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Always Enough of Everything

The point is this:the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9.6-8.

On British television, the BBC regularly shows repeats of Dad’s Army – a sitcom first broadcast from 1968 to 1977 about the Home Guard (local defence volunteers) during the Second World War. An episode that I watched last night had a scene in which we saw Corporal Jones going about his daily business as the local butcher in Walmington-on-Sea. There was a long queue of women in his shop and the woman at the front handed over her ration books.

jones‘Oh dear, Mrs Peters,’ says Jones, ‘You haven’t got much there. Only a shilling on each.’

‘Is that all I’ve got?’ she asks.

‘I’m afraid so,’ says Jones. ‘I can let you have three little lamb chops and a bit of corned beef.’

Mrs Fox, the lady next in the queue, fares a little better, but none of them get all that they need, for those were days of great hardship and austerity. Food was in short supply and by 1942 almost everything apart from vegetables and bread was being rationed.

Back then, in the UK, you lived out of the insufficiency of your ration book.

Well that little episode must still have been in my mind this morning, I suppose, when I read the passage set out above from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians; for its last sentence really made me sit up with a jolt. What was it that Paul was saying? God is able to provide me with every blessing in abundance? He can see to it that I always have enough of everything? Really? Well if that is so, why do I so often live out of what I see as the insufficiency of my ration book?

I began to think of the kind of things I say that betray my ‘poverty’ mentality:

I’m running out of sympathy.
My patience is exhausted.
It’s way beyond my means.
My compassion’s wearing a bit thin.
I simply don’t have the time.
I’ve nothing left to give.

The trouble is that in church on Sunday I pay lip service to a very different way of going on. I happily sing Don Moen’s lovely song (based on Joel 3.10 KJV) ‘Give thanks with a grateful heart’ and bellow out along with the rest:

And now let the weak say “I am strong.”
Let the poor say “I am rich
because of what the Lord has done for us.”

But the reality is that I live as if I am weak and poor and incapable of meeting most of the needs I would encounter if I truly engaged with those around me. If what Paul says is true, however, then I can afford to be generous with time, with money, with grace, mercy, compassion, patience … everything.

There really is no ration book. I’m not going to run out of anything.

For the fact is that I am no longer living in the pig sty of the far country where I have nothing. I am now in the Father’s house. I have the best robe on me. I have a ring on my finger and shoes on my feet. And my Father is rich beyond all imagining. Psalm 50.10 says he owns the cattle on a thousand hills (so forget about meat rationing, Mr Jones.) And the promise is that he will ‘fully satisfy every need’ of mine according to those riches – ‘his riches in glory in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4.9).

It has ever been so for those who belong to God and recognise his ownership. ‘The Lord is my shepherd: I shall not want,’ said David. Or as the hymn puts it:

The King of Love my shepherd is;
his goodness faileth never.
I nothing lack if I am his
and he is mine for ever.

That is the truth. The truth I need to be living in and living out of today. The truth that I will ‘always have enough of everything.’ Wow!

And this, of course, finally makes sense of a verse that has often puzzled me: Luke 8.18 ‘For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who do not have, even what they seem to have will be taken away.’ In other words; when I recognise the abundance that is mine in Christ and begin to live out of that abundance, the well will never run dry. The five loaves and two fishes will continue to multiply. But if I choose to deny the abundance I have and resolve to live as one who has nothing to spare and nothing to give, the abundance itself that truly was mine will, sadly, be lost to me.

Night Vision

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter). The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” John 1.35-51.

I find it quite astonishing how sometimes the Spirit will throw things together (Greek: paraballō!) so that we are suddenly able to grasp some truth that has remained hidden from us before. This has happened for me just now – during last 24 hours – and I’d like to share the experience in this post.

First, yesterday morning, I just ‘came across’ a few lines in a poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning that so captivated me that I decided to commit them to memory. They are from ‘Aurora Leigh’ and they are these:

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
but only he who sees, takes off his shoes …

Second, early yesterday evening, there ‘happened to be’ a natural history feature on the BBC One Show where the nocturnal activities of stag beetles were being monitored using an infra red camera that made the invisible visible.

