Second Reading (Opt. B): 1 John 5:1-9

From Water to Blood

Popular Translation

1 God gave everyone who believes Jesus is the Christ God send into the world a heavenly birth. After all, everyone who loves God loves his Son. 2 We know that we love God's children when we love and obey God. 3 This is what it means to love God. We do what he tells us to do. This is not very difficult.

4 We who believe overcome what the world says or does. Our faith is our victory over the world's evil. Who else but those who believe Jesus is God's Son can overcome the hatred of the world?

6 Jesus Christ shows us he is God's Son through water and blood. Not just water, but water and blood. 7 God's Spirit tells us the same thing, because the Spirit tells us God's truth. 7 So, there are three witnesses to Jesus: God's Spirit, water, and blood. All three agree Jesus is God's Son! 9 If we accept what others tell us about Jesus, what God tells us about his Son is that much better! And, this is what God tells us about his Son.

Literal Translation

1 Everyone believing that JESUS is the CHRIST from God has been born from above, and everyone loving the (parent) having given birth loves the (CHILD) having been born out of him. 2 In this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and perform his commands. 3 For this is the love of God, that we might keep his commands and his commands are not burdens. 4 So, everyone having been born from God conquers the world. This, our faith, is the victory, having conquered the world. 5 [But] who is the (one) conquering the world except the (one) believing JESUS is the SON of God? 6 This is the (ONE) having come through water and blood, JESUS CHRIST, not in water alone, but in water and blood. The Spirit is the (one) testifying, because the Spirit is Truth. 7 So, three are the (ones) testifying, 8 the Spirit, water, and blood, and the three are as one. 9 If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater. So, this is the testimony of God, that he has testified about his SON.

5:1 "everyone loving the (parent) having given birth loves the (CHILD) having been born out of him" In the context of the verse, the parent was God the Father, and the child was God the Son.

Tradition has identified the author of 1 John with the author of John's gospel. Indeed the terminology, grammar, and literary construction are similar. However, there were some differences. The gospel of John seemed to be a meditative reflection on God's Word that existed from the primordial beginning; this was God made flesh. But 1 John stressed the human side of Jesus whose "beginning" was his mission that initiated the Church. While both books most likely came from John's pen, we should note the different (and complimentary) images of Jesus.

Why would 1 John have such a concern for the humanity of Jesus? Apparently some within and without the community merely stressed Jesus as a heavenly messenger. Such a view matched the belief system of the Gnostics, a religious movement within Christianity that advanced in the first two centuries. Basically, Gnosticism held the material universe was evil. Salvation could only come in the spiritual realm. Special knowledge and ascetic practices were required to free oneself from the material and attain a spiritual nature. According to many Gnostics, Jesus was the heavenly messenger with such knowledge/practices. Notice, such a belief system completely undercut the birth of Messiah, his death and resurrection. All could be reduced to the image of Jesus, the spiritual teacher (or even the teaching spirit that "seemed" to have a body).

In these verses, John grounds faith in a practical love (not a spiritual discipline). He also identifies the Christ with physical terms. First, notice how John connected faith and love (agape). He described the faith conversion as being "born from above" (an image that would return in the identification of Jesus). But that faith conversion was an act of love for the parent (God the Father) who loved his child (Jesus). [5:1] If the follower loves God's children (Jesus and his followers), then he/she must love God and obey his commands. In other words, life in the Christian community demanded not an individual spiritual ascetic or a cliche of spiritual "masters," but acts of charity. "Agape" in this sense was more than a feeling. It was a series of acts that built up community fellowship. [5:2]

Second, John identified Jesus with three "testimonies:" the Spirit, water, and blood. The Gnostics would have no problem with the first witness, God's own power. Nor would they have a problem with the second witness, for Baptism (i.e., water) could be adopted as a spiritual exercise for the disciple. But the third witness was John's trip wire. Blood, alone and in combination with water, presented the humanity of Jesus in all its physical dimensions. Blood and water were present at the birth of a child. And both were present at the death of Jesus in John 19:34-35:

But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness--his testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth--that you also may believe. (RSV)

In John's typical fashion, he paralleled the life of Jesus to that of the believer. As the Spirit, water, and blood pointed to Jesus, they would point to the believer. Water pointed to Baptism; blood pointed to Eucharist. Both were products of the Spirit in the life of the Christian. But, notice something more subtle in the parallel. As the Spirit moved Jesus from water (Baptism) to blood (his death), he led the believer from Baptism to persecution. Indeed, John foresaw the social shame of Christianity would become its strength. "The Church is built upon the blood of the martyrs." Suffering became victory. On the cross, Christ triumphed over death. Whenever Christians suffered for faith, they, too, share in the victory of the cross. [5:4-5] For John, this was a significant part of being "born from above."

Christianity is a very practical religion. Prayer and acts of charity are very intertwined. But, because of that fact, it is criticized and even persecuted. Why? We followers strive to bring God into everyday events and actions. After all, isn't that what God did when he sent his Son into the world? And, isn't that the real reason his Son was killed on the cross?

Have you been criticized for bringing Christ into your everyday activities and relationships? Have you ever failed to bring Jesus into those activities and relationships, out of fear what others thought? What happened?