The Apostle John, the Lamb,
and the Spirit
by Ernest L. Martin, Ph.D., 1979
Edited and expanded by David Sielaff, July 2007
Read the accompanying Newsletter for July 2007
This is part 3 of 3 articles about the Apostle John and the Gospel of John.
The first article in the series titled "The Two Apostle Johns" is at http://www.askelm.com/doctrine/d070501.htm.
The second article titled "The New Apostle John" is at http://www.askelm.com/doctrine/d070601.htm.
There are some fundamental differences between the Gospel of John and the first three Synoptic Gospels. What they attempt to do is to give an historical treatment, a doctrinal treatment to the teachings of Christ while He was here on earth. John does the same thing, but the Gospel of John is fundamentally different. It is composed differently than the other three Gospels. Anybody who looks at John even superficially is able to see that without any doubt.
John had something else in mind than the other three evangelists when he wrote. That is why it is possible to talk about the “new apostle John.” 1 John’s way of looking at things differed tremendously from the other three writers. Does that mean that the other three writers are inferior to John? Not at all. But it means that John had something different to give, and he wanted to give a different slant to the teachings of Christ.
The Gospel of John is the latest of the Gospels. Being an old man when he wrote the Gospel, John reflected on the life of Christ. Indeed John gives a commentary to the role that Christ was playing and what He was teaching here on earth. That is what makes John different from the synoptic Gospels.
About one third of the text of the Gospel is John’s comments upon the life of Christ. Indeed John quite often will give parenthetical comments on certain parts of Christ’s life. When Jesus was speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well and Jesus said the time is coming when God will want people to worship Him in spirit and in truth, John puts in parenthetically “and now is” (John 4:23). Of course when Christ said that it was not, but when John wrote it, it was. So he says, “and now is.” That is just one example out of many.
John is different because he gives comments and a commentary upon the life of Christ. I might say that it is an “ideal” commentary. It is an ideal Gospel. John wrote for a particular reason. When scholars have tried to compare John with the other three Synoptic Gospels, they have gotten themselves into serious difficulties trying to harmonize the records of three with the one.
I do not know how many of you have studied the subject at length, but even superficially you will see that there are profound differences. These differences have caused scholars for the last 1800 years to scratch their heads over the major disparities between the teachings of John, particularly in a chronological way, and those in the Synoptic Gospels. Some people have just thrown up their hands in disbelief that anyone could write the things that John did in a chronological way which differed so much from the other three Synoptic Gospel writers. Indeed I would say that one of the most difficult problems of the New Testament is trying to resolve the differences between John and the three Synoptic writers.
I think those differences are there for a reason. Indeed, the differences can show why John wrote the way he did. He wrote in an ideal sense and he did differ drastically in some places from what the Synoptic writers wrote. In fact scholars have said that if we only had the first three Gospels to go on there would not be a shadow of doubt of what was going on at the time as far as the Old Testament revelation and the historical teachings of the Jews at the time. It all makes perfectly good sense; there is not a shadow of doubt about it.
These problems coming up from the Synoptic writers and with John have caused almost insurmountable difficulties as far as commentators are concerned. Some have thrown up their hands in disbelief and said it just cannot be reconciled. When you come down to it there are some fundamental differences between the Gospel of John and the Synoptic Gospels.
Those differences do not disturb me a bit, although they could if I would look on the Gospel writings the way that I want them to be written. That is our problem most of the time in trying to interpret the Scripture. We want the Scripture writers to write the way we think they should write, to appeal to our reasoning the way that we appeal to our own reasoning. I cannot object to that to a certain extent because after all, we are human beings just like everybody else. Although we live almost 2,000 years from the events, we think differently about things than they did back there. We do not like it to be different from the way that we reason. I can understand that and I sympathize with people who feel that way. However, the fact that John says things differently than do the three Synoptic Gospels does not bother me all that much, and I will tell you the reason why.
If a person can discover why John wrote the way he did, and for what reason he wrote the way he did, we can come to understand the New Testament revelation far better than ever before. Instead of being a deterrent to truth because of the differences, actually the differences will reinforce the overall symbolic teaching of the Scripture and make things clearer than ever before.
In fact, the final analysis is that John puts Christ on the tree of crucifixion three hours after the Synoptic Gospel writers put Him there. Also, he puts Him on the tree one day earlier than the Synoptic writers. This is where the problem comes up. Someone might say John is not telling the truth. If you look at it from a completely chronological point of view you are going to find differences between those three first Gospels and the Gospel of John. 2
I claim however that John is telling the truth, but he is telling the truth in a particular way for our admonition, for our understanding, and especially for teaching purposes. That is what we really should try to discover; why did John do the things that he did? I will give a few points to show what the new apostle John was attempting to do. Every event in the Gospel of John that differs chronologically from the Synoptic Gospels is centered on a particular symbolic teaching that John wants to get across to people. I will tell you what that teaching is, simply and plainly.
John is attempting to show that Christ Jesus was the Lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world. Or, to put it in plain simple language, that Jesus fulfilled completely and absolutely the symbol of the Passover lamb. Though he brings up an ideal chronology in order to do it, clearly, every one of these changes is to show that John is pointing out that Christ is the Lamb of God in a symbolic sense.
