Rivers of Living Water | John 7:1-13
Brian Hedges | October 14, 2018
Well, turn in your Bibles this morning to John, the seventh chapter. We’re continuing in our study of the gospel of John, and today we come to one of the great passages in the gospel of John, in the middle of John chapter 7. I want to read, to kind of set the scene for us, verses 1 through 13, and then drop down to verses 37 through 39. John 7, beginning in verse 1. Let’s jump right in and read God’s word.
“After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him.” You can see there’s rising opposition against Jesus. “Now the Jews' Feast of Booths,” or your version may say Feast of Tabernacles, “was at hand. So his brothers said to him, ‘Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.’ For not even his brothers believed in him. Jesus said to them, ‘My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.’ After saying this, he remained in Galilee.
“But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private. The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, ‘Where is he?’ And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, ‘He is a good man,’ others said, ‘No, he is leading the people astray.’ Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him.”
Now drop down to verse 37: “On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”’ Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
This is God’s word.
So, three things I want us to note about this passage. I want you to see that there is:
I. A Call to the Thirsty
II. The Promise of Living Water
III. The Invitation to Drink
I. A Call to the Thirsty
First of all, there’s a call to the thirsty, and you see it right there in verse 37: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” It’s one of the great invitations of Scripture, this call to the thirsty.
(1) I think for us to understand the significance of this we have to understand a little bit of the background, the setting. The setting, as I noted in the Scripture reading, is the Feast of Tabernacles. You see it in verse 37, “On the last day of the feast, the great day,” so this happens right at the very end of this week-long festival. But the feast is referenced I think four other times; verse 2, verse 8, verse 10, and then again in verse 14, which I didn’t read, but where Jesus begins doing some teaching in the temple in the middle of the feast.
So, John sees this as important. It’s important that we understand that what Jesus says here he says during the Feast of Tabernacles or the Feast of Booths. Now, why is that important? What was this? What’s the significance of it?
Well, it was one of the annual Jewish festivals or feasts. So this was a time when people would make a pilgrimage from Galilee and other parts of Judea, Judea and Galilee, they would make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and they would come and have this week-long festival at the temple. During the festival they were remembering certain things. They would build little tents or booths (that’s why it was called the Feast of Tabernacles, because they were building these tabernacles or tents around the city); that’s where they’re living. Even the people who lived in the city would build tents on their rooftops and they would live in those tents during this week. It was to remind them of their pilgrimage, historically, as the children of Israel made this pilgrimage through the wilderness following the exodus.
Now, we’ve already seen in the book of John how John is calling attention to Exodus themes, and how Jesus’s ministry in many ways matches up with these Exodus themes. Jesus calls himself the true Bread from heaven, the manna from heaven, right? Jesus walks on the water, just as God had led his people through the Red Sea; so Jesus shows his power over the sea. Well, now here’s another one of these connections to the book of Exodus, because during this feast that’s what they were remembering.
One of the ways they did that was every day they had a ceremony, and it was the jars of water ceremony, where the priest would draw water in a golden pitcher, they would take it from the Pool of Salome, they would lead a procession of people to the temple, and then they would pour this water onto the altar, and as they did, the people were singing. What they were singing was Isaiah 12:2-3, which we read in our call to worship this morning. “Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and will not be afraid. For the Lord God is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”
So there’s all of this imagery connecting text with the jars of water, and they’re remembering the exodus story, and especially Exodus 17. Exodus 17 is when God’s people are in the wilderness and they’re dying of thirst, and they start complaining and crying out to God. And do you remember what God tells Moses to do? He says, “Take your rod and I’m going to stand before the rock; strike the rock with your rod,” and Moses does it, and water flows out of the rock, and the people’s thirst is quenched.
That’s the background. That’s the imagery. So this water ceremony’s been happening all week long, and Jesus gets up on the last day of the feast and he says, “If anyone is thirsty, come to me, and I will give you the water of life, living water, and rivers of living water will flow.” So, that’s what’s going on here.
(2) Now, it underscores for us something that is true across the board in Scripture, but I think it’s also just a principle that’s true for every human being, and that’s simply this: that everyone is thirsty. Everyone’s thirsty. We all have this need, and the need is often called in Scripture by thirst.
I could give you dozens of texts that relate to this. You might think of Isaiah 55, that calls to everyone who thirsts to come and “buy without money and without price” and to “feed yourself on that which is good.” There are lots of these kinds of passages in Scripture. Even this morning, one of our Scripture readings, Psalm 42, describing how our souls thirst after God.
