Portraits of Christ: the Water of Life
In south-central Missouri, near the town of Van Buren, is an enormous first magnitude natural spring—the largest natural spring in the United States—appropriately named “Big Spring”. It was one of our favorite camping spots when I was in the Boy Scouts.
It’s an amazing place to visit. The Spring is 80 feet deep, and has an average daily flow of 286 million gallons of water. That’s enough water to fill 6,500 two-liter soda bottles every second. The spring is estimated to dissolve and remove 175 tons of limestone during an average day from its underground passages.
It’s a huge caldron of aqua-blue water bubbling from the ground at the base of a towering bluff. It churns and boils like a pot of water sitting on a hot stove. The roar is loud, you can barely hear the conversation of the person standing next to you. The water tumbles down a cataract into the Current River almost doubling the stream's size.
Why the brief lecture on the natural history of Missouri? Because it represents the kind of spiritual life and abundance that God wants you to have in Christ. When Jesus was witnessing to the Woman at the Well, he told her: “ ... “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”” (John 4:13–14, NIV84).
As we come to the 7th chapter of John’s Gospel, we’re going to see that Jesus invites all those who are thirsty to come to him to have that thirst satisfied. The invitation will take place during the final day of the Feast of Tabernacles—also called Sukkot.
What does the chapter teach us?
I. MAN HAS A DEEP-SEATED SPIRITUAL THIRST THAT THINGS CAN ONLY TEMPORARILY QUENCH
- “Therefore my people will go into exile for lack of understanding; their men of rank will die of hunger and their masses will be parched with thirst.” (Isaiah 5:13, NIV84)
- what was true in Isaiah's day is also true today
- because of a lack of understanding of God's will, God's ways, and God's word our culture leads lost men and women into spiritual exile to face a harsh captivity which leaves them hungry and thirsty
- the things of this world will never quench the hunger and thirst which only God can fill
- and still, people scramble to acquire more and more stuff thinking that material abundance, financial security, health, happiness, and prosperity will fill the emptiness they feel deep down inside
- they don't realize that those things actually feed the emptiness and make it all the more profound
- ILLUS. I was surprised to learn some years ago that one of the ironies of drinking sea water is that in drinking too much of it, a person will actually dies of thirst. During WW2 many U.S. sailors and airmen found themselves floating in the ocean after their airplane or ship went down in the sea. After days without water, some would yield to the temptation to drink the sea water. This almost always led to their death. Ocean water contains something like seven times more salt than the human body can safely ingest. Drinking seawater actually causes a person to dehydrate. Once a person begins drinking sea water, the kidneys demand extra water to flush the overload of salt building up in the body. The result is that the body craves more and more water, but the more seawater a person drinks the more salt the kidney's have to flush out of your system. The more saltwater a person drinks, the greater his craving for more water. But because so much salt builds up in the body, the person who drinks too much sea water actually dies of dehydration!
- men thirst desperately for something that looks like what they want and even think they really need
- they don't realize however, that material abundance, financial security, health, happiness, and prosperity are precisely the opposite of what they really need to fulfill the God-vacuum in their life
- in fact, what the world has to offer us can kill us
- ILLUS. In His parable of The Wheat and the Tares, Jesus told His listeners: "but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word [of God], making it unfruitful," (Mark 4:19, NIV )
- ILLUS. Franz Werfel, an Austrian author and playwright, once said, "Materialism is organized emptiness of the spirit."
- "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?" (Mark 8:36, NIV)
A. MANY PEOPLE WILL REJECT THE ONLY THING WHICH WILL QUENCH THEIR THIRST
- “O LORD, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water.” (Jeremiah 17:13, NIV84)
- ILLUS. Imagine a thirsty man lost in the desert. He’s stumbling across the dunes dying of thirst. Suddenly he finds an Oasis containing a cool, clear spring of water. But he refuses to drink from it because he is convinced that, if he keeps looking, he will find something bigger and better further on.