Look at that statement that He was put on the tree at “about the sixth hour.”
“And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he [Pilate] said unto the Jews, ‘Behold your King!’”
“About the sixth hour” means about the 6th hour from sunrise. Some have tried to see in that 6th hour that John is writing for Gentiles (and that is true, he is) and that he was using Gentile number of the hours. The Romans at that time had two or three different ways of numbering their hours of the day, but the technical one, the one used in a civil, military sense is the one you and I go by to this very day. Midnight begins the new day. If that was the case and if John used that, then “about the sixth hour” would be the 6th hour from midnight and as we would say, it would be 6 o’clock in the morning. That still does not get rid of the problem. Six o’clock in the morning is not good enough to have Christ on the tree of crucifixion because the other Synoptic Gospels say He was put there at the third hour of the day, numbering from Jewish time, 9:00 o’clock in the morning. You are still off three hours.
This 6th hour here can be shown throughout John to mean that he was using the Hebrew way of numbering the hours as were the Synoptic Gospel writers. When he says “about the sixth hour” he means about the 6th hour from sunrise, and it means about noontime. Read the Gospel of John and you find the expression used several times. This exact phrase is used once when John said Christ met the Samaritan woman at the well “about the sixth hour” when they were getting hungry (John 4:6). That 6th hour is noontime. There is no question about it. You can check it in other expressions throughout John, and clearly he numbered the hours from sunrise just as everyone else was doing. 3 Unfortunately, John has Christ being put on the tree of crucifixion about the 6th hour, about noontime.
Since John differs remarkably from the three Synoptic Gospels, some might say that he is either right or he is wrong. You might say that and it would be true. How to marry the two records together is a great difficulty. But if John had the other three Gospels in his hands, which he undoubtedly did — he wrote last of all — he would have been a complete idiot, if I can use that term advisedly, to do so. Here are three Gospel writers that I can read as well as anyone else, and they all say He was put on the tree in the 3rd hour, 9:00 o’clock in the morning, and the darkness was from noontime until 3 o’clock in the afternoon, the 9th hour, and then Christ died, after a 6 hour period on the tree. Any child of 5 years who could read would see that.
Are we to imagine that John who wrote last did not understand that point? Of course he did, but he says the 6th hour. Why did he say that? When we come to the reason why he said it, you will understand what he is bringing out concerning the life of Christ. It is most profound and very instructive. The whole matter of John’s idealistic writing comes clear. Here is the reason: John says the 6th hour because the 6th hour, noontime on the 14th of Nisan, is the very time the Passover lamb could be taken and slain, starting at noontime. This is made quite clear in the Bible, backed up by Philo, a Jew who lived in this very time of Christ. The Jewish historian Josephus said the same thing. 4 There is no doubt about this fact.
It says in the Bible that the Passover lamb should be taken and killed “between the two evenings.” 5 There has been some controversy over this expression, but there is hardly any doubt really what it means, and it is completely compatible with the Scriptural revelation, New Testament as well as Old. Some have said that “between the two evenings” meant dusk, between the time the sun went down and the appearance of a star of the third magnitude; let us say a little over an hour. Some people in the earlier periods believed that was what it meant. That does not square with the Old Testament nor with the New Testament revelation and it certainly does not square with the history of the Jews. There is no question that it does not mean that.
What it means when it says “between the evenings” is this: the Jews had the teaching that when the sun would reach the meridian at noontime, when it started to go down, that started it on its evening trip. The first “evening” began when the sun reached the meridian, noontime. The second “evening” began when the sun dropped down to the horizon and went below the horizon, a 6-hour period. “Between the evens” is when the Passover could be slain, a lamb or goat. Normally it was a lamb. Certainly in the time of Christ it was almost exclusively a lamb.
Philo, a well known, educated Jew who lived in Alexandria, who had been to the Temple and was well acquainted with Temple ritual, he makes it clear in his writings at the time of Christ that at noontime, as soon as the sun hit the meridian, from there all the way down until the sun went down below the western horizon, it was possible to kill the Passover lamb. Ideally it was right in the middle of the two periods; 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon was when the Jews wanted to do it. 6 Being rather meticulous the Jews would want to kill the Passover lamb exactly at the time they thought that God would want it done, at 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon. Is it not interesting, Jesus Christ on the tree of crucifixion died at 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon at the exact time the Passover lambs were being killed if we go by the chronology of John.
After that, as the sun went down, they put Christ in the grave, then the Passover came on. Remember that some Jewish leaders did not want to go to the Praetorium at the trial of Christ lest they would not be cleansed and could not partake of the Passover coming up that evening. 7 It is all in the Gospel of John. John has Christ put on the tree at the 6th hour. Why the 6th hour? Why at noontime? That is the clue to the whole reason why John wrote the way he did.
The 6th hour is the exact time when from then on that the Passover lamb legally could be killed. If you go to the 3rd hour like the Synoptic Gospel writers have it, which is 3 hours before the Passover could be killed, and indeed it is a day later (and in actual fact that was the way it was). But John is giving something ideal here. He is presenting something for teaching purposes. The 6th hour means the time the Passover lamb legally could be killed and not one minute before. From that time onwards it could be killed. It could be an acceptable Passover from the 6th hour onward. John puts Christ on the tree about the 6th hour when the sun is reaching the meridian. He wants Him there at that time because that was when the Passover lamb could be killed. When did Christ die? Three hours later at 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon, “between the evens.” He died at the exact time that the Passover was being killed. So legally when it could be killed and when it was killed, who was fulfilling the whole of the teaching of the Passover? It was Jesus Christ.
