June 2017

"If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me"

(John 7.37 REB)

Jesus called out these words to the crowds in the temple, who were attending the Festival of the Tabernacles. This was (and still is) one of the most important Jewish festivals, reminding those worshipping of the time that the nation of Israel spent in the desert, a reminder in ritual of the wanderings following release from slavery. Much of that time was spent in an arid landscape, with water in short supply (see Numbers 20.1-13) .

Part of the ritual of this Festival involved collecting water in a golden pitcher from the pool of Siloam. In this sacred setting of Jewish historical tradition, special and full of symbolism, Christ calls: "Come to me and drink." In effect, Jesus is saying: You are praising and thanking God for the water which quenches your physical thirst . . . but come to Me, if you want water which will slake the thirst of your souls.

This was exquisite timing, dramatic, compelling attention. As with the woman at the well in chapter 4, the wedding at Cana in chapter 3, and the washing of the disciples' feet in chapter 13, Christ uses the analogy and example of water to illustrate the Way. In this symbolism will be found purity, cleanliness, being washed clean, humility, receiving the spirit, and the never-ending love and grace which God pours out for his people.

Water is the vital commodity essential to sustain life. Water can make deserts flourish and blossom, plants to grow and to bear fruit. Water rescues and revives plants dying of thirst. How much more will Living Water achieve for men and women who are flagging, dry, isolated in an arid life, and out of touch with things eternal and spiritual? As people of faith, we shall be aware of the Living Water of Christ, of what it can do, and has done for mankind. We may have clear evidence that it can change and enrich the lives of men and women.

But we must also be the evidence, so that, in the way in which we live, others will approach Christ for a drink of that reviving, nourishing, sustaining water. We are to be the examples. When Jesus calls: "Come, drink," the invitation is now, and for ever.

Note. This month's commentary is adapted from the book "Within Thy Silence" by Martin Tunnicliffe (O-Books 2010). Copies should be available from any bookshop and on the Internet