Life and Death: Twin Moons Circling the Same Planet.
[I wrote this as a guest post for Matt Mikalatos’ blog The Burning Hearts Revolution. Matt is running a series of guest posts to celebrate the release of his new book Night of the Living Dead Christian, a fabulous book that I’ll be reviewing soon. If you’d like to comment on the content of this post, please head over to Matt’s blog and join the conversation there. As usual, though, I’m open to comments about the writing and presentation in this piece. So, if you have thoughts along those lines, go ahead and leave them in the comments here. Thanks.]
It’s been too long. I feel weak. Dizzy. Can’t think.
There. Down there. A woman. She’ll do. She has to.
Drop behind her. Cloak flapping in the wind. Didn’t make too much noise. Perfect.
Grab her shoulder. Push her head to the side. Savor the smell.
It’s time. Bite. Pierce the tender skin. Let the hot blood flow. Taste life. Feel it.
My strength returns. My mind clears. For the first time in days, my cold flesh feels warm again. I’m still dead. Nothing can change that. But, now I get to be dead for another day. She took care of that with her unwilling gift.
Blood is life.
Everything was so good just a few seconds ago. The concert was amazing and I haven’t had a girls’ night out in so long. A quiet walk home under the full moon seemed like the perfect ending to a lovely, summer evening.
Now something has changed. I can’t pin it down, but it’s not right. I’ve got that tingling feeling on the back of my neck that you get when you think someone is staring at you. But, there’s no one here. I’m probably being irrational. Maybe I shouldn’t have walked home alone.
What’s that? It sounds like a flag flapping in a stiff breeze. That’s odd. There’s no wind.
Someone’s grabbed me! I have to struggle, fight, scream, get away, anything. But, I can’t. Something’s wrong. I’m getting weak, dizzy. I can’t think clearly. Everything’s fading. Where am I? What’s going on? What’s happening to me?
I’m on the ground. How did I get here? A few bright red drops hit the ground in front of my eyes. Blood? My blood? I must….
Blood is death.
One substance, two very different results. Life and death. Twin moons circling the same planet.
That’s how the Bible views blood. On the one hand, blood is what keeps us alive and allows us to be what God intended. In Eden, God created blood, and it was good. But, sin and evil entered the world and shattered God’s good creation. And, blood came to mean something else. Still the source of life, it also became the symbol of death.
You can see this most clearly in the biblical sacrifices. If you stop and think about it for a moment, sacrifices are weird. Imagine that you’re an Israelite and you’ve just sinned. What should you do? Why, go lop the head off some poor, innocent lamb, of course. That’s a great system. At least it is for the human; I’m sure the lamb sees things differently.
The point of the sacrifice, though, wasn’t to take out Israel’s problems on some innocent animal. That would be weird. No, the sacrifices demonstrated the devastating connection between sin and death. With clocklike regularity, the Israelites brought their animals to the priests and shed blood as a reminder of the fact that they lived east of Eden, in the brokenness of sin, in bondage to death. As Paul says later, “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 3:23). And, every time the Israelites brought forward their sin sacrifices, they reminded themselves of this truth.
At the same time, though, the blood brought a promise of life. Israel always knew that somehow it was only by shedding blood that forgiveness and life would be restored to God’s people. God promised he would forgive and cleanse his people when they brought their sacrifices to him.
But why? What is the connection between blood and death on the one hand and the promise of forgiveness and life on the other? The Old Testament never says. The Israelites just take it on faith that God will be faithful and will do what he promises.
Then Jesus came.
And, we killed him, shedding his blood on the cross.
And the truth became clear.
We still see the dark side of blood. The betrayals, beatings, mockery, loneliness, pain, blood, and death. Could there be a clearer picture? The Messiah came, and we killed him.
But the blood of Christ means so much more. Jesus died so he could break the power of death. His death was not the pointless sacrifice of a tragic Shakespearean hero. It had purpose. Jesus died so that we might be reborn as those who have the gift of life.
Blood is death. Blood is life. On the cross, both are true.
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
Come and drink. An invitation to vampires everywhere.
[This post is part of our series on the Gospel. Please feel free to check out the posts and let me know what you think.]
