Gospel: John 7:37-39
Epistle: Acts 2:1-21
Lesson: Numbers 11:24-30
Psalm: Psalm 25:1-15
CLB Commentary – Dr. Gaylan Mathiesen
It is the last day of one of the greatest feasts in the Jewish calendar—the Festival of Tabernacles. John tells us “Jesus stood,” implying that He did so to get the attention of the crowd. John also says that He made this announcement in “a loud voice.” What is this announcement? “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them” (NIV). So what is it that prompts Jesus to extend such an invitation? Why the mention of thirst and water in this instance?
William Barclay explained that on the final day of the feast, the people would come each day to the Temple and march around the altar, waving their palms and willow branches. “At the same time a priest took a golden pitcher…and went down to the Pool of Siloam and filled it with water. It was carried back through the Water Gate while the people recited Isaiah 12:3: ‘With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.’ The water was carried up to the Temple altar and poured out as an offering to God.” As all of this was happening, The Hallel (Psalms 113-118) was sung, which included the words, “Give thanks to the Lord” (Psalm 118:1), “Lord save us” (Psalm 118:25), and ended with the words, “Give thanks to the Lord” (Psalm 118:29. Barclay continued, “The whole dramatic ceremony was a vivid thanksgiving for God’s good gift of water and an acted prayer for rain, and a memory of the water which sprang from the rock when they travelled through the wilderness…” (The Gospel of John, vol. 1, Phil: Westminster Press, 1975, pp. 249-250). Most likely, this is what the people were witnessing as Jesus rose and spoke.
The metaphor of life giving water is a prominent one in the Scriptures. The Apostle Paul saw Jesus connected back to the rock that yielded water for the Israelites when they were in the desert (I Cor. 10:4). Jesus promised to the Samaritan woman the water that springs up into eternal life (Jn. 4:14). “Water is that without which man cannot live; and Christ is the one without whom man cannot live and dare not die” (Barclay, The Gospel of John, 251). In verse 38, John connected this “water” of which Jesus spoke to the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, adding that the Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus had not yet been glorified. Clearly Jesus first had to die as our sacrifice for sin and rise again in victory over death before the Spirit could be poured out on the day of Pentecost.
So then, how do we receive and experience this water of eternal life? John Stott said that the answer is found in Jesus’ words, “come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me…” The two
phrases speak of essentially the same thing: “There is no difference between coming to Jesus and believing in him, for coming to him to drink is coming to him in faith” (Stott, Baptism and Fullness, IVP Books, 2006, p. 70). Jesus further explained that as we continually drink this water there comes a consequent flowing out of the same, as we become a channel of God’s blessing. Those indwelt by the Spirit cannot keep the Spirit to themselves, but rather: “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” Notice that this outward flow is not merely a trickle of droplets, but “rivers of living water will flow from within them.” We are abundantly blessed to be an abundant blessing.