In his book “Mere Christianity” C.S. Lewis issued his famous “trilemma.” Lewis was concerned that some in his day, gripped by the fad of “demythologizing” the Bible, wanted to call Jesus a “good teacher” but certainly not God in the Flesh. (Parenthetically, I’d love to read an historical account of the influence of Islamic theology on Protestantism) So Lewis declared that Jesus doesn’t give us this option. Lewis insisted that Jesus was either a “lunatic” or a “liar” or as Lewis believed He is, “Lord.”
Look at our Lesson today in 1 John 4:20-21; 5:1-21. Read the whole passage, but, today, we will focus on 1 John 5:6-13
This is he who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the witness, because the Spirit is the truth. There are three witnesses, the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has borne witness to his Son. He who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. He who does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne to his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who has not the Son of God has not life.
St. John insists that Jesus, properly known, is exactly what He claims to be: God in the Flesh reconciling the world to God, the Father. And John insists this based on the “testimony of three “witnesses.” By the way, you aren’t going to understand this passage without remembering the scene of the Lord’s baptism at the beginning of His public ministry.
First, the Spirit. St. John insists that the “Spirit is the truth.” Of course John is remembering the promise of the risen Lord that the Spirit which He would send to the disciples on the Day of Pentecost would lead the Lord’s Church into “all truth” (see John 16:13). The Spirit descends on the Lord’s head in the form of a dove at His baptism, witnessing to St. John the Baptist (not the same John as we have writing here) that this was the Messiah, the Savior of the World.
Next, St. John tells us the water is a witness as well. How can water be a witness of the divinity of Christ? For one” water” here can refer to the fact that Christ was a real person, a human Person (but not “just” a human Person). Water is of this world. Water is the source of life for we humans. Even our physical bodies are mostly made of water! And Christ is baptized in water, and, as He comes up out of the water, He is revealed to all as the “Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world!” (see John 1:29)
Finally, the blood is a witness. Again, John is using highly metaphorical language here. The old saying is “Life is in the blood.” Lose too much blood and your physical body will die. So, Jesus’ sacrifice of His life for us to destroy the power death held over us is a strong witness of His true identity! His blood was, and is, the same blood that still flows through His Body, the Church, making those who are the Church “by grace what Christ is by nature.”
John also reminds us that, at the Lord’s baptism, the Father speaks from heaven and witnesses that Jesus is His “beloved Son.” And those who dare to accept the “testimony” of these “witnesses” for Christ have the life of Christ, the eternal life of Christ as their own. And those who reject this “testimony” do not have this life. Because you were made for Life Himself and our Lenten journey of the spiritual disciplines is meant to REORIENT you towards your real self and that can only happen as we become “like Christ.”
Today, St. John continues to prepare us for our Lenten journey through our spiritual maturity by reminding us that our faith in Christ isn’t based on some fantasy or some “tall tale.” Our faith in Christ rests on the testimony of three powerful witnesses to the true identity of our Lord. Now, the only matter to be settled is who do you believe? Do you have the courage to be Orthodox on Purpose?