So, thirst is this theme in Scripture, and thirst is right there at the core of our being in all of our lives. I think all of us experience this at some point in our lives; we feel a longing for something more. We’re not always able to put a tangible name on it; we’re not always even able to identify the object of our thirst. Sometimes we find ourselves hungering for deeper significance in our lives; we want to know that our lives count, that our lives have meaning. Sometimes we are deeply touched by an experience of beauty, maybe when you hear a beautiful symphony or when you see a sunset or a sunrise across Lake Michigan, or maybe when you just have one of those awe-inspiring moments when you child smiles at you for the first time.
You’re so deeply moved by these moments of transcendence in your life, and it evokes within our hearts this deep sense of longing. We want to preserve this, we want to extend this, we want our hearts to be filled.
Well, sometimes we experience this in more trivial ways. We may just find ourselves longing for something exciting. You know, life gets dull, it gets monotonous, it gets boring, and we find ourselves looking forward, maybe, to Friday, or we’re looking forward to the next vacation, or we’re looking forward to the next big experience. And of course, oftentimes what we find is that we’re disappointed by those experiences.
I’ll never forget that when I was a kid I looked forward so much to going to Disneyland for the first time. I was 11 years old, and I was probably - maybe this wasn’t the case, but I was probably one of the only kids who went to Disneyland and I cried when we left, not because I was sad to leave, I was just disappointed. It wasn’t as great as I expected it to be, and I think I wanted something more. I wanted something more than Disneyland.
All of us are looking for something more. We’re not always able to identify it. Even in our sins, when we sin we’re looking for joy. G.K. Chesterton one time said that “every man who knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God.” Even in someone who descends to the depths of prostitution, they’re looking for something. We have this hunger, we have this thirst.
(3) Now, here’s the problem. That’s the reality, that’s the human situation, but here’s the problem: we try to quench our thirst with the wrong things.
I’ve quoted this passage many, many times, and I referenced it even in praying this morning, but Jeremiah 2:12-13 has been such a formative passage for me, where the Lord, speaking through Jeremiah to God’s people, says, “Be appalled, oh heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and they have hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”
Now, we can read that and we get the imagery, but we don’t feel it even as strongly as people in the ancient Near East did. They lived in an agrarian culture, and they were absolutely dependent on water. They were farmers. If they didn’t have water, they would starve. They had to have water. So they would often dig out these limestone cisterns, but the cisterns would get old and they’d crack and then they wouldn’t hold water anymore.
What God is essentially saying to his people is, “You need water, you need water for life, and I am the fountain of living waters. I’m an inexhaustible spring. I’m a well that never runs dry, and instead of coming to me you’re digging out broken cisterns, you’re trying to quench your thirst in things that will not satisfy.”
All of us have a tendency in our lives to look to broken cisterns to quench our thirst. Those broken cisterns can be all kinds of different things. It can be food, it can be drink, it can be work, it can be rest, vacation; it can be good things, it could be love, marriage, it can be children or parents, friendship or money. It can be approval, status, it can be success. It can be really trivial things that zap away our time, like social media or television. It can be really evil and destructive things that bring devastation into our lives, like pornography or drugs or exercising power over people.
These are all broken cisterns. It can be a bad thing or it can be a good thing that you make into an ultimate thing, so that it becomes destructive.
Maybe one of the best examples of this in Scripture is a parallel passage to this in John chapter 4. Do you remember this? The woman of Samaria, when Jesus encounters here at the well and he asks here to give him a drink of water, and she’s surprised, and he says, “If you knew who I was, if you knew who you’re speaking to, you would ask him to give you living water.”
As that story unfolds, as you well remember, it turns out that here’s a woman who’s been married multiple times, she’s now living with a man who’s ot her husband. I think the connection’s pretty clear: she’s thirsty, she needs living water, and she’s looking for it in all the wrong places, and she’s unsatisfied. So Jesus is calling her to come to him to drink.
No one, I think, has summarized this theme in life and in Scripture as well as C.S. Lewis. Here’s one of C.S. Lewis’s key quotations. Lewis points out that “created things are good images of what we really desire, but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they not the thing itself, they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never visited.”
