“If anyone thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in Me, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”
This image of rivers of living water is scattered all throughout the Holy Scriptures. Jesus may be referring to passages such as Isaiah 12:3 (“Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation”); Isaiah 43:20 (“Because I give waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to My people, My chosen”); Isaiah 44:3 (“For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring”); Isaiah 55:11 (“The Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail”); and Zechariah 14:8 (“And in that day it shall be that living waters shall flow from Jerusalem.”)
The living waters of the Bible begin in the Garden of Eden, where Eden has four rivers flowing from it out to the world. These waters give life to the garden of God and bring life to the many trees and fruits of the Garden. In turn, they give life to man in the Garden.
But throughout the Bible, ever since the Fall, man has lived in the wilderness and has been in constant pursuit of living water. Have you ever noticed how many times in the Old Testament people are on a quest for water and how important wells are? Water was scarce in the ancient world, and the Living Water was scarce as well. Even when the Israelites have access to the Living Water, they keep trying to divine water on their own and end up thirsty in the desert.
But Christ has endured the wilderness for us, as well as thirst. He who is the Living Water became parched for us, and so He says on the Cross, for all of us: “I thirst.” But He was denied the Living Water at that time for us. He endured the ultimate desiccation that we deserved. He Who Was the Living Water became the curse and the desert for us.
But after that, He rose from the dead and ascended the hill of the Lord to bring us Living Water. After the Resurrection came the Ascension and Pentecost. Adam fell from the Garden, but Christ regained it for man. This is nothing less than Jack and Jill in reverse.
“Adam and Eve went up the hill
to fetch a pail of living water
Adam fell down and broke his crown
and Eve fell tumbling after.
The Son of God fell down the hill
to fetch the sons of men
Jesus climbed up, received a crown
and Adam came climbing after.
In these three verses (37-39), Jesus tells the whole story of mankind in brief. He promises, through Himself and through the Spirit, to restore the Garden of Eden to mankind and to restore man to his rightful position as co-regents of creation.
Here, on the last day, that great day of the feast (verse 37), Jesus gets up and invites everyone to the true feast, the Marriage Feast of the Lamb, where those who are thirsty will drink the Living Water and eat the Bread of Heaven with gladness.
But what’s most amazing is that this Living Water is available to you – today – and it’s free! Jesus isn’t just offering the Living Water to the first century Jews or to us in heaven. The Living Water, which is Jesus Christ given to us through the Holy Spirit, is available to you today.
Like water in the ancient world, the Living Water was once scarce. You used to have to go to Israel to get it, and even to Jerusalem, at certain specified times. But now it is available to you whenever you want it. This Living Water is as plentiful and easy to access as the purified water from your faucet.
If this is true, then why are so many parched and fainting? Because they will not access the Living Water. This Living Water, Christ through the Spirit, is all around us.
Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner portrays this scarcity of water with these words:
“Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.”
But with the Living Water we hear,
“Water, water, everywhere,
the Spirit begs you, ‘Drink!’”
And yet we don’t drink. Even as Christians it’s amazing how little we remember to drink. My wife Jackie is a dietitian. Her job is to counsel people on how to eat and drink to the better nourishment of their bodies. From time to time, when she makes a rare dietetic faux pas at home, I’ll say, “And you – a dietitian!” Her greatest dietetic faux pas concerns herself. Bless her soul, she gets so wrapped up in serving others at home or work that she forgets to drink enough during the day. And then, all at once, she’ll notice how tired or out of sorts she is, and she’ll come to her senses, drink, and wonder once again what in the world could have kept her from drinking the life-giving water so easily accessible!
We are just the same in our spiritual lives. How often do we forget to drink what is offered right before our very eyes every moment! How often we grow faint and weary and wonder why. Then, growing faint and thirsty, our eyes and minds grow dim and we do not perceive the cause of our listlessness.
Dehydration is no fun. In fact, it can be life-threatening. On one of the trips we took, one of the girls became dehydrated enough that she had to be taken to the doctor and given an IV. It happened so imperceptibly. And what if we had not known the cause of her illness or where to go to get proper care?