Third, last night, I ‘chanced upon’ a podcast of a short homily by the Franciscan priest Richard Rohr in which he made this startling comment: ‘Spiritual seeing is always a participation in the eyes of God.‘ In other words, we only see truly – see things as they really are – when we see through God’s eyes and not our own.

Then, fourthly, I read this passage from John this morning and found certain words leaping out at me. Here it is again with those words bolded:

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter). The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

What a lot of looking and seeing is going on in this passage – by John, by the disciples and by Jesus himself.

Jesus always sees with the eyes of God and it is with those eyes that he ‘sees’ Andrew and another disciple (John) begin to follow him. That is what makes him turn to see with his physical eyes what he has already seen with the eyes of God. But seeing them with his human eyes, he then sees into their hearts with the eyes of God and observes the spiritual search that is going on there. That is why he asks them what they are looking for – what they are trying to see but are unable to see. They don’t know how to answer his question, so they say the first thing that pops into their heads: ‘Where are you staying?’ And, at that, Jesus appears to answer their question, but in reality says something far more profound. ‘Come and see,’ he says. But it is not ‘come and see where I am staying;’ it is ‘come and really see.’ ‘Come and see with my eyes. Come and see the world and everything in it in a completely different way. Come and see the hidden reality. Come and see with the eyes of God.’

All true seeing takes place as a result of coming to Jesus. All true seeing is through his eyes, and his eyes only – the eyes of God.

On a superficial level, Andrew and John came and saw where Jesus was staying; but immediately, in starting to follow Jesus, they began to see so much more. Andrew tells his brother: ‘We have found the Messiah.’ What insight! In coming to Jesus, Andrew had begun to see with the eyes of God.

It is a similar story with Nathanael. Jesus sees him on two levels – with the eyes of man and with the eyes of God – and then Nathanael, in coming to Jesus and beginning to follow him, begins to see with the eyes of God too. ‘You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ he exclaims. Again, what insight!

And, at that, Jesus promises Nathanael something wonderful – something that I believe he promises to you and me too … That we will see greater things than these. That we will see heaven opened.

jacobsladderWhat does Jesus mean by that? Well, the story to which he refers is that of Jacob in Genesis 28. Jacob is on the run from his brother Esau whom he has cheated out of their father’s blessing. Stranded in the middle of nowhere one night, he decides to sleep rough. But he dreams and sees a ladder set up between heaven and earth with angels ascending and descending. And at the top of the ladder is the Lord, who speaks to Jacob and blesses him and promises always to be with him. When he wakes, Jacob looks at the unremarkable barren bit of land on which he has slept and at the stone that he has used as a pillow and he says: ‘Surely the Lord is in this place and I didn’t know it’ (v 16).

Suddenly Jacob is aware, with Elizabeth Barrett Browning, that earth is crammed with heaven and every common bush is afire with God. Suddenly Jacob, like the naturalist on the One Show, has (literally) got night vision and things that were invisible are visible. Suddenly Jacob is seeing with the eyes of God.

‘And so will you,’ says Jesus to Nathanael. ‘And so will you,’ he says to me. ‘It is simply a matter of coming to me, following me, and being prepared to look out at the world and everything in it through my eyes. Then, it will be for you as for the man who once said. “I was blind, but now I see” (John 9.25). You too will really see. You will have night vision.’

The Night Will End

Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30.5b.

Because of the medication I take, I often suffer from an extremely dry mouth at night which causes my tongue to stick to the roof of my mouth and makes breathing so difficult that it wakes me from my sleep. One night on holiday it was so bad that I was awake fourteen times, attempting to ‘unglue’ my tongue. Each time I looked at the clock, hoping that it was almost morning; but for the greater part of the night it was not and there was still a lot of discomfort to be endured.

Once morning had arrived and I was out on the patio with a mug of tea in my hand, listening to the birdsong, and watching as dawn broke over the mountains, I got to thinking of all those poor souls for whom nights are endless because of things far worse than my dry mouth; and with the above verse from Psalm 30 in my mind I suppose, I found myself writing this poem …

IMG_2335The night will end.
However deep the pain,
However much the praying
seems in vain,
The night will end.

