“Blood and sand” has two meanings in history—one negative, the other positive. The sand covering the floor of Roman coliseums was turned red by the blood of men and beasts who fought and died to satisfy the boredom of a populace.
But blood and sand were mingled together on another day in history for a point and purpose elevated far above mankind’s base motives: redemption from the Law instead of death by the Law. The blood of Roman gladiators was poured out on Mediterranean sands as a result of Roman law condemning them to die. But the blood of Jesus was poured out on Judean sands to free the human race from spiritual condemnation by God’s righteous Law.
Facing a champion gladiator was a death sentence which could be negated only by the crowd’s “thumbs up” sign. If the crowd liked the courage you displayed, they might give you a “thumbs up” reprieve, letting you live to die another day. If not, it was “thumbs down”—and the end of your life.
But there were no possibilities for escape under the Mosaic Law. To come up against the Law of Moses was a death sentence. The Law shows no mercy—someone has to die for sins committed. But the Law was written by a merciful God. Sacrificial animals were ordained in the Law to serve as substitutes. They satisfied the demands of the Law until a perfect human substitute could be provided.
The Purpose of the Law
It’s hard to find a noble purpose in the three-centuries-long gladiatorial experiment in Rome. But Rome approached it the same way they conquered the known world of their day—with precision, order, and unfailing efficiency. There were layers and layers of laws that governed the gladiatorial combat in Rome.
The focus on expensive details is amazing since it led to only one end: death! Think of the trouble Rome went to: capturing wild animals and transporting them to Rome for the gladiators to fight; feeding, housing, guarding, and training thousands of gladiators to fight each other; senatorial debates on the whole system; and the monetary expense. And for what? Death!
In that sense, the gladiator system of Rome was like the Mosaic Law. The Ten Commandments, and the resulting 630-plus additional regulations that supported them, governed life in Israel at an excruciating level of detail: what you could eat, what you could wear, when and what you could plant, and how your failure to keep said laws could be atoned for by various sacrifices and offerings. And to what end? Death!
Paul called the Law “the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). The whole purpose of the Law was to reveal that we deserve to die. In Romans 7, Paul explains in detail how the Law revealed our sin and then instantly condemned us to death: “I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death” (verses 9-10).
But there was a greater purpose in the Law: to show us the true meaning of “blood and sand.” At the foot of Calvary’s cross we see the blood of the Savior covering the sands of our sin and putting an end to the condemnation of the Law. And it was the Law that led us there: “Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24).
If you were that slave who had been forced to fight against a gladiator in the arena, think what a “thumbs up” from the crowd would have meant. Life! Jesus used His last breath to utter His last words—“It is finished!” (John 19:30) With His last breath came our first breath of freedom—or at least the potential for our freedom. With His resurrection came the removal of the final sting of death, proving God’s satisfaction with His sacrifice and sealing the doom of Satan.
After Christ’s resurrection, the Law of God still stands in judgment over those who have not accepted the death Christ died to free guilty sinners from its condemnation. To escape the power of the Law, you must be in Christ. Make sure you are in Christ today, that you have received God’s “thumbs up”—a life free from death in the arena of the Law.
Dr. Jeremiah is the founder and host of Turning Point for God and senior pastor of
Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California.
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