Summary: Many go through life spiritually dehydrated. Rituals, creeds and the like do not fill us. Only Jesus can give us this fulfillment when we learn to worship in Spirit and in Truth.
Recently one of the major denominations met in Columbus to debate, of all things, whether or not Jesus Christ is the one true Savior of the world. Is he the universal Savior or might there be several? What about the other world religions and their claims? Some people wonder if perhaps there are not many paths to God. If you asked the average American today what the difference was between the major world religions, they would probably mumble something about all religions being pretty much the same. People assume that all religions have nearly the same moral teachings and ideals. They might have different names for God, but it is the same God. These religions, many people believe, may travel different roads, but they all lead to God. As long as you believe in something, as long as you believe in God, it really doesn’t matter what form your belief takes. The truth is that these religions are all very different and even contradict each other at crucial points. What this means is that we are left with two options: either none of them are true, or one of them is true and the others are not.
It is a scientific fact that we can only go a short time without water. We may survive for several days without food, but water is needed more. Last week we talked about the Bread of Life, Jesus said whoever ate the Bread he was offering would never go hungry again. Now we look at this Living Water he offers and he states, as only Jesus can, he who drinks this water will never go thirsty again.
Thirst is something we experience when the pituitary gland secretes two hormones in the body. One causes a physical reaction in the kidneys and the other causes the more complicated activity of the hypothalamus to send signals to the salivary glands to reduce secretions. I discovered many years ago that just thinking about thirst could make you thirsty -- that is cause the hypothalamus to start talking to the salivary glands. Physical thirst can be excruciating and dangerous. Dehydration will get you into serious difficulty in a hurry. If you have ever been really, truly thirsty then you will be much more able to connect with the meaning of thirst in a spiritual sense.
Thirst is one of the most powerful spiritual symbols in all of scripture. As dehydration draws the whole of our physical being to a longing for water, so a spiritual void will draw our spirits into a search for deeper meaning for our lives. The Psalmist expressed it this way, "As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God." (Psalm 42:1- Or... "I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land." (Psalm 143:6).
This woman was dehydrated spiritually and she did not know, maybe some of us are in that same boat, spiritually thirsty. People love celebrations. Celebrations bring out the best and the worst in us. Many people today go through rituals as a form of worship, what they do not know is they are spiritually dehydrated. Rituals do not quench the thirst. Rituals do not satisfy. This woman was going through a ritual that day, little did she know she would meet the One who would satisfy her longing.