That’s our problem. Our problem is that we turn these things into dumb idols, and they break our hearts. We’re thirsty, and Jesus here calls the thirsty and he invites them to come to him, and he gives them a promise if they will come.
II. The Promise of Living Water
I want you to see the promise of living water, what it is that Jesus promises to us, because this is the only thing that will actually satisfy this deep soul thirst. So, the promise of living water; you see it in verses 38 and 39. “‘Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”’ Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
Three things that I want you to note about this promise.
(1) The first is just this, that for Jesus to say this is an outstanding thing; it is nothing less than a claim to deity. For Jesus to claim to be the one who will give them is to claim to be God himself, because God, in the Old Testament, is the fountain of living waters, and so Jesus is using this language. So there’s clear echoes here of the Old Testament.
Psalm 36:8-9, “They feast on the abundance of your house, you give them drink from the river of your delights, for with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see life.” Jesus takes language like that, imagery like that, and he uses it of himself over and over again. Water here, we’ll see in a couple weeks he’s saying the same thing about light in John chapter 8.
Or you might consider Jeremiah 17:13, “Oh Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you shall be put to shame, those who turn away from you shall be written in the earth. For they have forsake the Lord, the fountain of living water.” So when Jesus says, “If you’ll come to me and drink,” he’s saying, “I’m the fountain. You come to me, you’re coming to the fountain of living water; if you come to me, you can drink.”
So this is an outstanding claim, and I just don’t want us to miss this as we read through the gospel of John. Sometimes critics of Christianity say, “Well, Jesus didn’t clearly claim to be God.” Yes he did! He claimed it over and over again in imagery, and the imagery strikes people with so much force that they want to kill him. They understood what he was saying. Sometimes we miss it because we don’t know our Old Testaments, and we don’t know what Jesus means when he says things like, “I am the Bread of life. I have the living water. I am the Light of the world.” But his original audience knew what he was saying; he was claiming to be equal with God. That’s the first thing to note.
(2) Then I want you to see what the promise is. We have to dig into the metaphor here. What is this living water that he promises?
Well, it’s, first of all, the promise of life. It’s living water, right? It’s living water, which I think means it’s water that gives life. So, this is a picture for us of eternal life.
Again, John chapter 4 I think makes this connection crystal clear. This is what Jesus says to the woman of Samaria, John 4:13-14: “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again,” the water in the well, “but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water, welling up to eternal life.”
So that’s what Jesus is promising here; it’s eternal life. Eternal life (we’ve seen this before) is both quantitatively - it’s life that goes on forever. This is the answer to the problem of death. This is the promise of future resurrection, it’s the promise of not just forgiveness, but of being brought into the eternal presence of God, to live in communion with him, in resurrected bodies, forever and ever; to live as citizens of his kingdom. It’s a promise of salvation, life and salvation.
But it also has a qualitative aspect, because it’s a kind of life, and it’s a kind of life that begins now, it’s life that we have in the present. So it’s a promise of life, and (note this) it’s a promise of abundant life. Jesus says, “...out of his belly shall flow trickles of living water.” No, that’s not what it says, is it? “...droplets of water.” No! “...rivers of water.” Not just one river, but rivers of water! I mean, this is an abundance of life. Jesus says in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
Now I wonder this morning, do you feel like you have abundant life? You might say, “I think I’m a Christian; I think I have eternal life,” but do you have abundant life? Abundant life just means you’re enjoying it more, you’re experiencing it to its fullest. So I think wherever you are spiritually this morning, I don’t think there’s anybody that would say, “I don’t want more abundance.” I don’t think there’s anybody who would say, “I already have as much life as I need; my thirst is completely satisfied.” I don’t think any of us would say that. We want more, we need more, so this is a promise for everyone today. It’s a promise of life, eternal life, abundant life.
(3) And then here’s the third thing to note: it is the promise of the Holy Spirit. This is important, because the Holy Spirit is one who mediates this life to us, the one who brings this life to us.
Look at verse 39. “Now this he said about the Spirit…” Jesus makes this promise, and then John is interpreting for us. “Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
This is really important stuff. The English Standard Version, which I’m using, softens this just a little bit. The best manuscripts actually say, “For as yet the Spirit was not,” or, “The Spirit was not yet.” Now, that doesn’t mean that the Spirit did not yet exist. It’s pretty clear, and there are lots of places in the Old Testament where the Holy Spirit is referenced and in the ministry of Jesus where the Holy Spirit is referenced. So it doesn’t mean that the Spirit does not exist. So I think the gloss is right; the Spirit is not given to the church as he would be given on the day of Pentecost.