- spiritually, that is what every lost person does when he or she is confronted with the gospel of Christ and walks away
- if ya ain't got Jesus, than no amount of material abundance, or personal righteousness, or moral perfection can give you the abundant life that Jesus promised to give His disciples
- this morning you're faced with a simple choice ...
- commit your life to Christ and follow Him and experience the welling-up of eternal life that leads to abundant life, or ...
- commit your life to yourself and do it your own way and experience eternal damnation that leads to a beggarly life
- v. 1 reveals that the Jewish leaders obviously did not accept Jesus as the Messiah
- “After this, Jesus went around in Galilee, purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life.” (John 7:1, NIV84)
in Jerusalem, the crowds were divided
- some thought he was a "good man" v. 12
- others said, "he deceives the people" v. 13
- a few even thought him "demon-possessed" v. 20
even his own brothers ridiculed him and did not believe on Him w. 3-5 rejecting Jesus and depending upon your own abilities to get you to heaven is like digging a well that won't hold water
- “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” (Jeremiah 2:13, NIV84)
II. JESUS OFFERS LIVING WATER THAT WILL QUENCH A MAN'S SPIRITUAL THIRST
- "On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (John 7:37–38, NIV84)
- let me set the scene for you
- it is mid-October and the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles is approaching (also called Sukkot)
- the feast was a week-long celebration and came five days after the Day of Atonement
- historians of the day tell us that hundreds of thousands of Jewish pilgrims from around the world would crowd into Jerusalem and its suburbs for this great festival
- it was a time of great rejoicing, and everyone was expected to bring a thank-offering to the Lord
- its purpose was to remind the people of the blessings of God for the harvest, and in particular, to celebrate His providential care during the wilderness wanderings
- in remembrance of their tent homes during their wilderness wanderings all over Israel people erected booths or tents to dwell in for seven days
- when Jesus attended this particular Feast of the Tabernacles He was only six months away from His crucifixion
- in these final days of His ministry His popularity had begun to wane
- once great crowds had followed Him everywhere
- the feeding of the 5,000 had been the high point of His popularity
- after that, however, more and more He began to stress who He was and what His work really was all about—that He would be crucified by the Jewish religious leaders
- when the people saw that He wasn't the kind of Messiah they were expecting, the crowds dwindled
- even many of His disciples abandoned Him
- after the feeding of the 5,000 Jesus returned to Capernaum and there He told His disciples that He was the Bread of Life—that He was the true bread that the Heavenly Father had sent—and that unless they eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Bread of Life that they would not and could never have eternal life
- the disciples said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?
- it's still a hard saying and many still don't want to hear it!
- the result was that many of those followers on the periphery of spiritual commitment ceased to follow Him
- “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” (John 6:66, NIV84)
- ILLUS. Isn’t this still true today? How many professing Christians are on the membership rolls of churches across America who haven’t been an active part of the congregation in only God knows how long? Just in Southern Baptist life, we have nearly 16 million members as of 2012. Our fastest growing type of member, however, is of the "non-resident" variety. Add to this the fact that 20% of our resident members are "inactive" (they are resident—they have not moved away—but they neither attend nor contribute to their church). What this means is that only half of our 16 million members can in any sense be counted as active.
- it’s a national problem across denominations
- ILLUS. In a survey conducted by Lifeway of our Southern Baptist Convention, the #1 reason (14%) people stop attending church is: “Simply got too busy to attend church.” Ten percent said, “I just wanted a break from church.” I wonder where you or I would be if God the Son, told God the Father, “I need a break from being Savior for a few thousand years. I’ll get back with you.”?
