The Lord said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘Do not eat any of the fat of cattle, sheep or goats. The fat of an animal found dead or torn by wild animals may be used for any other purpose, but you must not eat it. Anyone who eats the fat of an animal from which a food offering may be presented to the Lord must be cut off from their people. And wherever you live, you must not eat the blood of any bird or animal. Anyone who eats blood must be cut off from their people.’”
– Leviticus 7:22-27
Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it.
“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them.
– Mark 14:23-24
I was reading Leviticus 7 the other day, and the 27th verse floored me. I knew that the Israelites were not allowed to eat the blood, but it had not connected in my mind before, nor had I heard a sermon about it.
Jesus gave His disciples the wine and encouraged them to take and drink. Then He said, “This is my blood.”
Wait, those who abide by the Law of Moses cannot drink blood, but Jesus makes a ‘blood covenant’ with His disciples.
For us, we have been drinking wine or grape juice with the belief (symbolic or literal) that it becomes the blood of Jesus for nearly 2,000 years. There may be a lot of debate over one denomination’s belief regarding whether it is blood or not, but that is not where I am going.
Jesus said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” Now the disciples had been taught in the Law of Moses. They knew the rule regarding not eating blood, but they also knew that Jesus had this verbal feud going with the Pharisees and teachers of the Law. Was this a symbolic gesture to tweak the noses of the Pharisees? Just think of what the disciples were going through.
The entire week leading up to this night had been a mess, the Triumphal entry in Jerusalem, the turning over of the money changing tables, the arguments with the religious leaders, a simple thing of killing a fig tree for not bearing fruit, and now the preparation for a Passover meal with His inner circle.
Then Jesus washes their feet.
Jesus had just said that He will be betrayed.
Jesus had said that He was going to die and rise again, but now it seems more real.
Jesus had just talked about the disciples eating His body when they had eaten the bread.
Now they are drinking His blood?
Who cares whether drinking blood violates the Law. They are going to follow Jesus’ lead, but where is this going? None of them knew the end game except Jesus.
When we study the events of Maundy Thursday, we tend to focus on the actions and words of Jesus and how the disciples seemed to reject the idea of Jesus dying. Willing to follow, but in denial of the teaching that made no sense to them.
We never seem to talk about ‘not eating, or drinking, blood.’
Matthew Henry says that the prohibition of not eating blood in Leviticus is an unsaid separation within the Law of Moses, making the drinking of the wine, as Christ’s blood, during the Lord’s Supper to be an exceptionally holy event. Basically, there is no other permitted reason to drink ‘blood.’
The people of Israel are told not to drink the blood – that it, until Jesus establishes the sacrament, instructing us to drink His blood in remembrance of Him. I have heard that the word ‘holy’ can be described as ‘wholly, other.’ In other words, holy is something that is set aside and different from all other things regarding that particular thing. Drinking blood, as an act, is forbidden, other than in the holy sacrament of the Last Supper.
At this point, the argument can wait for another day regarding “literal or symbolic” blood. When we drink of the blood of Jesus, it is an act set apart, holy, and established by our Lord and Savior in remembrance of Him. As confused as His disciples were that night, the uniqueness and holiness of what had just happened was one of the many things that would not become clear for another 50 days until Pentecost.
Soli Deo Gloria. Glory to God Alone.