends, Paul also understood the importance of blood—indeed, as a Jew, his entire religious upbringing was steeped in the flow of blood—as animals were sacrificed daily and often for the sins of the people. So it is that St. Paul has much to say in his letter to the Romans about blood—and about its redeeming qualities. Therefore, this letter of Paul has become one of the most clear proclamations of the Gospel of Jesus (He who shed His blood for us on the cross) and so very key for every Christian to study and to know.
Indeed, Martin Luther had great regard for this epistle of Paul. He writes, “This epistle is really the chief part of the New Testament, and is truly the purest Gospel. It is worthy not only that every Christian should know it word for word, by heart, but also that he should occupy himself with it every day, as the daily bread of the soul. We can never read it or ponder over it too much; for the more we deal with it, the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes...”
So, on this day in which we celebrate the Reformation of the church and the restoration of the Gospel—an event sparked by Luther’s careful study of this very letter—let us also come to ponder and appreciate the apostle’s words concerning the blessed hope that we have through the blood of Christ Jesus poured out for sinners.
Paul shows us here that there is no hope for sinful human beings under the Law. For the Law acts as a mirror to show us our sin. In every way—at every time—the Law serves to condemn and kill those who do wrong by it. Though the Law in itself is just and holy—coming from God Himself—yet we who are in bondage to sin—fail to keep it and break God’s perfect Law—thereby condemning ourselves to eternal suffering under God’s just judgement and wrath for sin.
Our sin covers us—our guilt is terrible to behold—like the gruesome costumes that are popular today among children and adults alike—our sin is ever before God and is abhorrent in His sight. There is no denying that this is our state of being—Paul is very clear here that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” There is no one who comes close in God’s eyes to the perfect life of love and service that He demands. There are none who love Him truly and purely. There are none who love their neighbours as selflessly as they love themselves. All humanity stands justly condemned by God’s holy Law—awaiting His awful and final verdict of death and damnation.
And so God sent His only-begotten—His beloved—Son—Jesus to take our sin upon Himself—to dress Himself up in our blood-guiltiness and take it to the cross to pay for it with His own suffering and death. On the cross the full wrath and justice of God against sin was meted out not upon those who so readily deserved it—you and me—but rather upon Christ—the Innocent One. Yet He willingly took our infirmities, shouldered our burdens, carried our sins, so that with His sacrifice—you and I might be saved.
For the Lord God Almighty demands payment for sin—and that payment must be made in blood. Jesus took your sin—and then paid for it with His own blood sacrifice and death. Redeeming you from the terrible judgement that awaited you because of your sin. Though you were a slave to sin—though you were dead in your sin—yet Christ loved you so much He went to the cross to shed His blood on your behalf—to remove your sin and place it upon Himself—and then give you something in exchange—the gift of His blood and righteousness.
Paul tells us here that Jesus’ blood is the propitiation for your sins. The Greek word for propitiation is hilasterion, which in the Septuagint refers to the cover for the ark of the covenant where the high priest sprinkled the blood of the sacrifices to make atonement for sin. Just as the propitiation covered the ark of the covenant, so Christ’s righteousness covers the sinner—for He is the sacrifice for sin. Indeed, the ugliness, the vileness, and evil of your sin has been removed from you and instead you are covered with the redeeming and pure and holy blood of Christ Himself.
This blood of Jesus is God’s gift to you—to wash away your sin—to pay for your iniquity—to justify you in His sight. For your sin has been fully paid by the blood of Jesus. It is His guarantee to you of your salvation. His promise of forgiveness, salvation, and life, has been signed, sealed, and delivered in the blood the Lamb who was slain on Golgotha, that those who believe might not perish but have everlasting life.
So rejoice dear friends, rejoice and be glad on this Reformation Day as we celebrate with great joy and thanksgiving the clear proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ—that His blood was poured out for you—so that you might gain everlasting life—not by your works—but purely and freely by God’s grace. And when those little goblins and witches and terrible monsters of every description come to your door this week to beg for a trick or treat—may their gruesome disguises serve to remind you of your sin—the despicable evil that resides in your heart and being. Yet may you also be reminded then of the sweetness of the blood of Jesus that has been shed for you.
Indeed, not only has God covered you with Christ’s redeeming blood in Holy Baptism—completely wiping away all of your sin and granting you new and everlasting life—yet He also graciously provides you with Jesus own body and blood to eat and to drink that you might be refreshed in His goodness and mercy. For His blood not only covers you outwardly, but works on you inwardly, giving you strength and peace of mind when assaulted by the forces of evil—when crushed by the weight of the despair brought on by your sin—when you are forced to face death square in the face—may you look to the blood of Jesus and rejoice. For by faith in Him and His blood, which properly receives all that He has done, so you know that you will live.
And so fear not! Though Satan may storm and rage. Though the world may crumble and fall. Though your own flesh may whither and decay. Yet you have been cleansed—fully covered and absolved—by the blood of Jesus. May the sight of His blood outpoured, which is visible only to the eyes of faith, give you comfort and peace. And may you boldly share this “bloody” good news with everyone, everywhere, that they too may hear and believe the joy of the Christian who has been covered in blood—Jesus’ blood. Thanks be to God in Christ Jesus. Amen.