Have you ever noticed what feast John emphasizes the most? He mentions the Passover three times by name and there is an unknown feast in the 5th chapter that no one knows whether it is the Passover, but some suggest it is. (There are some doubts on that.) John emphasizes the Passover throughout his Gospel records. John keeps talking about Passover, Passover, Passover. In the 6th chapter of John, Jesus said to the Jews in Galilee and in Capernaum, “except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you” (John 6:53); a whole chapter is given to this symbol that would take place surrounding Passover time with His death. John gives an entire chapter to that. The Gospel of John starts with Tabernacles, but then all emphasis is on the Passover. 8
This 6th hour business, and the fact that he was killed at 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon exactly correlates with the slaying of the Passover lamb, and how He is put in the grave before the evening comes on the 15th when the Passover is normally eaten.
Who is “the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)? It is Christ, the Messiah. That is what John is trying to point out from a theological point of view. This can be shown throughout the Gospel of John, but let me give you just an indication of it. Go to the first chapter of the Gospel of John. In the very beginning he talks about Christ’s preexistence. He shows that He was the Word, that He was with God, that He was God. In verse 2: “The same was in the beginning with [toward] God.” He is showing the divinity of Christ, and that He was above humans in every way. However, I must say that throughout the Gospel John is emphasizing His humanity, but he also emphasizes His divinity.
There was a controversy going on at the time John wrote. Some people, the Docetics as they were called, believed that Christ Himself was not crucified on the tree of crucifixion, that it was some other person, or that it was a phantom of some kind, but that Christ Himself, being spiritual, being God, obviously could not die on the tree. When it speaks about blood and water coming from His body, that would have been indicative of Him being fleshly or human. John says that was the case. Of course Christ was a human while here on earth, but He also had divinity with Him. These Docetic people were saying that He had no humanity whatsoever, and many people were saying that John was writing His Gospel for one reason, to point out that Jesus was very much a human being like we are, and that is true. But John starts out with the divinity of Christ showing who He was and how He came into the world, and tabernacled amongst men.
John starts teaching about Christ with the introduction of John the Baptist. He has John the Baptist baptizing in water near the river Jordan, and lots of Jews, leaders of the Jews, ordinary people, priests, and others are coming to be baptized of John. They ask John who he was and John says, well, I am not the Prophet, “I am not the Christ” (the Messiah), and he even said he was not Elijah (John 1:20). Well, John the Baptist proved to be Elijah as Christ said (Matthew 11:13-14, 17:10–13; Mark 9:11–13; and Luke 1:17).
John was the one prophesied in the Old Testament to introduce the Messiah (the Christ) to the world. It is interesting the pronouncement that John the Baptist made when he first saw Christ. Preliminary to his meeting Christ he told the Pharisees, the scribes, the ordinary people of the Jews who were being baptized in him, he says listen, I am not the one. There is someone amongst us of whom I am not worthy to bow down and to untie His shoelaces (John 1:26–27). He said I am not the one, but there is someone nearby, and in our midst, that I am not worthy of doing this to, but he did not point him out yet.
He finally points Him out. John the Baptist, this man that virtually everyone recognizes as a prophet, the one that all the Jews saw as fulfilling a command of God, a prophecy of the Old Testament, someone who was to introduce the Messiah to the world. Then they recognized who He was. The very first pronouncement of John the Baptist that John the apostle puts in his mouth when he sees Jesus is something that is most interesting, and it points out why John emphasizes throughout his Gospel about Christ being the Passover lamb, and why he emphasizes Passover, Passover, Passover, and all of those things throughout his Gospel.
Here is the first pronouncement put into the mouth of John the Baptist introducing Christ to the world, to the Jewish nation as well as to the whole world: “Behold the Lamb of God, which takes [or bears away] away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29). Do you see the emphasis? The Lamb of God. This is John the Gospel writer’s whole intention, to point out that Christ is fulfilling the role of the Lamb of God, the Passover. He gives other teachings as he goes on:
“Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he says, ‘Behold the Lamb of God!’”
Do you see the emphasis? John the Baptist on two successive days, the first statement that comes out of his mouth of this man who is a messenger before Christ, to introduce Him to the world points Him out on two occasions with the first breath, “Behold the Lamb of God.” John’s whole Gospel is governed around the symbolic teaching that Christ is the Passover lamb.
Another book written by John under inspiration was the Book of Revelation. John in the Book of Revelation calls Him the “Lamb” of God more often than almost any other name. 9 In fact John was the only Gospel writer — the only one — that calls Christ the Lamb of God. Peter on one occasion said that Christ as a lamb goes to the slaughter, 10 but not Peter nor any of the others ever call Christ the Lamb of God. Of course he has John the Baptist saying it, but John is the only Gospel writer who refers to Christ as the Lamb of God.
