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. This saying of our Lord's produced among some the conviction that He was the Christ (vers 40, 41). We gather from hence that it met some instinct of the human heart. He struck a note which vibrated in their inmost souls. What was the secret of this effect. It was no doubt that many of the audience felt that they were spiritually athirst, that there was a craving in them after light, truth, love which nothing on earth met. They felt that He was making an offer of which hey had need to avail themselves. They are convinced of His claims by offering them exactly what they had felt the want of.
2. In order to the existence of love between two parties, there must be a secret affinity between them in virtue of which one supplies what the other needs. Take the case of friendship between the sexes. The man needs sympathy and confidence, which the woman supplies; the woman needs support, protection, counsel, which it is the man's part to furnish. This principle lies also at the foundation of commercial intercourse. A. produces what B. wants, and B. what A. wants; and this mutual want draws both together. The same mutual interdependence is observable in nature. Plants are fed by the light and air of heaven, and return the perfumes which some of them exhale. It is so with man and God.
I. MAN HAS AN URGENT NEED OF GOD. When this makes itself felt he cries, "My soul is athirst for God," and then he is arrested by the offer of the Son of God, "If any man thirst," etc. Of course all things need God for their continuance, but man has needs which distinguish him from the inferior creation.
1. His understanding is never satisfied with the truth it contrives to reach.
(1) There is nothing more interesting than discovery. It is as if God had proposed to us in nature and life certain enigmas, and had challenged human ingenuity to the solution of them. But observe how, upon a discovery being made, it loses its interest, and we immediately go in quest of fresh truth. Just as the pleasure of hunting is not derived from the game which is caught, but from the excitement of the pursuit, so with the quest of truth. You see this restlessness in the pursuit of religious as well as scientific truth. The inbred curiosity of the mind, which desires above all to know where it is precluded from knowledge, is the fruitful source of heresies and fantastic speculations.
(2) But is there nothing corresponding to this restless thirst? Is the mind to fret itself for ever and never reach the goal? Is there no highest truth in which the understanding may at length acquiesce? Not so. The Scriptures say that God is Light, and that in Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. When, therefore, man displays an insatiable desire to know, he should remind himself that God is its only satisfaction, and this Light is to be enjoyed, not by any painful straining of reason, but by entire submission of the will to God's will.
2. Man craves after Infinite Good.
(1) This is attested —
(a) By the mischievous excesses of intemperance. The instinct that prompts man to this is peculiar to him. There is nothing of it among the lower creatures. The real account of it is that by the constitution of his mind man thirsts after a good he finds in no created object. The instinct misdirected by the Fall, goes astray. Having a hungry spirit, he makes a desperate effort to extract from bodily enjoyments what may appease its cravings, but the body, like a people, is impoverished and enfeebled by excessive taxation.
(b) But there are more refined ways in which men endeavour to satisfy this craving. They seek preeminence of ability or position or wealth; the flattering speeches which are a sort of homage to superiority — how dear are these things to the soul! Not that the soul rests on them; having tasted them it immediately craves for new enjoyments, a wider reputation, a higher pre-eminence.
(c) The best of earthly good with which the spirit seeks to satisfy its thirst is human sympathy. It plants for itself a domestic and social paradise, but the trees, alas I like Jonah's gourd, are apt to be smitten. And, independently of this, no mere natural affection can satisfy the craving for love.
(2) But the Creator can satisfy every craving. Do we long after a joyous exhilaration of the Spirit which shall tide us over our difficulties? "Be not drunk with wine... but be filled with the Spirit." Do we thirst after esteem? Human esteem is but a taper; the real sunlight of the soul is the smile of God's approbation. Is pre-eminence our aim? He is the Fountain of Honour. Do we long for sympathy? He is Love.
II. DOES GOD DEPEND ON MAN? Yes, as a field of display for the Divine perfections. .God longs to surround Himself with intelligent and joyous creatures to lavish on them the resources of His infinite goodness. Here we may catch a glimpse of the reason why evil was permitted. To be bounteous to creatures retaining their integrity is a very inadequate effect of God's goodness. Mercy could never have poured itself forth, had there not been vessels of mercy to receive it. And vessels of mercy could never have existed had there been no transgression. We may therefore recognize between God and man a natural reciprocity. He is the only Being who can satisfy the deep wants of the soul. And from His intrinsic goodness He longs to satisfy them.
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.