Adam’s Rib and the Side of Christ

I originally posted this yesterday, but I think it got lost between the post on bin Laden and the LDS post I put up right after it:


I heard something this past weekend I’d never noticed before, about how the wound on Christ’s side ties in with the rib taken from Adam. To put it into some context, yesterday was Divine Mercy Sunday, which celebrates Christ’s incredible forgiveness.  The Gospel reading was from John 20:19-31, describing two separate Resurrection appearances of Christ:

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the Disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”  When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. 

The Disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.

As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” 
Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other Disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in His hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” 
Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see My hands, and bring your hand and put it into My side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
Now, Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His Disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in His name.
It’s an obvious choice for a celebration of Divine Mercy.  The first half of the passage describes the appearance of Jesus to the Disciples on the evening of Easter Sunday, and how He breathed on them, bestowing the Holy Spirit, and giving them the power to forgive or retain sins. Recall in Genesis 2:7, how God took the mere dust of man and breathed into Him to give him life (Gen. 2:7). Now we see man as a new creation, and Christ re-animating us by breathing out the Holy Spirit upon us.

When folks ask where the sacrament of Confession comes from, you can point to this passage.  It’s absolutely clear — He’s giving individual men the ability to decide if someone should be forgiven their sins, and the judgment on Earth mirrors the judgment in Heaven.  Jesus is commissioning the Apostles to stand in the place of God Himself in judgment (Luke 22:29-30 has another very clear example of Him doing the same thing).  And this really is a Divine power. Remember the Pharisees’ shock at Jesus forgiving sin, calling it blasphemy, and asking, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:7). And here Jesus is giving the Apostles the ability to forgive sins.

The second half recounts the next week (which is why it’s read the Sunday after Easter Sunday), and describes “Doubting Thomas” and his refusal to believe in the Resurrection.  “Doubting” is a polite term here: Thomas, who had been with the Lord (and the other Apostles) for three years, had declared his intention to die with Christ (John 11:16), but then fled when push came to shove (Matthew 26:56), now refuses to believe that this same Lord rose from the dead, even on the account of the other Apostles.  Thomas’ denial of Christ here is as bitter as Peter’s or even Judas’. Jesus could, in total justice, have simply damned Thomas. Who could possibly ask for more evidence that what Thomas had already received?  He knew the other Apostles well enough to know that they weren’t lying.  But Christ doesn’t simply damn him. Rather, He pours out an embarrassment of riches upon him, by personally revealing Himself to Thomas.  At this point, Thomas goes from being the worst of deniers to the most fervent of believers, having the honor of being the first to unambiguously declare Jesus as God (John 20:28). Not “Rabbi,” or even just “Lord,” but explicitly, my LORD and my GOD.
But here’s something I hadn’t noticed before. The side of Christ, that wound that Jesus shows the Apostles (John 20:20) and lets Thomas touch (Jn. 20:27) speaks volumes about Christ and the Church. In Genesis 2:21-24, we see Eve being created from the side of Adam:
So the LORD God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while he was asleep, He took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. The LORD God then built up into a woman the rib that he had taken from the man. When He brought her to the man, the man said: “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called ‘woman,’ for out of ‘her man’ this one has been taken.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.

So the rib taken from the side of the first man, Adam, is used to create the first woman, Eve. When Adam sees her, he’s joyful and relieved, since she’s bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh. In other words, she’s pleasing to Adam because he sees a reflection of himself in her, such that their union is like the union of two halves of a single body.

Compare that to the side of Christ (John 19:31-34),

Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.

So just as the rib taken from Adam created his bride Eve, the Blood and Water flowing from Christ create His Bride, the Church. The Blood on the Cross is the same Blood offered in the Eucharist, as Christ Himself makes clear (Matthew 26:27-28):

Then He took a cup, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is My Blood of the Covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
And the water signifies the water of Baptism, as St. Paul alludes to in Ephesians 5:25-27:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for Her to make Her holy, cleansing Her by the washing with water through the word, and to present Her to Himself as a radiant Church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

So just as the rib from the side of Adam forms his bride, Baptism and the Eucharist form the Bride of Christ, the Church.  And just as Adam was pleased with his bride, since he saw in her himself, Christ looks as the Church and sees Himself.  That’s why Paul says that Christ’s Sacrifice and the “washing with water through the word” create the radiant and perfect Bride of Christ.  Christ sees His Breath, the Holy Spirit, in the Church.  And through the waters of Baptism, the Blood of the Covenant, and the Holy Spirit, the Church is formed, and Christ and the Church become One.

Nowhere is this made clearer than 1 John 5:5-8,

Who (indeed) is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is the One who came through water and Blood, Jesus Christ, not by water alone, but by water and Blood. The Spirit is the One that testifies, and the Spirit is Truth. So there are three that testify, the Spirit, the water, and the Blood, and the three are of one accord.

Let this be a call to Baptism, the “washing with water through the word”; to Confession, the forgiveness of sins through the Holy Spirit, the Breath of God; and to the Eucharist, the Blood of the Covenant.  Bring your hand and put it into the Side of Christ, with Blood and Water flowing forth freely, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.

4 Comments

  1. I’m glad that you pointed out the tender mercy of Christ granting Thomas the opportunity to believe. Because no He didn’t have to, Thomas had been given more than enough opportunity. But Christ knew he needed a little just a little more and gave it to him freely. I know that I have personally had tender mercies shown to me and the gratitude I have is indescribable.
    Also the rib vs. the side wound only further emphasizes the importance and sacredness of marriage. Our relationship with our spouse should come from deep with in ourselves.
    Thank you for these thoughts this morning.

  2. Ah, the story of Thomas is one of my favorites. Because He did in fact as you say give Thomas the chance to come to belief through sight. I identify so strongly with Thomas that I named my firstborn for him.

  3. You’re welcome. I’ll have to reread them in depth in order to make some coherent comments. I’ll get to it by the end of tomorrow.

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