I had the privilege of baptizing Mason Smith yesterday. Naturally, for Presbyterian purposes, I wanted to work the word “sprinkle” into the baptism schpeel, and so I quoted from Hebrews 12:24 where it says, “Jesus, the Mediator of a New Covenant, and His sprinkled blood which speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” As I was reading this verse aloud I found myself internally asking the question, “How, exactly, does the blood of Jesus speak a better word than the blood of Abel? And what, exactly, is the blood of Jesus saying?”
The author of the letter to the Hebrews mentions this blood of Abel business after reminiscing about the days of Moses when God’s people were emphatically unable to enter the presence of God …in fact, the people of God couldn’t even be in the vicinity of God; while Moses was meeting with God on Mount Sinai the people drew back from the mountain due to the fact that simply touching the mountain would result in instantaneous death – not to mention the overwhelmingly intimidating fact that the mountain was perpetually blazing with fire, and shrouded in darkness and gloom and tempest. When God attempted direct audible communication with His people, they instantly begged that no further messages be spoken directly to them, for they felt that the unmediated voice of the Almighty would kill them. And even with Moses mediating for them, when he came down from the mountain the people couldn’t bear to look at him, because the residual holiness lingering upon Moses’ face was too terrifying for them. This visceral reminder of God’s unapproachable holiness is the declaration of Abel’s blood; Abel’s blood cried out for justice against sinners, and infinite punishment upon all who fail to achieve perfection.
It is against this terrifying backdrop that we are invited to contemplate the sprinkled blood of Jesus that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. The author of the letter to the Hebrews boldly – and unbelievably – says that we now have access to God! And it isn’t that God merely tolerates us, but rather He embraces us and involves us as full participants in His eternal party …we are made irrevocable citizens of the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem; and we are infinitely included with God’s innumerable angles in festal gathering!
How!?!? How on earth are wretched people like us invited to, and included in, such a celestial celebration?
…Because Jesus’ blood demands it! The blood of Jesus has purchased us, and forever positioned us in the presence of God. The perfect justice of God, which rightly demands our punishment, has been poured out on Jesus; and thus all our crimes have been paid for in full. The blood of Jesus – like the blood of Abel – demands justice; but instead of punishment, the blood of Christ demands that we be justly included in the eternal party happening in the presence of God because all our crimes have been paid for, and perfection has been achieved on our behalf in Christ alone! The blood of Jesus enrolls us in heaven, and God – the judge of all – has made us perfectly righteous through His beloved Son, and we are thereby positioned with insurmountable confidence (above all accusation) as participants and partakers of the festal gathering of God!