Spiritual Thirst

Pentecost Sunday

John 7:37

“But on the last day of the feast which was the most glorious one Jesus appeared and cried and said: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.””


This is a sermon which the saddened hearts and the common people, especially the pious, liked very much. For they highly praised Christ as a prophet and as the Messiah. But it does not appear to be a precious sermon, as the people boast. This is why Christ put the words so as to strike the heart and please those who needed them. And here there are comforting, friendly, and lovely words that refresh, comfort, and strengthen those who are stuck in thirst. He put it so that when his Word is not preached among those who thirst, it will be despised more than accepted. And we see this now in our days, just as it went among the Jews. The Jews were full and intoxicated with empty holiness and did not want Christ’s drink. This is how it is now with the common man and the sectarian spirits: Everything is full and mad so that they vomit on themselves due to their great holiness; they are not thirsty. But Christ says that his teaching is for those who are thirsty. Those who experience thirst have here a comforting preacher, Christ himself, who shows them where they are to find the drink that quenches their thirst, namely, with him, the Lord Christ. That drink is to be found with him. But, one must ask, what is, first of all, the thirst? After answering this question, one will also know and understand what the drinking is whereby one quenches the thirst. The thirst is not a physical thirst quenched by beer and wine. It is, rather, the soul’s thirst and a spiritual thirst which is called a heartfelt desire. In fact, it is a saddened, miserable, frightened, struck conscience, a desperate, frightened heart that would like to know what its relationship with God is. These are the timid, anxious consciences that feel sin and know their weakness in the Spirit in soul and flesh. They consider God’s threat, fear our Lord God, look at his law, wrath, judgment, death, and other punishments. This fear is the true thirst. For is naturally happens that those who are in fears, afflictions, and hardships have great thirst due to their fear. For in fear, one’s tongue becomes dry and parched. One gets hot, and fear consumes one’s bodily fluids, which causes thirst. It is much more the case here that the soul becomes thirsty and weak when the spiritual fear is there, and sin and God’s wrath come into view. This is why Christ’s sermon was a fine, lovely, and excellent one for those who were under the law, hearing Moses, the Pharisees, Sadducees, and other seducers who plagued and burdened the people with the law and left the people without comfort. They were unable to preach the comfort concerning the forgiveness of sins and had no command concerning this sermon. In Matthew 9:3, they grumble that he forgave the sin of the man with dropsy, saying, “Who is this who forgives sin?” The same happens in Luke 7:47 when the Lord Christ absolves Mary Magdalen. They did not derive this much comfort, fluid, and strength from their sermons concerning good works. And even today, … the monks, nuns, and the pope teach: If you read psalms after going to confession, then there is forgiveness of sins. Or if you go on a pilgrimage to St. James, become a monk, celebrate mass and vigils, then there is forgiveness of sins. They want to fetch the forgiveness of sins themselves, telling us: “Do this; do that, then you merit the forgiveness of sins.” They do not deny that God is gracious and merciful and forgives sin, but say that a person has to contribute something. This is the devil and a Jewish teaching. … It does not quench the thirst. Instead, they should have said: “Believe in Christ, ask God, then he will forgive your sins.” They should have directed the people from themselves to God; otherwise, no one becomes certain of the forgiveness of sins.


St. Louis ed., 8:77-79.

This entry was posted in Daily Devotions From the Writings of Martin Luther. Bookmark the permalink.