Originally published by The CiRCE Institute (used by permission)
by Brian Phillips (Pastor of Holy Trinity Reformed Church)
Christ as Temple, Food, and the New Jerusalem
Only the Gospel of John records Jesus’ meeting with the woman at the well. Only John records Jesus’ declaration of Himself as “the living water.” Only John tells of the miracle at Cana – the turning of water into wine, an echo of baptism and the communion feast. Only John mentions Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, in which He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” And John’s is the only Gospel to record this detail of Christ’s crucifixion.
“Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water” (John 19:31-34).
Certainly, this detail echoes all of John’s previous allusions to Christ as water (4:13-14, 7:37-38), but it does much more. The piercing of Christ’s side introduces another echo, back to Ezekiel 47.
“Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. Then he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and behold, the water was trickling out on the south side.
Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through” (verses 1-5).
Christ is the water, but He is also the temple. After Jesus entered the Temple in John 2, overturning the tables of the money-changers and swindlers, He told the disciples about His upcoming death and resurrection, describing it in these terms: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up…but he was speaking about the temple of his body” (John 2:19, 21). The real temple is Christ.
While not recording the water and blood coming from Christ’s side, the other three Gospel writers describe the Temple veil, which is Christ’s flesh (Hebrews 10:19-20), being torn in two at His death (Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38, Luke 23:45).
“And he said to me, ‘Son of man, have you seen this? Then he led me back to the bank of the river. As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. And he said to me, ‘This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea; when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing’” (verses 6-12).
Jesus is the Temple and the water flowing from Him waters the earth, filling it and producing food - fish, trees, and fruit. If we are thirsty for righteousness, Jesus is living water that quenches the earth, and gives the Spirit of righteousness. If we are hungry, Jesus brings forth food. In fact, He is food, the bread of life. “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (John 6:47-51).
The picture of Christ as water, Temple, and food (not to mention light) finds completion in another of John’s writings, Revelation:
“And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (21:22-22:2).