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.…
We often speak of the great changes and revolutions which have occurred in the world. But through the long series there may be traced much that is permanent, so that probably uniformity is as truly the characteristic of human history as variety. It may, e.g., be always ascertained that the same principles have pervaded God's moral government. It may also be perceived that the elements of human character have throughout been the same. Our text, relating as it does opinions of the Jews regarding our Lord, will give us opportunities of observing this sameness in particular cases. We may be compelled to say that men are what they were eighteen hundred years back, on discovering that modern indifference and unbelief borrows from ancient its form and apology.
I. The first parties introduced are THOSE DISPOSED TO RECOGNIZE CHRIST AS A TEACHER SENT FROM GOD.
1. The cause of this conviction was not any action of Christ's, but a "saying" of His. Then surely the saying must have been one of extraordinary power, some assertion of Divinity, or some verification in Himself of ancient prophecy too complete and striking to be resisted. No; the wonder-working saying was that of ver. 37, which the Evangelist thought so obscure as to require an explanation. Yet simple as it seems to us and dark as it seemed to St. John, it succeeded at once in wringing the confession that He was a Divinely-sent Teacher.
2. The saying is one of those gracious invitations into which are gathered the whole gospel. It demands a sense of want, a feeling of thirst, but proffers an abundant supply, and by adding a reference to Scripture, which could only be interpreted of some measure of supernatural influence, our Lord intimated that His promise was a spiritual gift, satisfying desires after God and immortality.. Here is the moral thirst which is not to be slaked at the springs of human science and theology. And as there must have been many in the crowd dissatisfied with the traditions of the elders, and feeling a need of higher teaching, the promise would come home as meeting their wants, and the suitableness of the offer would pass as an argument for Christ's Divine mission.
3. There is no difference here between past days and our own, for the argument is but that based on the self-evidencing power of the Bible. A religion may commend itself either by prodigies wrought in its support, or by the nicety, with which it fits in to the mental and moral constitution, to the wants and cravings of a soul which sought in vain everywhere else for supply. And this latter is the standing witness for the Bible. The sinner, conscious of exposure to the wrath of God, and of inability to ward off destruction, will find in Christ the Saviour he needs, and in the aid of the Spirit the help he wants, so that there will seem to him no room for doubt as to the truth of the gospel.
II. Mix again with the crowd and hearken to SOME OTHER OPINIONS.
1. Those who are inclined to conclude that Jesus is the long promised Christ, find themselves met with objections, formidable because professedly grounded on Scripture (ver. 42). There is no attempt to depreciate Christ's teaching, but there was a fatal argument deduced from prophecy which has expressly fixed the birthplace and lineage of Christ. But this is one of the most surprising instances of ignorance or inattention, if we may go no further. It is hardly possible to imagine a fact more readily ascertainable than that our Lord was born at Bethlehem, and was of the lineage of David; for the massacre of the innocents had made His birth so conspicuous, and now there was no one left but our Lord who could prove Himself to have been born at Bethlehem on the expiration of Daniel's week of years. Therefore either He was the Messiah, or prophecy had failed. Yet so great was the popular indifference or prejudice, that a statement seems to have gone uncontradicted that the pretended Messiah was a Galilean. He passed as "Jesus of Nazareth," and this was proof that He was not born in Bethlehem; and men were so glad of some specious excuse for rejecting Him, that they made this shallow falsehood a pretext for rejecting Him. It looked very fine to have Scripture on their side; the devil used the Bible in tempting Christ, and they could now use it in justifying their unbelief. The "Sword of the Spirit," like every other, may be used for suicide as well as for war.
2. The like of this is of frequent occurrence amongst ourselves. What is that scepticism which is often met with among the boastful and young? Is it the result of careful investigation? No. The fashionable young man, the orator at some juvenile literary club, gets hold of some objection against Christianity which has a specious sound and formidable look — all the better if it come out of the Bible, in the shape of an alleged contradiction and this is enough; he has his "Shall Christ come out of Galilee?" and with so decisive an argument, why should he trouble to search further? This is our quarrel with him. He wishes to continue deceived. The sceptic, like the Jew, has only to look around him and he would find that Jesus did not come out of Galilee, but out of Bethlehem. God suffered infants to be slain that Jewish unbelief might be inexcusable, and He has raised up giants in His Church whose writings render modern unbelief the same.
(H. Melvill, B. 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.