The meat section of my grocery store is clean and pleasant. Festive music plays as I select refrigerated trays of pork, beef, and chicken. Each package is shrink wrapped in clear plastic, with only an occasional smudge of blood. But no matter how much the store tries to conceal it, its meat section is built on death.
The same is true of Christian worship. We gather in pleasant buildings to worship God with joyful songs. And it’s okay to be in clean surroundings and sing music that reflects our joy in Jesus. But we can forget that even our worship is built on death. Our praise is only possible because of the death of our Savior.
Every Old Testament Israelite would have known this immediately. No one could worship God without sacrificing a lamb, goat, calf, bull, or bird (Exodus 24:4-8). The temple priests would begin and end each day by killing a lamb, plus two more on the Sabbath. More would be sacrificed by those who came to confess their sin. During Passover in Jesus’ day, thousands of lambs would have been sacrificed at the temple in just a few hours. Imagine the bleating and the blood! The worship truly ran red.
We no longer sacrifice lambs because the Lamb of God has been sacrificed once for all. To ritually kill an animal today would be to deny that Jesus has come. But our worship is no less built on blood. Jesus “has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice” (Hebrews 9:26).
We gather together and sing because Jesus’ death has made us clean. So we join the praise of heaven: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered” (Revelation 5:12), for His “blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (v.9).
365-day plan: Matthew 23:1-39