The River Still Flows
The scorching tropical sun refracts off a blade, light races along the thick, junglelike brush. A soldier’s strong arm wields a machete in a pendulum of destruction, clearing a path for his comrades. Progress is slow as the battle between man and earth rages. Man is losing.
An idea has led the troop of miscreants to the literal other side of the world. If successful, each of these men will leave immortalized, historically and literally. Every step of advancement seems to be another step of lost hope. Has myth managed to dupe man once again? It’s the question insistently nagging, harassing the minds of every man, that perpetual uninvited guest.
It’s the story of Juan Ponce de León and his quest for the eternal waters of the Fountain of Youth. Ironically, the story of Ponce de León’s search is as much a myth as the Fountain of Youth itself. However, what is true is man’s everlasting search for eternal life.
“Tales of sacred, restorative waters existed well before the birth of Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León around 1474. Alexander the Great, for example, was said to have come across a healing ‘river of paradise’ in the fourth century B.C., and similar legends cropped up in such disparate locations as the Canary Islands, Japan, Polynesia and England. During the Middle Ages, some Europeans even believed in the mythical king Prester John, whose kingdom allegedly contained a fountain of youth and a river of gold. ‘You could trace that up until today,’ said Ryan K. Smith, a history professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. ‘People are still touting miracle cures and miracle waters’” (Source).
Much like the instinct that drives birds to fly South for the winter, there is an instinct in man that propels him to search for his way to eternal life. And don’t be fooled by the gullibility of those who have searched for eternal waters before us; there is a river that still flows.
Scripture tells us that after Jesus had died on the cross, after which a well trained soldier drove a lance into the side of Jesus’ body (John 19:34; 1 John 5:6). No doubt, the sharp, but worn, blade punctured the lungs and heart, the jagged edges tore what was left of flesh and muscle on its journey. From his side poured water and blood. There is an interesting aspect here when we take into account the Roman praxis of crucifixion and pagan ideology.
It was not out of the norm for soldiers to pierce those crucified to guarantee the death of the victim. Allegedly, a soldier was responsible to ensure the punishment was successful, and if the victim managed to live or escape, the soldier himself would bare the punishment of the man for which he was responsible. The act of stabbing a victim in the side in was quite popular and had become a norm in combat maneuvers. Every Roman soldier would have practiced the exercise until it became muscle memory. The sword would be thrust into the right side, between the ribs; the sword would travel into the body entering both lungs and possibly the heart. There was no surviving the jab.
The pagan world in which Jesus lived did not believe that the gods had blood. Instead, ichor, as it was called, flowed through their veins; no god would have had human blood in his veins. The ichor arguably would have been among the sources of the god’s power. Ichor is what separated us mortals from the gods and their immortal ways.
However, Scripture tells us that water and blood flowed from Jesus’ side. There is a medical explanation for the water, which has to do with fluid building up around the lungs and heart, but we are focusing on the perspective of a pagan soldier in first century Jerusalem. If Jesus were truly a god, then, from the pagan perspective, ichor would have poured out and not blood. When the blade was removed, to the soldiers amazement, water and blood flowed. The humanity of Jesus was sealed. This was truly God in flesh; God incarnate.
The whole maneuver of the soldier piercing the side of Jesus would have taken a mere second, but from this moment an eternal river began. That immortal fountain.
Throughout the eons of time cultures have searched high and low for some way to eternal life. Whether it be Ponce de León’s Fountain of Youth or some other magical potion, humanity innately knows there is a source if he could just get to it.
Wherever you might find yourself today allow me to remind you, there is indeed a river that flows to eternal life. Nearly two millennia ago gravity forced the flow to the ground as it poured from Jesus’ side. There is a river; the river still flows.
Theologians have ascribed a myriad of meanings to the occurrence of blood and water flowing from Jesus’ side. All of which far extend beyond the scope of this short article. However, I would like to approach it from a different standpoint.
The application is quite simple: the river still flows. Now, follow me here. I’m completely aware that the last drop of blood and water entered free fall, before crashing to the earth hundreds of years ago. I get it. But the church is still here. God’s grace is still here. His love is still here. The river still flows.
So again, no matter where you are on this sphere we call earth, catapulting through space, God knows just where you are. He sees you. He loves you. He died for you. He ensured a way for you to enter into eternal life. Unlike myth and legend that eventually take a life of their own, eternal life has always been, and will always be.
If you find yourself searching today for answers to life’s questions. Possibly you’re even questioning the answers life has given you. I urge you, trace the flow of that eternal spring, in your life, back to its origin. Back to the side of God incarnate. Once you return to that place, standing at the side of the Almighty God, you will find that it’s only from Him that your answers flow. The river still flows.