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To Thirst Nevermore

What causes some to follow, at times blindly, the paths of men who seem from a distance larger than life? In describing the entourage that followed former President Roosevelt, one author said that…

“To travel with Theodore Roosevelt was to travel in a carnival led by a conjurer and trailed by an idolatrous throng. People were drawn by his energy and joy, qualities he possessed in quantities rarely found in persons over the age of eight. They wished for his courage, and if they did not always admire his pugnacity, they forgave it, for what was pugnacity but courage overspilling its banks?”

Patricia O’Toole, When Trumpets Call

I can’t help but think of those in the first century who followed the Christ. What attracted them to this carpenter’s son from the seemingly insignificant town of Nazareth? You’ll remember that it was a well-known fact that “nothing good ever came out of Nazareth.” So what pray tell was the appeal? Why are there numerous accounts of masses of people congregating around Him. Waiting patiently with bated breath on His every word?

Many were all agog to hear His teaching that came with a freshness and a force that unsurprisingly amazed His hearers. It was, to them, truly remarkable. You’ll recall that in both Matthew and Mark, the first recorded response to His teaching was one of astonishment at its authoritative character (Matthew 7.28-29; Mark 1.22).

And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.

Mark 1.22

It is said that a conjurer maintains his illusion in hopes to beguile others and perhaps even himself. But this Man, one who His close followers referred to as Rabbi, was not a conjurer. Although there were some who characterized Him as a rabble-rouser. An instigator. And worse yet, a blasphemer. Those who continued to follow Him wherever He went noticed something entirely different. He spoke as one who had authority. And He challenged their thinking. About themselves and others. He was meek. And gentle. And when He opened up His mouth, the words that He spoke were like none other.

He was indeed different.

The propensity of some to do whatever it took to be near Him was quite remarkable. You’ll recall one man’s friends, realizing there was no way to gain access through the crowds, finally resigned themselves to the fact that if they were to be successful, they would have to revert to another solution. And so they did. By cutting a hole in the roof of the cottage where He was, they were able to lower their paralyzed friend on a mat into the throngs of people who surrounded the Great Physician (Luke 6.18-19)

What faith!

His words… transformative. Profound. Not banal. They spoke of deeper truths. They were, as He Himself described, living waters. As the Samaritan women asked, "Where do you get that living water?" (John 4.11b)

13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

John 4.13-14

Her response is ours: “Sir, give me this water.” (John 4.15a) And yet, we find that many, including at times ourselves, look to other sources to quench their thirst. When we could be slaking our thirst with the fresh waters of a sparkling spring, we are content with the stagnant contents of a holding tank. We should be appalled.

12 Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord, 13 for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

Jeremiah 2.12-13

Unlike those we find in the first century, His words at times fall on deaf ears. Attracted and enticed by the wiles of the world, we too find ourselves committing the very evils the prophet expressed so many, many years ago. We have forsaken the fountain of living waters. And thus we are drawn to empty promises; attempting to quell our thirst from broken vessels which hold no life-sustaining water.

We would do well to heed His words.

15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. 16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Revelation 7.15-17

Jesus was remarkable indeed. He still is. Unlike any other who walked on the face of the earth, He spoke with an authority that was astonishing even for a prophet. He spoke not just as a bearer of another’s message. But as One bearing a message of His own. With the full authorization of the Father. The result is liberation and awe.

The Lamb who is in the midst of the throne is our Shepherd. And He guides all who heed His words to springs of living water.

Where we shall thirst nevermore.