One of Shakespeare’s more notable antagonists is Lady Macbeth, the Queen of Scotland who is the brains behind her husband’s rule. She acquires power for herself by prodding Macbeth to become a tyrant. As the drama unfolds, she becomes overwhelmed with remorse for her crimes. She begins to lose her mind because of her guilt, and she constantly imagines the blood of her victims on her hands. In the end, she takes her own life offstage.
But before her part in the play is over, Lady Macbeth, desperately trying to wash the imagined blood from her hands, declares in exasperation, “All the perfumes of Arabia cannot sweeten this little hand!”
Lady Macbeth is no different than any sinner trying to remove their sin. We can scrub and scrub, but the sin does not wash away. So we add something—we try good works, church attendance, giving to charity, volunteering—but we still see the blood of our victims on our hands. We cannot wash away our guilt, even with all the good works on the planet, or all the perfumes of Arabia.
So what can wash away our sins? I love the old hymn that asks and answers that very question: “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” The chorus continues:
“Oh, precious is the flow that makes me white as snow.
No other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus.”
Jerry Vines, in Fire in the Pulpit, wrote, “That’s the only hope, and that’s your only salvation. You must be washed in the blood.”
So how does one wash himself in the blood of Jesus? This is figurative, of course. When we put our trust in the finished work of Jesus on the cross, God the Father takes the punishment Jesus endured and applies it to our account. All you have to do is ask.
The author of Hebrews explains this concept in great detail, but for a snapshot, consider the words in 9:12-15
“He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”
Jesus’ sacrifice accomplished what the old system of animal sacrifices could never really do. Jesus became the once and for all sacrifice—the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world—that can cover the sins of mankind. You don’t need the perfume of Arabia; just call on the name of the Lord, and He will use blood-soaked rags to wipe your sin away.