2008-10-26 (am) 1 John 5:6-12 By Water and Blood
This morning we want to look at why John says that Jesus came by water and blood. What’s behind this statement? What is he trying to tell us?
One of the reasons for coming back to this passage has to do with the little amount of emphasis that water gets.
Think about it. Is it simply because the Lord’s Supper is regularly scheduled that we talk about the blood of Jesus more? Is there a reason why we don’t tend to focus too much on the water? Or is it because we’re trying to avoid a difficult issue—the issue of dealing with our sinful activities.
So let’s jump right in.
First, we’ll look at Jesus coming by the blood.
So, in the blood, we have the essence of the atonement. This goes all the way back to the garden of Eden. After Adam and Eve sinned, their eyes were opened and they saw that they were naked. They tried to cover themselves up, to hide their nakedness, and to hide the reality of their sin, by making clothes out of fig leaves.
You know, I don’t think I ever really thought too much about it before, but what a dumb idea. What an incredibly impractical material for clothing. Leaves are not naturally strong. As they dry they shrink and become even more brittle. It is no wonder that God had to provide them with something more durable.
So he sacrificed an animal, sheding its blood to cover over their sin, literally. The shedding of blood is an integral part of atonement for sin. “Without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb. 9:22). All this points to Christ, as we shall see, for even the clothes for Adam and Eve point to Christ, as we shall see.
Then, jumping ahead from Adam and Eve, to Leviticus chapter one where we have God’s instructions for the burnt offering, the atonement offering. “Offer a male without defect. Present it at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting so that it will be acceptable to the Lord. Lay your hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on your behalf to make atonement for you. Slaughter the young bull before the Lord, and then Aaron’s sons the priests shall bring the blood and sprinkle it against the altar on all sides at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting” (Lev. 1:3-5).
So, clearly, there are elements in place that allude to Christ. The offering is to be a perfect male. The sinner, the person seeking atonement had to place his hand on the head to symbolically transfer the sin from the person to the animal. Jesus, by taking on human flesh, by being born of a woman, took on the nature of sinful humanity.
The bull or lamb, being a creature, could not truly bear the weight of sin. God instituted this system, because it pointed to Christ. So even though the animal didn’t actually accomplish the atonement, it points forward to Jesus, who did.
So, Jesus received upon himself the full weight of sinful humanity, and yet remained perfectly sinless. He was a lamb without blemish.
With Christ, it wasn’t so much His outside appearance that mattered. What mattered was His inner purity. He was perfectly sinless. Therefore, He was able to atone for everyone’s sins.
Christ’s blood was shed as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. His death, his blood paid for all sins.
By a show of hands, how many have received a very nice picture of your car in the mail?
It’s annoying, isn’t it? There’s no contest. There’s no way of talking yourself out of the ticket! It just comes, the speed is indicated, you’re at least 11 kilometres over the speed limit, guilty.
Then, you have to go in to pay it. I always pay, because frankly, it’s all there in colour, I’ve broken the law.
But still, a part of me wishes that someone would step up and pay it for me.
No one ever does, and honestly I don’t know what I’d say if someone did.
But that’s what happens through Christ’s atonement. We’re guilty and we deserve our punishment, not 80 bucks, but eternal punishment in hell.
Christ comes along and says, “Trust me, I’ve got you covered. Believe in me.
So, this is what happens when we believe. When we believe, Christ’s shed blood pays for our sins. Christ exchanges our sin for His righteousness. Sin comes off, righteousness comes on. We’re forever made right with God.
Have you accepted it? If someone offered to pay for your speeding ticket, would you let them? If someone offered to rake your leaves, would you let them? Why wouldn’t you let Christ pay for something far more expensive? Something you know you can’t pay for anyway? That’s atonement. Christ makes us right with God.
Now, I know you’re all wondering. Why water? Why did Jesus have to come through water, and not just water, water and the blood?
