When Jesus, or the New Testament writers, separate “body” and “blood” in their discussion of the work of Christ, they are speaking of Him as a sacrifice. To prepare an Old Testament sacrifice the blood was associated with the life of a creature, and it was taken from the sacrificial flesh and strewn, daubed or sprinkled on the appropriate place or person in relation to the worship occurring in the Tabernacle. The blood—the creature’s life—was associated with atonement, and being the life of a creature it was not to be eaten, probably partly because such a creature did not willingly give its life-blood, and thus it belonged only to God.
Christ now comes and willingly sheds His life-blood, and now His blood is miraculously offered to God’s people to drink. To the non-Christian and to those just being instructed in the faith this sounds gross. Far from “gross” we realize that in miraculously drinking Christ’s blood we are taking into our bodies God’s life and His blood-bought atonement.
Hebrews 10:11-25 is the assigned three-year epistle for November 18th. In his Hebrews commentary Dr. John Kleinig convincingly presents the perspective that the entire epistle to the Hebrews is especially about the Sacrament of the Altar and—directly linked with this— it is about God’s people in worship.
Hebrews 10:19-25 has several markers identifying the Eucharist in worship. In verses 19 and 20 we see that it is through the blood and flesh of Jesus that we enter “through the curtain (veil)” and into the Holy of Holies. Indeed when we partake of Christ’s flesh and blood we are uniquely in God’s Holy presence. Thus Christianity has from ancient times prayed the “Prayer of the Veil” immediately before receiving the Lord’s holy flesh and blood. The remnant of this ancient prayer is found in our Lutheran liturgy when we pray, “Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven…” In the celebration of the Holy Supper we confess that we are joining these other-worldly individuals in the heavenly Holy of Holies!
Our Lutheran church along with others has adopted the exact wording of verse 22 to be liturgically voiced as we approach Christ’s Holy Meal. We rightly confess, “Let us draw near with a true heart…” What gives us a true heart to rightly draw near the Most Holy Place? The text continues, “…having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” Yes, we may draw near and partake of Christ’s flesh and blood in the Most Holy Place, for we have been cleansed in the priestly bath of Christ’s bloody water in Holy Baptism!
No wonder this text concludes with the worship-related admonition that we should not be “neglecting to meet together.” Why would someone consider avoiding the saving body and blood of Christ?