Key Texts: John 7:37-39
On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
In order to help us fully appreciate this passage, let me share a bit of background information via Dr. J. Vernon McGee*:
“There were three feasts which every male Jew was required to attend in Jerusalem. Our Lord kept the Law; He had to go up to Jerusalem during the feasts of Passover, Tabernacles, and Pentecost. The Feast of Tabernacles is described in Leviticus 23. This was a feast of great joy to celebrate Israel’s wonderful deliverance out of the land of Egypt. Because they had lived in tents during the wilderness journey, this is a feast of tents, or booths. They didn’t have campers, you see, but they did camp out in booths. There was the blowing of trumpets and seventy bullocks were offered. There was the pouring out of water in the temple, with a double portion on the last day of the feast to remind them that God gave them water from the rock in the wilderness. They brought the water from the pool of Siloam and poured out literally barrels of water. During this festival, they illuminated the inner court with a regular torch parade. This was commemorating the pillar of fire that guided the children of Israel by night as they wandered in the wilderness. Now we can understand that the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire that led the children of Israel were both pictures of our Lord Jesus Christ. “
Did you catch that bit about the water? “There was a symbolic pouring out of water in the temple, with a double portion on the last day of the feast to remind them that God gave them water from the rock in the wilderness.”
How powerful then Jesus’s words must have been has he spoke about “anyone who is thirsty” coming to him for a drink of water that would satisfy – not just in this life – but for eternity. The image of “rivers of living water” flowing from “within” would have taken on new meaning as they reflected on the water the religious pilgrims had seen poured out during the festival.
Metaphors are powerful things. Jesus frequently used them to teach – and reach – a spiritually starving and thirsty people. He still does today.
Was he talking only about water? Clearly not – he was, I think, referring to the coming of the Holy Spirit.
We too can tap into this life-giving elixir if we come prayerfully – and openly – to God with a simple request, “Lord, quench our thirst for you.”
How and when “the Spirit moves” remains a matter of much debate.
But if the Spirit comes is rarely debated. Two thousand years of Christian experience proves the coming to be a reality.
So, ask and drink deeply and fully.
Streams of living water will satisfy, and flow from you, if you do.
*McGee, J. Vernon (1984-01-06). Thru the Bible Commentary, Volumes 1-5: Genesis through Revelation (Thru the Bible 5 Volume Set) (Kindle Locations 101528-101534). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.