Leviticus 17:10-11 NLTse (10) “And if any native Israelite or foreigner living among you eats or drinks blood in any form, I will turn against that person and cut him off from the community of your people, (11) for the life of the body is in its blood. I have given you the blood on the altar to purify you, making you right with the LORD. It is the blood, given in exchange for a life, that makes purification possible.
As with most prophecies about Jesus, we not only find a part of God’s plan of redemption, but a vital lesson teaching us how to properly understand God’s Word.
Looking at these texts we see two parts to the message, a warning and a penalty. Both Israel and foreigners are warned about
drinking blood. The penalty is separation from the community.
Leviticus 17:12 NLTse That is why I have said to the people of Israel, ‘You must never eat or drink blood– neither you nor the foreigners living among you.’
Leviticus 17:14 NLTse The life of every creature is in its blood. That is why I have said to the people of Israel, ‘You must never eat or drink blood, for the life of any creature is in its blood.’ So whoever consumes blood will be cut off from the community.
Once again we see God repeating Himself with key words pointing to the obvious fulfillment recorded in the New Testament, but with a completely different view of the spiritual fulfillment of the symbol. The key words, drink and blood lead us directly to one verse.
John 6:52-59 NLTse Then the people began arguing with each other about what he meant. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” they asked. (53) So Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. (54) But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day. (55) For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. (56) Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. (57) I live because of the living Father who sent me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on me will live because of me. (58) I am the true bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die as your ancestors did (even though they ate the manna) but will live forever.” (59) He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
Imagine yourself as a witness to this scene. Who was Jesus talking to? What was going through their minds as Jesus taught this strange doctrine? Look at the setting, the contrast between Jesus and the religious leaders. How were they dressed, the expressions on their faces, how they expressed themselves with their tone of voice and body language. Look deeper. What purpose did this meeting serve in God’s plan of salvation?
The religious leaders had been following Jesus for only a short time to determine if He was a prophet or not. Based on the fact Jesus went to the poor, common, sick, and foreign people instead of the religious leaders was evidence enough for them to arrest, try, convict and condemn Him. All they wanted was some proof, evidence He was teaching doctrine contrary to what they believed. It seemed Jesus was giving them the evidence they were looking for. When the religions leaders heard Jesus talking about eating flesh and drinking His blood, they immediately remembered Moses’ law. “The life of every creature is in its blood. That is why I have said to the people of Israel, ‘You must never eat or drink blood, for the life of any creature is in its blood.’ So whoever consumes blood will be cut off from the community.”
The religious leaders imagined Jesus was some kind of fanatic sent to lead people into some form of pagan religion eating flesh and drinking blood to honor their idol. They never stopped to look at the spiritual meaning. They never stopped long enough to see if Jesus had a reason to make such a statement. But why would Jesus make such a statement about Himself? Was it intended to attract pagans? Why did He make this statement in a synagogue? To find the answer we have to examine all the clues by looking ahead in the chapter to find the result.
Many of his disciples said, “This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?” (John 6:60 NLTse). Not even His disciples understood what Jesus was saying. Remember, Jesus was always teaching His disciples to take what He was saying and compare it to scripture. In this case, it appears Jesus may be breaking one of Moses’ laws. But was Jesus telling them to physically eat His flesh and drink His blood, or was Jesus referring to His flesh and blood as symbols?
Jesus was aware his disciples were complaining, so he said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what will you think if you see the Son of Man ascend to heaven again? The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (John 6:61-63 NLTse). Jesus knew many of His disciples were confused. Jesus knew a war was raging in their minds as well as their hearts. He knew this war would rage until His coming, that is the first piece of comfort He brings His disciples, the promise of His return. Jesus also reminds them how He taught them to look at parables. Not through the eyes and imagination of the world, but the knowledge of the Spirit.
“But some of you do not believe me.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning which ones didn’t believe, and he knew who would betray him.) Then he said, “That is why I said that people can’t come to me unless the Father gives them to me.” At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him. (John 6:64-66 NLTse). When we look carefully at the physical words in these texts, we see one fact few people consider. There was a group of people following Jesus who did not believe Him. Satan did not place all his confidence in a single human being. He knew how unreliable they were and how quickly they could change. He was a master at swaying people, and had seen his share of victories turn to defeat. Satan would not place all his hopes of victory on a single person. Sometimes it may be necessary to separate yourself from those who never want to look past their own wisdom. These people will not only hold themselves back from spiritual growth but do everything in their power to discourage everyone around them. Was this one instance? Is this why Jesus told this story about His body and blood, to separate the nonbelievers?
Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?” Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.” Then Jesus said, “I chose the twelve of you, but one is a devil.” (John 6:67-70 NLTse). Peter sums up everything for the other disciples. They can see beyond the physical to the spiritual meaning of the symbols, just as Jesus was taught them. He knew the flesh and blood represented the Word, and eternal life. They also saw the relationship between Jesus and His Father. Why couldn’t the people who left see or understand those simple concepts? Would they ever have a chance to understand after turning their backs on Jesus?
Let’s examine the symbols Jesus used during His last supper with His Disciples. Just before the Passover, Jesus invited His disciples to dinner. One Symbol. Before they ate, Jesus poured a basin of water preparing to wash their feet. A second symbol. As Jesus knelt before them, embarrassment overwhelmed each heart. As they watched their Master take each foot, gently washing it in the small pan, a strange feeling gripped their heart. They wished Jesus would do anything else, washing their feet seemed to be too much. Then He took some bread, blessed it and told them to eat. This bread represented His body, the third symbol Jesus used. And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it, for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many. (Matthew 26:27-28 NLTse).
Jesus used symbols throughout His ministry. Why? Was it to hide the meaning of His parables and lessons from some people? Was it to emphasis the need to reply on the Holy Spirit? Did Jesus use symbols aligning with those in the Old Testament to reveal new lessons? Did Jesus use these symbols to point back to the prophecies about Him in the scriptures?
The Pharisees thought they looked at Leviticus 17 with spiritual eyes. Little did they know there were also physical aspects they could not see. Today we know about microscopic life, disease and viruses living and spread through blood. There has always been a health related reason God instructed us not to drink blood. It is amazing how God’s Word has so much more meaning the closer we look at the facts, both physical and spiritual. It may take years to see all the minute details, but eventually we will. God willing.