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. ITS OBJECT. There is a primary sense in which Christ taught as never man taught, viz., in that He was Himself its object. Others, even the greatest, convey the truth, but are not that truth. Jesus alone could say, "I am the Truth." The whole of Christianity is in Christ, neither He nor His disciples taught any other. The two terms of the religious problem are God and man. To know them is the whole of religious truth.
1. An apostle said, "Show us the Father." Christ responded, "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." All that we can know of God Christ has taught, or rather shown us. All His perfections and all His works.
2. In the same way all concerning man, his true nature and high destiny, we see in Him who is the perfect man.
3. Not only so, but He reveals the true relations of God and man. He is the Mediator between the two. On the one hand, by the fact of His mediation He manifests man's fall and his inability to save himself, and on the other, the love of the Father who gave His Son that whosoever believeth in Him, etc.
4. All that we can know of the work of salvation is bound up in the person of Christ. He is "made unto us wisdom and righteousness," etc.
5. Christian morality, through sanctification, is entirely referred to Him.
6. As to the future, all depends on Christ, who will raise the dead, judge the world, and bring His own to glory. Are we not justified in saying with Paul, "God forbid that I should glory," etc. Let us beware of withering this living teaching by our abstractions! Every doctrine, if separated from Christ, is smitten with barrenness.
II. The incomparable excellence of Christ's teaching results also from its PERFECT FORM. The perfection of human words is measured by the fidelity with which they manifest the human soul. A man may be very eloquent and yet his words be a brilliant lie, because not in harmony with his moral state. Perfectly sincere words are perfect words, and they are only so when it can be said: As are the words so is the life. If this be the case our text is justified, for never was man sincere like Christ. He lived His words and spoke His life. His life was the perfect life of love, and His words were the perfect language of Divine love.
1. The love of Christ rested on His humility, and never man spake like this Man in respect to humility. Compare His words with the despotic authority or pompous solemnity of the Jewish doctors. Their teaching was like their persons, clothed with long robes and phylacteries, and sitting in Moses' seat. Christ sat not on the benches of a Jewish school, had no official title, spake in the streets or by the sea side, and rendered homage to truth without exercising compulsion. And what could be more simple than His words. They were free from all solemn form. No doctor ever taught more in the style of a layman. He spoke as a friend to friends, without any rhetorical embellishment, and without aiming at effect. The simplicity of Christ's words is what constitutes their perfection, By resting on external authority He would have confessed that His doctrine needed foreign aid; by enveloping it in solemn forms He would have suggested a doubt of its intrinsic value. Christ knew that nothing is so beautiful or powerful as truth, and He wished that it should appear alone in His teaching.
2. Christ's love was especially characterized by mercy, which is love to the unfortunate and the poor, and the merciful character of Christ's teaching is evinced by its popularity. It was admirably suited to the wants of the simple and ignorant many. For Christ never admitted that distinction between the profane and the initiated which is always found in the religions and philosophy of antiquity, but rather gave special attention to the former. Not that He rejected the enlightened; but He knew that a doctrine which suits the poor is a truth for poor and rich, ignorant and learned alike. He could speak, then, to the people without fear of restricting His mission; and who has ever spoken to them like the Saviour? In bringing the truth to the feeblest reason Christ took nothing from the truth, nor subjected it to any alteration. It is very easy to gain the goodwill of men if we flatter their errors and their prejudices, but Christ never employed that accommodation which is treason against the cause of God. If then He rejected this we can only explain the popularity of His teaching by the form He gave to it. He ever found means to connect the truth with some feeling, idea, or fact in harmony with itself. And so He made constant appeals to conscience, conviction of sin, need of deliverance, sorrow and suffering. Nor was He content to rest on general dispositions, He knew what was wanted by each, and He addressed to each the precise teaching that was made for him. Recall the numerous persons who conversed with the Saviour. You will not find a word that is not the most affecting that could have been pronounced. Is He talking to fishermen? He says, "I will make you fishers of men." Is He addressing a doctor of the law? He makes constant allusion to his dignity. Is He speaking to a great multitude that He has just satisfied with food? He discourses of the bread of life. It was with the same design that Christ multiplied His admirable parables. None of His hearers, after listening to Him, could look on the external world without reading His doctrines there afresh, something to raise the thoughts to God. Never man spake like this man because never man loved our poor humanity like Christ.
3. The teaching of Christ was full of love also in that it was essentially creative and fertilizing to the mind of His hearers. A teacher not impelled by love does not tolerate spontaneity of thought in his disciples; but Jesus' method was to give men a glimpse of the precious mine of truth that they might dig and search for themselves. He did not hurry anything, wishing to prepare the new bottles for the new wine, and pour it into them drop by drop. With what gentleness did He endure their slowness of understanding and weakness of faith.
4. The words of Christ were the expression of perfect love, because never was there addressed to man language so consoling as His.
(E. De Pressense, D. D.)
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.