“You ain’t Carl Douglas!” (Remember Carl Douglas? He had a hit single – Kung Fu Fighting – in 1974) That cry, hollered by a large and angry woman, seated 5 rows back from the stage, brought that concert to an abrupt and ugly end. The impostor had demonstrated some blazing Kung Fu fighting moves – he was wowing the crowd and doing okay – but when he tried to sing, his voice gave him away. The whole crowd knew it: “He ain’t Carl Douglas.” We didn’t stick around to see what happened next. it was getting pretty exciting as we packed up our sound equipment and exited, stage left, as fast as we could.
How do you know that Jesus was the real Savior, the One promised by God through His prophets, the One Who was eagerly anticipated by a conquered and suffering people? Jesus was not the only one who claimed to be the Savior. Israel had been disappointed and disillusioned before. How could they identify Him? For that matter, how can you be sure? Wikipedia gives a long list of people who have made the claim, dating from 4 BC up through our own day. How can you tell who is the real Savior?
John gives three reasons to believe Jesus is the One – water, blood and the Spirit. Confused? Join the crowd. Here is what he said:
This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. (1 John 5:6)
Because John used cryptic terms, perhaps understood by the people in his day but puzzling to us, there have been various interpretations of what he meant. Here is the one that makes the most sense to me:
“By water” means that Jesus began His public ministry, standing right next to you, getting baptized. Deep in our hearts, we understand that we don’t deserve to be rescued by God. If anyone knew me like I know me, he would also know I don’t deserve anything from God. And God knows me better than I do. He knows you, too. As people in Jesus’ time got more in touch with how unworthy they were, John the Baptist invited them to be baptized. As they went under the water, it was a symbolic, public expression of their desire to die to their old, corrupt life, to be cleansed and to emerge into a better life. It was a meaningful and very popular ritual – John touched a real nerve – but a futile one, as anyone knows who has made a New Year’s resolution. Jesus had no sin to repent of, but He began His ministry of rescue, identifying Himself with you, standing next to you in those waters. Jesus did not come for those who thought they were pretty good on their own. He came for those who despaired their inability to live up to what they knew was right and true. He came to save.
And He came all the way. When you need a rescue, you don’t want a cheerleader from the stands, or even a condescending hand reaching down from above. You want someone who will come to you, stand with you and walk with you. That is the reason alcoholics have the most success helping other alcoholics. They can relate, and the ones they are rescuing know it. Jesus began His ministry on your level. In the water. He came all the way.
Stay tuned… next time we will consider what “blood” means.