Luke 7:11-17—Soon afterward Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowed went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.
When I read the Bible, I look for patterns of imagery and language that help point to the heart of what is being revealed. Paul tells us that the language of God is the language of the Holy Spirit and it must be read with that in mind in order to understand what the Bible is saying about God and about us.
The language of the Holy Spirit transcends time and place, for it speaks to the deepest longings of the human heart: “What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.” (1Corinthians 2:12-13)
The language of Scripture has beauty and truth embedded within its very core, and it is through the power of this language that we absorb the truth of the reality of God’s presence in the world and in our lives. The Bible opens with God saying, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3). Before there was light, the universe was void and without life and form.
And here is how John describes the second creation story, the birth of God’s one and only Son: “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it” (John 1:4–5).
And here is Jesus during His three-year ministry: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). John echoes this in his first letter: “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).
It is the light of God that flows out of the darkness and into and through the window of our mind and heart. When we open our minds to what this light really is, we see with a new heart and transformed mind a world flooded with the beauty, truth and mystery of God’s everlasting presence.
“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom
and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord”
Or who has been his counselor?
“Who has ever given to God,
That God should repay them?”
For from him and through him and for him
are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.
Let’s talk about two kinds of thirst.
The first is physical. If we are deprived of liquid for a period of time, our body will send out faint signals that it needs replenishment. If nothing happens, the signals will become more urgent until our entire being becomes frantic for something to sustain it. And it will not let up until the thirst is satisfied.
About twenty years ago, while hiking with a group of teenagers in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness in Montana and Idaho, we turned off the main path onto a trail that seemed to provide a shortcut to our destination for that night.
The new trail was easy at first, nothing special. We began to climb and as we moved higher the land grew dryer. Trees and vegetation gave way to dust and unrelenting heat; even the trail seemed to merge into the surrounding land before vanishing altogether into the shimmering furnace-like air.
What had seemed like a plentiful supply of water at the trail intersection now became inadequate. We tried to preserve what we had left, but the climbing in the heat and dust demanded we drink, causing our water supply to deplete rapidly.
Finally we gained a wide ridge and proceeded to follow its contour toward what looked like a body of water on our map. But the ridge kept unfolding and obtaining water remained only a hope that began taking on the characteristics of urgent need and finally near panic. At one point, it felt like we were crawling. We looked out over the unrelenting landscape of forests and mountains but saw nothing resembling bodies of water or even life except for the hawks and buzzards floating patiently above.
Since I am telling this story, it is clear that we survived. We found a small pond of still water and drank. We recovered quickly and then descended a rockslide to find a place to tent for the night. We had experienced physical deprivation; we thirsted and we yearned to quench that thirst obsessively until water was found and consumed.
The second thirst can be found in our need for something that transcends the appetites of this life to a higher need that may counterfeit earthly desires, but can only be truly satisfied through inviting the Holy Spirit of God into our hearts. Here are a few confirming biblical verses:
“O God, you are my God. Urgently I seek you. My soul thirsts for you in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1)
“My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:2)
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”(Matthew 5:6)
After forty days of fasting in the wilderness, Satan tempted Jesus with sustenance to feed his physical hunger and thirst. But listen to what Jesus says to the Tempter: “It is written, ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”(Deuteronomy 8:3)
The Devil wanted to reveal that man is no more than a bundle of physical appetites. Jesus shows that men and women have the potential to become so much more than just creatures of the earth. We are made in the image of God, which means that while we may often live in an alienated state from God, Jesus promises, “whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of living water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)