June 17, 2019

Holy Week: His Blood Be On Us

After the Savior was judged by Pontius Pilate within the confines of the palace of Herod, Pilate again brought Jesus before the Jewish leaders. Here Pilate exclaimed that he had found no fault with Jesus and sought to release him because of His innocence, symbolically washing his hands of the matter. The most vocal of the crowd would hear nothing of Pilate’s verdict of innocence for the Lord. The Gospel of Matthew records the profound interchange: "When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children." (Matthew 27:24-25).

Here among the group were many of the priests of the temple, including the high priest himself who well understood the concept of a blood atonement. The word atone, or khapper in Hebrew means to cover, blot out, expiate, condone or cancel. For the priests, this term of atonement or covering also had a literal application during temple sacrifices. Depending on the type of sacrifice that the priest was offering, a portion of the blood of the animal was dabbed upon the horns of the altar, splashed against the sides, or poured out at the base. On the Day of Atonement (the holiest day of the year), the High priest would, in addition, dab blood on the horns of the altar of incense, and sprinkle blood before the veil. The High Priest would also enter the Holy of Holies and with blood from the sacrifice sprinkle it seven times upon the Ark of the Covenant. This “covering” with blood of the various pieces of furniture within the Tabernacle and later temples represented that the blood of the sacrifice covered, or made atonement for the sins of all Israel. Because of these rituals, the act of covering with blood, and atonement were almost interchangeable for the Israelite people.

How ironic that here the people ask that Christ’s blood be upon them. Of course, the Jewish leaders did not mean to imply that Jesus’ blood would atone for them, or cover them, but the symbolism of the wording they choose still vividly remains. How true their request would be that the blood of the Lamb of God, who would be slain for their sins, would come upon them or cover them; for Christ did suffer for all, even His accusers. Even more powerful is the statement that Christ’s blood be upon their children, for all, both Jew and Gentile, are to be grafted into the lineage of Abraham, thus becoming children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Each of us, in essence, are part of the crowd who requested that Jesus' blood cover them. As sinners we each have the need of having our sins blotted out, or covered over to be remembered no more by God. Truly, it is by His blood coming upon us that we are forgiven. How prophetic the words of these wicked men, who in attempting to place blame on their children, actually helped in providing the means of salvation to their children through the blood of the Lamb of God. The Lamb, that on their behalf, and by their request, was slain!