Flotsam and jetsam (1/17)
- According to one CNN opinion piece, Facebook is on the way out. (HT)
But appearances can be deceiving. In fact, as I read the situation, we are witnessing the beginning of the end of Facebook. These aren’t the symptoms of a company that is winning, but one that is cashing out.
- David Sehat argues that we need to beware The Myths of American Religious Freedom.
Our self-conception is in fact based on a three-fold myth of American religious freedom that distorts the current debate about religion in public life.
- Matthew Flanagan offers the third installment of his series on the genocide of the Canaanites.
I noted above that in Judges and Exodus the command is expressed in terms of avoiding treaties and driving the Canaanites out. In Joshua and Deuteronomy the command is expressed in the language of “utterly destroying them”. The conclusion we have reached is that the latter is figurative language and the former is literal. If this is the case then the command was to drive them out and it was not to literally exterminate them.
- Daniel Kirk discusses memory and identity in religious communities.
Stories are powerful. And they are nowhere put to such compelling use as they are in religious ceremonies of remembrance.
- CNN gives 9 Reasons that Pope John Paul II Mattered. (Isn’t it great when we can boil a person’s entire life down to nine nifty points?) (HT)
- TC Robinson reviews Tom Schreiner and Matthew Crawford’s new edited volume The Lord’s Supper: Remembering and Proclaiming Christ Until He Comes (B&H 2011).
- Michael Gorman points out a paper surveying three recent proposals about justification in Paul.
- And, Flavorwire shows off the libraries of the rich and famous. (Somebody needs to tell them that if your books are arranged by color, no one is going to believe that you actually read them.) And, if that doesn’t give you enough of a fix for your bibliophile tendencies, here’s a site devoted to Bookshelf Porn (i.e. photos of amazing personal libraries.
A prayer for Sunday – Karl Barth
O Lord our God, you wanted to live not only in heaven, but also with us, here on earth; not only to be high and great, but also to be small and lowly, as we are; not only to rule, but also to serve us; not only to be God in eternity, but also to be born as a person, to live, and to die.
In your dear Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, you have given us none other than yourself, that we may wholly belong to you. This affects all of us, and none of us has deserved this. What remains for us to do but to wonder, to rejoice, to be thankful, and to hold fast to what you have done for us?
We ask you to let this be the case in this hour, among us and in all of us! Let us become a proper Christmas community in honest, open, and willing praying and singing, speaking and hearing, and let us in great hunger be a proper Communion community! Amen.
~Karl Barth (1886-1968)
Flotsam and jetsam (8/20)
- John Barber argues that evangelicalism is dying, but that there’s hope for revival.
- Kevin DeYoung offers some words from Dorothy Sayers on the importance of theology in her day (and ours).
- A new study confirms that poor people are more generous.
- A Methodist church in the UK has backed off from its plans to celebrate communion via Twitter.
- Denny Burk offers 6 reasons to try the Olive Tree Bible app.
- The BBC interview NT Wright on his impending retirement and move to St. Andrews. HT
- Apparently there’s a new FB scam targeting Justin Bieber fans. Of course, if you’re a Justin Bieber fan, you probably deserve it.
- And, some guy was such a big Ayn Rand fan that he drove across America, plotting his course with a GPS system, so that when he was done it would spell out “Read Ayn Rand.” I’m sure that was time well spent.
Flotsam and jetsam (5/26)
- First Thoughts offers some thoughts on whether quantum physics renders the doctrine of transubstantiation meaningless.
- I commented a while back on why you should have at least two different versions of your resume. Now, Lifehacker has posted a resource for tracking multiple resumes that could be helpful in the old job search.
- There’s been an extended discussion in the blogosphere on the the speeches of Jesus and recent research into memory and oral traditions. James McGrath offers a helpful summary of the discussion.
- Scot McKnight has an interesting post summarizing statistical information on religious experience.
- JohnDave Medina has posted his summary of Paul Anderson’s lecture on the Gospel of John from the interaction with Marcus Borg at George Fox the other night.
- And, if you need a little retro in your morning, take a look at several classic 1980s music videos Matt Mikalatos has posted.