The Wounds of Jesus: blood and water from his side
For them it was just a part of a brutal execution. Only later would his followers see its significance.
A Roman soldier thrust a spear into Jesus' side to ensure his death. "Immediately blood and water flowed out." (John 19, 34) Blood, a sign of his life, flows upon those standing beneath his cross. Water, which signifies the Spirit living within him, is poured out upon the world they represent. Death, far from ending his life, becomes the moment he shares his life. "This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ." (I John 5,6)
Earlier in John's Gospel, Jesus used these same symbols to describe his mission. He invited the thirsty to come to him and drink, and "from within him rivers of living water shall flow." (John 7, 37-38) Now on Calvary, his promise is fulfilled, as the Prophet Zechariah had written: "On that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity." (Zechariah 13, 1)
In this Gospel, too, Jesus called his blood "true drink" in the synagogue at Caphernaum. "Truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day... Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them." (John 6,53-56)
Water and blood flowing from the wounds of Jesus are important signs in John's Gospel interpreting his death as a saving mystery. They become important signs, too, of the mystery of his resurrection.
right: detail of painting by Velazquez which shows the wounded side