“He said loudly,
“Whoever is thirsty must come to me to drink.
As Scripture says,
‘Streams of living water will flow
from deep within the person who believes in me.’ “
It was the last day of a huge festival in Israel, in the Fall of the year, when families moved into “tents” to remember the forty years in the desert after fleeing Egypt. Living in a desert was nearly impossible. It was a powerful piece of their story… so significant that to this day, the week-long festival continues to be celebrated in Israel.
In the desert, finding “living water” is extremely rare. Living water must come from a spring under the ground. It comes up from below the desert floor. Living water is fresh, clean water. It gives life.
The bedouin (shepherd) heritage of my desert family knows well the preciousness and necessity of living water. Shepherds are the ones who know where the springs are, knowledge passed down from generations of shepherds moving their flocks and herds through the desert. It is a matter of life or death for the shepherd to know where the living water springs are, hidden under burning sand which bakes in the blazing sun every day. The lives of their flocks depend on drinking that water.
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, had been in Jerusalem for the week-long celebration of remembering God’s salvation of His people through 40 years of refugee desert survival. He had spent those days surrounded by “sheep” who did not have a Shepherd. They were in the process of dying of thirst; not a physical death, but a spiritual death. Like sheep that have no shepherd, death will result. They will find no fresh, living water on their own.
On the seventh day of the festival, surrounded by throngs of “sheep without a Shepherd”….Jesus could remain quiet no longer. Love, compassion, crystal- clear knowledge of the life-threatening thirst from which the multitude of “sheep” were suffering seemed to have burst from His Heart. They were dying from thirst. He was the Source of the living water for which they were desperately searching. The Stream would not be hidden under the sands….the Living Water could miraculously spring from within their own hearts and spirits. They would neverhave to be thirsty again. As a good shepherd sacrifices his own life for the sheep, Jesus was nearing the time when, in that very city, He would give His life for them.
It was time. He could bear seeing their dying thirst no longer. “COME to ME! LIVE!”