Updated: Jan 31
A while back, one of our church members asked, “What is the blood of Christ?”
We had just begun our Lenten program on Wednesday nights, where the topic we are learning about is Christian mysticism. The presentation raised that question, for good reason. The blood of Christ is one of the mystical things many Christians can struggle to understand.
Today’s readings focus on water. We read of the water that sprung forth from the rock of Horeb; and we then hear about the water from the well in Sychar.
Water is an element that is essential for life on earth. Much of the earth’s surface is covered by water, about 70%; and the human body also has that much water in it. The water that is in the human body becomes the base fluid for all our cells, such that our organs and our systems require water to form and operate. Our blood is 92% water.
Water symbolizes the fluid state of being and our blood is the fluid that courses through our bodies, carrying oxygen from our lungs, to our head and to our toes, with our heart being the center of our circulatory system.
Just as we cannot live for long without water, we cannot live for long if we lose too much blood.
This means blood is mystical, in all forms of life.
We do not have to use our conscious brains to tell our circulatory system what to do. We do not have to think about making more white or red blood cells. We do not have to tell our heart when to beat. While some can say our brain controls these functions, that ability of the brain is itself mystical. An unexplained source of intelligence watches over our physical well-being, through our brain functions.
Not long after the church member asked his question, I was watching television and came upon the movie The Last Temptation of Christ. One of the scenes that I saw, before changing the channel, was of the “Last Supper.”
According to that hypothetical story of Jesus, the director (Martin Scorsese) showed his misunderstanding of the “blood of Christ” when he had the actors pass a bowl of wine around. He focused the camera on one of the disciples spilling some wine into his hand, which ran onto the floor. The wine had changed to blood.
That is not a true depiction of what we believe.
The Last Supper was a mystical exchange; and, as such, that is reflected in our Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
During this time of Lent, I am sure you have noticed we return to the language of older times, when the Book of Common Prayer said, “we eat your flesh” and “we drink your blood.”
This is not meant to be understood as a literal account of what happened at that last Seder meal Jesus physically attended with his family and friends.
We are not zombies or vampires, nor was anyone else.
Jesus passed a cup of real wine around that upstairs room, which had been prepared for that Passover feast. Everyone took a sip of wine. Jesus said that wine symbolized his “blood of the new covenant,” “which was shed for many for the remission of sins.”
It was not the physical blood of Jesus, the man born in Bethlehem, which kept that one man alive. Jesus did not cut himself and pour his blood into a cup to be passed around.
The blood of the new covenant is the blood of Christ, the Messiah, who would mystically transform God’s chosen people of Israel (those of the Covenant with the One God) into the priests that they had been chosen to become. They would morph into Christians sent out into a world of sins, as if revitalized with red blood cells of Spirit, sent from Christ as the heart, and commanded by God as the brain.
The disciples were transformed into the blood of Christ.
We are the blood of Christ … each of us like a white or red blood cell … taking Christianity with us wherever we go.
Now, when we realize that, we can see Jesus giving a preview of what would be said at the Last Supper, when he had his conversation with the woman at the well.
That encounter, I believe, was mystical, as well as literal. But the mystical element is harder to grasp from the written word.
To grasp that hidden meaning, we must realize that it was forbidden for Jews to converse with Gentiles, as that would make them impure. The Samaritans had been Israelites, but they had mixed with Gentiles, making them become their sworn enemies. Jesus was a Jew, so he was not supposed to be talking to a Samaritan male, much less a Samaritan woman. For him to be initiating a verbal conversation would be breaking the rules; and Jesus did not come to be an example of rule breaking.
So, imagine a telepathic conversation taking place. Imagine that Jesus spoke no words, but made the thought, “Give me a drink” appear loud and clear in the Samaritan woman’s mind
Jesus was not asking the woman for a drink of water. He was influencing her to make that demand of Jesus. Jesus wanted her to say, “Give me a drink.”
