The River 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.”Revelation 22:1
I had a friend and brother priest in Dallas who was accosted one day in downtown by a street preacher. This street evangelist asked Fr. Ted, “Have you been saved?” Fr. Ted enthusiastically replied, “Why yes indeed!” The preacher pressed further and asked, “And when was that? What day were you saved?” Without missing a beat, Fr. Ted said, “On a Friday afternoon 2000 years ago.” The adjective used in the title for this liturgical day is very important for our understanding of our place in the New Jerusalem. This is “Good” Friday. It is “Good” because it was on the Cross that Jesus secured our redemption by His Blood. It is on “Good” Friday that we all were saved! Scripture says that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22). His Blood shed on the Cross washed away our sins, and in His sacrifice we were cleansed and made whole. His Blood bought our forgiveness and so much more. Let’s look at what more that shed blood has done for us.
In the Revelation to John (22:1-5), Jesus shows the Apostle a vision of the New Jerusalem. John says, “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. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” This River of Life flows from the Throne. When Jesus was lifted up, the Cross became His Altar, His Throne, and upon that Altar the perfect sacrifice was offered.
St. John explains in his Gospel that at the Cross “one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water” (John 19:34). And in his first epistle, John says, “Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood” (1 John 5:5-6). Just as the lambs were sacrificed on the altar in the Temple and the blood of the lamb was sprinkled upon the people, so too the Lamb of God was sacrificed on the Altar of the Cross and we receive His Blood in the Eucharist for the forgiveness of our sins. The River of Life flows from the Altar of the Cross. And note that “also, on either side of the river, is 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.”
The River of Life is a river of life-giving water and blood. This river flows through the middle of the New Jerusalem. The throne of God and of the Lamb, the Cross of Jesus, is right in the middle of the city, and his servants worship him day and night. John says, “they will see his face, and his Name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” This is what makes Good Friday “Good”.