Q&R: “What do we mean by ‘the blood of Jesus’?” – Bradley Jersak

“Jesus Blood Never Failed My Yet” was recorded by Gavin Bryars in 1971 for a documentary. One day Gavin left the studio for a cup of coffee while the song played back in a loop, and when he was back, he noticed that people around were moving slowly, some sitting alone, weeping. He realized the emotional power of this music and added orchestral accompaniment to it.

“Tramp” died before he could hear Gavins’ work. Gavin said: “… the piece remains as an eloquent, but understated testimony to his (Tramp’s) spirit and optimism.” In 1993, he added Tom Waits’ voice for the remix. 

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But what exactly do we mean by “the blood of Jesus?” Many today recoil from the phrase, but given its importance in the New Testament Scriptures, I’d rather not discard it so quickly. I suspect it means something important and beautiful. Here is just a sampling of five key texts.

Matthew 26:28  “For this is My blood of the covenant, which is being poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.”  

John 1:7   “The blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from every sin.”

Hebrews 9:14  “How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”

Hebrews 12:24   “And to Jesus, the Mediator of a new covenant; and to the blood of sprinkling, which speaks something better than that of Abel.” 

Revelation 1:5  “And from Jesus Christ, the faithful Witness, the Firstborn of the dead, and the Ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and has released us from our sins by His blood.”

I imagine it is only our crass literalism that makes “the blood of Jesus” seem repulsive and barbaric. Yes, “the blood” is initially a reference to the gory crucifixion of Jesus. But the phrase isn’t meant to describe how his opponents killed Jesus Christ, but a reminder of the way in which he diedin self-giving, radically forgiving, co-suffering lovesand how the way he died impacts those who have eyes to see itthe experience of divine mercy, of being and feeling forgiven, and having our hearts cleansed of guilt and shame.

The gospel (Good News) message distilled is that the “blood of Jesus” zooms in on the story of God’s unfailing love and how far God’s forgiveness extends to restore us, even at our worst.

Picture of Brad Jersak

Brad Jersak

Bradley Jersak is an author and teacher based in Abbotsford, BC. He serves as a reader and monastery preacher at All Saints of North America Orthodox Monastery. Read More