Once upon a time, in a faraway country, there was a dictator who controlled every aspect of life. He loved rationality and hated chance. One of the great problems in the land were springs of water – thousands of them. They would often shoot up out of nowhere damaging property, causing floods, becoming polluted.
He determined on a sensible and rational policy. He would capture the water in a complex system of underground pipes and would pave the country with concrete so thick that no more springs would erupt. He would take people the water they needed, regulating the supply and even adding helpful chemicals to keep it clean and healthy.
Things went well for some time. Sure, some of the old timers would look back on the days when there were fresh, bubbling springs. And some of the problems blamed on the springs never went away. But for the most part, everyone was happy with the way things were.
Generations grew up with this system until one day, without warning, it happened. The hidden springs, just under the concrete, could be contained no longer. They burst through the pavement with volcanic power. Water was everywhere…property was destroyed…chaos ensued.
The people who ran the system were at a loss. Fresh water was flowing and could no longer be controlled.
Theologian N.T. Wright tells this parable (much better than I) in his book, “Simply Christian.”
In Jesus’ day, the nation was paved. Prophets like Isaiah told the people that just under the surface of concrete religion were wonderful springs meant to be consumed and enjoyed – much better than regulated religious spigots. “You will joyfully draw water from the springs of salvation…;” “The Lord will always lead you, satisfy you in a parched land, and strengthen your bones. You will be like a watered garden and like a spring whose waters never run dry;” “Come, everyone who is thirsty, come to the waters; and you without money, come, buy, and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost!” (Isaiah 12:3, 58:11, 55:1)
But the pavers kept plugging the leaks…the trouble-making prophets were silenced, then John the Baptist…then Jesus on a cross.
On Easter, the waters burst forth. The springs of salvation meant for all, unable to be contained, unable to be regulated, flowed. Powerful, wild, free!
Ours is a concrete kingdom, too. The dictator who has paved it isn’t a person, but a philosophy. Over several centuries we’ve become materialists. Our scientists have figured it all out. We tell ourselves we’re not much more than the primordial ooze from which our ancestors once crawled. We follow our urges. God’s a rumor we’ve heard of. Some still speak of him, but we regard them like we do the Flat-Earth guy who drives around Denton.
Our technology knows no bounds. Our doctors and health care are seemingly limitless. We need nothing…except longer battery life on our devices and longer arms for better selfies.
Also gone in this wonderful concrete, material kingdom is our purpose. We’re not sure why we’re here…we just are. We have hopes about what happens at death, but we’re not sure. So we eat, drink, and make merry. We self-indulgently pursue the things we enjoy and what we think will make us happy, then hope for the best upon our expiration dates.
Yet running under the pavement today, as it did in Israel when Jesus was placed in a borrowed tomb, is an aquifer we might call spiritual life. The dictator – our materialistic society – gives a taste from time to time, but just a taste. “We’ll pipe you what you need. We’ll package it for you. No need to become a fanatic! No need to let it change your life or impose old-fashioned morals on you!”
The problem is, the life God offers can’t be stopped. We can turn a blind eye to leaks or patch holes all day long, but breaks in the concrete keep appearing with the frequency of Denton potholes.
The truth is we are spiritual beings with material shells – not the other way around. We were created for the hidden spring and it was made for us!
God promised it…he built it into each of us…which explains why, within a generation of that first Easter, the church had reached the ends of the earth…we were thirsty!
Humans realize innately an undefinable thirst, a longing for springs of living, refreshing waters not just to drink but splash in and enjoy. God is promising you that living water.
The prophets heard of the spring and spoke of it. The old guardians of the spring feared it. The new guardians dismiss it. But that hidden spring finally burst forth like a geyser on that first Easter morning. And it is still flows today.