From creation until the Great Flood, humans and animals were vegetarians (Gen 1:29-30). God changed the rule after the flood, allowing people to eat meat and vegetables (Gen 9:3). However, God made a restriction stating, “But you must never eat any meat that still has the lifeblood in it” (Gen 9:4). God told the Israelites, “You must never eat or drink blood, for the life of any creature is in its blood.’ So whoever consumes blood will be cut off from the community” (Lev 17:14). Avoiding consumption of blood, which represents the life of the animal, is a reminder that God did not originally intend animals for human consumption. The priests offered the blood of the sacrificed animal to God in the Temple as ransom for the lives of the Israelites.
Bloodshed was part of making a covenant. Abrahamic covenant was based on bloodshed of animals (Gen 15:9-21). God introduced circumcision as a sign of the Abrahamic covenant that also involved bloodshed of humans (Gen 17:10-14). At Mount Sinai, when God made a covenant with Israelites. People agreed to all the ordinances of the Lord when Moses came down from the mountain and related it to them. Moses then built an altar at the foot of the mountain. The Israelites offered burnt offerings of young bulls. Moses took half of the blood in large bowls and the other half he splashed on the altar. Moses read aloud from the book of the covenant to the people who responded, “All that the LORD has said, we will hear and do.” Moses splashed the blood on the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words” (Ex 24:3-8).
Jesus used the same phrase that used for the Old Covenant that God made with Israelites through Moses at Mount Sinai. At the last supper, Jesus took the cup and said, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt 26:27-28). It was scandalous for the Israelites to hear Jesus asking them to drink his blood that Torah had prohibited. But for Jesus, who purposefully offered his blood to drink, had a special meaning to it.
Just as Moses was the mediator of the old covenant, Jesus became the mediator of the New Covenant established at the last supper and fulfilled on Calvary. After using wine for his blood, Jesus shed his blood for humanity through the torture and crucifixion he underwent. This was the fulfillment of the new covenant prophesied by Jeremiah in 31:31-33.
Jesus sacrificed his life by bloodshed for the remission of our original sin. Prior to that, he established the Holy Eucharist by the transubstantiation of the Passover bread and wine as his body and blood. It became part of his new covenant with humanity. We continue the Holy Eucharist, renewing our covenant with Jesus. Like him, we must offer our sacrificial life to complete our Eucharistic meal.