All quotations are taken from the New King James Version
Much in life is overstated. In the build up to a major sporting event there is an abundance of ‘hype’. The broadcasting networks advertise the event as the ‘greatest thing going’ and send back reports of every little news bite, tiny morsel, or rumour. Sometimes, when the game is actually played, it is boring or disappointing to watch and you wonder why you decided to watch it in the first place. Similarly, a number of products and services do not consistently deliver the satisfaction and pleasure that were promised ahead of time in the advertisements.
Even in the spiritual realm disappointing results are experienced by those who accept at face value the forecasts of the false teachers discussed by the Apostle Peter and Jude. Note that both of these authors illustrate the lack of satisfaction in terms of water, which is absolutely essential to life. Often, this vital commodity was, and still is, in short supply in the Middle East. The Apostle Peter accused these heretical teachers of raising false expectations. Like springs which, when approached, contain no water, or like storm-driven clouds which temporarily darken the earth, as if it will soon rain heavily, they prove to be dry, 2 Pet. 2. 17, 18; Jude 12, 13.
The temporary but barren darkness these clouds cast is indicative of the great darkness which will be their fate forever. Perhaps, when each penned their letters, they had in mind Proverbs chapter 25 verse 14, ‘Whoever falsely boasts of giving is like clouds and wind without rain’. Of what value is a dried-up spring to a thirsty traveller?
Likewise, what is the worth of Spiritless teaching to thirsty souls? Not so our Lord. He boldly declared to the Samaritan woman, ‘Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never thirst. But the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life’, John 4. 13, 14. The Lord contrasted the physical with the spiritual water that He was offering. It is a privilege for us, as believers, to constantly ‘fill up’ at this fountainhead with complete assurance that every spiritual need will be fully met. In the ‘Sermon on the Mount’, the Lord guaranteed, ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. For they shall be filled’, Matt. 5. 6.
The Bible is full of glorious promises of satisfaction, ‘Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me [in faith] shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst"’, John 6. 35. In the next chapter, we read, ‘On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified’, 7. 37-39. It is interesting to note that the feast here mentioned is one of the Jewish fall (autumn) celebrations, namely, the Feast of Tabernacles. Many Jews journeyed to Jerusalem to recall their ancestors’ days of travelling through the wilderness between Egypt and Canaan. In the area around Jerusalem, they built and lived for a week in small shelters (booths) consisting of palm branches and willow boughs in remembrance of their ancestors’ journey, Lev. 23.
C. S. Lovett wrote, ‘The 8th day was most solemn, marking the close of the feast. For each of seven days before, the priest, in ceremonial procession, carried golden vessels of water from the pool of Siloam into the temple courts and poured them out upon the altar.1 This pictured the carrying of water in the Wilderness. On the 8th day this was NOT done, celebrating the entrance of Israel into the promised land where the people drank from live springs. The pool of Siloam was fed from a spring beneath the altar. When Jesus speaks of Himself as a fountain, He employs the imagery of the living spring under the altar which fed the pool. On this day, the people took boughs from their dismantled booths and beat on the sides of the altar, picturing the rock smitten by Moses. Hence Jesus is also offering Himself as the Smitten Rock.2 As the rock mass was struck with a rod by Moses for the sake of the Israelites, so also was Christ struck for our sakes during the brutal night-time interrogations before Annas, and Caiaphas, as well as the extremely savage whipping inflicted by the Praetorian guard, 1 Pet. 2. 24.
When Jesus speaks of Himself as a ‘fountain’, He employs the imagery of this living spring under the altar. Note that He is promising that not just a paltry amount but rather an abundance of living water is there for the asking. Wuest translates the offer made by Christ, ‘If any man is thirsty, let him be coming to me and let him be drinking’.3 There is a continuing aspect to this offer. Isaiah recorded a similar invitation to drink, ‘Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price’, Isa. 55. 1.
Physical thirst is the most powerful drive known to mankind. However, here our Lord does not specify any particular type of thirst. Some have thirsted for God himself. David wrote in Psalm 63 verse 1, ‘O God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water’. The Sons of Korah sang, ‘As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?’ Ps. 42. 1, 2.
D. L. Moody wrote, ‘How this world is thirsting for something that will satisfy my soul in places of amusement, the dance houses, the music halls, and the theatres, night after night? Men and women are thirsting for something they have not got. The moment a man turns his back upon God, he begins to thirst; and that thirst will never be quenched until he returns to “the fountain of living waters.” (Jer. 2:13) As the prophet Jeremiah tells us, we have forsaken the fountain of living waters, and hewn out for ourselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. There is a thirst this world can never quench: the more we drink of its pleasures, the thirstier we become. We cry out for more and more, and we are all the while being dragged down lower and lower. But there is a fountain opened to the House of David for sin and for uncleanness (Zech. 13:1). Let us press up to it, and drink and live’.4
According to John chapter 7 verse 39, those who respond to Christ’s invitation receive the Holy Spirit as a permanent, indwelling, life-changing presence. To speak of ‘streams of living water’ highlights ‘four facts about the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the believer:
It is touching, and a paradox, that our Lord, who sought to entirely slake the spiritual thirst of mankind would suffer intense physical thirst as part of the agonies of the cross. He endured extreme dehydration for some six hours on the cross. About 1,000 years before Jesus was born, David accurately predicted our Lord’s thirst and how His persecutors would respond to it. Psalm 22 verse 15 reads, ‘My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death’. It is difficult to imagine a more thorough fulfilment of this prophecy than in our Lord’s experience on the cross. Frederick W. Krummacher vividly describes the cross-induced thirst of our Lord: ‘The blood vessels of His sacred body are almost dried up. A dreadful fever rages through His frame. His tongue cleaves to His jaws. His lips burn’. He concludes, ‘There is scarcely a greater torment than that of insatiable thirst’.6
The torturous death of crucifixion had not been devised when David wrote his prophetic words. Note that all four Gospel authors record how the Roman soldiers tried to prepare him for this suffering. ‘They also gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink’, Ps. 69. 21; Matt. 27. 34. They offered to our Saviour a stupefying liquid concoction to deaden His senses to the pain and constriction that He would soon experience. Our Lord would have none of it. He was determined to fully taste the sum total of the horrors of the cross – physical, emotional, and spiritual. He didn’t want His senses deadened.
According to Luke chapter 16, the rich man, before whose gate the beggar Lazarus sat, ended up in Hades. He knew the pain of eternal torment for his sins. Much more so our Lord who took as His own the accumulated trespasses of all mankind – past, present, and future. Jesus’ sufferings were so intensified that they were equivalent to the sum total of that of all unbelievers spending an eternity in the Lake of Fire.
In summary, unlike watching a favourite sporting event or acquiring some coveted gadget, personally trusting in Jesus and His sacrifice for our sins brings about complete satisfaction.
Note that the Pool of Siloam, discovered in 2004, was the only permanent water source for the city of Jerusalem in the first century AD. It was fed by the waters of the Gihon Spring diverted through Hezekiah’s Tunnel, built in the 8th century BC.
C. S. Lovett, John, Vol. Four, Personal New Testament Commentary, 1969-1970, pg. 135.
Kenneth. S. Wuest, The New Testament: An Expanded Translation, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977, pg. 230.
D. L. Moody, The D. L. Moody Year Book: A Living Daily Message from the Words of D. L. Moody, found at https://www.preceptaustin.org/bybook/43.
Extracted from here: https://www.preceptaustin.org/john_739_commentary.
F. W. Krummacher, The Suffering Saviour. Found here: http://www.baptistbiblebelievers.com/BooksoftheBible/TheSuffering Saviour by FW Krummacher.