The thought projected by Jesus was received so loudly and so clearly by the Samaritan woman, she spoke out to Jesus. This means she actually began the conversation, thereby making it so that Jesus did not break any rules. He was allowed to respond if spoken to.
The woman, as a Gentile of Israelite descent, was amazed that a Jew would speak to her, believing Jesus had asked her for a drink of water.
Jesus then said, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
The “gift of God” means that life is our gift, which comes from God. God is the silent voice in our brains that tells our heart to beat and our blood cells to take oxygen to every cell in the body.
The “gift of God” is a belief in the One God, who the Samaritans had once believed in, as the remnants of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Thus, “the gift of God” is the realization of God speaking to His faithful, through their thoughts, calling their names and telling them what to do.
The “gift of God” was knowing that a Jew would not ask for a drink of well water, in public at high noon, so it was God whispering to you to speak to this Jew, saying “Give me a drink.”
“If you knew the gift of God, then you would have asked God, ‘Give me a drink,’ and God would have given you living water.”
Regular water is only good for so long. A drink quenches our thirst for the time being; but then we get thirsty again, needing another drink. Living water, on the other hand, keeps one forever moist, eternally vital.
The woman exclaimed, “Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?”
That ancestor lived many hundreds of years before that day when Jesus and the woman stood at that well of Jacob. The Patriarch of all the descendants delivered by Moses from Egypt had provided that hole in the earth as a source of physical water to provide the needed drinks for survival, to both animals and humans.
Without water, the children of Israel were so angry they were about to stone Moses for leading them away from the warm and fuzzy, the safe and secure, to a place where there was no water.
God led Moses to strike the rock and give the people and their flocks what they needed for physical life.
But on that day, with the elders as witnesses, God provided water as a test of faith, brought on by quarreling – the meaning of Massah and Meribah is Testing and Quarreling– as a lasting question: “Is the Lord among us or not?”
Jesus asked the Samaritan woman, “Is the Lord in you or not?”
The Samaritan woman heard the Lord within her. She felt the Lord coursing through her whole body. She went home and brought back many others who also felt the Lord among them. They asked Jesus to stay with them, which he did for two days.
The Samaritan woman said, “He told me everything I have ever done.”
The living water of Christ had been given to her to drink. It had revitalized her whole body. It knew where all the dried places had been.
And, she would never need to return to that well for faith. Her faith had been struck by Jesus, just as the rock had been struck by the staff of Moses. Her faith flowed forth.
Paul wrote to the Romans, saying, “We are justified by faith.” That means we are “proved,” we are “absolved,” we are “blame free,” or we are “forgiven” our sins by faith.
We are proved by faith, and not the other way around, meaning we do not test God and have him prove himself to be real to us, causing us to have faith. We have to ask ourselves, “Is the Lord in me or not?”
Paul said it was more important to brag about our suffering, because that produces endurance. He then said endurance brings character, and from character comes hope, which does not disappoint us.
The reason is “because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” That is the “gift of God” that Jesus asked the Samaritan woman if she had.
God’s love being poured out into our hearts is what the “blood of Christ” means. The blood of Christ is that drink that is forever satisfying, as it is acceptance of the gift of God.
As we progress through this Lenten period, we should see how mortal we are. We should realize how we can give up anything for short periods of time, but there are more things than we realize that keep calling us back to the well for another drink.
We panic at times. We want to give up, wishing we were back where we had been before, where even with all the faults and failures we have known, at least we had our fix, our calm state that comes from an addiction to sin.
We have to test our faith and we have to go to the well of Christ and say, “Give me a drink,” so I may have everlasting life.
We test our ability to suffer, but often we cave in to our weaknesses. No endurance, no character, and no hope seems possible. Alone, we are condemned to a death in sin. We must have Christ for survival.
Lent is not about forty days. It is about eternity. It is a time to ask yourself, “Is the Lord with me or not?”