“And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed by blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” -Hebrews 9:22
A surface reading of this verse sounds grisly, harsh, devoid of grace, and maybe not even true.
But on closer examination, the truth and grace of this verse is clear. Interestingly, the truth of this verse is practiced in countless cultures around the world by people who have never read Hebrews 9:22, but who know the truth of it in their guts.
The Nosu people who live on the Tibetan Plateau of far northwestern China are one such example. These people, who until the last two decades were completely unreached by the gospel, have an annual ritual called the Torch Festival.
Here is how the Torch Festival works: An extended family gathers at one family member’s home. A person who is not part of the family acts as a priest and cuts the throat of a sheep. He lets the sheep bleed out. Then the entire family kneels before the priest while the priest picks up the lifeless sheep. The priest passes the dead sheep over the heads of every kneeling family member. This action, in the religion of the Nosu people, atones for the sins of the entire family for a year.
Blood is shed. It is ceremonially and symbolically passed over the heads of the sinners, the assembled family members. Sin is forgiven for an entire year. Shed blood has atoned for sin. And this by people who have never read the Bible!
By some deep spiritual intuition, the Nosu people, and countless other people around the world, know that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin.
God knows this truth perfectly: killing animals to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve, providing a ram stuck in the thicket to die in Isaac’s place, the Old Testament sacrificial system, the Passover lamb of Exodus 12, and the Passover Lamb of God—the very Son of God Who died in our place and suffered our sins.
The Old Testament Passover lamb of Exodus 12 foreshadows and predicts the New Testament Passover Lamb.
“Behold the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world!” -John 1:29
“It is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.” -John 11:50
“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” -Revelation 5:12
Each of these passages not only point to Jesus as the Passover Lamb Who takes away the sin of the world, but also to His work as our Substitute. He died in our place. He had no sin of His own, yet Jesus paid for our sin.
The Father stacked the collected sins of mankind on the shoulders of His Son, turned away from Him, and punished Him to death for our sins.
This is the essence of the Christian faith, namely substitution. If you do not understand substitution, you do not understand Christianity.
At the core, the Christian faith is about Someone dying for others. It is about trading the life of the Greater for the life of the lessors. It is about substitution and the fact that this Substitute has offered forgiveness of sin to everyone and anyone who will put their faith in Him and His work on the cross.
In 1995, a Texas woman was riding a horse in the wilderness of British Columbia with each of her three children on horses behind her. A mountain lion came out of the forest and dragged her youngest son off the back horse. When the woman realized what had happened, she jumped down, ran back, and tackled the mountain lion. The lion turned on her and killed her. Her other two children dragged their bleeding brother to safety. The woman traded her life for the life of her son.
God the Father traded the life of His Son for the lives of all of us.
“Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…” -Hebrews 9:27
According to this verse, each one of us will die and stand before God for judgement. He will ask each person a question something like this, “Why should I forgive your sin and let you live in my heaven?”
I would advise that you rehearse your answer to this one question, eternally important quiz.
My answer is this: “You should forgive my sin because Jesus already paid for it and I am trusting completely in Him and what He did for me on the cross. He is my Passover Lamb.”