John 19:30, 34-35
April 18, 2014
Trinity Lutheran Church—New Haven, MO
In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Toward the close of the first century, St. John wrote from Asia Minor, that there are three who testify, the Spirit and the water and the blood, and three are in agreement (1 John 5:8). As St. John writes these words, he recalls that when he saw with his own eyes some 60 or 70 years earlier. When He receive the sour wine, Jesus said, “It is finished,” and bowed His head, and gave over His Spirit…But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately there came out blood and water. And the one who has seen this is testifying, and his testimony is true, and he knows that he is speaking truth, in order that you would believe (John 19:30, 34-35).
There are three that testify: the Spirit, the water, and the blood. And these three are in agreement about what the cross of Jesus Christ means for you.
The Spirit of Jesus is none other than the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit who is consubstantial with Him, coequal, coeternal, together with the Father they are worshiped and glorified. It is the Spirit that descended upon Him like a dove when He was baptized, the Spirit that anointed Him the Christ, the Spirit that He promised His disciples He would give up when He was glorified.
When His course on the cross was completed, Jesus said, “It is finished,” and He gave over His Spirit. The Spirit is the gift of His dying breath, the last breath He took on that Good Friday. Those sacred lungs rested for a day before inhaling once again. On the third day, in the evening, Jesus appeared to His disciples and the first thing He does is breathes on them. Receive the Holy Spirit, He says, if you forgive anyone’s sins, they have been forgiven them; if you retain anyone’s, they have been retained (John 20:23).
The Spirit is the testimony of the forgiveness of sins, who proceeds from the crucified body of Christ. The final breath of the Son of God, the breath in which He gives over His Spirit is the seal that it is finished. The reason why Christ became flesh has reached its end, the salvation of mankind is accomplished.
The Spirit is the preaching of the cross of Christ. We preach Christ crucified…the wisdom of God and the power of God. Wherever this message is proclaimed, there is the Spirit testifying that man’s justification is completed, his sins are forgiven.
And so the Spirit testifies to you. Holy Absolution is your Lord’s Good Friday gift to you. He bows His head and gives up His Spirit so that the Spirit might blow through the Church whenever these words are spoken: I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. This testimony is true. Believe it for the sake of Him who gave up His Spirit for you.
Joining the Spirit in this trinity of testimony is the water. When Jesus’ side was pierced by the soldier’s spear, and St. John makes it explicit that it wasn’t just blood, but water and blood. Water flowed from the side of the crucified Christ. Why would St. John include such a detail?
Because Jesus also promised water. Just the previous fall, Jesus had been in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles, and one of the prominent ceremonies of that festival was an outpouring of water. On the last and great day of that particular feast, Jesus stood up and said, If anyone thirsts, let him who believes in Me come to Me and drink, just as the Scriptures say, “There will flow from His belly streams of living water.” He said this concerning the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were soon to receive (John 7:37b-39a).
The Living Water that flows from the pierced side of Jesus is a drink that quenches a spiritual thirst. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied (Matt 5:6). This water is a testimony to the washing of regeneration and renewal given by Jesus. It is anticipated in the ceremonial washings of the Old Testament, it’s anticipated by John’s baptism, it’s anticipated by Jesus washing His own disciples’ feet. And it is fulfilled when the tip of that soldier’s spear breaks Jesus’ flesh.
This testimony isn’t a dead testimony; the risen Christ also shows His disciples His pierced side when He breathes on them on the day of resurrection. The testimony of the Spirit agrees with the testimony of the water, your unrighteousness is satisfied by the death of the Son of God.
This testimony of the water is put into water for you by the risen Son of God. You have been baptized, that is, washed with water and the Spirit. The Word of Absolution agrees with this spiritual bath—you are forgiven, you are declared to be righteous on account of Him from whose side trickled the water that gives life.
And finally the blood. The testimony of the blood joins the Spirit and the water. The blood that was shed by whips, thorns, clubs, and nails. The blood that flowed from His sacred wounds.
The blood is a testimony first to the severity of your sin. It is not just a few occasional misdeeds, a couple of missteps that easily corrected with a little hard work and determination. The sins you have committed are deadly sins, sins that require blood. Without shedding blood, forgiveness does not come (Heb 9:22b).
The blood testifies also that your blood is no longer required, because Jesus shed His blood. He allowed nails to be run through His hands, thorns to wound His sacred head, spear to pierce His heart—so you wouldn’t have to.
The blood shed by Jesus testifies to the New Testament that is found in His blood. This cup is the New Testament in My blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins (Words of Institution). The blood shed by Jesus agrees with the Spirit of the Gospel, and with the water that washes with righteousness. Your sins are forgiven.
If you lose too much blood, you’ll die. The life of the flesh is in the blood (Lev 17:11). The blood works along with the water you drink and the air you breathe to keep you alive. So also these three that testify work together for your life. Christ’s death is your life.
The Spirit, the Water, and the Blood that Flow from the Body of Jesus Testify to the Eternal Life God Gives Us in His Son
In + Jesus’ name. Amen.
Rev. Jacob Ehrhard