Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. Do you have trust issues? Chances are, most of us have trust issues, at least to some extent. We live in a culture that teaches us to not trust others. Let’s do this: I’m going to give you two different lists of things that I have done, and I want you to decide which is more believable. First: I have been to Pikes Peak in Colorado, I have been to Niagara Falls at least six times, and I have been to the highest point in the state of Tennessee. That’s the first group.
Here’s the second group: I have watched the sun set over lake Michigan (show picture of the sunset at Lake Michigan), I have been to the Grand Canyon (show picture of my family at the Grand Canyon), and I have climbed to the top of an 8,000 foot tall mountain in sandals (show picture of me in sandals atop Sentinel Dome in Yosemite National Park). Which of those lists is more believable? It’s probably kind of obvious, right? Clearly that second list is more believable because I have proof to back it up. Because I can show you pictures from Lake Michigan, the Grand Canyon, and Sentinel Dome, my claims about having been to those places are much more believable. Believe it or not, everything it that first list was true, too, but it’s not as believable because I don’t have anything to show you to prove it. The reality is we have a tendency to doubt what we cannot see with our eyes or observe with our senses.
2. This is true of our faith as well. We have a tendency to doubt what and whom we cannot see. And so, we need the testimony of God to strengthen our faith and to cause our doubts to fade away. This is why John wrote what he did in the second part of our Epistle Reading. He wants to remind us that God gives us both things we can see as well as things we can’t see to testify to the truth about Jesus. Let me read 1 John 5:6-8 one more time for us:
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. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.
3. There are basically two points that John makes here. Let’s start with the first one, which is in verse 6. John says that Jesus came by water and blood—and he’s very adamant about that. Jesus didn’t come only by water—he came by water and blood. And don’t forget – the Spirit bears witness about this. So, what does John mean? Saint Bede, sometimes referred to as The Venerable Bede, was an 7th-8th century Benedictine monk who lived in what is modern-day England. He had this to say about what John is getting at in this verse: The Spirit bore witness that Jesus is the truth when he descended on him at his baptism. If Jesus were not the truth, the Spirit would not have done that. The water and the blood bore witness that Jesus is the truth when they both flowed from his side at the time he was crucified. That would not have been possible if he had not had a genuine human nature (St. Bede on 1 John). St. Bede’s point is this: Jesus came by water—the water of the Jordan River—where the Spirit bore witness as God the Father declared Jesus to be his beloved Son. Jesus was truly God who came on a mission from God to right all human wrongs and to restore the world to how it was meant to be. But more than that, Jesus also came through water and blood. In his Gospel, John tells us that on the cross, Jesus bowed his head and gave up his Spirit. And right after that, Jesus’ side was pierced with a spear. Out of that wound both blood and water flowed. As any doctor could tell you, the blood and water testify that Jesus was truly human—but not just any human. He’s the human who suffered and died in our place. And so, through the death of Jesus, the church was born by the Spirit, the water, and the blood. After all, if Jesus hadn’t given up his Spirit, the Holy Spirit couldn’t be given to us. The Spirit, the water, and the blood testify that Jesus was fully God and fully man, and he died on the cross so that your sins and doubts could be forgiven.
4. But that’s not all. John goes on to say in verses 7 and 8 of our reading that the Spirit, the water, and the blood continue to testify to this day. Why is that important? Let’s allow St. Bede to enlighten us again: And all three [that is, the Spirit, the water, and the blood] are present also in us, not in their natural form but by the mystical union of our souls with him. The Spirit makes us children of God by adoption, the water of the sacred font cleanses us, and the blood of the Lord redeems us. They are invisible in themselves, but in the sacraments they are made visible for our benefit (St. Bede on 1 John). See, the Spirit, the water, and the blood continue to testify to this day. The Spirit (who we can’t see) works through the water and the blood (which we can see) to give you confidence that Jesus’ redeeming work is yours. In the waters of Holy Baptism, God the Father claimed you as his own by the working of the Holy Spirit. Even though many of us can’t remember our baptisms, every time we see the font and ever time we witness someone else’s baptism we are reminded of our own. The water testifies that Jesus’ love is for you. The blood of Christ, which comes to us in the Lord’s Supper is a participation in Christ. Because we participate in his death as our sins were put to death on the cross, so too we can have confidence that his life—eternal life—is ours. The blood testifies to this.
5. And so, my friends, I pray that you would never forget this reality. Our Lord has given us the Spirit, the water, and the blood to testify to us because he knows how forgetful we are as humans. He knows that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature constantly oppose us and cause doubts to creep into our minds. So when you notice doubts starting to creep into your mind, when you wonder “Is God really good?” “Is he even there?” When those thoughts enter your mind, remember that the Father testifies to the Son through the Spirit, the water, and the blood. The remedy for your doubts is the Spirit working through the water and the blood. Yes, the Scriptures are vitally important, but there’s something special about gathering with other believers around the Holy Sacraments and allowing the Spirit to testify to our poor, doubt-filled hearts about the truth of Jesus. He’s alive, and he has given you the Spirit, the water, and the blood as his testimony to prove it.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.