By J.R. Miller
In the chapter from which our passage is taken, we find much about how different people regarded Jesus. His brothers did not believe on Him, and yet they urged Him to put on a bold face and go up to the feast. Just what their motive was, we are not told. They seem to have wanted him to make a display of His power at Jerusalem, to show the people there what He was, and what He could do. Or perhaps they only taunted Him, professing to believe in His power. Jesus knew that the Jews at Jerusalem were plotting to kill Him, and as His "hour" was not yet come, He declined to go to the feast--but said to His brothers that they should go up. The world did not hate them--no one was plotting for their lives. They would not be molested if they went.
Later, however, Jesus did go up to the feast and taught in the temple. There was a great deal of discussion about Him then, and all sorts of opinions were expressed. The Jews wondered at the wisdom of His teaching, since He had not been trained in their schools, had not sat at the feet of their great rabbis, nor learned wisdom from them. Jesus gave the honor to His Father, saying, "My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me." (v.16). The people wondered who He could be. They sought to take Him, to arrest Him--but no one laid His hand upon Him. There was a divine protection about Him, "because His hour was not yet come" (v.30). God watches over the lives of His servants who trust Him, who are doing His work in the world, and lets no evil touch them. "Every man is immortal, until His work is done."
On the last day of the feast, Jesus uttered one of His most wonderful statements. The temple was thronged, and He spoke, no doubt, in a loud voice that all might hear what He said. He made a great proclamation of His mission, as it were, offering life to all who would accept it. This is one of the great invitations of the gospel. Every word is full of meaning. "If anyone is thirsty--let him come to me and drink."
"If anyone is thirsty" marks the one and only condition to which the invitation is addressed. Of course, if we do not thirst--we will not care to come to the will to drink. Souls are dying all around us, not because there is no water near--but because they are not thirsty. The words "anyone" show us how universal the invitation is. It was not for "any Jew," nor "any intelligent man," nor "any man of good character," but for "anyone." No one is left out or overlooked. All the invitations of the gospel are universal in their offer and in their adaptation. "All who are weary" receive the invitation to rest which Christ gives. All that are thirsty are invited to come and drink. All who hunger are bidden to eat the bread of life. There is not a person in the world who can say he is not invited to receive the salvation of Christ.
The word "thirsty" describes the need which Christ is ready to supply. It is not bodily thirst--but thirst of the soul which He offers to quench. For the soul has its thirsts as well as the body, and there is no spring of water on earth at which these thirsts can be satisfied. The words "let him come" show us the gate to the fountain flung wide open. There is no barrier or hindrance in the way. No person is shut out. The words remind us, however, that if we would have our thirst quenched by Christ--we must come to Him. We must leave our dry, burning wilderness where no water is found, and come away to Christ. We cannot find Christ--in our sins. Our thirsts will never be satisfied unless we bring them to the fountain.
The fact that we are dying of thirst, is not alone sufficient to insure us of the quenching of the thirst. There must be a movement made by us, a movement toward Christ, a believing on Him, and acceptance of Him. The word "drink" tells us we must receive Christ Himself into our own hearts, if we would have our thirst satisfied in Him. Merely going to the spring and looking at its sparkling waters will never quench anyone's thirst; he who would be satisfied, must drink. This implies a voluntary act on the part of each individual. So, looking at Christ in all His beauty and power to help--is not enough to bless us--we must take Him into our life by an act of our own, as one takes water in drinking from the fountain, or from a cup, and let His Spirit fill our hearts.
Jesus next proceeded to tell of the result of coming to him. "Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." Believing is coming to Christ. To come is to believe, and then to trust oneself to Him. Believing is putting oneself into such personal relations with Christ, that His life becomes ours. Every thirsty one who drinks of Christ has thenceforward in himself a fountain of life, a well of water--at which other thirsty ones may drink. This is a beautiful picture of a Christian life. We in turn become little wells of the water of life, filled by Christ Himself, from which the water flows that others may drink. Christ wants every one of us to repeat in our own little measure, His great life of love. A spring of water, especially in a hot, oriental country, is invaluable. It is a center of great blessing. Weary ones come to it, and go on their way refreshed.
Someone describes an old homestead, deserted now, with its empty dwelling and unused porches and grass-grown walks. But there is one path on which no grass grows, which is trodden daily by many feet. It is the path to the spring. Nearly every passer-by turns aside to drink of the clear, sweet water of the spring. If we can be like such a spring of water by life's wayside, we shall be an untold blessing in the world. People who are weary, those who have troubled hearts, and those who are in sorrow, those who are weak and faint in their journey--all may come and drink of the water of life in us, and go on their way stronger and happier. It is a great thing to be a well of water by the wayside--but if we cannot be a well, we can at least be a little spring, giving out its little stream to quench the thirst of some who are weary.
The writer of this Gospel explains further Jesus' words about the fountain within the heart. He says that Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit which those who believed on Him would receive. In talking with the woman at the well, Jesus told her that the water He would give those who would drink--would become a well of water in them, springing up into eternal life. The Spirit is God Himself. Hence those who receive the Spirit receive God Himself into their hearts. The new life in a believer is the divine life. It is Christ Himself.
We may notice here, too, the two words that are used in the two passages, showing the growth of life in those who receive Christ. Jesus said to the woman, that the water would become a well in the heart of the believer. Here He says that from within him who receive the divine Spirit--shall flow rivers of living water. The word "rivers" suggests the possibilities of Christian life and influence. When the apostles first came to Christ, the beginning of life in them was very small. But when they went forth, after the day of Pentecost, full of the Holy Spirit, rivers of influence and blessing flowed from them. Our lives should increase in power as we become filled with Christ, and our reach of blessing should grow wider and wider.
A question of origin hindered the faith of some of those to whom Christ spoke that day. They thought that nothing good could come out of the despised province of Galilee. We are familiar already with this argument against the Messiahship of Jesus. Nathanael could not believe that any good thing could come out of Nazareth (see 1:46). In His case, however, a personal knowledge of Christ instantly swept away his prejudices. A like prejudice applies in many other cases. Lowly circumstances bury much that is good, and hinder its recognition among men. Yet we know that the power of the Christ who slept His first sleep in a manger, was the Son of God, and His power and glory have filed all earth and heaven. The unconscious testimony of the officers to the power of Jesus is very remarkable. Sent by the rulers to arrest Him, they came under the influence of His words as He spoke to the people. The spell was so strong that the officers returned without arresting Jesus, awed and unable to do anything, and when asked why they had not brought Him as a prisoner they replied, "No one ever spoke the way this man does!"
Those who come under the influence of Jesus, are always impressed by the power of His presence. It is indeed true that "No one ever spoke the way this man does!" His words are the words of God. If we let them into our hearts, they search us and find us. They are convicting words, showing us our sins and faults. They are upbuilding words, kindling and stimulating in us holy desires and aspirations, holding before us divine ideals of life and inspiring us to all heavenly attainments. They are transforming words, imprinting upon our lives the beauty of Christ and sending us to ministry of love. They are words of hope, revealing the true honor and blessedness of those who faithfully follow Christ. The most wonderful things in all this world are the words of Christ. "No one ever spoke the way this man does!"