The night will end.
However memory dims,
However strong the ache
in heart and limbs,
The night will end.

The night will end.
However sore the eyes,
However anguished are the unheard cries,
The night will end.

The night will end,
Somewhere a bird will trill
And joy-filled dawn will break beyond the hill,
And night will end.

I hope it might help someone for whom the nights are always far too dark and far too long.

By Their Fruits

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. John 15.1-6.

You may have noticed that I haven’t posted on this blog for a while, and that is because I have been on holiday in Crete and working on a new book. However, while on holiday and sitting in the little shady corner where I did my writing each day, something caught my eye from the very start, and I feel the need to write about it this morning.

IMG_3364I’d like to begin by asking you to look closely at this photograph I took of my writing corner and see if you can see what it was that I saw. Start in the bottom left-hand corner and work up towards the top-right.

Bunches of grapes? Yes – there are several of them, hanging there, half-hidden among the foliage that has draped itself over the patio wall.

Now I don’t know about you, but whenever I see a bunch of grapes my mind immediately jumps to the passage from John 15 that I have set out above; but when I saw these grapes on holiday I suddenly began to see that passage in a new light.

Until then, you see, I had started (as does John 15) with Jesus. ‘Do I know him as the True Vine?’ I would ask myself. The answer would be, ‘Yes;’ so, OK, I would then move on to me, a branch, and ask myself ‘Am I abiding in Jesus?’ Again I would answer,’Yes;’ and at that point I would conclude, ‘OK, so I have no need to worry about the fruit – the promise is right there in John 15 that there’ll be “much” of it – whether I can see it or not. I mean, I’m aware that I’m not always loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, generous, faithful or self-controlled; but I try to keep those deficiencies well-hidden and others presumably don’t notice them.’

Hmm!

Seeing the grapes on holiday turned my approach on it’s head. I started with the grapes. Yes, they were real – I picked one and tasted it. Full of pips (which I’m not used to in supermarket grapes) but quite sweet. Not perfect (I’ll come back to that) but real or ‘true’ grapes. So there must be a branch. I pulled the foliage aside until I found it; and there it was, coming over the wall from the adjoining property. But where was the vine? I still don’t know. Presumably, it was somewhere on the property to which I had no access, or even the property beyond that – I just don’t know. But what I do know is that, even though I couldn’t see it, the true vine was there somewhere because there were true grapes on the branch that had crept into the little courtyard where I was doing my writing.

And it began to dawn on me, looking at those grapes each day, that they are the proof of the branch ‘abiding’ in the vine. And they point to the reality of the vine itself. Do I want others to know that Jesus is real? Then I need to be bearing much fruit. Am I bearing much fruit? No? Then I need to get real – I’m kidding myself about my abiding in the vine.

IMG_3450I said earlier that the grapes were not perfect – you can see that for yourself from the second image. But they are recognisably grapes. They are not cherries or apples or bananas or figs. Jesus said: ‘You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?’ (Matthew 7.16).

Only when I am a branch abiding in the True Vine will I bear the true fruit – the fruit of the Spirit – and bear it in abundance; and Paul tells me what that fruit is: Jesus-like ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.’ (Galatians 5.22-23).

Moreover, he tells me it is a single fruit, not nine fruits – it is a bunch of nine grapes, if you like. And this morning, every morning, I need to be asking myself: Are there such bunches hanging in abundance all over my life?

If not, then I really do need to question and to re-assess the nature of my abiding in Christ.

Hidden in Plain Sight

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? John 14.8-9 NRSV

Poor Philip! He and the other disciples have arrived at the very last evening before Jesus goes to the Cross and it still hasn’t dawned on them that everything they have seen in Jesus over the past three years, everything they have heard him say and watched him do – has been a revelation of the Almighty and Everlasting God. More than that; nothing they have seen and heard has NOT been a revelation of God. In other words, you could not say of one aspect of Jesus: ‘Of course, God is not quite like that’ while saying of another aspect: ‘But God is just like that.’ Everything reveals the Father; nothing does not reveal the Father. ‘God is Christlike and in Him is no un-Christlikeness at all’ (A M Ramsey).