The reason the Passover is emphasized so much was to make Jesus Christ the Passover lamb. That is the whole reason for it symbolically. Once that is accepted, teaching after teaching of the Gospel of John comes alive as never before. There are three things that are emphasized by John in his Gospel concerning Christ:
(1) If you make Him be the Passover lamb, that is the only sacrifice that was absolutely demanded of every Israelite that he had to eat. It was a sacrifice that was unlike all the other sacrifices in the sense that a priest had to accompany all the other sacrifices or else they would not be valid. You take a sin offering, a meal offering, or a burnt offering, they were all to be offered in and around the Temple in Jerusalem. So likewise was the Passover lamb.
(2) There is a big difference between the other offerings and the Passover: no priest had to be around when the Passover lamb was killed or sacrificed. Philo and even Josephus mention this, but they both make it clear that when the Passover was killed and eaten, the whole nation, everyone from boy to man, girl to woman, all of them became a priesthood at that time. That was when the whole nation came together to partake of this lamb which was a symbol of their liberty and freedom, and of their true religion.
(3) John focuses the whole of salvation upon the eating this Lamb, drinking His blood, eating His flesh, and all that. We find this emphasized throughout because John wants you to be eating the Lamb of God.
The Old Testament says that blood was not to be eaten. That is first stated in Leviticus chapter 17. Obviously small portions of blood would go into a person; you could not possibly get rid of every bit of it, but the blood was not to be intentionally eaten. The reason was because the life is in the blood (Leviticus 17:11, 14), that is, the blood of an animal. Even the blood of a Passover lamb had to be bled properly first before it could be eaten. No bone of it was to be broken and indeed when roasted it had to be cooked with all the entrails inside. The lamb was not to be cleaned except superficially on the outside. They selected the Passover lamb on the 10th day of Nisan and killed it on the 14th.
The whole story of Christ coming to Jerusalem is very interesting and it dovetails absolutely with the teaching about the Passover lamb. The whole emphasis of John is upon Christ being the Passover lamb.
“And the Jews' passover was nigh at hand: and many went out of the country up to Jerusalem before the passover, to purify themselves.”
They purified themselves with water and they had to do it before the Passover lamb was accepted. They all did the purification around the city of Jerusalem before the 10th of Nisan. The Passover lamb was to be selected from the flock on the 10th day of Nisan, four days before it was killed.
“Speak you unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house.’”
It goes on to say that if a house is too little, then let some houses join together so you will have at least about 10 people. You selected the lamb on the 10th of Nisan. Everyone purified themselves because they had to be purified before they even touched that Passover lamb to pick him out on the 10th of Nisan. During that time they watched that Passover lamb so it would not eat anything except good clean grass. They watched the lamb very carefully because it had to be roasted with the entrails therein. They wanted to make sure that the animal, with its innards and everything else, for a 5 day period that animal was clean in every way.
The Jews purified themselves before they selected the Passover lamb, but on the 10th of Nisan they selected that lamb and watched it very carefully from then on. They kept it in a pen and fed it only the best and cleanest food. They did not want a fly or a gnat or anything else to get in it because it would have made the Passover lamb to be polluted. That was the reason for the 5 days purification period for the lamb.
It is interesting that in John 11:55 before the Passover, people were coming to purify themselves. Look at John 12:1: “Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany.” Six days before the Passover was the 9th of Nisan, a day before the Passover lamb was to be accepted. Notice verse 12: “On the next day,” that was 5 days before Passover, the 10th of Nisan, the time the Passover lamb was to be selected, when:
“[They] took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, ‘Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that comes in the name of the Lord.’”
Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and acceptance by the people was the very time the Passover lamb was selected. This is what John was pointing out. At the exact time the lamb was selected for the purification of the people when they all would sacrifice the lamb as a priesthood nation themselves, coming in all together as a community or as a congregation of God:
The lamb that was to be eaten had to have its blood drained from it because they were not allowed to eat the blood of an animal. Why? Because “the life of the flesh is in the blood” (Leviticus 17:11). Throughout the Gospel of John, particularly in the 6th chapter, John has Christ saying to the people at Capernaum:
“Then Jesus said to them, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoso eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, has eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, dwells in me, and I in him. 11
As the living Father has sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eats me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eats of this bread shall live for ever [for the eon]. These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum.’”
In the case of this Passover lamb, Christ, John says you eat His blood. That is right, because if you ate the blood of an animal you become a part of the animal, do you see the whole symbol here? You would be like an animal. 12 If you take of the blood of an animal symbolically, it does not mean a little bit of blood will hurt you, of course not. It does not mean that at all, but if you take the blood of an animal and just take it down like some people do, that is taking the life of the animal into you. Frankly, that is the way that they looked at it. But in the case of the Passover lamb and all sacrifices or all animals, God forbad the Israelites to partake of the blood. 13
But when it comes to this Passover Lamb, this One who is pure and clean, who is God ordained and comes from God Himself, and indeed is God, He is the Passover Lamb and you are to eat Him. If you eat Him and if you take His blood, the life that He has within Him becomes the life that you have within you. There is a union taking place. That is what John is trying to show symbolically.
Throughout the Gospel of John there are three things that are being shown quite clearly.
(1) He emphasizes the need for people to have the Spirit of God. How many times starting from the earliest chapters does John emphasize having the Spirit?