- “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” (1 John 2:19, NIV84)
- “However, after his brothers had left for the Feast, he went also, not publicly, but in secret.” (John 7:10, NIV84)
- but halfway through the Festival, Jesus goes to the Temple area and there He begins to openly teach the people
- and He openly declares Himself to be the Messiah
- “Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, but I know him because I am from him and he sent me.”” (John 7:28–29, NIV84)
- “On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (John 7:37–38, NIV84)
- Jesus is the water of life—if you're thirsty come to him
A. THIRSTY PEOPLE NEED THEIR THIRST QUENCHED WITH LIVING WATER
- “The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the LORD will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs.” (Isaiah 41:17–18, NIV84)
- God has always cared about thirsty people
- if it had not been for God, the Hebrews would have died of starvation and thirst in the desert
- many of you know the story of how God brought water from a rock and provided the manna and quail for the people to eat
- the Feast of Tabernacles celebrated those events
- on the eighth and final day of the feast, the High Priest of Israel, in a great processional made up of priests and tens of thousands of worshipers, descended from the Temple Mount to pause briefly at the Pool of Siloam where he dipped a golden pitcher and filled it with water
- as he did so, he would repeat Isaiah 12:3: “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” (Isaiah 12:3, NIV84)
- accompanied by a solemn procession, the throng would return to the temple
- on his way back into the Temple, the High Priest was met by another priest bearing wine for a drink offering, crushed from the grapes gathered in just before the Feast
- amid the sounding of trumpets and the shouts of the rejoicing multitudes the two priests simultaneously poured their libations into a silver vessel at the base of the altar which then flowed down the Temple steps into the outer courts
- as they poured out the wine and the water they sang the Hallel Psalms—Psalms 113-118
- as the singing drew to a close, the people vigorously shook their palm branches toward the altar
- this ceremony reminded the people of Israel that God gave them life-giving water when they needed it most
- throughout the Scriptures, God often uses the example of physical thirst to illustrate man's more important need—satisfaction of spiritual thirst
- the Jewish religious leaders had no idea that the "well of salvation" however would be identified with a carpenter from Nazereth
- just as a person cannot live physically without water, so an individual cannot live spiritually without Jesus
B. JESUS IS THE "WELL OF SALVATION" WHICH OFFERS LIVING WATER
- Jesus offers Himself as a life-giving source for all who will draw from His well that never shall run dry
- he is Living Water
- all those who come to Him will never thirst
- picture the scene with me if you can
- it's the last day of the festival
- the solemn procession has arrived at the Temple Court and the two priests hold their great golden flagons before the people as they are about to pour the contents out
- the trumpets have sounded
- the priests pour the water and the wine and are about the begin singing the Psalms when ...
- in the midst of that great symbolic act, Jesus stands and proclaims in a loud voice, ““If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”” (John 7:37–38, NIV84)
- as Jesus does this He fulfills the prophecy found in Zechariah 13:1, "In that day a fountain wilt be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity."
- on the great day of the feast that commemorated the wilderness wanderings ...
- with the Jewish nation assembled to watch the water being poured out to remind them of miraculous water provided by God ...
- Jesus stood and, in the face of rising opposition to His claim, made one of the strongest statements of His entire ministry
- "I am the true water. Come unto Me and drink."
- what did Jesus mean when He says that you must drink of Him?
- He explains it to us
- He immediately followed the statement "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink" with the phrase "He that believeth on me ..."
- that word believeth implies a total commitment of mind, body and soul to the person of Jesus Christ
- sadly, however, the majority of Jews were not prepared to receive Jesus as their living water
- if you've never done so, will you accept Jesus as your living water this morning?
The spiritual thirst which all individuals suffer from is caused by sin, the need for righteousness and the absence of God within your heart and soul.
The "living water" that will quench that thirst is Jesus who is the "spring of living water" you must drink from.
- Some of you may be saying to yourself, I'm already a Christian, this message doesn't apply to me. Oh yes it does. Let me close with this story: During the Arab-Israeli war 1967 an American reporter was flying over the Sinai desert with an Israeli officer, and they spotted some fifty thousand stranded Egyptian soldiers who obviously were dying of thirst. When the situation was reported in the newspapers, a number of world leaders and organizations tried to do something to help. But every time a plan was suggested, some military, diplomatic, or bureaucratic obstacle prevented its being carried out. By the time help came, thousands of the soldiers had died.
How equally tragic it is for churches to spin their wheels in programs and committees while thousands around them are desperately in need of the spiritual water of the Word.