22 May 2018John 7:37-39
“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.” (v. 39)
Psalm: Psalm 68:1-20
These verses, which are often read on Pentecost Sunday, open with a reference to the “last day of the festival, the great day” (v. 37). This is the Feast of the Tabernacles – the harvest celebration whose origins are rooted in Israel’s years of wandering. The festival recalls Israel’s sojourn in the wilderness and the transient nature of a life always on the move.
A central part of that celebration is the daily bringing of water from the Pool of Siloam for pouring as a libation in the Temple. In a way reminiscent of how Jesus talked to the woman at Jacob’s well (John 4:1-30), he here refers to himself as the source of true water, water that will quench the soul’s thirst. The narrator in this passage points out that in speaking of the water he will supply Jesus was referring to the promised Spirit, which those who believed in him would receive – all in good time.
Here we also have reference to abundance, to “rivers of living water” (v. 38). Jesus refers again to abundance in chapter 10 of John’s Gospel –“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
So the Spirit has long been promised in the Jewish scriptures, but here Jesus brings it as something new, a unique, transforming gift.
- Water was a central theme in the Old Testament and vital to the life of Israel as they moved through and lived in dry lands. Does this use of water as a metaphor in our passage for the Spirit have the same resonance for us who live in a wetter place? What other metaphors for the Spirit might have more resonance, especially for our climatic conditions?
- This passage contrasts the daily libation of water at the festival with the continuous flow of water, as of a river, which Jesus promises. What image is closer to your experience of the working of the Spirit in your life?