(2) He also shows that we ought to eat His flesh, dealing with Christ’s body. John is very keen on showing that Christ was a human being, that He had flesh, that He had a body here on the earth, and John emphasizes that throughout. But John also goes into one other thing which is most interesting.
(3) He emphasizes not only the Spirit, not only that Christ was a body of flesh, but John also emphasizes this matter of water. This has to do with the Passover lamb as well if we have enough wisdom about us to see it.
Go to 1 John 5 and you will see something quite interesting. Maybe we can clear up a great mystery of just what exactly John meant when he keeps emphasizing this tri-fold emphasis on Spirit, Water, and Blood.
“Who is he that overcomes the world, but he that believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that bears witness, because the Spirit is truth.”
1 John 5:5–6
Now so far in verse 6 an emphasis is made upon water, upon blood, and then upon spirit. Many of us when we have read that verse 6 have scratched our heads over it. What is John trying to get across when he says “not by water only, but by water and blood” and then the Spirit is involved?
We then have verse 7 which is a spurious verse because it was not put in until much later. (It was put in by people who believed in the Trinity.) Clearly it is not a verse which belongs in the original Bible at all. The Revised Standard Version and all modern translations take it out because they know it does not belong there. I shall quote it, but it really does not belong in the context whatsoever:
[ “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” ]
1 John 5:7
That does not belong in Scripture, so take it out. Go to verse 8 and you pick up the context again. When you read verse 8 along with verse 6 we still have difficulty because you wonder what is he talking about.
“And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one. If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he has testified of his Son.”
1 John 5:8–9
What does he mean here, the Spirit, the water, and the blood, and that they all testify of Christ? But he singles out the water back in verse 6. He said that water is important, but he says “not by water only, but by water and by blood.” And the Spirit is mixed up in it as well. And the witness happens to be three things, Spirit, blood, and water.
Now let us go back to the Gospel of John at the crucifixion of Christ at the time the Lamb of God was on the tree of crucifixion and He had just died. Something occurred that was very significant as far as John was concerned after Christ, the Passover Lamb, was now killed in fulfillment of the symbol:
“When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, ‘It is finished’: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost [spirit]. But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knows that he says true, that you might believe. For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, ‘A bone of him shall not be broken.’”
John 19:30, 34–36
Where does it say about an animal in the Bible that a bone shall not be broken? The Passover lamb. There is none other. In Psalm 22 it mentions also that they will pierce Him but that a bone will not be broken there, although they will be out of joint. I suppose it means that when Christ was put on the tree of crucifixion He was hanged there and the weight of His body being suspended by nails, if you want to carry the symbol to its logical conclusion, that the joints of the bones were actually taken out of place. We know one thing, it says “that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken” (John 19:36).
At the same time John points out “there came out blood and water.” This has puzzled people for a long time. What does it mean “water”? Every time a person is pierced with a sword does water come out? It has been suggested by some that if it punctures particular areas, yes, that is possible, but it is not normal for a human being who has his stomach pierced for water to come out. John saw it as being very significant that in the case of Christ blood and water came out. Here is a body and there is blood and there is water associated with Him. This has to do with the Passover significance someway or somehow.
Keeping that in mind let us go back to this three-fold indication in 1 John 5:6 and 8 of Spirit, water, and blood. As far as human life is concerned there is also a tripartite condition, according to the apostle Paul, which exists with every person who lives. Paul to the Thessalonians says this which may give us a clue of what is being talked of by John through this indication by the apostle Paul: “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly …” (1 Thessalonians 5:23); that means completely and totally. If God is going to sanctify a person “wholly” it means every factor that makes up human life, the human personality, and all of that. Here is the apostle Paul signifying what he means by “the whole” of the person being sanctified by God. The last part of verse 23 says:
“I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Thessalonians 5:23
Here we have the tripartite divisions of the whole, shall we say, of the personality. It is into spirit, it is into soul, and it is into body, that they “be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord.”
Is it not interesting that over here in 1 John 5:6 and 8, we also have the three-fold indication. They are witnessing to the death of Christ that He was a human being and He was God at the same time. In 1 John 5:8 we have the Spirit identified, and we do not have to make too much of a connection or show any difference between the spirit in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 and the spirit that is mentioned in 1 John 5:8. So the spirit is very well identified. 14
But John 19:30, 34 speaks about blood and then he talks about water next, whereas the apostle Paul talks about a soul and the body. Take a look at that word “soul.” In Leviticus 17:11, why is it that it says you are not to drink blood of an animal? Because the life of the soul is in it. This implies very clearly that the soul is connected with the blood, and that the life of the soul is in the blood. In Leviticus 17:10 it says that no one shall eat blood:
“For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that makes an atonement for the soul.”
Then it says in verse 12 it says that no soul shall eat blood. Going down, verse 14:
“For it is the life of all flesh; the blood of it is for the life thereof: therefore I said unto the children of Israel, You shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh: for the life of all flesh is the blood thereof: …”
We know that the blood is the life of the soul, and the blood probably has to do with the soul. In this case if we are going to make an agreement between John and the apostle Paul it is the water here that would be connected with the body in some way. Let us go to John chapter 3. This is an interesting comparison that we can make. I do not know exactly what to make of this because it can be interpreted two ways, and I realize that. But when John showed Christ talking to Nicodemus, He pointed out some things concerning the new birth. Nicodemus, though a ruler of the Jews did not seem to understand what Jesus meant by it.
