Summary: Hebrews 9:22 says, "Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." That's the driving principle that runs throughout the entire Bible.
We celebrate the resurrection of Jesus every Lord’s Day, but on Easter Sunday we ramp up our celebration. Back in the 1960s, Nikita Khrushchev was the Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. In one infamous speech he declared the superiority of communism over America by saying, “We will bury you!” It was ironic, because by the time Khrushchev died in 1971, he had fallen out of favor in the Soviet Union, and they didn’t want to bury him there. They asked the Americans if we would accept the corpse, but President Nixon declined. In desperation, the Soviet officials asked the Israeli Prime Minister, Golda Meir, if they could send Khrushchev’s corpse to be buried in Israel. Golda Meir agreed but she added, “However, I must warn you that Israel has the world’s highest resurrection rate!” And indeed, I was in Jerusalem last month, and I can verify again that the tomb of Jesus is STILL empty!
This morning I want to talk about the “Scarlet Thread Running through the Bible.” This scarlet thread begins in Genesis and runs all the way to the empty tomb.
I’m borrowing this title from one of my mentors, W.A. Criswell, the long-time pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas. On New Year’s Eve in 1961, Dr. Criswell preached a five-hour message tracing the theme of the blood of the lamb in every book in the Bible. Don’t worry—I’m only going to take thirty minutes. But if you care to listen to Dr. Criswell’s entire message you can find it at www.wacriswell.org. Here’s a quote from his introduction: “Did you know that a scarlet thread winds its way throughout the entire Bible? Skeptics and scoffers may fire their arrows at the validity and historicity of Scriptures, but believers throughout the centuries have seen this line of crimson weaving through every book of God’s holy Word. It is the story of redemption of mankind at the price of the blood of Jesus Christ.”
The key verse for understanding this scarlet thread is Hebrews 9:22. The Bible says, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” That’s the driving principle that runs throughout the entire Bible. I don’t understand WHY a blood sacrifice leads to forgiveness; I just know the Bible says it and I believe it. I don’t understand how a brown cow eats green grass and gives white milk. But I’m not going to refuse a cold glass of milk until I understand the process!
I was in Beijing last Sunday and there was an article in USA Today two days ago about how Christianity is exploding in China, in spite of the fact that the government arrested the pastor of an underground church two weeks ago. I met with pastors who know him personally. A 21-year-old Chinese girl was quoted in the article telling why she was interested in studying the Bible. She said she didn’t want to go to a church just to hear a message that we should be nice to one another. She said, “I need to know why Jesus died.” I’ll answer that question today. In the Bible, there is a recurring pattern revealing the necessity of a blood sacrifice, a scarlet thread. Let me tell you the stories about this scarlet thread that weaves throughout history.
1. Adam and Eve: Blood covered their shame
The first place we see the scarlet thread is in Genesis 3:21. We discover there’s a great difference between fig leaves and the skin of an animal. The first death recorded in the Bible was the animal that was killed to clothe Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve lived in a paradise called the Garden of Eden. But when they disobeyed God, their eyes were opened and they realized they were naked. They felt a totally new emotion: Shame. They’d never felt it before, and we’ve felt that emotion ever since. In their attempt to cover their shame, the Bible says they wove fig leaves together. They probably thought they looked pretty good. I can just hear Adam saying, “Eve, you look stunning. Where did you get your dress, Leaves Claiborne?” Can’t you hear Eve saying, “Thank you Adam, green is your color. You look handsome in your Hart, Shatner, and Figs suit, as well.” But when God came looking for them, they still felt shame so they hid from God. In Genesis 3:21 the Bible says, “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” God could have waved a magic wand, and clothed them, or He could have required their own blood. But God was setting a pattern when He used an animal as a substitute for them. Why? Because “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” The Bible doesn’t identify the animal, but don’t be surprised when you get to heaven to discover it was a lamb. The scarlet thread continues into the next story: