Reflection Before Communion

This Sunday we’ll be celebrating communion as is our practice on the first Lord’s day of the month.  Here’s an excerpt from Kenneth Matthew’s commentary on Leviticus as something worth reading before then.  He describes, in quite vivid detail, animal sacrifice in the Old Testament and then ties it to the cross.  Again, some may see it as graphic, but it’s supposed to be!

The worshipper slew the animal and carved it up into pieces for their placement an the altar’s fires.  The term “kill” is a technical term that describes a ritual slaying of an animal.  Precisely how this occurred can only be inferred from the Bible.  Later Jewish tradition specified the nature of this act.  The animal remained in the same position where the layman laid his hand, and he slit its throat.  The tradition was that the animal and the worshipper faced the sacred tent, perhaps symbolizing by this that the animal belonged to the Lord.  After slitting the throat and opening up the carcass, the man washed off the feces and filth of the animal’s entrails and legs (Lev. 2:9).  This cleansing of the animal offering was necessary to meet the standard of an untainted animal.  The animal then was burned up on the altar…

By carrying out this procedure, the Israelite closely identified with the innocent victim.  The blood of the animal would have gushed from the neck, splattering the worshipper.  The sounds, smells, and blood would have indelibly marked the memory of the Israelite’s worship of God.  The person’s transgressions had cost the life of another creature.  How much more disturbing is it for the Christian when we contemplate the ordeal of our Saviour whose blood streamed down “the old rugged cross,” pooling at the feet of his mother and mourners.  George Bennard’s third verse in his beloved hymn “The Old Rugged Cross” says, “In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine, A wondrous beauty I see, For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died, To pardon and sanctify me.”