23 May 2013

John 7:37-39

"On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.” ’ Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified." (vv. 37-39)


There are no throw away details in the John's Gospel. The precise day on which Christ issues the invitation to drink the living water is deliberate. The 'last day' or the 'great day' was the climax of the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles. On that day much water was blessed and provided and poured out in thanksgiving.

Like Isaiah (Isaiah 55:1) before him, Jesus stresses our spiritual thirst as well as our physical thirst. God's spiritual gift of vital and living water rises up from deep within a person. Living water is also a sign and symbol of the gift of the Holy Spirit.

John's Gospel says the Spirit was to be given to believers only after the hour in which Jesus was glorified. That was the hour when he was lifted up on the cross. So in John's Gospel it is the risen Christ who breathes on the disciples on Easter evening and says, "Receive the Holy Spirit" (John 20:22).

To Ponder

  • Water is at the heart of the biblical story of salvation: the Spirit broods over the waters of creation (Genesis 1:2); the new beginning for all rises from the waters of the flood (Genesis 6-9); the Exodus deliverance is through the Red Sea waters (Exodus 14); the promises land is entered only by crossing the Jordan (Joshua 3).
  • In the Gospels Jesus is anointed with the Spirit at his Baptism in the Jordan river (Mark 1:9-11).
  • Paul teaches us in the waters of Baptism we share in Christ's death and resurrection (Romans 6:3-4).
  • In every Christian Baptism the gift of water and the gift of the Spirit are inseparable.
  • In the hymn "Jesus, lover of my soul", Charles Wesley's prayer to Jesus was "Spring thou up within my heart, rise to all eternity". How do you react to these words?
  • Think about your Christian journey in terms of water and its imagery.

Bible notes author

The Revd Prebendary Norman Wallwork

Norman Wallwork is a supernumerary Methodist minister and a retail chaplain in central Exeter. He is also a prebendary or canon of Wells Cathedral.