A Devotional from Central Presbyterian Church. Find another day here.
Friday June 12, 2020
1 John 5:6
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.
I recently had a conversation with a college student home for the summer who recently changed her major area of study to nursing. I wasn’t surprised that she might be interested in medicine and caring for people, until I asked her if how she felt about some of the gross parts of nursing like being excised to bodily fluids and blood. Her response was: “It’s not really my thing.” In all fairness, blood isn’t really my thing either. I didn’t realize this about myself until I was leading my first youth group mission trip to rural West Virginia. Because our group consisted of a mix of middle and high school students, we were given the fairly benign task of scraping and then repainting the inside of a rather dilapidated house. I remember working in one corner of the room and hearing someone say, “Uh, hey Dan, I cut myself.” Sensing no urgency in the middle-school voice calling my name, I didn’t even turn around to assess the situation. After a few moments, someone else chimed in and said, “Hey, you need to come here, he really cut himself.” I quickly turned around to see an arm and a floor covered with blood. Apparently, while the rest of us were working scraping off the old paint, one of our boys had gotten a bit warm in the second story bedroom and had attempted to use a utility knife, which we were using to clean up around the trim, to turn his pants into shorts. While he was wearing them. Of course, the razor knife slipped off of his pants and across his arm, leaving a huge mess on himself and the floor.
Leaving the rest of the students in the capable hands of our adult volunteers, we quickly made our way to the remote area’s only hospital, the Bluefield Regional Medical Center (which is sadly in the process of permanently closing as a result of significant financial losses attributed to the COVID-19 outbreak). As I frantically attempted to reach mom—who was unexpectedly gracious and not-at-all surprised to hear that we were making an ER visit 400 miles away from home—they quickly took us through triage and right back to a small room, where the doctor thoroughly cleaned the wound and used a local anesthesia to numb the area before sewing it back together. Attempting to be the reassuring presence that his mom and dad could not be, I stood intently watching the large needle pierce the lacerated skin and pull the gaping wound back together, when my knees became weak and the color began to drain from my face. The nurse assisting the doctor looked up and immediately ordered, “You need to sit down, you’re about to pass out.” In a matter of just a few moments, while he was right as rain, all stitched back up and ready to go, I was the one being tended to in the corner, lying on the ground with my feet elevated and a cold compress on the back of my neck. In less than a few hours, when we were both back at the worksite telling our stories to the rest of the group, I was the more embarrassed of the two of us. I was more effected by his loss of blood than he was.
In 1899, Lewis E. Jones penned the famous words: “Would you be free from the burden of sin? There’s power in the blood, power in the blood.” Of course, Jones was not writing about the power of the sight of blood in general to make us pass out, but the inherent power of the blood of Jesus. When John writes in our passage that Jesus came “by water and by blood,” he is referencing the two most significant events in the life of Jesus: His baptism and His crucifixion. At His baptism, administered by the hands of His cousin, John the Baptist, God the Father audibly declared of Jesus, “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased” and visibly declared it through sending the Spirit to descend on Jesus like a dove. The triune God, Father, Son, and Spirit, testified in unison that Jesus was God come to earth in human flesh.
But, as John continues, this was not declared “by water only, but by the water and the blood.” This is vitally important as the Gnostics of John’s day held the belief that Jesus was not always God, but that at His baptism He became God through receiving the Spirit of God. They taught that Jesus was merely a man, although a very good man, who by receiving a special indwelling of the Spirit of Christ, became the Messiah. Then, at the cross, the Spirit of God left the body of Jesus and returned back to heaven as He cried out, “Father, into Your hands I commit my Spirit” before He died. Because the Gnostics did not believe that it was possible for God to die—not a totally unfair assumption we might add— the Spirit of God must have departed Jesus beforehand: Jesus must not have been God when He died.
John adamantly refutes this heretical thinking by stating Jesus “came by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is truth.” In the opening of his gospel, John proves that Jesus did not merely come into existence at His birth, but that He is, was, and always will be God, from even before the beginning began. In John 8, Jesus Himself declared, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” The truth is that the blood shed on the cross was the very blood of the eternal God. The most precious blood in the history of the universe was poured out on behalf of our sins nearly 2,000 years ago. To deny that Jesus was God at His death is to deny the only power capable to save us from our sins. Even today, Jesus is the living God, who offers forgiveness for sins to all who would believe in Him and call upon His name. There is power in His blood, because of who He is and what He has done for us.
Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, we thank You that You have so graciously poured out Your blood for us. Please forgive us for ever daring to think that we have done anything to earn Your sacrifice for us. No matter what we do, we could never deserve it, and yet You offer it freely. We pray that You would empower us, through the message of the cross, share the message of Your blood. We pray this in Your powerful name, Amen.