‘If, instead of having me with you, the Father had been with you for the last three years,’ Jesus is telling Philip; ‘you would not have noticed the slightest difference because there is no difference. None whatsoever. I and the Father are one.’

Yes, yes, I know … this is a persistent theme of mine (see Spitting Image); but I have to keep repeating it because so many Christians refuse to grasp it. Just the other day, a prominent US evangelical, Ray Ortlund, tweeted a quote from Don Carson: ‘The Bible speaks of the wrath of God more than 600 times;’ and commented ‘No way round that – except the cross.’ What was he trying to say? That God the Father is an angry God and needed to satisfy his anger by directing it at someone else if not us – namely, Jesus? It is hard to see what other interpretation one can put on that tweet. And that being so, can Ortlund not see that, if his is a true understanding of the wrath of God, those who see Jesus have NOT seen the Father. Ortlund’s Father is angry and violent and needs to punish; whereas the Son is loving and non-violent and is free to forgive. Ortlund’s Father and Son have different natures, different personalities … and that is, well, heresy.

The truth is, I believe, that Ray Ortlund’s misunderstands the concept of wrath (see The Wrath of God) and because of that he misunderstands what happened at the cross. As the great William Temple once wrote:

All real thought about the Atonement, about the meaning of the Cross of Christ, must of course start from the love of God. There have been some crude kinds of statement suggesting that it starts with His anger, which needs to be appeased. You must never start from there … It does not begin with his anger; it begins with His love, the love that must desire always to restore the old relationship we have broken, or lead us into the true relationship of children to their Father upon which we have never entered … Once there is love, forgiveness does not mean remission of penalty. Penalty does not come in. Forgiveness means restoration to intimacy … The cancellation of the alienation and the bringing us into true fellowship and communion … At the heart of the Gospel is the promise of free forgiveness on condition of repentance, of which the exquisite expression is the parable of the Prodigal Son. (Christian Life and Faith).

So much of our distorted, wrong thinking about God would disappear if we would only grasp what Philip and the others finally grasped on the evening of the Last Supper: that anyone who has seen Jesus has seen the Father; that he and his Father are one.

Let’s embrace this glorious truth: for thirty or so years, the Father walked this earth – hidden in plain sight. He was here, hidden in Jesus.

Jesus the Judge

Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God. John 3.17-21.

A great many Christians (it seems to me) tie themselves in knots over God’s judgment, and indeed allow it unnecessarily to cause them great concern and anxiety. Why is this? Perhaps because they confuse the two different types of judgment that Scripture talks about. Or perhaps because they are not hearing what Jesus is saying when he explains how judgment works.

First, in Scripture, there is the judgment referred to throughout the Old Testament which is eagerly anticipated and deeply longed for, particularly in the Psalms and in the Prophets. But, crucially, this is not the judgment meted out in a criminal court judgment but the judgment dispensed by a civil court. It is the judgment that involves wrongs being put to right. It is a judgment when those who have no voice are finally heard and when the abused and downtrodden and exploited and cheated do at last get the justice they have longed for. It is the kind of judgment described in Luke 18.2-5 where a widow seeks redress for some injustice that has been perpetrated against her. It is a judgment that brings joy: “Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord; for he is coming, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with his truth” (Psalm 96.12-13).

But, second, there is the judgment of who should enter God’s Kingdom, who should dwell in the New Heaven and the New Earth. This is the judgment that Jesus talks about a great deal in John’s gospel; but at first glance we find that what he says there is both confusing and contradictory. “The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son,” he says in John 5.22; but then in John 8.15-16 he says: “I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is valid.” There is more. “For judgment I came into the world,” he says in John 9.39; but then, in John 12.47, he insists: “I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.” What are we to make of all this?

