Sunday, May 17, 2009
Sermon -- Easter 6 - 1 John 5:6-8
Easter 6, 2009
“Water, Blood, Spirit”
1 John 5:1-8
Water, Blood, Spirit. Three ways in which Christ comes. Three testimonies which all agree. Jesus is the Christ. He died for sinners, he rose in victory, he ascended and reigns on high. Water, Blood, Spirit. Three timeless concepts from John's letter which still apply to us, even today.
Water and Blood... came from Jesus side. You remember when Jesus was crucified, St. John was there to see it. The only disciple to remain. And one of the things he witnessed was when the soldiers came along to bring a speedy death to those on the crosses. The two thieves at Jesus' side – well the soldiers broke their legs to hasten death. But Jesus was already dead. And so they didn't break his legs. They did a less invasive check, to make sure he was dead. A soldier pierced his side with a spear. And blood and water came flowing from Jesus' side. John saw it happen, and he took note of this important detail.
Water and Blood, John writes about these, many years later in his first epistle, our text for today. He must have had Good Friday in mind, and the strange sight he saw when Jesus' side was pierced. But what does it all mean to us?
Water – that universal substance upon which life depends. As common a thing as you can find. A basic purpose for water is cleansing. What better element for God to use in cleansing us from sin? Yes, water, the water of Holy Baptism which establishes us as God's people – a blessed means by which God gives us his grace.
Water joined with his word of promise – a never-ending river of life.
And Blood – the “stuff of life”, in a way. We speak of the “lifeblood” and we know that without our blood, we soon die. Jesus gave his blood to win eternal life for us – and he gives us his blood and body in a blessed sacrament, another means of grace – Holy Communion. Bread and wine, so simple and common, become vessels for Christ's real presence, which he gives us to take and eat, and take and drink, for the forgiveness of our sins.
Water and Blood... that's how he comes. He fulfills all righteousness through the water of his own baptism in the Jordan. And he satisfies God's wrath by shedding his innocent blood at the cross. Jesus comes, that is, he completes his mission in water and blood.
And he comes to each of us, personally, in water and blood – in Baptism and Holy Communion – he comes bearing gifts and blessings too profound to appreciate. He dies for the world, of course. But he comes to you in particular, in this time and place. He calls you by name, washes you, touches you – in the water and the blood.
Some have said that when Jesus side was pierced, that it was a picture of the church's birth. Born of water and the spirit, and sustained by the blood of the new covenant – the Christ church is established by Jesus - taken from the side of this Second Adam just as the first woman was born from the rib of the First Adam.
But John mentions three – water, blood and Spirit. And the Spirit is the truth. Jesus comes by, in, through – his Holy Spirit.
And the Holy Spirit works in the Word. God's word is the most precious gift, the most important means of his grace. It is the truth. Without it, we know nothing of Salvation in Jesus Christ. Without the word, we wouldn't have baptism but just plain water. Without the word, we would have only bread and wine, and no promise of forgiveness. Without the word, we would have nowhere to look for the Spirit, no sure foundation upon which to rest our faith.
And so, the Spirit testifies, the water and the blood tesitify... to Jesus. And they all argree - that he is the Christ. That he died and rose again. That he comes to ransom sinners – and not just any sinners, but you and me.
We need the waters of baptism, to wash away our sin. For the word also shows us ourselves, it is a mirror for us to see our sin. We'd have much to answer for, did he not wash it all away. And that washing is a daily renewal – an ongoing flood of blessing.
We need the sustenance of his blood and body, the spiritual meal which keeps us nourished. For the world saps our strength, and our enemies abound. But his blood is our lifeblood, and sustains us in all things.
Christ has loved us, and so we love each other. Christ has overcome the world, and so we become more than conquerors. Christ has called us to keep his commandments, which we do in love for him and by the strength of his spirit. A spirit which always brings us back to him for cleansing and feeding, for forgiveness and life.
Water, Blood, and Spirit. All for you, in Christ Jesus. Amen.