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The Spilled Blood

When that Communion cup fell, the meaning of Christ's sacrifice became clearer to us all.

Communion Sunday this month was shaping up to be like every other Communion Sunday. The opening hymn, the preacher's Calvary-slanted sermon, the giving of tithes and offerings, and of course—the passing of the Lord's sacraments. In the background, an elderly woman sang "The Old Rugged Cross" into a microphone fixed too high on the stand. Despite standing on her toes, "The Old Rugged Cross" did not become much more than a whisper. Nevertheless, the two ushers, slightly out of sync, made their way down the aisle with trays of red grape juice. One was a heavyset, middle-aged man in jeans with suspenders that sank into his wrinkled white button-up. The other usher was older, rail thin, in a black suit about as ancient as he was. Each smiled widely as they inched past my pew. Altogether they seemed far too happy for the occasion.

But not for long, and I immediately saw why. One Communion cup was now empty. Everybody in the row craned their necks and leaned forward to see. A dazzling young lady with long legs, high heels, sculpted eyebrows, and perfect skin was staring into the lap of her flowery white dress. She was stained. Hopelessly. Tissues and handkerchiefs were relayed down the row. At first she dabbed at the blotch, then rubbed. Then scrubbed. My rehearsed prayers of repentance faded as I watched, transfixed. The whisper of "The Old Rugged Cross" continued.

Others in the row politely returned to bowed heads, but glances of the accident scene were still stolen. Children, though, were openly captivated, as was everyone in my row. For us it was easy to watch without risk of being labeled rude and inappropriate. I couldn't help myself.

After over two decades of Communion Sundays, I, a biology major, had at last personally witnessed Jesus' spilled blood in a most poignant way. And I could witness the other witnesses as well. I was able to see how the young woman and onlookers responded to the spilled "blood" of Christ.

In remembrance

The woman's emotions ran full circle, from flushed embarrassment to quiet anger, as she scrubbed at the darkened blotch with tissue after tissue without success. Eventually she stopped and sat, and simply stared. Her Communion was done.

I, too, sat dazed. Jesus' blood was messy. His punishment and crucifixion had been downright awful. And it had left a stain—on everybody. I rarely think of what punishment and agony Jesus Christ went through for us—for me. I don't like to. It's gross. But I realize now more than ever that I need to.

Jesus spilled blood on me, too—on me personally. To fully appreciate this in my comfortable nation, in my comfortable house, in my comfortable clothes, in my comfortable body—I must make myself wholly uncomfortable. I begin thinking about the flogging Jesus endured just before His crucifixion. Roman floggings consisted of 39 lashes of a whip on the victim. Deep bruises and contusions would develop where the whip would strike flesh. With continued blows, these bruises broke open and Jesus' blood began to spill.

I am repulsed by the thought of a Roman flogging. My world is so different. I complain about paper cuts! Jesus had the horror of anticipating each and every blow upon His body. Out of Him flowed a river of blood.

At the site of the Crucifixion, Jesus was laid down in an outstretched position and His hands were nailed with six-inch nails into the crossbeam. The median nerves in His wrists would have been completely crushed by the nail.

At this point, the crossbar onto which Jesus was nailed was raised and attached to the vertical stake that was already in the ground. His feet were then nailed to the wood.

As I sat there that unusual Sunday, all of my Communion Sundays found their way back into my head.

"This is My body given for you …"

His broken body.

"This is My blood … poured out … for the forgiveness of sins."

His spilled blood.

Finally I understood.

Jesus commanded us to take the bread and the wine "in remembrance of Me" (Matt. 26: 26-29; Luke 22: 14-20). And we must remember it all, even the distasteful parts. His sacrifice was messy and uncomfortable.

But it was necessary.

The young woman had her white dress destroyed. The God of the universe had Himself destroyed. And He did it so that we might one day be stainless and whole.

The elderly lady at the front of the church is no longer whispering "The Old Rugged Cross." She's belting it out.

Eli Knapp is a graduate student at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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