In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come to me, and drink.…
1. Jesus was a popular preacher. The synagogue was full when He spoke, and men went out in crowds into the fields to listen to Him.
2. He was a powerful preacher. Extraordinary changes of character were wrought by His sermons. The tax-gatherer left his money.changing and the fisherman his boats to follow Him. All classes were affected by it, from the most cultured and religious to the most abandoned.
3. Whatever theory men may have respecting His person, there can be no doubt that the world has been revolutionized by His teaching. What, then, were the elements of His power?
(1) He spoke to the common in their vernacular, using illustrations from common life, but He never descended from the high place of a noble instructor. The demagogue flatters the prejudices and appeals to the passions of his audience, but Jesus never did this.
(2) He used no arts of elocution. Men did not flock to Him as they flock to an actor. He told them stories, hut they were simple stories, and not dramatically, for He taught sitting.
(3) Nor did He use the arts of rhetoric. He employed no ornament for the sake of ornament. You find nothing that could be called out and recited.
(4) There are no literary classics in His sermons. His was not the power which comes from scholastic learning or position. Men have shrugged their shoulders at lay preaching, but Christ was a lay preacher who had never graduated and become a Rabbi. His style was simple and transparent. Sometimes the waters are so deep that one cannot see the bottom, but they are never muddy.
4. We must look elsewhere for the sources of the eloquence of Jesus. If we look over the history of oratory, we find that three elements enter into it:
I. A GREAT OCCASION. All the great master-pieces were the offspring of great occasions — the orations of Demosthenes, when Greece was battling for its liberty; of Cicero, when the free institutions of Rome were threatened; of Chatham, at the time of the American revolution, Jesus had a great occasion, The world had reached its lowest ebb — politically, intellectually, socially, morally. Yet there was one little province which kept the light of hope burning, one little people who had an expectation of deliverance. A great need and a hope — these formed the occasion of Jesus.
II. A GREAT THEME. The greatest orators, on the greatest occasions, have broken down, because they have ranged themselves on the wrong side and failed to rise to the occasion with a great message. Not so Jesus. He proclaimed "The kingdom of God is at hand." This was a message of hope, and one which called men with a trumpet-call to battle. In this kingdom all could take part; it was one that was for all, and one that defied the gates of hell. This message is for all the centuries and for today. When the ship was on the sands at Malta the crew did not stop to study the rhetorical form of Paul's message. When the soldiers in the Shenandoah valley were in flight they did not stop to study the elocution of Sheridan when, waving sword in air, he bade them turn and follow him to victory. And when the world felt the darkness of night resting upon it, it was not the eloquence of drama; it was the eloquence of this great truth — the hope that there is in God and in immortality — that made Christ eloquent then and has made His words eloquent from that day to this.
III. For behind the words was A GREAT PERSONALITY — a personality so great that when He first rose in the synagogue of Nazareth all eyes were fastened upon Him; that when the mob gathered to stone Him as He passed they parted and let Him go; that when they rose to lead Him to the precipice He passed uninjured through them; that when these police came to arrest Him they went away saying, "Never man spake," etc. This we cannot analyze, and must therefore leave it.
(Lyman Abbott, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.