So, it seems that this is what’s going on. Jesus here is promising an abundance of life to those who will come to him and drink, and the promise he’s making is going to be fulfilled by the gift of the Holy Spirit to the church, and specifically, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers.
You might think of it like this, the contrast between Old Testament experience of the Spirit and New Testament. It’s sort of like the contrast between a black and white silent film and then going to an IMAX theater. Have you ever gone to a black and white silent film? I mean, that’s enjoyable, it’s fun, you’re getting a story, you’re getting a movie. That’s kind of interesting, but it’s nothing like going to an IMAX, where you have this 74 foot screen and surround sound. I mean, it’s all the works.
The Spirit in the Old Testament is like a black and white silent movie, but in the New Testament it’s IMAX, it’s technicolor; it’s the whole experience. It’s the Spirit indwelling the heart, it’s an abundant experience of the Holy Spirit. And it’s not just that, but it is the Spirit as the Spirit of Christ, given to us by Christ himself, by Christ, who lived in our flesh in the power of the Holy Spirit throughout his life, who died offering himself to God without blemish by the Holy Spirit, who is raised by the Spirit of holiness and the resurrection of the dead and who now is ascended to God’s right hand and sends the Spirit to the church.
So the Spirit we receive is the Spirit, to use Sinclair Ferguson’s language, who is “imprinted with the image of Jesus Christ.” We receive the Spirit of Christ, and that is fundamental, foundational to being a Christian, because the apostle Paul will say in Romans 8:9 that “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to him.”
So what Jesus here is promising is nothing less than this new covenant ministry of the Holy Spirit, and if we were to ask just a little bit further, “What is it that the Holy Spirit does in his ministry?” we could spend a whole message or a whole series on that; in fact, we’ve done that in the past. But just think about the imagery of water for a minute.
The Spirit is often compared to water in Scripture. What does water do? Well, water quenches our thirst, and so does the Spirit. The Spirit leads us into a deeply soul-satisfying experience of God’s presence.
Another property of water is that it washes and it cleanses, and the Spirit is the agent of our washing, our regeneration, our sanctification. Remember how Jesus says in John 3:5, you must be “born of water and the Spirit” if you want to enter into the kingdom of God.
And then, water, of course, is necessary for life itself. I’m sure you read the statistics before of how great a percentage of the human body is made up of water and how essential water is to our survival. We all know that you can go without food for longer than you can go without water, about three days. If you go without water for longer than three days, you’ll die. So we have to have water to have life, and in the same way, we have to have the Holy Spirit to have spiritual life. The Spirit is what one of the old Puritans called “the life of God in the soul of man.”
This is what Jesus promises. He promises life, given to us through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and he says, “This will be rivers of living water.”
III. The Invitation to Drink
Okay, so then there’s one more thing here, and that’s the invitation to drink. It’s one thing to have heard about the water, it’s one thing to see the fountain; it’s another thing entirely to actually come and drink, and I want you to see that Jesus is telling us to do something. He’s inviting us to come to him and drink.
You see it in verse 37, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.” Again, it evokes these great Old Testament passages like Isaiah 55:1-2.
The question is this: how do you drink? How do you drink? I want to point out a couple of things to answer that question.
(1) Here’s the first thing: in order to drink, you have to come to the crucified Christ. First of all, just note that he says, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.” So the only way you’re going to get this living water is to come to Christ, but Christ is the crucified and the risen Christ.
Now, I know that when Jesus said this he had not been crucified yet, but there are two clues in the text that connect the promise of living water, the promise of the Holy Spirit, to the crucifixion of Jesus. One of them is a possible clue (depends on one’s exegesis); one of them I think is much more certain.
So, here’s the possible clue. There is a question about how [to] punctuate and interpret verse 38, “As the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Most of the time when we read that, and most of the version interpret that to mean, out of the person who comes and drinks, out of the believer’s heart will flow rivers of living water, and there’s good exegetical reasons to say that that’s what is in mind here.
Now, there’s actually no one Old Testament passage of Scripture that says this, so probably what’s going on here is a whole cluster of images. So when Jesus says the Scripture says this, he’s talking about a whole cluster of images and patterns and promises about the Spirit, who is like water, who gives life. But it’s possible that when Jesus says, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water,” his refers not to the believer, but to Jesus, and that Jesus is the one out of whom flows the rivers of living water. This is called the Christological interpretation.
