Jesus is not qualified to redeem us because he did not bleed to death

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture 

(Click here to read Monday Musings ... the place where I discuss the thinking that went into this article.)

Question: Can you please explain what is meant by the saying that Jesus shed His blood for our sins? Did He shed His blood on the cross? If so, please explain what shed His blood means in light of these verses: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.” (Leviticus 17:11). “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” (Hebrews 9:22).

I heard a non-Christian trying to argue that Jesus wasn’t qualified to be the sacrifice for our sins because he didn't bleed to death… and if he didn't bleed to death, then he did not shed his blood in the right way and couldn't be the sacrifice for our sins because of this. How should we respond to this claim? Should we use Colossians 1:20 and Matthew 26:28 in our response... and is it true that he was qualified?

Answer: The four verses you cited (Leviticus 17:1, Hebrews 9:22, Matthew 26:28 and Colossians 1:20) tell the “story” of the blood very well. The problem is, when I combine your verse selection with your sensitivity to this challenge, I must conclude that you already know what the shed blood of Christ means! … and that, therefore, you don’t need an answer per se to that part of the question.

What I’ll do then is give you links to two blood-related articles at Got Questions Ministries. They are brief, so please review them to see if you’re missing anything. There is not a lot I can add to what you already know apart from restating some encyclopedic information… and this venue is not really for that. So, check out these articles, and if they do not satisfy by showing that Jesus was qualified, get back to us with another question.

Now let’s focus on the second part of your question where a non-believer is challenging the fact that Jesus was qualified to be the sacrifice for our sins — and let’s begin with the obvious: Jesus shed actual blood on the actual cross. This is made plain in one of your references.

“and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:20, NIV)

(See also Acts 20:28; Romans 3:25; 5:9; Ephesians 1:7; 2:13; Hebrews 10:4; 10:19; 1 Peter 1:19;
Revelation 5:9 for further evidence that Jesus was qualified.)

Jesus did not bleed to death, however… and I think this challenge is based on this. Like all crucifixion victims, Jesus suffocated to death… which according to this challenge, means that he was not qualified.

Now, all crucifixion victims do indeed bleed from their attachment wounds — how could they not! But the resultant blood loss was not sufficient to cause death. In fact, the Romans didn’t even want their criminals to die — not right away, anyway. Crucifixion was engineered to give its victims a prolonged death experience. So, bleeding was kept to a minimum. But, the mere fact that he bled meant that he was qualified.

An overarching problem with this and similar challenges is that they require too much of biblical symbolism. In this case, they insist that Jesus’ death should more exactly match that of the Old Testament sacrificial animals — but particularly with their causes of death. This is not how symbolism works, however — within the Bible or out in the world of literature.

For a symbol to be valid, it only needs to use the relationships the author wants to use… not every possible relationship that exists between the two elements. What this means is that the symbolic vehicle and symbolic tenor do not have to connect precisely or comprehensively — but perhaps most importantly — they do not even have to consider every aspect.

So, when it comes to the relationship between the sacrificial animals and Jesus, God has determined that the fact that they both bled and the fact that they both died were all the facts he needed to complete the symbol and to make Jesus qualified to redeem us. According to the Bible, that’s what we have… just look at the data.

For instance, it is a true statement that Jesus bled on the cross (Mark 15:17; John 19:34; 20:27) … and it is a true statement that Jesus died on the cross (Matthew 27:50; Mark 15:37; Luke 23:46; John 19:30). But what’s important to our question is that Jesus atoned for our sins on the cross (Romans 3:25). That was his purpose… and forcing unnecessary duties upon symbolism only serves to diffuse that point... and it is critical to that point that Jesus was qualified.

As you noted in Leviticus 17:11, the life is indeed in the blood — and this was a big deal in the sacrificial system. In fact, the methods prescribed in the Bible for killing the sacrificial animal were designed so that exsanguination would be the cause of death. Now, I agree that to fulfill the biblical symbolism, Jesus had to bleed and die. The thing is, he did not have to die by bleeding.

The atonement is cause-agnostic. It cares nothing about what caused Jesus’ biological death (… except that it happened) … and it cares nothing about how much blood Jesus lost (… except that there was some). As such, the challenge that, since Jesus did not die by exsanguination, his sacrifice is not effective, is not only unbiblical, it is without logical merit.

The problem with this and similar types of challenges is that they try to use the Bible to trip up God! In this, they “borrow” the Bible’s credibility to set up their challenge. But then, they do not stick around for the biblical hammer to drop. This is bad form. If a challenger is going to assume a position for the sake of the argument, then he is obliged to hold that position all the way through the argument… and the biblical data makes it clear that Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient as it stands. He was qualified indeed.

I pray that all this helped you.

(Mainsail Ministries articles often have a preamble where I discuss the thinking that went into them. These are called Monday Musings — and if you haven’t read the one associated with this article — consider doing so at the following link: 20191202 If Jesus did not bleed to death, then he could not have taken away our sins).

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