“and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (Hebrews 12:24 ESV).
Hebrews 12:24 presents us with a comparison between Jesus and Abel, the man who was slain by his brother, Cain. In making this comparison, we can say that both men offered sacrifices that were acceptable to God. Each man was also subjected to an unjust execution. Yet one man’s death cried out for retribution while the other Man’s death facilitated our reconciliation to God.
We surveyed the account of Abel and his brother Cain earlier in our look at Hebrews chapter eleven. In Hebrews 11:4, we were told, “Faith led Abel to offer God a better sacrifice than Cain’s sacrifice. Through his faith Abel received God’s approval, since God accepted his sacrifices. Through his faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead” (GW).
While Abel’s act of faith speaks to us today, God’s response to Cain regarding his brother’s murder also speaks to us as well: “Why have you done this terrible thing? Your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground, like a voice calling for revenge” (Genesis 4:10 GNT). In this context, ‘blood” is a reference to the injustice committed against Abel, an act that provoked a call for retribution. However, there are some important differences between Abel’s murder and the death that Jesus suffered…
“Although Abel’s blood cried loudly and clearly, it spoke insufficiently. The New Testament tells us, however, that the blood of Christ speaks a better word than the blood of Abel (Heb. 12:24). While Abel’s blood cried out for revenge and retribution, the blood of Christ cries out for redemption. When the blood of Jesus hit the ground, it cried not for revenge but for the redemption of the world.” (1)
Another source adds…
“Abel’s sacrifice was pleasing to God because it was offered in faith and obedience (cf. 11:4), but it had no atoning power. Jesus’ blood alone was sufficient to cleanse sin (cf. 1Jn 1:7). The sacrifice of Christ brought redemption (9:12), forgiveness (9:26), and complete salvation (10:10, 14).” (2)
So while Biblical passages such as Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:13-14, 1 Peter 1:18-19, and Revelation 5:9 emphasize the redemptive qualities of Jesus’ sacrifice, we should not neglect this aspect of His death. While the injustice committed against Abel cried out for vengeance, Jesus’ unjust death spoke something very different. We can illustrate that difference with a look at some of Jesus’ final words from the cross: “…Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34 KJV).
(1) Carter, Anthony J, Blood Work: How the Blood of Christ Accomplishes Our Salvation © 2013 by Anthony J. Carter, Reformation Trust [pg. 9]
(2) John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), Heb 12:24