John 4:13-14 (NIV): Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
There is a similarity between the physical and the spiritual so that one can use physical stuff to help people to understand the spiritual realities that underlie all physical reality. That is the basis for every sacrament. Bread serves as a symbol for the spiritual life and nourishment made available by the giving of Jesus’ physical body. Wine serves as a symbol of the sin-paying blood of His sacrifice on the cross. Immersion in the water of baptism represents death to the old life and a positive resurrection into the new, while the water itself represents the spiritual reality of washing and cleansing from sins.
The problem often is that, since the physical realities are so much more visible to people than the spiritual realities, people quickly focus on the physical. That was the Samaritan woman’s problem initially. She was thirsty, so when Jesus promised her living water that would keep her from ever growing thirsty again, she quickly fixated on the physical.
But the spiritual reality that Jesus was promising was the Holy Spirit living continually in God’s people, not only guiding them, but providing a constant connection between a person and God’s presence and power. Much as the sap of a grape vine provides a vital connection between the nourishment around the roots and the fruit at the end of the branches, so the Holy Spirit communicates God’s very presence to the inmost soul of His people, resulting in abundant fruit.
But even today, too many have grown satisfied with the symbols, while missing out on the reality that lies behind them and gives them significance. They attend worship services, sing the songs, and hear the sermons, without every actually encountering God. They eat the bread and drink the juice of communion without ever experiencing the depth of Jesus’ sacrifice on their behalf – for them as an individual. They do their devotions without every hearing God’s voice. They are baptized, but never really die to their old life, and so can never experience the new life He has purchased for them.
We must become aware of the great spiritual realities that lie unseen, unrealized, even by the majority of Christians. If we will, whole new worlds of wonder will open up to our eyes!
Father, I thank You for the symbols that You have given us. And I thank You even more for the spiritual realities that lie behind them, infusing them with Your life, Your power. Help me to never be satisfied with walking in the symbols, but to always hunger and thirst for the reality. Amen.