I have been donating blood for decades (and donating platelets more recently). I don’t do it for the free T-shirts they give away. I don’t do it for the enjoyment of having a needle inserted in my arm. I don’t do it because I enjoy having my energy depleted. And I don’t do it because I have nothing else to do with my time. I do it only because I believe that donated blood can help another person (indeed I know people whose lives have been saved because of donated blood).
In a book Dr. Paul Brand wrote with Philip Yancey, Brand describes a way in which his own family benefited from donated blood. He writes,
“Some years ago an epidemic of measles struck Vellore and one of my daughters had a severe attack. We knew she would recover, but our other infant daughter, Estelle, was dangerously vulnerable because of her age. When the pediatrician explained our need for convalescent serum, word went around Vellore that the Brands needed the ‘blood of an overcomer.’ We did not actually use those words, but we called for someone who had contracted measles and had overcome it. Serum from such a person would protect our little girl.
“It was no use finding somebody who had conquered chicken pox or had recovered from a broken leg. Such people, albeit healthy, could not give the specific help we needed to overcome measles. We needed someone who had experienced measles and had defeated that disease. We located such a person, withdrew some of his blood, let the cells settle out, and injected the convalescent serum. Equipped with ‘borrowed’ antibodies, our daughter fought off the disease successfully. The serum gave her body enough time to manufacture her own antibodies. She overcame measles not by her own resistance or vitality, but as a result of a battle that had taken place previously within someone else.
“There is a sense in which a person’s blood becomes more valuable and potent as that person prevails in numerous battles with outside invaders. After antibodies have locked away the secret of defeating each disease, a second infection of the same type will normally do no harm.” (In His Image, p. 94-95)
Interestingly, when Jesus ate the Passover meal just before His death, He also spoke of the power of “donated” blood. He gave to His disciples a cup of wine and said to them, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
Jesus did not pour out His blood for us upon the cross to get a free T-shirt. Nor did He do it because He enjoyed having nails driven into His hands and feet. He gave up His blood for one reason: To save our lives.
By taking upon Himself our sin, our guilt, our struggles, and even our death, then by rising from the dead, Jesus’ blood became the “blood of an overcomer.” By “donating” His blood to us, our lives can be saved.
When we take the cup of communion, we admit that we need the blood of an overcomer, and we declare that we put our hope and our trust in the blood Jesus poured out for us. As Dr. Paul Brand adds, “Today, when we partake of Communion wine, it is as though our Lord is saying to us, This is My blood, which has been strengthened and prepared for you. This is My life which was lived for you and can now be shared by you. I was tired, frustrated, tempted, abandoned; tomorrow you may feel tired, frustrated, tempted or abandoned. When you do, you may use My strength and share My spirit. I have overcome the world for you.”