Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Washing us clean

Once the topic of deer hunting comes up, it doesn’t take long for people to ask, “You’re not from around here, are you?” It is obvious that I have absolutely nothing to contribute to that conversation. I do, however, listen to the stories and look at pictures shared by proud hunters.

There is one kind of photograph that always makes me a little squeamish. It’s the evidence of a ritual surrounding the first time a young hunter kills a deer. The blood from the animal is smeared on the face of the hunter. For a non-hunter like me, it seems a little gruesome. I’m just grateful they wash it off before they go out in public. I’m not sure what I would do if someone walked into my office with dried blood on their face from a previous hunting excursion.

No, I’m not from around here. I’m from the big city of Jacksonville, Florida. When Scott and I were young newlyweds, we lived in an apartment there on the St. Johns River. We dealt with big city traffic, bright lights, hustle, bustle, and crime. One weekend we both had separate events to attend. I returned to our apartment in the early evening. Scott called and said he would be late. Our favorite BBQ restaurant would have been closed by the time he got back into town, so I agreed to head on over there and get a take-out order, then we could eat as soon as he got home.

I returned to our apartment complex and parked my car. I gathered up my purse, keys, and bags of BBQ. As soon as I stepped out of my car and shut the door, someone grabbed me from behind. I struggled and fought my way from the driver’s side door to the front bumper. I felt a forceful thump on my head that knocked me down, but not out. Falling to the ground freed me from my attacker’s grasp so I jumped up and ran towards the gate of the nearby privacy fence. I looked over my shoulder and saw that he was not following me, but he was aiming a gun at me and screaming that he was going to kill me. I realized then that the gun was what he had used to whack me on the head.

Thankfully, I made it through the gate and in to our apartment alone, with my keys and purse. Unfortunately, the BBQ was left scattered on the sidewalk. Once inside, I called 911 and soon police and EMS arrived. I answered questions from the police officer while the EMS technician addressed my head wound. Scott was still traveling so the officer asked if I had any other family nearby. I called my parents. I didn’t tell them what happened, I just told them I needed them to come. The officer encouraged me to change my clothes before my mother arrived, pointing out that my white sweatshirt was covered in blood. Apparently even small head wounds bleed profusely. He explained that the first thing my mother needed to see when she came through the door was some evidence that I was physically okay, not her child covered in blood. I changed my clothes. I washed the blood off my face.

We are that way about blood, aren’t we? Regardless of how we get it on us, whether it’s ours or not, washing it off becomes a priority before we do anything else, for our own sake as well as others. Humans have been that way for a long time. In the Bible, Leviticus 16 details instructions for the priest regarding sacrifices for the Day of Atonement. Those instructions include specifics about the priest bathing and changing clothes after he sacrifices an animal and sprinkles its blood on the altar, or the mercy seat.  What I find interesting is that there are no instructions to clean the mercy seat. Every time a priest sprinkled the sacrificial blood, the drops fell on dried blood from all the previous sacrifices. The spilt blood remained, but the priest walked away clean.

Jesus’ life brought new meaning to those rituals of sacrifice. In the end, it was His blood that was actually spilt as the ultimate sacrifice. Jesus overcame death and rose from the grave so that we could have what is only His to give. Hebrews 9 explains that you can’t receive an inheritance unless the owner dies. Verse 22 says “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” Forgiveness is what was left for us when His blood was spilt. Just like the blood of bulls and goats sprinkled on the mercy seat by the Old Testament priests, the blood of Jesus never goes away. That takes us out of the crosshairs and makes us the ones that get to walk away clean. Now that’s good news worth of sharing.
This was originally post Sunday, October 18, 2015 on the Press and Standard website:

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