You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.
1 Peter 1:18-19
Almost 13 years ago, I set out to make the most significant purchase of my life. It would be the first time I ever purchased anything that cost more than $1,000. It was also the first piece of jewelry I ever purchased. As you’ve probably guessed, I was planning the purchase of an engagement ring for Erin, who is now my wife. With such an important purchase, I was a little obsessive about making sure I got the right type of band, the right style setting, and most importantly, a very good diamond. I learned all about the “Four C’s” of diamonds (cut, clarity, color, and carat). After selecting a few worthy candidates, the jeweler showed me how to use a magnifying glass to examine each diamond from multiple angles.
In a way, the death of Jesus Christ on the cross is similar to a diamond. There are countless angles from which we can examine it, and there is a distinctive beauty revealed in each one. In 1 Peter 1:19, Peter chose to look at the cross of Jesus Christ from an interesting angle, the angle of blood. At first glance, this might seem strange; we don’t normally associate blood with beauty. Why does Peter focus on the blood of Christ, and why does he describe the blood of Christ as precious?
Why does Peter focus on the blood of Christ?
First, Peter focuses on the blood of Christ because it is a repeated biblical symbol of sin and salvation. Blood carries this dual symbolism in the bloody covenant sign of circumcision (Gen. 17:9-14), and, on a larger scale, in Israel’s sacrificial system of worship. While the animal was sacrificed in the courtyard of the Tabernacle and Temple, it was the blood of the animal that was taken into the Tabernacle and Temple, poured out on the altar, and sprinkled on the curtain of the Holy of Holies. As Paul reminds us in Hebrews 9:22, “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” Through the blood of Jesus Christ, we have a reminder both of the great cost of our sin, and of the great triumph of our salvation.
Second, Peter focuses on the blood of Christ because it revealed the severity of Christ’s suffering. Jesus lost an incredible amount of blood throughout Good Friday, both in the events leading up to His death (i.e., beatings, flogging, the crown of thorns) and in the crucifixion itself. In fact, physicians have suggested that Jesus’ inability to carry His cross, His thirst on the cross, and the water that poured out of His side after His death are all evidence that He endured particular stages of “hypovolemic shock,” a condition resulting from severe loss of blood. Christ’s was a violent and especially a bloody death, and so it is very fitting for Peter to focus on the blood of Christ in His explanation of Christ’s redeeming work on the cross.
Third, Peter focuses on the blood of Christ because it was a powerful personal reminder. Peter was more than a biblical scholar who understood the symbolism of blood, and he was more than a physician who understood the role of blood loss in Jesus’ death. Peter was an eyewitness on Good Friday. He was there when Jesus Christ was beaten, flogged, and crucified. If you’ve ever experienced a traumatic event or a violent scene, you know that the images, sounds, and smells replay in your imagination almost inescapably. Peter probably couldn’t even think of Christ’s death without having the images of His bruised and bloodied friend flash before His mind’s eye. And for Peter, he knew especially well that it was his sin that caused Christ’s blood to be shed. In the very moments when Jesus was being tried and beaten, Peter denied even knowing Him. Can you imagine the guilt and shame Peter felt as he witnessed Christ’s crucifixion?
But Peter doesn’t merely mention the blood of Christ in this passage; he uses an amazing adjective for this blood, describing the blood of Christ as “precious.” Peter apparently liked the word precious. This word is only used nine times in the New Testament, and Peter is responsible for six of the nine. Of course, this wasn’t an idolatrous word as it was for Gollum in, Lord of the Rings; for Peter, precious was a noble, holy word.
Why does Peter describe The Blood of Christ as precious?
First, Peter describes the blood of Christ as precious because it was promised blood. It fulfilled God’s gracious covenant promise to provide a ransom for our sin—promised by God and longed for by God’s people for thousands and thousands of years. The setting on that Thursday night was the Passover meal. Jesus and His disciples had to kill a lamb for their supper and remember how the blood of that lamb signified their sin and God’s promise. And there, Jesus pointed not to the lamb’s blood, but to His own blood, as the fulfillment of God’s gracious promise.
Second, Peter describes the blood of Christ as precious because it was perfect blood. It satisfied God’s Holy requirement of a pure sacrifice for our sin. Because God is holy and our sin is an infinite offense, the sacrifice for sin must be pure and perfect—not a perishable thing “such as silver or gold,” but “like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” The blood of the animals sacrificed in the Old Testament could never be sufficient to take away sin because they were themselves corrupted by sin. As Hebrews 10:4 says, “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin.” But Jesus’ blood was perfect, not pure not just in appearance, but in reality.
Third, Peter describes the blood of Christ as precious because it was powerful blood. It accomplished God’s sovereign purpose to save us from our sin. It was not poured out with the mere hope that some might be saved by it, but with the certain confidence that it would in fact ransom God’s people from their sin (Heb. 9:12-14) and sanctify them (Heb. 10:19-23). It was human blood—of us and for us. As Isaac Watts so poetically put it, “Believing, we rejoice to see the curse remove; we bless the Lamb with cheerful voice, and sing His bleeding love.”
Good Friday carries with it multiple ironies; it is a day of hate and love, injustice and justice, tragedy and triumph, evil and goodness. So too, the blood of Christ carries with it profound irony. Yes, it should convict, humble, and grieve us as it reminds us of our sin and its awful consequences. But like Peter, we should not view the blood of Christ as primarily negative. It was precious. It was perfect, promised blood that powerfully ended the reign of sin and death for God’s people. Poured out in His suffering and death on the cross, the blood of Christ shouts “life” louder than “death!”
On this Good Friday, let us not be downcast, shamefully shielding our eyes from the bloody cross of Christ. Let us look to our bleeding Savior with gratitude and joy, and join the assembly of heaven in singing praise to Jesus, “Worthy are You to take the scroll and to open its seals, for You were slain, and by Your blood You ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation (Rev. 5:9)!”