Water and blood are key elements in the “Passover to freedom” story and in the Easter story. Their connection with the act of birthing was also poured into this study. This inquiry sprung out of the writings of John the Apostle. John was a young fisherman, who got a title of “Son of Thunder”, reported seeing blood and water flowing from Jesus’ side (John 19:34), he had the love and the bravery to be at the cross when others did not. 1 John 5 has this theme discussed in verses 26-28 when he links to water, blood, and Spirit agreeing about Jesus and His coming. The birthing connection is in verse 26 where it states-He did not come by water only, but by water and blood (NIV). The “come by water only” statement needed investigating. I have heard and read dramatic preachers get graphic, and probably a little weird, on this topic. I will try to keep it in good taste and leave the drama out, but just list facts with a few opinions.
The “coming of water” is normally linked to His birth through Mary. But looking at the whole story and history of Passover it just seems like Mary in a stable is not the only “birth” experience. There are many verses that highlight women and birthing in the Bible. Even the trip through the Red Sea is viewed as a birthing experience because Israel was freed as a nation on the other side. The water and the path of dry ground provide some of the imagery, but I would add the dead Egyptians were the “blood” in this story. The water and blood of the Nile River (Exodus 7:17) also gave birth to freedom over the Egyptian gods. The blood on the doorpost needs to be added into this scenario, but here God is passing through the land taking out the cult of the firstborn. So, Jesus’ Christmas arrival is important, but in view of His mission to bring together God’s plan, He had other water and blood experiences. His baptism in the Jordan by John and His blood poured out by the Jews and Romans is the major one. I can narrow His trip through the Jordan even closer to Passover because in Matthew 19 He is on the east bank of the river and had to pass through the water to get to Jerusalem. This same route was also taken by Joshua, David, and Elisha who are types and shadows of Jesus.
ATONEMENT, BORN AGAIN, and BIRTHING
The three elements in 1 John are not always together in a story or verse. That does not nullify their importance in any particular story or verse.
Atonement – Atonement is because of sacrifice and those, especially in the Old Testament, normally have blood and water involved in the ceremony. You may not agree with some of these, that is fine. Please let me know why. I will list some examples of “water and blood” before the Law was given. It is possible that there is some stretching in these:).
- Genesis 3:21 – God made them clothes of skins (some sheep died) and those may have been washed in the river in the Garden.
- Genesis 6 – People and animals died by water in Noah’s Flood. The Flood cleansed the world.
Water and blood are parts of many specific sacrifices in the Law. The ones I want to highlight are in Leviticus 14: 6 and 51. These are birds (doves or young pigeons) that are being killed over a jar of water. The water and blood mixture then has the bird, hyssop, scarlet yarn, and cedarwood dipped in it. On a practical note, the yarn and hyssop probably made a “brush” to deliver the sprinkled water onto the thing being atoned. The other metaphors are the bird being the Spirit, cedarwood maybe the cross and it makes it fragrant, hyssop was used at the cross with the wine vinegar, and the yarn could represent Jesus’ body.
Hebrews 9: 19 (NIV) also has these elements- When Moses had proclaimed every command of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. And Hebrews 9:22 (NIV) brings these thoughts together- In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
Birthing – Birthing and baptism may overlap depending on how you read the story. Someone higher than my paygrade made it that way, sort it out as needed, and talk to Him.
The waters of Creation (Genesis 1:2), the Red Sea, and Joshua crossing the Jordan can be birthing examples. The blood in the Red Sea and at the Jordan were people dying-Egyptian army, first-born, and the peoples of Jericho and Ai. At a Jewish Passover celebration, they give honor to the crossings by mixing wine and water together in the four cups they drink during the meal.
Ezekiel 16 is an allegory of Israel’s birth and its rejection by the world and how God claimed her, and then how she ignored God.
Waiting is a part of birthing. The child has to grow inside of the mother. She gets to feel the movement of the baby and she experiences changes. As a father, I got to watch those changes, but I could not feel my wife’s discomfort and pain. Time is part of birthing stories- 430 years for the Red Sea, 40 years for crossing the Jordan, and Mary had the nine months waiting for Jesus.
Born Again – The story of Jesus and Nicodemus in John 3 is the cornerstone of teaching for the born-again experience. Other New Testament references for the born-again experience are:
- 1 Peter 1:23 where the seed is the living and enduring word of God.
- Ephesians 5:26 Christ gave Himself for the Church and cleansed her by washing with water through the Word.
- Titus 3:5 Jesus saved us through washing of rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit.
- Romans 12:1+2 Part of this Rebirth is offering ourselves as a sacrifice in spiritual worship and being transformed and renewed in our mind.
- Colossians 3:9+10 We have put on “the new self” and it is being renewed in knowledge of its Creator (NIV).
A thing that is apparent is that the Father likes, what we call “types and shadows”, to announce in His first covenant what will be in the second covenant. In the “birthing’ section are many examples that show baptism-Noah’s Flood, Red Sea, crossing the Jordan. So, I had to look for a rebirth shadow, which often looks like a birthing shadow. I so wanted to use Joseph coming before Pharaoh as a rebirth example. The issue was he was shaved and changed his clothes, but no water was mentioned. Those two acts are more associated with ending the Nazirite vow. (Shaving has become a whole other topic.) If I may, here is what I think shows rebirth, with water, and the cry from people’s hearts for the “re” experience.
- Jonah being thrown into the sea, changing, and finishing his mission. (Granted he had a bad attitude.)
- Naaman and Elisha in 2 Kings 5:13+14; Naaman was cleansed by the water and left changed.
- Asaph in Psalm 80 ask three times to be restored to God. Okay, we can play with the translation of Hebrew into English but the sentiment is there.
- David in Psalm 51:10 (NIV) Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit in me.
- Isaiah 40:31 Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
- Jeremiah in Lamentation 5:21 Restore us so we can return and renew our days.
That is a lot of “re” but to have a rebirth, or be renewed, or restored we had to have some measure of those things before. Matthew 12:35 (NIV) gives us a glimpse- A good man brings good things out of the good stored in him.
There are other mentions of water and blood in the Bible. I tried to keep this post about Passover and Easter and the topics that water and blood are a part of in our redemption story.
This is a good article from the Jewish perspective, on natural and metaphorically birth.