“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.”’Jn 7:37-38
A week ago we talked about how Jesus miraculously fed the 5000 with a few loaves of bread, but a short time later, these people were hungry again. Led by their hunger, they finally track Jesus down, but the tone of his words are somewhat surprising; “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life…(Jn 6:26-27)”
This story, and Jesus’ behavior is somewhat confusing. The people were hungry, we are hungry-for food but also for other things-security, comfort and love. Jesus feeds them and us. But then when we get hungry again and look for Him, he rebukes us saying, all you want is a free meal. Lord forgive me, but doesn’t it seems like Jesus is being a bit passive-aggressive here? “Come I will feed you,” but then “why are you looking to me for food?”
Today’s Gospel reading seems to be a continuation of the same theme, simply replacing bread with water. Jesus says of Himself ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink.” This is beautiful and powerful, but what if Jesus is again dangling the bait here before us as with the bread? What if Jesus quenches my thirst-for self-esteem, for healing, for security-but then pushes me away when I go back to him for more?
Well the next line in today’s gospel reading helps explain Jesus’ behavior and guides us in how to mature and deepen our faith in Him. Jesus’ very next words after ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me,’ are a quote from the Hebrew Scriptures; “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.” It seems that looking to Jesus when we are hungry or thirsty is not a problem, in fact this is necessary. What makes all the difference, however, is if we look to Jesus out of a believer’s heart. For somehow, a drop of our own heartfelt faith is needed first in order to tap into the endless river of faith that emanates from Our Lord.
Perhaps a story will help illustrate this mysterious flow of faith, which is as important to our spiritual lives as water is to physical lives. There was a man who got lost in the desert and began to thirst. Disoriented, he stumbles upon a hand water pump with a small jug of water and a note. The note reads: “Pour the water into the pump to prime it. If you do, you’ll have all the water you’ll need.” Now the man has a choice to make, if he pours the water in, he might get all the water he needs, but he might lose the only water he has. If he drinks the water he will quench his thirst, but will that be enough until he is rescued from the desert? After thinking about it, the man decides to risk and trust. He pours the water into the pump and works the handle. To his terror, at first nothing happens. But he keeps going, and water starts coming out. So much water came out that he drinks all he wants, takes a shower, and fills five containers besides.
If the man acted only on the evidence of what was before him, he would have had a jug of warm water and probably died. But because he acted out of faith, his thirst was quenched immediately and abundantly thereafter. The same is true when we look to Our Lord for our needs- our hungers and thirsts- be they physical, emotional or spiritual. Jesus goes around giving us opportunities to be blessed, but it takes a little faith to act upon His words. In the wedding at Cana, the people are thirsty, but crucially they obey what Jesus tells them; and thus their water it turned to wine. Another time, a blind man approaches Jesus for healing. He let’s Jesus put mud on his eyes and washes in a pool; and miraculously he begins to see! In both cases, the believers did not drink their water, they primed their pump! In other situations, like in Jesus’ home town, He couldn’t do anything for people because of their unbelief. They sought water instead of priming the pump.
Well how is it for you in your spiritual life, do you grab the glass or prime the pump? I know that I too often come to God desperate looking for a quick shot, rather than offering my cup to Him and letting him prime the pump. I fear the Baptist preacher had me in mind who said, “Too many people are like wheelbarrows, trailers or canoes. They need to be pushed, pulled or paddled.” I too often come to God in desperation-pushed pulled or paddled by my sins-rather than abiding with a daily trust. But I am learning, and God is merciful, perhaps we all need some pulling, pushing and paddling form time to time. My prayer today is that each of us will learn how to walk more in faith and not by sight. I pray that we learn not to drink the water, but to prime the pump, knowing that “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water,” now and always; amen.