Never! This encomium was absolutely true!
Officers had been sent by the chief priests in Jerusalem to take this wonderful Speaker, and bring Him to them from the Temple, where He had been boldly stating His mission, whence He came, and who He was; but the statement was so pronounced, so definite, so unequivocal, that, envious as they were of His fame, and fearful of His rivalry, they could devise no other plan of silencing Him than by force. Hence the charge given to the officers.
They went, intending, doubtless, to obey the orders of their masters, but before attempting to apprehend Him, they listened to His words and became deeply interested. They heard Him say to the unbelieving crowd: “Ye shall seek me and shall not find me, and where I go ye cannot come.” These words, no doubt, struck them: they announced a Personality and opened out a wisdom and a superiority to circumstances, which at once placed Him, in their minds, above the level of ordinary speakers. Here was one who knew clearly what He was about, who spoke with calm authority and proclaimed an independence unknown to others. He thus asserted a right to speak and to command the hearing of all. Had such Another speaker ever been heard in the Temple? Never.
What man was this? Needless to ask, for He had just made a sufferer of thirty and eight long years, perfectly whole; and who could do that but God? That lowly Man who thus spoke in the Temple under the frown and threat of Jerusalem’s rulers was in fact their promised Messiah—Son of Man and Son of God. His mighty works proved His Person.
No wonder that the officers were fascinated! Instead of finding a noisy declaimer of Roman or other government they were brought face to face with a speaker so calm, so dignified, so uncompromising and yet so bold, that they were more than overawed. They felt themselves powerless to carry out their orders. The superiority of that presence, the majesty of that Person forced them into admiration of Him. Further, they heard Him say: “If any man thirst let him come unto Me and drink . . . out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”
“If any man thirst”—and who, in this weary world, does not thirst? A universal thirst is proved by a universal discontent. That word is written big in the bosom of every individual, of every class and nation on the face of the earth—a thirst that nothing can slake but this wonderful “living water” given by the Son of God. There is to be found, as many have proved, an abiding satisfaction that leads them to eschew the overtures of a world that can never satisfy.
“If any man thirst let him come unto Me and drink.” That is all; but the result is glorious, for he shall not only be personally satisfied, but rivers of living water shall flow from him for the refreshment of this weary, barren, hopeless world. What a miracle, but how true, as the blessing of these two thousand years has proved!
“Come unto Me and drink”—that is all. But the secret is in that “Me.”
No religious festival can slake this thirst—the thirst returns, as we can testify.
No service, no ordinance, no priesthood, no imposition of hands, no human benediction, no power of man nor angel can give the “living water” which satisfies for ever. They who drink thereof are “born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” They come, as thus born, to the Son of God. They drink, they are satisfied, they become channels of wide and generous blessing to all around. Again, what a miracle!
And whoever had, before, heard such words?
It was the voice of Him who, on another day, said to His captors: “I am He”—words so uttered that they who heard them went backward and fell to the ground; but not so here. His voice which by and by “shall shake not the earth only but also heaven,” but on this occasion His accents were those of grace and mercy and compassion for the thirsting souls of men.
The officers returned alone to their masters, who at once said to them: “Why have ye not brought Him?”
They could assign no reason. He made no resistance, nor did His followers, and yet bring Him they could not. All they could say was in these truest of all confessions: “Never man spake like this man.”
They thus admitted that they had been overcome by His words themselves. They were “spirit and life”; and their inherent and resistless power restrained them from carrying out their mission. His hour had not yet come.
“Are ye also deceived?” replied the Pharisees; “have any of the rulers believed in Him?” Impossible that any but the ignorant could do that.
Not a single ruler? Yes, one, and Nicodemus speaks out, who, in the shades of night, had heard the words of the lowly speaker, had been spellbound by them, and had been drawn from his darkness into a knowledge of the love of God in the gift of His Son, of the substitutionary work of the Son when lifted up on the cross, and of eternal life through faith in Him.
To Nicodemus, as to the officers, “never man spake like this man “no, nor acted, nor moved, nor suffered, nor sympathized, nor loved, nor died, nor was raised by the glory of the Father to be Saviour, Lord and Head like this Man, and to receive in heaven eternal adoration from myriads of worshippers, who are indebted to Him for the work He did, and the words He spoke.