by Rev. Jeffery W. Grams
“Take, drink; this is the true blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, shed for the forgiveness of your sins.”
Week after week, this phrase is heard in Lutheran churches all around the world. The words have remained essentially the same for hundreds of years. They serve as a reminder of what we are truly receiving from the Lord Jesus Christ every time we celebrate His Supper.
Popular culture has a way of messing with the meaning of words, and in 21st century America our obsession with vampires, in movies and on television, can certainly cause confusion. Nevertheless, fiction has a way of imitating life, and sometimes we can find reminders of the truth in the strangest of places.
Did you ever notice that the mythology of vampires bears a strange similarity to the truth of God’s Word? Let us use this popular myth to take a look at God’s Word and recall the good news of our salvation.
It all begins with the blood. All vampire myths have one thing in common—a vampire must drink blood to survive. Without blood, especially human blood, a vampire will starve and become weak. The drinking of human blood is understood to be the source of true “strength” for the “living dead.”
What does God’s Word say about blood? The life is in the blood…
When Cain murdered Abel, it was his blood that cried out! And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.” (Genesis 4:10 ESV)
From the beginning, the biblical understanding was that the life of a creature was in its blood: “ Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.” (Genesis 9:3-4 ESV)
If you search for the word “blood” in the ESV version of the bible, you will find it over 400 times! Why is blood used so often? Just as our life is in our blood, it is by the shedding of blood that we receive the forgiveness of sins. In the New Testament we have come to understand that all of the blood shed in the Old Testament was pointing us forward to our Lord Jesus Christ, who as the Lamb of God would shed his blood for our salvation. (See Hebrews 9:11-28 to read more about our redemption through the blood of Christ!)
Which brings us to the next interesting myth about vampires: If you drink their blood you will become immortal and live forever.
What is fascinating to me is that these myths have some similarities to the truth of God’s Word. After all, what does our Lord Jesus Christ say in John’s Gospel?
Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” (John 6:53-56 ESV)
Clearly this sermon of Jesus is not recommending some form of vampirism or cannibalism! He is pointing us toward His own work of salvation. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He is the one who would shed His blood on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. He is the one who would give us His flesh to eat and blood to drink in the Lord’s Supper so that we would receive everlasting life. Isn’t that far more comforting and amazing than any myth about blood-sucking undead?
Which raises the question: What do so many people find appealing in the myths about vampires? Some people imagine that becoming a vampire would mean living forever and being forever beautiful. They imagine that as a vampire they would be strong and powerful and fearless.
In reality, even the fantastic promises of this myth pale by comparison to the true joy offered by the Lord Jesus Christ in the True Blood of His Holy Supper. Eternal life will never be found in the blood of some undead monster—but is instead truly received in the Blood of our Savior. Eternal youth will not be received through a bite on the neck—but the new life we have received as we were born again in the waters of Holy Baptism will never end! Digging your way out of a shallow grave can hardly seem an appealing future—but we know that on the day of the Resurrection of all flesh we will all rise again in new and glorious bodies that are forever free from the touch of sin and death.
The glorious future that is given to us by the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ is far more amazing than any vampire story found in movies or television. For in the end, by the grace of God, this is the vision of our glory:
“These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” - Revelation 7:14-17 ESV
Rev. Jeffery W. Grams is pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church, Scottsbluff, Nebraska, and can be reached at RevJGrams@live.com