It was an amazing summer day in the Cascade Mountains, a day for exploring with friends. We were hiking the Glacier Basin trail not far from the old ghost town of Monte Cristo in Washington State.
From the trail I noticed a stream that seemed to discharge right out of the side of the rocky mountain face. I had read that an old mine shaft was located where the water flowed from the side of the mountain. The tailings dumped long ago from a mine were evident, so we decided to climb up and explore. After a steep climb in the hot sun we finally reached a cliff face. We easily found a way to scale the rock face which led to a flat ledge that had been blasted from the mountain side. Reaching the ledge, we found the opening to the Justice Mine.
Out of the mineshaft a stream of clear cool water was flowing down the side of the mountain.
Our own fresh water supply had run dry after climbing 800 feet of steep tailings in the hot sun. We were thirsty and needed to quench our thirst and fill our bottles. We did what seemed safe; we filled our bottles with the clear cool water that flowed from the mine. The water tasted good, and the water was cool, so we drank freely and we filled our empty bottles to the brim.
Everyone needs clean, pure, life-giving water. Not the kind of water that quenches thirst for a short time. We need the kind of water that imparts life to souls that have been dried up and turned to dust by sin. We need water that gives birth to everlasting life. Jesus alone offers this kind of water. To the woman at the well he said, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst” (John 4:13-14a).
A couple of years after I drank the clear cool water from the Justice Mine I found out that it is heavily poisoned. Along with the negligible amount of gold and silver that came out of the mines in the Monte Cristo area there was another profitable commodity—arsenic. That clear, cool water flowing from the mine was laced with arsenic. We didn’t drink enough that day to get physically ill, but if we had continued to drink from that source it would have eventually led to death.
Like the mines in Monte Cristo, there are sources of water in this world that appear clean, but they are laced with poison. We live in a culture in which many believe a person can find living water in any and every spiritual teaching. But Jesus is very specific about where living water, water that gives eternal life, comes from. The living water that gives eternal life is found in Christ alone. Jesus alone freely and continually pours this life-giving water into our parched souls through the work of his Holy Spirit and the ministry of his Word and Sacraments. Any source that claims to offer spiritual life apart from Christ and apart from his Word is poison.
People are thirsting for this living water. We know this because our culture is increasingly interested in spirituality. However, the sources from which people drink these days are much like the arsenic-tainted waters that I drank from in the Cascade Mountains. When I drank from the water that flowed from the mountain it tasted good. It was cool. It even quenched my thirst. But that doesn’t change the fact that it was laced with poison.
Every false spirituality that is popular today has some sort of appeal to thirsty souls. Many who drink feel satisfied, so they continue to drink, and they invite others to share in the poisoned water. But in the end it leads to death. Soon the soul grows sick and, unless the one who has been drinking hears the Good News of Christ and repents, he will drink unto eternal death.
By faith we have seen the source of living water. By faith we have tasted the water that brings eternal life, and by faith we have been called to tell others of this gift.
Who are these people that need to know the Good News of Jesus Christ? They are your neighbors, they are your co-workers, they are your friends and they are your family. Pray for them! Share the Gospel with them! Jesus alone is the source of living water—the living water that gives birth to living faith. Rejoice, and share this water with others, so that they too might freely drink unto eternal life.
Rev. Adam Jensen is a 2009 graduate of Lutheran Brethren Seminary. He currently serves as pastor of Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church in West Falls, New York.