You have probably heard the song. In fact, we sing it at cfParis:
Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow
Every time I see snow I am reminded of the fact that Jesus' blood washes me from the contamination of sin. It is a bit odd, right? How can blood make me clean? This analogy is rooted in animal sacrifice from the Old Testament. God established a protocol for the Israelites to be cleansed from their sin by having the high priest sacrifice a perfect animal and sprinkle the blood on the top of the Ark, called the mercy seat.
There is much that can be learned about this practice and why God would have established it. You can read the book of Exodus to learn more. (Resources like the BibleProject.com and GotQuestions.org are also helpful.) It explains about the mercy seat and the provision that God makes for His people to be cleansed.
I understand quite a bit about this process; yet, I still have questions. Thankfully, God reveals more and more about Himself each time I revisit the concept in Scripture.
One thing is crystal clear: Jesus became the perfect sacrifice once for all. His blood is the blood that God provides for us all to be cleansed. This means we have access to a detergent that makes us clean. This cleansing enables us to access the very presence of God. This has been His plan from the beginning: to dwell among us and to walk with us. God provided a means so that we no longer need to practice animal sacrifice to be made right with Him.
So what's with the blood? Hebrews 9:22 says,
"Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins."
Let's take a quick look at what blood means to our bodies:
Blood keeps us alive: it transports oxygen to our entire body and all organs so that they keep functioning. Without oxygen, we’d die.
Blood cleans us: blood transports waste to the liver, but even more importantly it breaks down the carbon dioxide in our bodies. Without that, we’d poison ourselves and die.
Blood heals us: when we’re sick, our blood fights off bacteria or viruses. Also, our blood coagulates which is very important because without it, we’d bleed to death from even small cuts.
Blood feeds us: our blood transports important vitamins, sugars and minerals throughout our bodies.
Blood protects us: our blood forms antibodies against certain illnesses we’ve had so we can’t get them again.
Blood is life. Leviticus 17:11 says,
"For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement."
Blood is a wonderful way for us to understand life. God wants us to know that in Jesus there is life. Where sin drains life, God covers sin and restores life through His perfect sacrifice!
"This is how God showed his love to us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. My beloved ones, since God has loved us in this way, we also are obligated to love one another." - 1 John 4:9-11
Our culture and upbringing has trained us to think about this sacrifice in an anamorphic way. As Tim Mackie states, it looks a lot like this:
The gods are angry with me and are going to kill me. But maybe if I kill this animal and make sure the gods get their pound of flesh, they’ll be appeased and happy. Maybe they won’t kill me or send a plague on my family. Sure it’s barbaric, but so are the gods.
Unfortunately this thought pattern gets transmuted into our Christian beliefs:
God is holy and perfect. You are not. Therefore, God is angry at you, hates you even, so he has to kill you. But because he’s merciful, he’ll let you bring this animal to him and will have the animal killed instead of you.
This twisted view of God's perfect sacrifice misses the very nature of God. God does not hate us. On the contrary, His actions are motivated in pure love, as John -- one of the only male disciples present at Jesus' crucifixion -- so clearly stated. John was Jewish and would have witnessed animal sacrifices in the old way. He was able to connect the dots to the meaning and reason Jesus soaked that wooden beam with His blood. John witnessed the One True sacrifice to end all animal sacrifice. He describes it as the very definition of love.
So, next time you see snow, remember that Jesus washes you just as pristine. Also remember that there is nothing you have to do to make this happen except put your faith and trust in God's provision and bask in His love.