In some way, each of us has unique blood. It isn’t your blood type since others share your blood type, even if your blood type is rare. But each person does have other proteins, which help distinguish his blood from someone else’s. And that’s not even going into the DNA within each cell of someone’s bloodstream.
Yet, as unique and precious as your blood may be, it cannot grant you access to God. That’s what our text from Hebrews reminds us about today. Access to God only comes about when a specific blood comes into play–the blood of Jesus Christ. He opens the door to God. More than that, His blood also allows us to remain where we otherwise wouldn’t be able to stand. It does both. His blood allows us to enter and be where God wants us to be!
Do you want access to God? If you want to live eternally, you will need such access. Yet, God’s presence can be dangerous. For no sinful person may presume to step into God’s presence on his own terms. To do so is to invite death.
At Mount Sinai, God solemnly told Moses to set a boundary around the holy mountain. God said: “Be careful not to go up the mountain or even touch its edge. Whoever touches the mountain will be put to death” (Exodus 19:12). With the Ark of the Covenant, God only allowed the sons of Levi to touch that sacred box. Others who touched it would die. For the Ark of the Covenant was the place of God’s holy presence–and sin cannot coexist in His presence!
In the tabernacle and the Temple, the Holy of Holies, the Most Holy Place, was off-limits to all except the high priest. And there he could only enter one time a year, on the Day of Atonement, and then only with the sacrificial blood to cover his own sins and the sins of the people! The Old Testament makes it clear that God’s presence is dangerous for those who are unclean and polluted by sin.
Yet, God doesn’t limit the danger of being in His presence only to the Old Testament. In 1st Corinthians, Paul writes about those who have become guilty of the body and blood of the Lord by eating and drinking those sacred gifts in an unworthy way. He goes on to say, “That’s why so many of you are weak and sick and many are dying” (1 Corinthians 11:30). One reason for the biblical practice of closed Communion is to prevent people from receiving the Lord’s body and blood to their spiritual harm.
Indeed, God’s holiness can be harmful to those who come into improper contact with what God has made holy. Contact with God was dangerous, for someone could incur His wrath, just as he could incur His grace. Someone could incur God’s wrath in one of two ways. He could bring impurity into God’s presence or he could desecrate what was holy. God isn’t accessible to people made unclean by sin. To sinners, God’s presence means wrath and judgment, death, and destruction.
In today’s Church, we have the idea ingrained in us that God is our friend. Many of you have shared with me how much you love the hymn, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” Yet, if that is our only view of God, we get Him wrong. For then we can assume that God is our buddy who would never judge or condemn us. We can assume that God exists to make life tranquil and satisfying.
But that’s not God–He’s dangerous! It isn’t safe for sinners to be in His presence. A book some of you have read, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, pictures this well. In that story, a character named Mrs. Beaver is preparing some children to meet a majestic lion, named Aslan.
Susan, one of the children said, “Is he quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.” Mrs. Beaver replied, “That you will dearie and make no mistake…. If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without his knees knocking, he’s either braver than most or else just silly.” Lucy, Susan’s sister, then spoke, “Then he isn’t safe?” Mr. Beaver answered, “Who said anything about being safe? [Of] Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
He’s not safe, but he is good. That describes God. And in that goodness He has provided us with safe access to His gracious presence in the flesh and blood of His Son. Jesus emboldens us to enter the Holiest Place (that is, the inner sanctuary, where God only allowed the high priest to go on Yom Kippur).
The high priest entered the Holy of Holies with the blood of bulls and goats, and that only once a year. We enter the Holiest Place, the place of God’s presence, by the flesh and blood of Jesus. The high priest stepped behind the veil, the curtain, into God’s presence, with the blood of sacrifice. Jesus Christ created our passageway to God in His own flesh.
Jesus’ flesh is the new and living way by which we come into God’s presence and live. His precious blood sprinkles us clean and makes us holy to stand before the living God. God give us this gracious access in the Lord’s Supper. For it’s in His Supper where Jesus gives us His flesh to eat and His blood to drink.
In other words, the Lord’s Supper is our means of access to God. By His Word that says, “This is my body, given for you” and “This cup is the new covenant in my blood,” God forgives us of our sins. That allows us to come into the Lord’s presence and live.
We do not have to draw back from God’s presence. Instead, in faith, we can draw near to God. Think of it, the Lord of heaven and earth–the God who presides in light unapproachable–draws near to us and invites us to step into His presence.
Sin would drive us from the Lord’s presence. But God has atoned for that sin by the blood of His Son. And through that blood, God forgives our sins, making us His children, inviting us into His life-giving presence. In fact, God Himself qualifies us to come into His presence.
How are you qualified? God makes you qualified when the Holy Spirit brings you to grasp the gifts that God has given to you in Baptism and His Supper. Listen again to our reading from Hebrews: “Let us continue to draw near with a true heart in the full assurance of faith, because our hearts have been sprinkled clean from a guilty conscience, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.”
Our Lord Jesus Christ shed His blood on the cross to atone for your sins. In His Supper, Jesus gives to you the blood that He shed to purify you from sin and give you peace with God. In Baptism, the Holy Spirit joined you to Jesus’ death. It is as the book of Romans says:
Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore, through baptism, we were buried with him into his death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too may walk in newness of life [Romans 6:3-4].
And so, each in its own way, both the blood and water, the Lord’s Supper and Holy Baptism, are the grounds for our boldness before God.
Our High Priest, Jesus Christ, has opened the way into God’s presence for sinners. He is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Him. By His death on the cross, He has delivered you from sin. By His Gospel, His Baptism, and His Supper, He delivers the forgiveness of sins to you. Washed with His Baptism and sprinkled with His blood, you have access to the heavenly Father. Amen.