It has often been said that Christians have a vocabulary all their own that is rather baffling to non-Christians. In particular, phrases involving “the blood” must be particularly disturbing to non-initiates. While the idea of being “washed in the blood”, “cleansed by the blood” or even “sprinkled by the blood” might be common currency to those of us who have been in and around churches for decades, it’s not hard to see how they might at the very least raise an eyebrow or two among thoughtful outsiders.
Yet there’s no denying that the blood of Jesus is central to Christian belief. Both the Old and the New Testament are replete with references to blood. And Jesus’ death, however you understand it, was undeniably a bloody event.
The question remains: how should we understand the blood of Jesus and its import for our salvation? Allow me to offer a brief perspective.
Being a Pentecostal of thirty years’ standing, I’ve heard and read more than my fair share of references to Jesus’ blood. I’ve sat under speakers who’ve railed that I need to be washed in the blood lest I perish; I’ve been assured – and have myself assured others – that “Jesus’ blood never fails me”; and I’ve lustily sung good old Pentecostal hymns proclaiming that “There’s power in the blood”.
My experience leads me to conclude that for many Christians, Jesus’ blood (like his cross) is little more than a talisman, a magical potion that bestows forgiveness, healing, power… in fact, any number of supernatural benefits. And all these benefits come irrespective of whether or not we actually allow ourselves to be changed as a result of understanding Jesus’ death and resurrection.