It's a vivid childhood memory.
I'm a young boy, standing behind a wooden pew in the First Baptist Church of Blanco, Texas. It's either Easter or one of the close preceding Sundays, and our music director (we didn't call them "Worship Pastors" back then), is giving it all he's got as we hang on the last climatic high note of the traditional hymn. This is one of those three dimensional memories where I can feel the old wood of the pew, hear the congregation singing, and smell the promise of the Easter potluck beckoning from the nearby fellowship hall. But the clearest part of this memory, for which everything else is just context, is the hymn itself. A traditional classic, one of a group of hymns we would smilingly refer to as the Blood songs...
What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus! What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus! OH (big emphasis here) precious is the flow, that makes me white as sno-ow (hold the note!!)... NO other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus!
That's a powerful image. It's quickly joined by memories of it's musical sisters, 'Alas and did my savior bleed', 'There is power in the blood', 'There is a fountain (filled with blood drawn from Immanuel's veins)', and my favorite, 'Are you washed in the blood.' Think about those images for a second if you are a six year old boy! Have I been washed in a fountain filled with blood drawn from somebody named Immanuel's veins? Are we vampires here? Hey! Time for lunch!
All joking aside, these classic hymns are wonderful, and they celebrate the history defining event of Jesus sacrifice on the cross. As Paul proclaims in Ephesians 2, "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ." For me, the most powerful image of Jesus' blood is when He Himself lifted the Passover cup before His disciples, saying "This cup is the New Covenant in My Blood... so drink!"
These old hymns are etched in my mind, and I truly love them. And yet, almost 50 years of perspective has led me (and others) to notice something they all share in common. Something very one-dimensional. With almost no exception, they proclaim the message that the reason Christ died was to save me from my sins. Add in the image of Christs blood, and the clear picture emerges of Christ bleeding, suffering, and dying so that I could be forgiven. Taken as a whole, these images distill the cross down to two big concepts: Christ's suffering/death, and forgiveness. And, at the center of both is my sin. Now don't hear what I'm not saying. Christ did suffer. With His death He did pay the atonement for my sin, and yours... which is something we never could do. But, given the majestic Biblical scope of the Cross, does it all really just come down to our sin? Or, is there more?
This Sunday we begin a seven week series taking a broad and in-depth look at the Miracle of Resurrection. And to talk about Resurrection we must begin with the Cross, because the universal law of Resurrection is that for something to be raised from the dead, if first has to die. And so, if we ask the New Testament "Why did Jesus have to die", the answer isn't just to pay the penalty for our sin, but to set the stage for Resurrection- and not just Jesus', but our own, and ultimately all creation. You see, Jesus went to the cross so He could take us there with Him. And friends, that isn't just abstract theology. It is the foundation of freedom upon which we are continually built up In Christ, and it becomes very practical in the reality of daily life.
With you on the journey,
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
Colossians 3:3 NIV
...Because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
Romans 6:7 NIV