People who take this interpretation usually connect it to a passage later in the gospel of John, John 19:34, when Jesus is on the cross and one of the soldiers pierces Jesus’s side with a spear, and out of it come blood and water. So some people connect John 7:38 with John 19:34.
There are some difficulties with the interpretation - I’m not saying this is definitely what’s going on here. I think it’s suggestive, and theologically there’s a really important truth here. Let me give you an explanation from Sinclair Ferguson, my favorite living theologian.
Ferguson admits the difficulty with the interpretation. He says, “We cannot be dogmatic about it,” but then he says that “the more theologically satisfying view is that Jesus himself is the source of living water, the fulfillment of the wilderness rock smitten by Moses [Exodus 17:5-7], from whom living water flows.” Remember that in 1 Corinthians 10:4 Paul calls Jesus that rock. Ferguson continues, “...and/or the new temple of God, envisioned in Ezekiel 47, from which the waters emerge. If so, then what is in view is the gift of the Spirit coming from Christ to his people. Thus, within the Johannine context it is through Jesus’s death that the Spirit is seen as coming to the church. Christ as crucified will give the Spirit; from his side both water and blood flow, the blood of forgiveness, the water of the Spirit. Only as the crucified one can he give the messianic Spirit.”
That’s a possible interpretation.
There’s a second clue in the text that I think more definitely makes the connection, and that’s at the end of verse 39, where it says that the Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus was not yet glorified. Jesus has to be glorified for the Spirit to be given, but when you trace that term “glorified” through the gospel of John, it pops up in a couple of really interesting places.
In John chapter 12, Jesus says, “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’?” He’s thinking about the cross, right? This is right at the end. It’s right before the last week of his life. “‘Save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” And then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” Drop down three verses, verse 31, “‘Now is the judgment of this world. Now will the ruler of this world be cast down, and when I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all people to himself.’ He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to do.”
He’s being lifted up, okay, it’s exaltation language. So here’s Jesus; he’s glorified. When is he glorified? He’s glorified on the cross. In John’s theology, Jesus’s glorification begins at the cross.
One more text, John 17:1, “When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that the Son may glorify you.” Again, this is the prayer, the night of this betrayal, right before his death, the hour he’s been waiting for. It’s the hour of the crucifixion, and Jesus says, “The hour has come. Father, be glorified. Be glorified in me.”
I think it’s pretty clear, then, that the hour of Jesus’s glorification in the gospel of John is the hour of the cross, it’s when he’s crucified. So when John says that the Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus had not yet been glorified, that glorification commences with the crucifixion, and of course it includes resurrection, exaltation, this whole complex of events.
But here’s the point: if Jesus is not crucified, you don’t get the Spirit. If Jesus does not die on the cross, we don’t get life. If Jesus is not lifted up on the cross and his side pierced with that spear, there is no water of life. The only way you get eternal life is through the crucifixion of the Son. He is the rock who is smitten with the rod of God’s justice so that living water can flow! He suffers thirst on the cross so that your thirst can be quenched. He takes the judgment that we deserve, the judgment of our thirst, so that we can get the water of eternal life. And therefore, if you want to have eternal life, you have to go to the crucified Christ, Christ who is crucified and risen for you.
(2) Here’s the second part: you must believe in him. You must believe in him! To come to Christ and to drink is to believe. You can see the parallelism in verses 37 and 38, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”
You can see that coming, drinking, believing - those are all different ways of describing the same thing. You can have a glass of water sitting on your table, and you can be absolutely dying of thirst, and the water’s not going to do you any good until you pick up the glass and you drink it. When you drink it, you’re committed. When you drink it, the water’s coming in. When you drink it, you’re saying, “I trust that what is in this glass will quench my thirst.” Every one of us has to come to that point, where we drink for ourselves, where we believe for ourselves, where we rely upon Jesus personally for salvation, for eternal life, for forgiveness of sins, for the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Did you know that the whole Bible ends with this? Revelation 22:17, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come,’ and let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” The whole Bible ends with an invitation to come and to drink.
I told you you were going to get a little more Spurgeon, so here it is. Spurgeon loved Revelation 22:17; he preached on it six times, I think. One time he preached on it on both Sunday morning and again on Sunday night. On the Sunday night sermon (I was reading this this morning - last night and then again this morning; it’s so good) he makes a real point about the solemnity of this invitation. I want you to hear what Spurgeon says.
