I reread Mathew 27 today in honor of Good Friday. Afterward I had a song in my head I haven't heard in years, Avalon's "The Glory of the Blood." In it, there is a line that refers to, "the heart of the story: the glory of the blood."
Lately I'm rethinking my stance on the Atonement and substitutionary sacrifice and all that, but haven't come to a firm conclusion yet. But I was trying to think of the theology of this lyric in harmony with a more liberal view of atonement.
There is undeniably a bloody thread of salvation through Scripture. In the Old Testament animals paid the price to temporarily "buy" forgiveness for people's sins against God and each other. Then, of course, there was Jesus, about whom Scripture says He gave "His life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45; 1 Timothy 2:6, etc.)
Interestingly, there is reference in Revelation, too, to the blood of saints/prophets/martyrs (chapters 16, 17, 18). The Early Church Farther Tertullian said, "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church," by which he alluded to the fact that the more the early Christians were persecuted, the more broadly their message spread.
So, if, as conservative theology usually posits, Christ's sacrifice did away with the need for temporary, insufficient animal sacrifices, why is there any importance placed on the shedding of a "lesser" person's blood after the ultimate gift of Jesus' blood?
I think in order to answer this question it is imperative to look again at Christ's example. Mother Teresa said the following in her book No Greater Love (pp 95-96):
Jesus indeed gave all. In my reading of Mathew 27 today I noticed it more than usual. He gave His dignity when they took His clothes and mocked and beat Him. He gave away His rights when He chose to remain silent in the face of the priests' accusations of Him before Pilate. He gave up the last material things He owned as the soldiers gambled for His clothes. He gave His life. The extent of His voluntary poverty in death is capped by His being laid to rest in a tomb that wasn't even His own. He gave all.
So with the martyrs praised in Revelation. In their witness for Christ and service in His name for humanity, they gave all. This is the crowning significance, the glory, of the blood. How am I to love my God and my neighbor? With ALL of my heart, soul, mind, and strength. With ALL.
Love is not shallow, nor does it cling to fair weather.
The glory of the blood is not in the shedding, but in the giving. It is the love that makes all the difference.