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John 4:14

John 4:14
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John 4:14, “…whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirst again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The one who drinks the water that Jesus freely gives—the water who is the Holy Spirit, 7:39— will never thirst again, but instead, the water (Spirit) will well up unto eternal life. The connection I wanted to draw out this morning is that between not thirsting and eternal life. The two concepts are contrasted with each other, which means John understands them to be conceptually opposed to one another: to thirst is necessarily to be devoid of eternal life, and if we have eternal life, we will not thirst. So then, what do these two concepts mean?

Well, the “thirst” that Jesus has in mind is obviously not physical thirst. Rather, it is the thirst of the soul….the longing, the desiring, the aching, the straining of the soul for a satisfaction that is the spiritual analogue to the body’s longing for water when beset by thirst. How do we know this? While a number of reasons could be given, most convincing for the present context is Jesus’ clarifying question in verse 16….When Jesus asks the woman to bring her husband— thus revealing that she has jumped from one man to another six different times in what seems to have been a fairly short time—He is not attempting tho change the subject, rather, He is drilling down into the idea of “thirst”.

The sort of thirst that Jesus has come to satisfy is not the thirst of the material body, it is the thirst of the soul. It is the thirst that drove this woman from one man to another seeking comfort, seeking acceptance, seeking satisfaction, seeking rest. Likewise, it is the thirst that drives people to thrill seeking, or living for the weekends, or spending money on lavish pursuits, or addiction to various substances, or obsession with a sports team of game or film series, or drive to succeed or what-have-you…..the thirst that the “living water” satisfies is the thirst of our restless heart that desperately looks in every direction to be slaked. Jesus says that the one who receives the water that He gives will never thirst in this way again. Their soul will be satisfied. But how? What is the quenching of this deep, soul thirst? The answer we get in verse 14 is “eternal life.”

Eternal life is the contrasting parallel to “thirst” in verse 14, meaning that the reason one no longer thirsts is that they have eternal life; eternal life and soul-thirst are incompatible…..to have one is to necessarily not have the other, and vis versa. And what is eternal life? It is ultimately knowing God in the crucified and risen Jesus Christ (John 17:3). Eternal life is to know with our mind, imagination, affections—to embrace with our whole being—this one, this crucified Christ who is risen, this one as the true and perfect revelation of God, and so IN HIM to know WHO GOD IS and so to live in the light of that reality. That is eternal life……

And this intimate, affectional knowledge of God in Christ is the soul-satisfaction that brings our thirsts to an end. When we drink from the Spirit—who is the living water—the manner in which He quenches our soul’s thirst is by unfolding the fullness of Jesus to us (John 16:14), and this unfolding of the fullness of Jesus IS the revelation to us of the Father, the only true God, whom to know in Christ by the Spirit is to live (again 17:3). So what is the quenching of our soul’s thirst? It is to know God the Father, in the crucified and risen Son of God, by the illuminating Spirit of God.

And IF this knowing of God silences the frantic thirsts of our soul…THEN it must be that in all those pursuits the soul is searching for God….in all of its desirous wanderings, the soul is thirsting and longing and looking for the God it does not know and cannot name. EVERY thirst of the soul—i.e., every desire of the soul—is supremely a desire for God, and the God for whom every desire of the soul is longing is the God we meet only, solely, and precisely at the resurrection-illumined cross of Jesus Christ.

When the crucified Christ who is risen stands before us as he stood before Thomas, we see in Him the answer to all our desires, the end/fulfillment/telos of all our thirsting. This one—this one hanging on the cross, this one standing beyond wrath and death, this one bearing the wounds of damnation now transfigured to emblems of love, joy, and peace, this one from whom and for whom are all things IS the one I desire in all my desiring, IS the one I thirst for in all my thirsting, IS the answer to every longing and the name of every hope. The crucified Christ—perceived, embraced, feasted upon by faith as the one who is alive forevermore—is the nexus of all desire….truly, in HIM we meet the one for whom we have always been searching…

In Him we meet the one whose face shines on us from every sunrise and sunset, the one whose majesty resonates in mountain ranges and the expanse of the night sky, the one whose beauty ministers to us in music that brings tears to our eyes and moments that pierce our heart with longing and joy, the one whose gladness meets us in family gatherings, and and bonfires with friends, and quiet, forever-remembered conversations, the one whose mystery and grandeur illuminate the stories we love, the one whose name is the mountain spring planted in the forever-future from which all hope flows—in Him we meet the Good beneath all good, the Truth who informs all truth, and the Beauty of whom all beauty is an articulation. He—God, known in the crucified and risen Christ, by the Holy Spirit—HE is the one for whom our souls thirst, and when we come to know Him (that is, when we drink of the living water of the Spirit who flows to us from the opened heart and pierced side of the risen Lord) our soul’s thirst has been, is being, and will forever be satisfied.