‘For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.’
I come back to this verse and verse 14 of this chapter over and over again when I’m thinking of Communion. Jesus sits with His disciples, who were all Jews, and tells them that the cup is His blood of the new covenant. Since they would have been educated in the Law and Leviticus is definitely one of the books of the Law, they would have been familiar with this pair of verses about blood and what it’s for and what it’s tied to.
The life is in the blood. Centuries before medicine would get anywhere close to the realization that blood and life are tied together, God just lays it out. Come the Victorian Age, medical folks would be removing blood in an attempt to bring the humors back into balance. The problem? There is life in the blood. Remove the blood, you remove the life.
More than just a statement of how life works, this is also an explanation of how salvation will work when Jesus shows up. The life; the sinless, perfect life of Christ was bound to His blood. A life lived righteously. God has given it—that life—to us. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that God made Him Who knew no sin (Jesus) to be sin in our place (atonement) that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (sanctification). Jesus’ blood was the only blood that could make atonement, because His life is the only sinless life. It’s the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.
Maybe I’m stretching this verse a bit. Maybe this is exactly what God planned for folks to see. Either way, the verse does not have to be shoehorned into the meaning, it slides right in like Cinderella’s foot into that glass slipper. And, for my part, I am continually amazed that God would give His life—the only real life—to atone for my sins.