Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Water and Blood

Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.” (Jn 19:31-37)
“This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.” (1Jo 5:6) John begins to wrap up his first epistle here. He says that Jesus has come by water and blood, baptism and the Lord’s Supper. They both have their origins and meaning in the death of Christ. It is what John wants to bring to mind by recording what he saw when Christ’s side was pierced by the spear. And it is through these that the cross comes to us.
I mean it is often said, just leave that at the foot of the cross. Well that’s nice. But it is rarely explained how that is possible. We can’t go back in time, and even if we could, we’d still just be looking at the cross and returning with a sack full of sins. The cross isn’t ours. It’s Christ’s. So the question becomes how does what happened there, the atonement for our sins, apply to us today 2000 years later. Well by partaking the sacraments, the cross comes to us, Christ comes to us.
This is why talk of symbolism in the sacraments is so destructive to the gospel. It really fails to understand the nature of offering and sacrifice in the OT. In the protestant mind we tend to think of OT sacrifices as something like the “sacrifices” we make, giving something up. We tend to think the benefit is somehow in the pain, or the inconvenience of not having something at our disposal. But that wasn’t the idea of an OT sacrifice, least of all the Passover lamb. These sacrifices were eaten. Part of it was consumed by God on the Altar, part of it by you. But the Passover Lamb, all of it was eaten, nothing was to be left for the morning, and none of its bones were to be broken. The benefit was in the eating, you weren’t giving something up, you were feasting.
So Jesus, our Passover Lamb, he is eaten. It is for this reason that none of his bones are broken, because he is our Passover lamb. There in eating the Lamb of God sacrificed for us, we feast on forgiveness. There the cross comes to us, and the sacrifice Jesus has made is applied to us, over whom the water from his side has poured in Holy Baptism.

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