Leviticus 16:29-18:30; Mark 7:24-8:10; Psalm 41:1-13; Proverbs 10:15-16
I’m excited about our readings today. When I first sat down to read today’s passages (especially the Old Testament), I was a little afraid it’d be more of the “if the sore has a hair that’s white” business that we’ve been slogging our way through recently in Leviticus. And, of course, I know those verses have a purpose and that God was protecting his people, as Mary pointed out to us a few days ago, but I think we can all be honest and say that sometimes, Leviticus is a bit dull. So imagine how pleasantly surprised I was today to find these truly profound words: “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” (Lev. 17:11). I’m sure you’ve noticed as we’ve worked out way through recent weeks how much blood there is in these verses, how much blood there must have been in the tabernacle. If we’re reading carefully, we see verse after verse about blood being spilled and splattered and spread all over the tabernacle. Not to be too graphic, but it must have had a terrible smell and been very, very messy!
But God is telling us here that there’s a purpose to all this blood spilling– it is the life source for each living creature and it makes atonement for sin. If you’re not familiar with the word atonement, it basically means reconciliation between man and God. Somehow, miraculously, when the blood of an innocent and perfect sacrifice (lamb, pigeon, bull) was spilled, sins were covered over and God’s people were made clean. Their guilt was taken away and their sins forgiven. Their wrong doing was atoned for and they were reconciled to God. How incredible! And, of course, this should make us think of another innocent and perfect lamb whose blood was spilled – the reconciling blood of Jesus that was shed as an atonement for us. As his blood, his very life source, was drained out of his body on the cross, we became clean and were granted new life. These are pretty amazing concepts! It never ceases to amaze me how the Bible is telling one continuous story, all of which points to Jesus and his death on the cross and resurrection.
Then we come over to the New Testament reading and find Mark’s telling of the Canaanite woman with great faith (as a side note, I find it kind of funny that Matthew’s version of this story was also on my day to write a blog post!). As I was reading in Mark today, I was struck by the hurry everyone and everything seems to be. Have you noticed that yet? Just in our reading today, the word “immediately” is used twice – “But immediately a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at as feet” (Mk. 7:25) and at the end of our reading, “Immediately he got into a boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha” (8:10). I did a quick look back through Mark up to this point and I found 21 uses of the word “immediately,” not counting the 2 in our passage today. And more uses of it to come!
Why the urgency? Why does everything in Mark happen “immediately” and not just “next” or “in a while”? To me, it seems as if Mark is driving us onward to the climax of the story. He spends only 10 chapters on Jesus' early ministry – three whole years summed up into 10 chapters where events happen one right after another, "immediately." And then Mark spends 6 chapters on just one week. He brings the passion week, the week leading up to Jesus’ death, into great focus and detail, laboring over events that we’ll read about in days to come. As a reader, we’re drawn into Mark’s sense of urgency as he points us to the cross and draws us closer and closer to the heart of his gospel – the Christ-Messiah who has come to save us by going to the cross for our sins.
- Esther McCurry
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