“Jesus answered and said unto him, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’
Nicodemus says unto him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?’
Jesus answered, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be born of water and [born] of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.’”
What does Jesus mean here “born of water”? There has been great controversy over this whole matter here. Immediately baptism comes to mind. Some wonder if that is what is meant. But could that really be the case? Does He mean that a person literally must be baptized in actual water to be born in that fashion, and then also be born of the Spirit? And that unless the two are put together you cannot enter the Kingdom of God? Is it or is it not? Look at verse 6 and perhaps we can get some clarification:
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
Notice in verse 6 the one that He leaves out? He says “born of the Spirit is spirit.” He talked about being born of the Spirit in verse 5, and being “born of water,” could it be associated with the first part of verse 6 where it says, “that which is born of the flesh is flesh”? In other words, to be born of water is the fleshly birth. Every time a baby comes into the world there is water associated with his birth. We do not know if this is what John is talking about or not, but it has a distinct possibility of being the case. We all know about water breaking at the birth of a baby. It is associated with flesh.
If this tripartite division, this witness that John 19:30, 34 is talking about where he mentions spirit, blood, and water, and it is associated with what Paul said of spirit, soul, and body, if you put them all together, the body or the flesh would be in correlation with water.
Or, as it is in John 3:6, “that which is born of the flesh is flesh”and then a person is born two times: one to the flesh (the water), and the other by the spirit. You are only born once of the Spirit. That is, of course, what Christ is talking about in John 3:6, the most important is to be “born of the Spirit.” Throughout the Gospel of John he emphasizes these three points throughout the whole of his Gospel.
(1) The Spirit. John in chapter 3 of his Gospel is speaking about the spirit to Nicodemus. To the people at Tabernacles Jesus says, speaking of the Spirit, it shall be like living waters coming out (John 7:37–40). Jesus talks about the Spirit throughout in his 5 chapters on the day before His crucifixion. Almost the whole of these chapters were dealing with spiritual truths, how the Spirit, the Comforter was going to come. The emphasis is upon the Spirit.
(2) The Blood. The emphasis is also upon blood, the blood of Christ and how people must drink of His blood. We find His blood indicated throughout, how important it was.
(3) The Body. We come to His body which is normally associated with water. I have been interested myself to know why John emphasized this matter of water, and its symbol throughout his Gospel.
An early indication in John’s Gospel is to show John the Baptist baptizing in water. That is rather interesting to start with. In John chapter 2 the first miracle Christ ever did had to do with water: changing water into wine. Those stone waterpots at the wedding at Cana were “after the manner of the purifying of the Jews” (John 2:6).
In John chapter 3 He talks about being born of water which is probably equated with being born of the flesh. In John 3:23 John was baptizing where “there was much water.” Obviously baptism must be by water, but there is emphasis upon the water throughout the Gospel. In John 3:25 the Baptist emphasizes the purification of the Jews and that purification was by water.
In John chapter 4 we find John writing about Christ meeting the Samaritan woman. Jesus and His disciples were traveling through Samaria. You get hungry after a long journey. So the disciples went to get food. Jesus conversed with the woman: Where does He meet her? He meets her, interestingly, by a well. In fact the entire teaching concerns water when you get down to it.
“Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour [noontime]. There comes a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus says unto her, ‘Give me to drink.’ (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.)
Then says the woman of Samaria unto him, ‘How is it that you, being a Jew, ask drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.’
Jesus answered and said unto her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that says to you, Give me to drink; you would have asked of him, and he would have given you living water.’
The woman said unto him, … ‘Are you greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?’”
Jesus answered, and look at the teaching of John here. This is only given in John. It is not given in the other three Synoptic Gospels.
“Jesus answered and said unto her, ‘Whosoever drinks of this water shall thirst again.’”
Some of us have taken of that water, and I assure you, you get thirsty again. I have after a few hours.
“But whosoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”
It is interesting how the theme of water occurs in almost all these early chapters. Go to John chapter 5.
“After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool [what is in a pool? Water], which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.
And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he said unto him, ‘Will you be made whole?’ The impotent man answered him, ‘Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steps down before me.’
Jesus says unto him, ‘Rise, take up your bed, and walk.’ And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.”
Was it the water that made him whole? He did not have to go down into the pool of Bethesda, but the water was a factor. The water was Christ! Whoever drinks of me, this water that I give you, and there is significance going throughout the Gospel of John about water, water changed into wine, etc.
John chapter 6, going on: “After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias” (John 6:1). He begins to teach over there and gives people from some 5 barley loaves (verse 9) and a few fishes, 5,000 were able to eat, and they heard the message of Christ. Is it not interesting that John then talks about the miracle of Jesus walking on the water, verse 16:
“And when even was now come, his disciples went down unto the sea, And entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them. And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew. So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid. But he says unto them, ‘It is I; be not afraid.’ Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.”
This is the only miracle mentioned in all four Gospels. This is the only one that John has that the other three also have, other than the resurrection of Christ from the dead, of course. But there are a lot of events that John has that the others do not even have. The resurrection of Lazarus from the dead is only found in John’s Gospel. But here is this miracle of walking on the water.