Well, if the blood symbolises the life that is required for the atonement, the water symbolises purity, cleanliness and holiness.
Sin is a matter of the heart, that’s true, but it, like dirt, covers us on the outside also.
Read through Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy they really aren’t as boring as you might think. The washing instructions are very practical, though I’m so glad that we now have anti-mildew materials, and mildew fighting cleansers.
So, really, our modern infatuation with cleanliness isn’t so new after all. God already gave His people thousands of years ago, instructions on cleanliness. There are instructions for washing before anointing, washing after touching a corpse, washing utensils, cooking pots, after healing.
All of this washing served two purposes. First, it is healthy. Second, it demonstrates, in a physical way, God’s holiness. Just as the animal that was sacrificed had to be blemish free, so the priest also had to be clean.
In some of the excavations around the temple mount in Jerusalem, they have uncovered ritual baths. “Because of the demanding laws regarding purity before entering holy places, demand for [these baths] was high and many have been discovered from first century Jerusalem” (http://www.bibleplaces.com/southerntm.htm. ‘Mikveh’).
This is why it didn’t strike anyone strange that John the Baptist, called people to confess their sins, repent and be baptised. The baptism represented the Old Testament cleansing, for purity before entering the temple, or entering service to God.
The blood and water both clean, but they clean different parts of the person. The blood cleans the inner person. The blood deals with the original sin, the heart of our sin. Luke 6:45 says, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” Unless we’ve received the atoning sacrifice of Christ, we will have hearts that bring out only evil things. But having received the atoning sacrifice of Christ, we bring out good things.
But there are sins that we commit that don’t just come out of the overflow of our hearts. There are sins that are on the outside, which need to be washed by water.
John 13:1-17 “It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.
2 The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
10 Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
The sacrifice of atonement pays for sin. The baptism with water washes away sin. Just as Peter needed to have his feet washed because they were physically dirty, so he needed to be washed spiritually, so that he would be clean.
Galatians 3:26-27 says, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Not only does the water of baptism cleanse us, it clothes us with Christ’s righteousness, just as Adam and Eve were physically clothed to cover over their sin, we’re clothed, not to cover over or hide sin, but to cleanse us from sin.
Water is a very powerful force. Under very high pressure, it can cut through metal! Water was the force by which God cleansed the world from sinful humanity through the flood. Water is the force by which, our sins are washed away.
So we have these two witnesses concerning Christ, the blood, shed on the cross, and the water, demonstrated when Christ was baptised. Matthew Henry even connects the blood and water which flowed from Jesus’ side after he died on the cross as a dual testimony to the truth of his atoning sacrifice for our sins.
Now, being baptised, being atoned by the blood, being clothed with Christ, being clothed with His righteousness, what does that mean for us? What does that mean for us, as a church?
How then are we supposed to act?
Well, baptised, we’re clean on the outside. Even our outside living ought to reflect the Lordship of Christ in our lives. This is demonstrated in piety. We attend church. We watch our language. We choose our words carefully when speaking to others. We avoid slander and gossip. We build up rather than tear down. We don’t gloss over sin, we deal with it with integrity, love and grace. Think of it this way. A cleansed, atoned for person devotes their life to God, just as an Olympic athlete devotes their life to their sport. They passionately pursue the right diet, the right exercise regimen, the right training, so that they can give their best performance.
We do not live in the way the world lives, but rather, we live our lives in a way that demonstrates that we have our sins atoned for and washed away. We don’t treat sin superficially, but we don’t allow it to rob us from the joy of our salvation either! In the cleansed and atoned for Christian life, we live according to the goodness of God. God is our focus. The stuff of this earth, though very tempting, is not our focus. Possessions, people, fame or the desires of our flesh shouldn’t rule us. God rules us.
The demonstration of a clean, God focussed life is the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.
With our hearts purified by Christ’s blood, we’re able to do good. But that’s tonight’s sermon. Come on out tonight. Amen.