Can you imagine Jesus shouting to the Jerusalem crowds, "If you are thirsty, come to me! If you believe in me, come and drink! For the Scriptures declare that rivers of living water will flow out from within" (John 7:37b-38)? That would take a lot of nerve to do, unless you were crazy---or you were the Son of God.
Speaking figuratively, Jesus was once again offering what only He can give. He wasn't offering actual water to quench people's physical thirst---He was offering living water that would quench people's spiritual thirst. John wrote that the "living water" of which Jesus spoke was really the Holy Spirit. Jesus gives the Holy Spirit to everyone who comes to Him in faith, and the Holy Spirit lives within every true Christian from the moment of his conversion.
Jesus made this declaration on the last day of a Jewish celebration called The Festival of Shelters. It was a feast instituted by God to help the people of Israel remember their wanderings in the wilderness when they lived in temporary shelters after their exodus from Egypt. Each day during the festival, the priests would draw water from the Pool of Siloam and pour it out at the altar in the Temple. It was done in remembrance of the water that supernaturally came forth from a rock that Moses struck. Unfortunately, the Jews of Jesus' day missed the real significance of that original miracle and its yearly commemoration. God gave His people physical life through Moses by providing water when they were once dying of thirst. But much more important, He, through an even greater man, wanted to give living water to everyone who was dying of spiritual thirst. Jesus wanted everyone to know that He was the One whom Moses prefigured, and He was like the water that saved the thirsty Israelites.
As expected, the reaction of those who heard Jesus make His claim was divided. Some considered Him to be the great Prophet whom Moses had predicted. Others thought He was the Messiah. And others, especially the religious leaders, were convinced that Jesus was neither the Messiah nor a prophet because He was originally from the region of Galilee. They knew that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem and that He would be David's descendant. Too bad they didn't do their homework, or they would have found out that Jesus met those conditions!
Q. When the leading priests and Pharisees learned that the Temple guards didn't arrest Jesus as they had been ordered, they mocked them, saying, "Have you been led astray, too? Is there a single one of us rulers or Pharisees who believes in him? These ignorant crowds do, but what do they know about it?" (John 7:47-49). Does this teach us anything about following religious leaders?
A. Yes, it does. Many people today refuse to think for themselves about spiritual matters, assuming that if something was important for them to know, their learned priest or pastor would surely tell them. That's a big mistake, because many modern "Christian" leaders don't believe that Jesus is the Son of God or the inspiration of the Bible. They are, to borrow one of Jesus' phrases, "blind leaders of the blind."
Q. What kinds of people did Jesus invite to come to Him?
A. He invited thirsty people to come to Him and drink. Only when people realize that they are dying of spiritual thirst do they see their need to come to Jesus.
Application: Jesus spoke of two experiences with the Holy Spirit in this passage. First, He spoke about people coming to Him and drinking. Then He spoke of rivers of living water flowing out from people who drank. God wants us to receive the Holy Spirit, but not just for our benefit. He wants the living waters within us to flow out to others, spreading His life to them.
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