For years I’ve wondered about the prophetic implications of the water and blood that flowed out of Jesus’ pierced side in John 19:34. Verse 36 indicates that this “took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled” (Cf. Psalm 34:20; Exodus 12:46, Number 9:12). The soldiers broke the legs of the two criminals crucified with Jesus (v 32), but when they came to Jesus, they realized he was dead. So, instead of breaking Jesus’ legs, they took a spear and pierced his side, immediately water and blood poured from or gushed out of His side.

There are several parallels in Scripture of water and blood. Water is often symbolic of the Holy Spirit and blood is symbolic of redemption and atonement for sin. While both of these symbols are appropriate, perhaps what happened at the cross is not limited to these applications.

Water into Wine

For instance, in John 2, Jesus and His disciples were invited to a wedding in Cana of Galilee. This was likely the wedding of a member of Jesus’ family or even a close friend. The celebration was in full swing but on the cusp of being brought to an abrupt halt because the supply of wine had run out. Jesus instructed the servants in the house to fill the available stone water pots or jars with water. After filling the jars, Jesus then instructed, “…draw some [water] out now, and take it to the master of the feast” (v 8). The water miraculously became wine. Not just wine, but “the best wine” that had been served (v 10). Evidently, the miracle happened when the servants drew the water out. John indicates that this was the first public miracle of Jesus (v 11).

It’s interesting that Jesus used wine as a symbol for blood when he transformed Passover into the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion (Matthew 26:17-30; 1 Corinthians 11:25-29). As Jesus served the wine to His disciples He indicated that “…this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (26:28).

It was not long after this meal with the disciples that Jesus would go to the cross. While hanging on the cross, water and blood would flow from His side as He sealed the New Covenant between God and Himself for all mankind. And, much like the miracle of the water being transformed into wine when it was drawn from the pot, the blood of Jesus was transformed and became the agent of our redemption, the purchase price of our freedom, and the ransom for the sin of the world (1 Peter 1:18-20).

There also seems to be a prophetic and practical implication of the water and blood that flowed from Jesus’ side.

For instance, Paul writing to the church in Ephesus challenges husbands, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word…” Christ sanctifies, cleanses and makes the church whole as we are washed by the water of His word.

Washed by the Water of His Word

Sanctification is a matter of the heart that impacts your entire life. It’s interesting that many experts believe that the water that flowed from Jesus’ side likely came from the fluid around his heart. In medical terms this is called the pericardium, which is a sac that encloses the heart and is filled with fluid. Our hearts are transformed by the water that poured from Jesus’s side.

The washing by the water of the word changes the heart. When the heart changes, our thought processes and mind begin to change. When the heart changes, our attitudes and actions begin to change, as well.

There’s another reference to the blood and the water in the Old Testament. It appears in the protocol for one of the most holy days in the Jewish calendar, the Day of Atonement. Two goats were required. One of the goats would be offered as a sin offering for the nation (Leviticus 16:9). The other goat would become the scape goat and symbolically carry the sin of the nation into the wilderness.

The goat offered as a sin offering would be slaughtered and its blood would be taken behind the inner curtain, sprinkling the blood over the mercy seat and in front of it (16:15). The high priest was also required to take some of the blood and use it to purify the brazen altar (16:18-19).

The priest would then lay both his hands on the head of living goat and confess over that goat the sin of the entire nation (16:20-21), this would symbolically transfer the sin of the people to the goat. The goat would then be driven into the wilderness taking the sin of the people with it.

Before entering in to the holy place the priest were required to wash their hands and their feet at the brazen laver (Exodus 30:17-21). This was symbolic of cleansing themselves before ministering to God in the inner court handling the showbread, refilling the oil and trimming the wicks of the menorah as well as handling the coals from the altar of incense.

Jesus is seen throughout this entire process. According to John, He is “…the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). He shed His blood on the “altar” of the cross of Calvary. Through His death, we were purified and made right with the Lord!

Jesus is also present in the bronze laver, sanctifying and cleansing the priest. Today the water that poured from His side is a symbol of His Word and the fact that because of Christ we can be “washed with the water of His word.”

The public ministry of Jesus started with the miracle of the water turned into wine at the wedding feast of Cana. His public ministry ended with water and blood pouring from His side on the cross.

“…proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes…”

Paul, writing in 1 Corinthians 11:26 about Holy Communion, encouraged us with these words, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” This is a promise that points to another wedding — the wedding of Christ and His beloved church! Because of the water and the wine — because of the water that poured from Jesus’ side and the blood He shed on the cross — we have a promise that our bridegroom is returning to claim His bride. This will be greatest wedding the world has ever known!

If you enjoy studies like this, check out our new course, “Christ’s Journey to the Cross” releasing by December 15. You might also enjoy ISOW’s course, “The Tabernacle”. Both courses are currently available in our Topical Studies division. To view courses in Spanish, click here.

Clay Gunderson
Student Relations Specialist, ISOW Bible College