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. 9 If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. 11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. – 1 John 5:6-12
My Grandmother Dodson was a consummate story teller. She told stories about dangerous encounters with snakes, a nearly fatal auto accident, scaring away a would-be intruder by standing on her upstairs porch and shooting her shotgun into the air, and many others. We knew the difference between her stories about “the olden days,” and a fairy tale or a fable.
John wants us to understand that his witness to Jesus is no fairy tale nor is it merely a happy story of the good guy winning the day. The story of Jesus is a real story about real blood and water together with the Spirit of Truth. Deep truth. Truth grounded in reality. A story grounded in blood, water and the Holy Spirit.
There are several ideas about the meaning of “by the water and the blood”. Luther speaks of baptism and communion. Augustine spoke of the water and blood that flowed from Jesus’ side at his death. Still others speak of water as referring to Jesus’ physical birth, and blood referring to his death. I appreciate the idea that this is speaking of Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist and Jesus’ death at the hands of Pilate. This is gritty. Real.
The promises of God in this regard are real as well. Through this real Son of God, his real suffering and death, and his real resurrection from the dead, we have real life. Without Jesus, the Son of God, the One who came in the flesh into the world, we have no promise of life. There is an edge also in this promise, for whoever does not have the Son does not have life.
This may seem harsh, unkind, and exclusivistic. But this is not a fairy tale. This is life and death. In fact, this is eternal life – God’s gift through his Son. The testimony of John is as real as Jesus himself: “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” – 1 John 5:11-12