Later in John chapter 6 we have, “Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53). By the way, John is not speaking about taking a little bit of unleavened bread or a little bit of wine at the Lord’s Supper. If anyone has any doubt about that, let us go back to John chapter 6 because it is made quite clear in symbol what Jesus means. Every one of you should be eating of His flesh, drinking of His blood, or this water, from Him daily. Here is the answer to the whole thing. He is not talking about taking a little bit of unleavened bread or a little wine after the Lord’s Supper to fulfill this, though that was the symbol of it. He is not talking about it literally because it says:
“And Jesus said unto them, ‘I am the bread of life: he that comes to me shall never hunger; and he that believes on me shall never thirst.’”
The rest of this discourse is about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, in this case, since He is the Passover Lamb. This is no ordinary lamb (of which you can eat the flesh but you cannot drink the blood), but of this one you drink the blood, not literally, but you do it symbolically because Christ is the Passover Lamb. If you believe on Him you will “never hunger” any more and you will “never thirst” anymore. That is what Jesus means. He does not mean by taking a little bit of material substance down into you.
In John chapter 7 Jesus decides to go up to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles, and then:
“In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, ‘If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believes on me, as the scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.’ (But this spoke he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given, …)”
There are many other indications. In John chapter 9 verses 7, 11 the man who was blind was told by Christ to go and wash himself in the Pool of Siloam and he would receive his sight, and he did. John chapter 11 verse 55 it speaks about the purification of the Jews.
The night before Christ’s crucifixion when the last supper was eaten by Christ and the disciples, John was the only Gospel writer to mention Jesus taking a basin of water and going around to Peter and the others and washing their feet in a sense of purification. The first 15 verses of John chapter 13 are given unto it. He talks about washing the apostles’ feet with water. Peter said no one washes me, and Christ says either I wash you or you have no part with me. Peter says, not my feet but everything then. Water comes into it there. 15
When Jesus is hanging on the cross and died and His side was punctured by the spear, John is emphasizing water as well as blood coming out of the body (John 19:34). Water, blood, body, you see?
It is interesting that after Christ’s crucifixion, resurrection from the dead, and then meeting the disciples, He tells them to go on north to the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1). We come back to this water theme once more. The only Gospel writer that mentions this is John. Here they are up there at the Sea of Galilee: “Simon Peter said unto them, ‘I go a fishing.’ They say unto him, ‘We also go with you’” (John 21:3). Peter was out there in the boat with the rest of them. They see Christ:
“Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said unto Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’ Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher's coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea.”
They had been unlucky in catching fish, but here was Jesus and He had been cooking breakfast and eating. John is trying to make sure that everybody knows that He was flesh. No phantom would eat, but here He was eating fish.
“Jesus says unto them, ‘Bring of the fish which you have now caught. Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: 16 and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.”
I have superficially gone through the Gospel of John, but he does emphasize the Spirit. He does emphasize the blood time after time, but he emphasizes the water or the flesh of Christ throughout. I am trying to show how the emphasis is there. John symbolizes it in relationship to the Passover lamb.
In 1 John 5:6, 8 he mentions the tripartite witness: spirit, blood, and water. Perhaps that can be put in agreement with 1 Thessalonians 5:23 to show the tripartite analogy of man. It is possible.
Putting it all together, John is trying to show that the Passover lamb in an ideal sense was none other than our Lord, that you drink of His blood, you eat of His flesh, you drink of the water that He gives you. If you do you will never thirst again. You will never have any more hunger. You will never have to take another Passover lamb literally anymore because you have taken of it and you take of it daily. That is what John is trying to show.
It is interesting that throughout the whole Gospel of John, the feast days, including even the Passover where the literal lamb is used, John calls “a feast of the Jews” (John 6:4). It was “a feast of the Jews” as far as the physical is concerned. Whether it is the Samaritan woman at the well, He says take of this water and you will “never thirst.” Whether it is the 5,000 in Capernaum, He says eat this and you will never hunger any more, and you will “never thirst.” Whether it was the people at the Feast of Tabernacles where He speaks about living water going forth if they take of it, they will never thirst again. Water comes out of Christ after His death, and blood, that is quite true. Here He is, a body on the tree of crucifixion, but He is the Passover lamb, this one you can eat, and you eat it daily. The blood, the flesh, and you partake of the Spirit of Christ. All of it together.
John is trying to show in an ideal sense, in a theological sense, perhaps you might say in a symbolic sense, but a very profound one, that Christ is the Passover lamb that takes away the sin of the world. Once you take of that lamb, the spiritual Lamb of God, no more do you ever have to eat another literal lamb or goat, because otherwise next year you would have to do it again, and the next year again. Remember what Paul said in Hebrews, even the sacrifices had to be performed every day of Atonement, but there is one sacrifice that has been offered once for all, and if you partake of that you do not have to go through the physical rituals any more (Hebrews 9:7–28).
Perhaps I can close by quoting what Christ said to the Samaritan woman at the well (John chapter 4, I’m paraphrasing): Woman, the time is coming when God the Father wants people to worship Him not in Jerusalem, not in Samaria, not in any physical tabernacle or temple, or with physical things any longer, but God wishes them to worship them in Spirit and in truth.