The answer lies in this morning’s passage – Jesus’ first explanation of judgment and the one that is the key to all the rest. Quite simply, Jesus says that to encounter him is to come into judgment. Judgment is the inevitable consequence of any meeting between Jesus and a human being. That is because he is the Light of the World and whenever light shines in the darkness it inevitably attracts or repels whatever is there when the light comes. Some folk, like moths drawn to a flame, are drawn to Jesus; others, like beetles when a stone is lifted, scurry away from him and try to hide. That is judgment. And Jesus makes it clear that if we encounter him now, the judgment happens now. There is no second judgment for those who choose him now: “Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5.24). And it seems clear that for those who don’t encounter Jesus now, the process on the Day of Judgment will be exactly the same as for those who do. It will be an encounter with the Light. It will be a meeting with Jesus. It will be a reaction to looking into the face of Christ.

In The Last Battle, the last of his Narnia books, C S Lewis images Judgment Day on Narnia in just such terms …

And at last, out of the shadow of the trees, racing up the hill for dear life, by thousands and by millions, came all kinds of creatures … And all these ran up to the doorway where Aslan stood … But as they came right up to Aslan one or other of two things happened to each of them. They all looked straight in his face; I don’t think they had any choice about that. And when some looked, the expression of their faces changed terribly – it was fear and hatred … And all the creatures who looked at Aslan in that way swerved to their right, his left, and disappeared into his huge black shadow … I don’t know what became of them. But the others looked in the face of Aslan and loved him, though some of these were very frightened at the same time. And all these came in at the Door at Aslan’s right.

Am I looking into the face of Jesus now and loving him? If so I need not worry my head about the Day of Judgment. It need give me no cause for concern whatsoever.

The Thirsty God

Jesus left Judea and started back to Galilee. But he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?” John 4.3-11 NRSV.

On one level there is nothing surprising about the scenario presented to us here. Jesus and his disciples have travelled at least 20 miles since they left Judea at daybreak and, heading north for Galilee, they have now reached Sychar in Samaria. It is about midday and the disciples have gone off into the nearby village to buy some food, leaving Jesus on his own. He is very hot, very tired and very thirsty. There is water available. He is sitting by a well and he can hear the spring bubbling away in its depths, 75 feet below; but, as the woman who is about to arrive at the well will point out, he cannot get at it because he hasn’t got a bucket or a rope. That can surely only have made his thirst worse. Who wouldn’t be desperate for a drink in those circumstances?

Well … God wouldn’t and neither would God’s Son. Or so we might imagine. I mean, this man who is sitting here thirsty has already, not long before at a wedding in Cana, turned about 50 gallons of water into wine (John 2.6-9). He has the power to turn stones into bread (Matthew 4.3). So why has he not used a little of that power to get some water out of the well and into his cupped hands and from there into his mouth? When Samson was thirsty, he called on the Lord and the Lord opened up a hollow place in the ground and waters came from it (Judges 15.18-19). When the children of Israel were thirsty, God caused water to flow from a rock (Exodus 17.3-6). Now someone far greater than Samson is here – Israel’s own Messiah. Why did he wait until this woman turned up and then ask her for a drink?

Because he knows that he himself is a Well too with the Water of Life bubbling within him (John 4.10) and he thirsts for others to thirst for that living water. He thirsts for this needy, shunned, rejected woman who is even now on her way to the well at an hour when no one else will be around, to thirst for that living water. But to arouse and then satisfy her spiritual thirst he must keep his own physical thirst unsatisfied so that she will be enabled to engage with him by giving him a drink.

John, who loves to create echoes and reflections throughout his gospel, places this story close to the start so that we will remember it close to the end when, again at about noon, again alone and exhausted, Jesus says “I thirst” (John 19.28) … but says it from the cross on which he will die and where, by dying, he will free the Spirit to be given in all his fulness to all who are thirsty enough to drink (John 7.39.)

Am I thirsty enough to drink today? Am I willing to come to Jesus as the source of the living water? In The Silver Chair, one of C S Lewis’s Narnia books, Jill (who is very thirsty) finds a stream but to get to the water she must approach the lion (Aslan) who is lying by the stream.

“If you thirst you may drink,” says Aslan.

“I daren’t come and drink,” says Jill.

“Then you will die of thirst,” says the Lion.

“Oh dear!” says Jill.”I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”

“There is no other stream,” said the Lion.”

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