Summary: The Lord's Supper is the bloodbath of God. For we have the sure Word from the Son of God: “This is My blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”
“Bloodbath” is not a word that brings pleasant images to mind. If you were to pull some books off the library shelf, you’d find descriptions like these for the word “bloodbath”:
Yes, it was a bloodbath, yes it was annihilation of all the inhabitants, yes it was cruel and not at all holy. (In Lieu of Heaven by Kevin Archer)
What occurred was a bloodbath that “bordered on sadism” as bodies piled up on the street. (Violent Crime in North America by Louis A. Knafla)
“Bloodbath” is not a pleasant word. But tonight we hear about a different bloodbath. Tonight, Isaiah tells us of a good bloodbath, God’s bloodbath for us and for our salvation. In the sermon text, Isaiah foretells of Jesus who “will sprinkle many nations” with His blood.
For sin is such an offense and an affront to a holy and righteous God that blood must be spilt for sins to be forgiven. Someone or something sinless or spotless must die for you to be forgiven. God mandates that blood be shed, a bathing of blood to wash away your sins. The writer to the Hebrews tells it like it is: “Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22).
In the Old Testament, God mandated many types of animal sacrifices. Through such shedding of blood, through such bloodbaths, God forgave the Old Testament believers. When clean, unblemished animals were sacrificed and their blood was shed as God had directed, He forgave the sins of the people (Leviticus 1-7).
Sometimes, the animals sacrificed were many, thousands. When Solomon dedicated the Temple, the blood flowed from tens of thousands of sheep, goats, and cattle. During the Old Testament Passover ceremony, the priests would form bucket brigades at the Temple, pouring out the blood from the thousands of sacrificed lambs. Young boys would often line up at the Kidron Brook to be the first to see the water turn pink from the outpouring of blood from the Temple mount.
These bloodbaths were part of God’s old covenant with His people Israel. God worked though these sacrifices, through which He promised to be present, granting forgiveness at His temple. The Old Testament people of Israel lived and breathed in these blood-spilled events, events that anticipated and pointed forward to Christ’s spilling of blood for us.
When God set up His first covenant with Israel, He told Moses to sprinkle the blood of the sacrificed animals on the people. The blood was called “the blood of the covenant” (Exodus 24:8). When the priest sprinkled the blood on the Israelites of old, they entered the covenant with God. They were heirs of God’s covenant promises of forgiveness, blessing, and eternal life. As the blood was sprinkled on them, God graced His believers with forgiveness, the forgiveness of Jesus’ sacrifice that would even work its way backward through time to save the Old Testament believers (Hebrews 9:15). Isaiah spoke of this, about what Jesus would do in the new covenant, that He would “sprinkle many nations.”
In some Old Testament sacrifices, God commanded the priests to sprinkle the blood of the sacrificed animal on the altar before God. This was one way for the priest to offer the life of the animal, which died in place of the sinful people. At other times, the blood was sprinkled on the people. That’s because the life of the animal is in its blood (Leviticus 17:11).
The people would also gather and watch as the priest laid his hands on the head of the animal that was to be sacrificed. This transferred the sins of the people to the animal, which was placed on the altar and killed. The people would watch as the blood flowed from the animal, dying because of the people’s sins.
This act proclaimed God’s law. For the wages of sin is death. The people’s sin, transferred to the animal, mandated the life of the animal to be poured out with its blood. But this act also proclaimed God’s Gospel, for it was the life-blood of the substitute that was poured out for the sins of the people.
In the sermon text, the prophet Isaiah looks beyond the sacrifices of the Old Testament to the coming of Jesus Christ. He tells us that Jesus Christ will sprinkle many nations with His own outpoured blood. The great difference from the old covenant is that the Suffering Servant, Christ Himself, would be sacrificed for us.
Jesus is the eternal Son of God. That’s why the sprinkling of blood that He offers is infinitely more valuable than the slaughter of animals. His shed blood pays for the sin of the entire world. His sacrifice was of infinite and universal value. Because of that, Christ only needed to die once, for all time and for all people.