Saturday

'As the scripture has said, “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow river of living water.”’(v. 38b)

John 7:37-39 Saturday 4 June 2022

Background

In our reading today, Jesus was in Jerusalem. He had travelled there from Galilee for a festival. He went in secret because of an apparent plot by some of the religious leaders to have him killed. John chapter 7 records that, while Jesus was there, despite having said that he didn’t want to draw attention to himself, he engaged in various arguments and disputes. The main argument was about the source of Jesus’ teaching and his authority. Jesus was not following in a typical rabbinic tradition, quoting various former scholars and teachers. Instead, Jesus seemed to be saying his teaching was direct from God. After holding back for a while, a party was eventually sent from the chief priests to arrest Jesus, but somehow he slipped from their grasp. John tells us that "his hour had not yet come". (v.30)

The festival was the Feast of Tabernacles, or Booths, also known as Sukkot. It remembered the 40 years the Israelites spent in the wilderness, and was also a harvest thanksgiving festival. By Jesus' time, it had also become associated with waiting for the Messiah. Candles would be lit as a sign that the Messiah would be a light to the Gentiles (the other nations of the world). Water was also an important symbol. In a special ceremony, water from the Pool of Siloam would be collected and carried to the Temple, and then poured into a basin as a prayer for God’s provision of rain for the harvests. The pouring out was also a reminder of the prophecy of Joel (Joel 2:28-29) where the Holy Spirit is promised to be poured out on all people.

Jesus may have had this and other prophecies in mind, when in verse 38 he said “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.” His quote, as recorded in this gospel, is not found anywhere in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) but there are references to ‘living waters’ flowing out of Jerusalem in Zechariah 14 and Ezekiel 47, in these prophecies about the kingdom to come.

This festival was a time of heightened emotion and symbolism, and Jesus’ ministry almost came to a premature climax as he narrowly avoided arrest. But despite the risks, he was determined to make the offer of himself as the thirst-quencher and also the "light of the world" (John 8:12). Jesus’ words were as bold and controversial as ever, but God’s people of the day were in dire need of spiritual refreshment, and light to see the way. Jesus clearly felt compelled to reach out with the offer.

 

To Ponder:

  • What are people today in desperate need of?
  • Do we recognise the times to be bold in our evangelism and proclamation, and the times to be sensitive?
  • How can our churches offer people the living water of the Spirit in ways that are appropriate for our communities?
Previous Page Friday