In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come to me, and drink.…
I. HIS TRIBUNE. Those whose words have moved mankind have for the most part addressed an audience in some chamber selected for the suitability of its construction or for the sanctity of its associations. Not so with the words of Jesus. His tribune was the plank of Peter's boat, the portico of Jerusalem, any place on which He chanced, to any person whom He met. He not only sought the people, but let the people seek Him; and some of His most striking utterances were addressed to a single auditor. The great orators of Notre Dame called their sermons "conferences." But they are no such thing, for Lacordaire or Hyacinthe had it all to himself, like the least of us. But the Master's sermons were "conferences" in truth. He let the people interrupt Him by their questions, by bringing their sick, by leading their little ones to His arms. And yet, in spite of these defects of His audience-chamber, and difficulties with the audience, the golden silence made the silver speech the brighter.
II. CHRIST'S TEXTS are a marvel of beauty for their appositeness. The well of Sychar suggests a sermon on the water of life; the feeding of the five thousand and a reference to the fall of the manna, a discourse of the bread of life; the water in the priest's pitcher a promise of the outpouring of the Holy Ghost. A corn-field was probably in sight when He said, "Behold, a sower went forth to sow." And a vine may have trellised the window of the upper room, or a vineyard grown on the sunny slopes beneath, when He said," I am the True Vine." Thus would the attention of His auditors be riveted while Jesus spoke; they would leave Him astonished and delighted, and they would never forget words founded on facts before their eyes.
III. CHRIST'S TOPICS were as varied as His texts were timely, and the variety was as striking as the timeliness. Some distinguished preachers have really only one topic, and, begin where they will, you soon find them on their favourite subject. But Jesus of Nazareth had no beaten paths, or rather all paths were alike familiar to His feet. A very short index often suffices for a very large volume, but it would require a catalogue of some length to tabulate all the subjects on which even our four brief Gospels tell us that Jesus had something to say. Natural as the singing of the lark was His speech; but His strain, like the lark's, was never monotonous. The many-stringed harp of human life was in His hands, and He touched every chord, in turn. He has words to speak about Divine love, and words also about human charity. He has something to tell about the holiness of heaven, and something also about the happiness of earth: much about the Jerusalem above, and much about the earthly Zion. But how can we select where every stone is a gem, or to cull where every flower is an exotic? Enough that He touched upon everything in turn, and everything He touched turned to gold.
IV. CHRIST'S MODE OF TREATMENT; we find this as varied as the topics. Sometimes there is the orderly succession of thoughts, built up into a harmonious whole, as in the sermon on the Mount. At other times there is a beautiful carelessness. Just as flowers and forest trees, creepers and mosses, are intermingled in nature, so amid stupendous subjects of appalling grandeur dealt with in the Master's teaching we find minute touches of gentleness and grace, which give the play of light and shade to the whole.
1. "He taught as one having authority." He spake as one who dwelt in very deed in the secret place of the Most High. To the question "How hath this man letters, having never learned?" the answer is "My doctrine is not Mine, but His that sent Me." We do not wonder now that "never man spake like this man."
2. A very human interest belongs to the words of Jesus from the fact that they are full of illustration. Sometimes it is parable all worked out, like a broad lace of gold, sometimes mere metaphor, like a golden thread flashing through a silken mantle, but at all times instance or illustration is ready to relieve the dry details of doctrine or precept. Since His words were so sparkling, no wonder that "the common people beard Him gladly."
3. His words affect every faculty in succession.
(1) He speaks to the intellect, His hand the while digging wells in the surface of the earth, in which you can see the stars by day.
(2) He speaks to the heart, striking off appeal after appeal with a fervour that makes His words, not as the cold steel of the armoury, but the flashing iron of the forge.
(3) He speaks to the conscience a simple word, like a seemingly harmless wire, conveying an electric thrill to the soul.
4. Christ addressed mankind in many and varied capacities, but His versatility made Him equal to every occasion.
(1) lie spoke as a king, and never monarch "spake like this man," whether he is sending his subjects to the field, putting the sword into one hand and the cup of sorrow into the other, or welcoming them home from the war and garlanding their brows with the joy of their lord.
(2) He spoke as a legislator, and never lawgiver spake like this man. Few but lawyers read law books; even the legal parts of the books of Moses are sealed to most men. But the second Moses has given His laws in such language that, while statesmen learn wisdom from their pages, little children linger over their lines. His code was suited to His own age and suitable to every age succeeding.
(3) He spoke as a teacher of morals, and never moralist "spake like this man." When He told men to mark the secrets of their hearts as the seeds of sin He put His hand upon the plague spot which physicians for ages had been seeking in vain. And when He opened His mouth and taught them, saying, "Blessed are the poor in spirit" — the mourners, the meek, the merciful — a new era dawned upon mankind.
(4) He spoke as a teacher of wisdom, and never philosopher "spake like this man." His apostles, though they knew it not, were the esoteric disciples of a school destined to outlive the most celebrated of antiquity. How few now care to read "Aristotle," who wrote elaborate treatises, compared with the number of those who love to linger over the reported utterances of Jesus Christ, who never wrote a line I(5) He spoke as a brother born for adversity, and never friend "spake like this man." Do you yearn for sympathy? "Come unto Me all ye that labour," etc. Do you ask for society? "Lo, I am with you alway." Do you seek for intimacy? "I have not called you servants... but friends." Do you pant for love? "Greater love hath no man than this." And His promises are as full as His heart is large. Is your concern about earthly need? "The very hairs of your head, they are all numbered." About heavenly grace? "I am come that ye might have life." About death? "I am the Resurrection and the Life." About eternity? "Where I am there shall also My servant be."(6) He spoke as a revealer of secrets, and never prophet "spake like this man," for man never before or besides had such tidings to tell. He came, He said, because "God so loved the world." He came to die, giving "His life a ransom for many," shedding His blood "for the remission of sins."Conclusion:
1. Go to Him as a child of sin. A sinner went to Him once, and she came away amazed that He who was incarnate purity should notice her. Would not she say, "Never man spake like this man "? And if you, sinner, go you will say the same.
2. Go to Him as a child of sorrow. Jairus went to Him bereaved, and he came away comforted. Mary of Magdala went in trouble, and .she.came away at peace. Mary of Bethany went weeping, and she came away rejoicing. The woman who had an issue of blood went trembling, and she came away triumphing. You go too, sufferer, and see if He has not reserved a blessing for thee that shall make thee say, "Never man spake like this man."
3. Go to Him as a child of man, and He will teach you about earthly duty; for He has words for parents, words for children, words for masters, words for servants, words for friends, words for enemies; and for all words such as "never man spake."
4. Go to Him as a child of God, and He will teach you about the beginning of the spiritual life, the progress of the spiritual life, and the perfection of the spiritual life, till at length, tired of leaving you to listen at a distance, He shall take you to Himself, and there as He leads you unto living fountains of waters, while you drink in every word you will exclaim, "Never man spake like this man."
(J. B. Figgis, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.