And yet this happens so frequently in our spiritual lives. What we need is to check our thirst regularly and then to go and drink the Living Water. This is our daily spiritual life with the Lord. You must build into your life a liturgy of life, you must schedule your water breaks. When will you come to the Lord and drink of the Living Water He so freely offers? Don’t wait until the end of the day when the thirst has become unbearable and you have strength only to sip a little water before bed.
Come to the rivers of Living Water frequently, and drink to your heart’s content. Stop a moment and check your thirst throughout the day. If you will but stop and think you may sense your need for water.
There’s another test of thirst, as well. In hot places where dehydration is a real danger, you can tell if you’re drinking enough water by the color of your urine. If it’s dark, then you have not been drinking enough water! If what comes out of your life is dark and not clear and pure, then you have not been drinking enough Living Water.
But when you drink, you’ll notice how the Spirit restores you to life. After you drink, even when you drink but a little in passing, whether in prayer or thanks or confession or simple remembrance, you’ll be surprised how much more alive you will be! The Holy Spirit is all around you, offering Jesus Christ to you to refresh you and give you life. All you have to do is to remember your thirst, seek the water, and drink.
Don’t underestimate your thirst. Don’t shrug it off and say, “Just one more thing.” I remember the 2 times in my life when I was the thirstiest. The second thirstiest I’ve ever been was when I was on a biology field trip in the summer when I was at Texas A&M. We were studying the ecosystem of a local river or creek: I remember especially looking for Ephemeroptera, the mayflies whose life cycle lasts but a day. I was so engaged in looking for specimens and observing things in life that I failed to observe my own body and its thirst. Finally, at the end of the day, we were offered water out of large orange and white thermos. I was last in line, and by the time I got there the water had strange things in it and looked not quite right. Everyone else had drunk out of the thermos. It seemed neither potable nor palatable. But I was so thirsty that I didn’t care what the water looked or tasted like.
And so when the Spirit offers you the Living Water – even in a form that doesn’t look like the bottled water you were expecting – drink!
The thirstiest I’ve ever been was after I had run a ½ mile at a huge track relay meet at Nassau Coliseum. I was part of a 9th grade 2 mile relay team, and we thought our chances were pretty good. There were 6 teams in the race, and the first three got medals. We thought our chances were good and excitedly remembered what we expected each member to run in order to succeed. I was considered one of the weaker legs and thus ran second.
Unfortunately, our first runner turned in an atrocious time of something like 3:30 for his half mile, and by the time I received the baton we were already a lap behind on the small tenth of a mile track with its bouncy boards and banked curves. But I ran my heart out and ran a 2:31 mile and moved us from last place to fourth. That was where we remained.
After the race was over, I noticed that I could barely breathe, and I couldn’t swallow. Psalm 22 took on a personal meaning for me because my tongue clung to the roof of my mouth, and it wouldn’t come unglued! I frantically searched for water in this state, and when I finally found a water fountain, you’d think I had found the Fountain of Youth! Water never felt so good or was so desirable.
That desire I had for water is the kind of desire we are to have each and every day for the Living Water. The truth is, that’s how desperately we need Him!
Remember to drink today. Drink frequently, drink freely, and drink deeply! Then you will be a tree planted by the rivers of living water, that brings forth its fruit in season, whose leaf shall not wither, and whatever you do shall prosper (Psalm 1).
Prayer: Lord, I am thirsty, thirstier for You than all of the universes deserts. But I am forgetful and forget to drink. Make my thirst known to me today that I may come to my senses and drink from the Living Water You so freely offer. Make me to desire Your Son and Your Spirit more than my earthly pursuits, so that I may be refreshed and revived, that I may be a tree of life that bears your delicious and sacred fruit. Through Him Who Is the Living Water, Amen.
Points for Meditation:
1. What are some specific times during the day when I should be drinking from the Living Water?
2. What are some specific ways during the day when I could be drinking from the Living Water?
3. Sing “Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken” (especially the second stanza.)
4. Every time you drink today, remember the true Living Water.
Resolution: I resolve to pause throughout the day today to gauge my thirst and then to drink from the Living Water.
© 2014 Fr. Charles Erlandson