John, by the time he wrote, he called Passover “the Passover of the Jews,” he called Tabernacles “the Jews’ feast.” He called all things physical “of the Jews” or physical things. But what he wanted and what he was trying to show was for people to drink the blood, the water, and also eat the flesh of the true Passover lamb and you will never thirst or never hunger again.
Ernest L Martin, 1979
Edited by David Sielaff, July 2007
This is part 3 of 3 articles about the Apostle John and the Gospel of John.
The first article in the series titled "The Two Apostle Johns" is at http://www.askelm.com/doctrine/d070501.htm.
The second article titled "The New Apostle John" is at http://www.askelm.com/doctrine/d070601.htm.
2 The Synoptic writers made it quite clear that Christ ate the Passover lamb on the 15th of Nisan, and the next day on the daylightpart of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (still on the 15th of Nisan) was when He was crucified. See the discussion and time chart on this matter in Dr. Martin’s extended article “The Passover Contradiction” at http://www.askelm.com/doctrine/d050401.htm. DWS
3 John 1:39, 4:6, 52–53, 11:9 (below), and 19:14.
“Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbles not, because he sees the light of this world.”
John 11:9 DWS
4 Josephus notes the following, the 9th hour is 3 p.m.:
“So these high priests, upon the coming of that feast which is called the Passover, when they slay their sacrifices, from the ninth hour till the eleventh, but so that a company not less than ten belong to every sacrifice, (for it is not lawful for them to feast singly by themselves,) and many of us are twenty in a company,”
Josephus,Wars of the Jews 6.423 DWS
5 The verse in question is:
“And you shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening [Hebrew, ‘between the two evenings’].”
Exodus 12:6 DWS
6 Philo says this:
“And after the feast of the new moon comes the fourth festival, that of the passover, which the Hebrews call pascha, on which the whole people offer sacrifice, beginning at noon-day and continuing till evening.”
Philo,De specialibus legibus 2:145 DWS
7 John wrote:
“Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover.”
John 18:28 DWS
8 There is one other feast that John emphasizes to a lesser extent, the Feast of Tabernacles. John does so because he has Christ beginning His birth around the Feast of Tabernacles but not exactly at that time. Remember in the first chapter John writes:
“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
The Word of God “tabernacled” among us. The King James Version says the Word “dwelt among us,” but the term in Greek is “tabernacled.” Jesus starts His life at Tabernacles. Christ also starts His ministry at Tabernacles. At one time in the 7th chapter of John, Jesus and His disciples went up to the Feast of Tabernacles and at the octive, the last day of the feast, the 8th day, Jesus stood up and spoke about the living waters. [Of course, Dr. Martin’s understanding changed when his research indicated Christ’s birth came on the Day of Trumpets. See his The Star that Astonished the World (Portland, OR: ASK Publications, 1996).] DWS
9 There are 29 occurrences of Lamb (actually “lambkin” or little lamb) in 27 verses of Revelation: 5:6, 8, 12–13, 6:1, 16, 7:9–10, 14, 17; 12:11, 13:8, 11, 14:1, 4, 10, 15:3, 17:14, 19:7, 9, 21:9, 14, 22–23, 27; 22:1, 3. DWS
10 Peter compares Christ’s blood to that of the lamb in 1 Peter 1:19. Christ as a lamb or a sheep brought for slaughter is prophesied in Isaiah 53:7; Jeremiah 11:19; and Acts 8:32. DWS
11 This threefold repetition made in the synagogue is to emphasize a key and important statement by Jesus. DWS
12 What are we like? We are like the beasts of the field when you get right down to it. What about Nebuchednezzar? He went around and crawled on his belly for seven years because he felt too exalted. The Bible even refers to Gentile nations by the names of animals. How do most of us act? We act like animals, that is quite true. ELM
13 Even in popular western culture the vampire myths, legends, stories, and movies tell that blood supposedly can prolong life. Such is the extent that the biblical message has been perverted. DWS
14 Verse comparison: the order of the terms is specific and for a purpose (DWS):
1 John 5:6, 8
1 Thessalonians 5:23
John 19:30, 34
|1. Spirit||1. Spirit||1. Spirit|
|2. Water||2. Soul||2. Blood|
|3. Blood||3. Body||3. Water|
15 Remember that Pilate used water as a different kind of symbol in his judgment of Jesus: “he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, ‘I am innocent of the blood of this just person’” (Matthew 27:24). This event is not to be found in the Gospel of John because it does not fit John’s symbol of water which he used only in reference to Christ. DWS
16 When you take that number 153 the word beni ha-Elohim (sons of God) in Hebrew, each of the Hebrew letters have numerical value to them. If you take the numerical values of the Hebrew for beni ha-Elohim, “sons of God,” it comes exactly to 153. Now maybe there is significance to that, and may be there is not, I do not know. But John is trying to show that when they cast the net after Christ’s resurrection, when now it was possible for people to be saved, you might say, and they cast the net (they had been trying on both sides without success, John 21:3), when Christ said to do it they lowered the net and up comes 153 fish. Simon Peter and most of the others were fishermen in the Sea of Galilee. Those fish that came forth, Christ from time to time referred to as human beings, like “be you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19 and Mark 1:17 [and see Luke 5:10]). They bring up 153 out of the water, sons of God; you could put it that way. Who did it? These apostles here, but it came by a miracle. ELM
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