“The solemnity of this invitation lies partly in the fact that it is placed at the very end of the Bible, and placed there because it is the sum and substance, the aim and object, of the whole Bible. It is like the point of the arrow, and all the rest of the Bible is like the shaft and the feathers on either side of it. So far as you are concerned, this blessed book has missed its purpose unless you have led by it to come to Christ. It is all in vain that you have a Bible or read your Bible unless you do really take the water of life, of which it speaks. It is worse than vain, for if it is not a savor of life unto life to you it shall be a savor of death unto death. Therefore, it seems to me that this is a very solemn invitation, because all the books of the Bible do, in effect, cry to sinners, ‘Come to Jesus!’ All the prophets of the Bible, all the apostles of the Bible, all the threatenings of the Bible, all the promises of the Bible gather themselves up and focus themselves into this one burning ray, ‘Come to Jesus! Come and take the water of life freely.’ Oh that it might burn its way right into your heart. It is the very end of the Bible, then, the end of the Bible in two senses. It is its end and its object that you should believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Have you come? Have you believed? Have you drunk from the river of life, the water of the river of life, freely, so that you have received this promise, you’ve received this Spirit, you’ve received the gift of life?
Let me just end with a quick illustration, and then I’m done. Some of you have heard this before, but I love C.S. Lewis almost as much as I love Spurgeon. I have whole bookcases devoted to each of these guys.
One of my favorite Lewis books is The Chronicles of Narnia, The Silver Chair. At the beginning of The Silver Chair there’s this little girl named Jill, and she encounters Aslan, the lion, and Aslan is lying down in front of a stream, and she’s thirsty. She’s really thirsty. Lewis says that “the thirst became so bad she almost felt that she would not mind being eaten by the lion, if only she could be sure of getting a mouthful of water.”
But she’s scared to go to the stream, because the lion is there, and so a conversation begins.
Aslan says, “If you’re thirsty, you can come and drink.” And then he asks a question, “Are you not thirsty?”
She says, “I’m dying of thirst.”
The lion says, “Then drink!”
She says, “Would you mind going away first, or going away while I do?”
The lion just looks at her and growls. She gazes at is motionless bulk, “she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.” She hears the rippling noise of the stream. She asks another question.
“Will you promise not to do anything to me if I come?”
He says, “I make no such promise.”
She’s so thirsty that she takes a step nearer. She says, “Do you eat little girls?”
He says, “I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms.”
Lewis says, “It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry; it just said it.”
She says, “I dare not come and drink.”
He says, “Then you will die of thirst.”
She says, “Oh dear. I suppose I must go and look for another stream.”
He says, “There is no other stream.”
I want you to know this morning that there is no other stream. You’ve been looking, you’ve tried the broken cisterns, and you’re not satisfied. I know you, because it’s the story of my own heart, it’s the story of my own life. You’ve looked for it in success, you’ve looked for it in relationships, you’ve looked for it in pleasure, maybe you’ve looked for it in money. Maybe you’re looking for it now in some ways that are really destructive to your life, and you’re dying of thirst, you’re not satisfied, you’ve been looking for another stream. There’s no other stream, folks.
There’s one place to quench your thirst, and it’s at the riven side of the crucified Messiah, Jesus Christ; and he says, “If you come to me you can drink and you can have the river, water of life.” Guess what? You don’t have to pay for it! You get it freely. All you have to do is come and drink. So come and drink. Let’s pray.
Lord Jesus, we thank you for the promise of life that you give us in this passage of Scripture. Lord, I believe that right now, even as your word has been expounded before us, that your Spirit calls us to come and to drink. I pray that you would give us the grace and the heart to respond to the call. Lord, I pray that you would convict us and show us right now the broken cisterns. Where are the places where we’re trying to quench our thirst, but to no avail? Where have we been turning created things into idols? Help us see those things, help us see the promise that’s been given, help us believe that promise, and help us respond.
Lord, I pray that even as we come to your table this morning and as we take the bread and as we drink the juice, that in doing so the physical acts of our bodies would just be an outward picture of what’s going on in our heart of hearts as we eat and drink from you, our Lord Jesus Christ. So draw near to us in these moments as we seek fellowship with you; we pray in Jesus’s name, Amen.