37 The last day of the festival came. It was the most important day. On that day Jesus stood up and said loudly, “Whoever is thirsty may come to me and drink. 38 If anyone believes in me, rivers of living water will flow out from their heart. That is what the Scriptures say.” 39 Jesus was talking about the Spirit. The Spirit had not yet been given to people, because Jesus had not yet been raised to glory. But later, those who believed in Jesus would receive the Spirit.
“Anyone who teaches you about God is breathing life into your spirit. Jesus helps our spirit grow in truth, knowledge and strength.” Zack, 12
“I think that the more you pray, the more of God’s river flows through your body to your brain. When it goes to your brain, you think of God.” Thomas, 10
“You need him to live and go into heaven. Most ‘regular’ people will not take this ‘special’ water and will refuse to have it. Instead, they will choose to drink the unhealthy, nonbeliever, fake, boring water.” Caelan, 11
“The water helps us live. Without the water we will die. It is the same thing with Jesus. If we don’t listen or follow his word, we will not have eternal life through him. We need Jesus and water to live.” Lauren, 10
“He guides the way for me like a person riding a raft in a moving river. He shows us the way to go. If we try to go against the current, it will be harder than going with the current. Some people try to stop Jesus, like when the beavers try to stop the river with a dam, but Jesus always finds a way to get through.” Eva, 12
Water is essential for life. You can live three weeks or longer without food, but you can live only three or four days without water. If you’re in a desert where it is very hot in the middle of summer, you could die in three or four hours without water.
When Jesus talked to the woman at the well in John 4, he promised living water that would satisfy her thirst for true meaning in life. Now, Jesus promises rivers of living water that will flow from the lives of all who believe in him. When you believe in Jesus as your savior, he comes to live inside of you. Of course, I don’t mean this in a physical way. Don’t expect Jesus to show up with a U-Haul truck! He won’t take up any more physical space inside you than a thought or a feeling does. He lives inside you in a spiritual way. But spiritual is actually much more real than physical. When you allow Jesus to live through you, he will be like a river of pure water that flows to thirsty people in a desert.
Without knowing Jesus Christ, living in this world is like living in a desert. People without Christ try all kinds of things to satisfy their desire for meaning in life. Some search for a reason to live. Others give up all hope of ever being happy. They are sad or angry all the time. God wants to use you to let people know that Jesus can satisfy the thirst they have for meaning, peace and happiness. The life of Jesus (rivers of living water) can flow through you to your family, friends and strangers.
The yearly Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem lasted seven days. For seven mornings, a priest filled a golden pitcher with water from the Pool of Siloam. Then, the high priest led a group of Jews to the temple where he poured the water into a silver basin. Next, this water flowed through a tube to the base of the altar where animals were sacrificed. Some Jews sang or chanted what the prophet Isaiah wrote many years ago: “You people will get your water from the spring of salvation. Then you will be happy,” (Isaiah 12:3).
The daily water ceremony during the feast caused Jewish worshipers to think about water in three ways. First, they remembered how God provided water for their ancestors as they wandered in the desert for 40 years (Exodus 17:6). The Jews at the feast built temporary shelters to live in for seven days. This reminded them that their ancestors lived this way for 40 years in the desert. During that time, God provided water for them to drink and bread to eat from heaven called manna.
Second, they gave thanks to God for the rain that nourished their crops. God promised many blessings to the Jewish people if they obeyed his commandments. One of those blessings was rain for their crops.
“The Lord will open his storehouse where he keeps his rich blessings. He will send rain at the right time for your land. He will bless everything you do. You will have money to lend to many nations. And you will not need to borrow anything from them,” (Deuteronomy 28:12).
Third, at the beginning of the Feast of Tabernacles, chapter 14 from the Book of Zechariah was read. Most Bible scholars consider this chapter to be about God’s Messiah. The prophet Zechariah predicted that people would come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles or Shelters: “They will come to celebrate the Festival of Shelters. And if people from any of the families on earth don’t go to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord All-Powerful, no rain will fall on their land,” (Zechariah 14:16b-17).
In the New Jerusalem, a river of the water of life will flow from God’s throne: “The angel showed me the river of the water of life, clear as crystal. The river flows from the throne of God and the Lamb,” (Rev. 22:1).
Even though the feast lasted for seven days, God commanded them to gather on the eighth day for a special meeting and offering (Leviticus 23:27). Now, imagine the scene in the temple. I don’t know if it happened this way, but it could have. A priest poured out the water from the golden pitcher of water he had carried from the Pool of Siloam. Thousands of Jews watched this while many sang a song from the words of Isaiah the prophet: “You people will get your water from the spring of salvation. Then you will be happy,” (Isaiah 12:3).
In the middle of this ceremony, Jesus stands up and says this with a loud voice: “Whoever is thirsty may come to me and drink. If anyone believes in me, rivers of living water will flow out from their heart. That is what the Scriptures say,” (John 7:37-38).
Wow! Can you imagine a more perfect setting for Jesus to say that he could satisfy spiritual thirst? I’m sure that all the Jews who heard this went home and told their neighbors and friends what Jesus said.
When Moses hit or struck the rock in the desert, God caused water to come out of it (Exodus 17:1-7). This was a picture of our salvation. Jesus is the rock of our salvation. Just as Moses struck the rock in the desert, God the Father struck Jesus on the cross when he poured out his anger on him for all our sins. Because of our sins, we deserve to die. But Jesus died in our place.
The Apostle Paul wrote this about the Jews who ate manna and drank water in the desert: “They all ate the same spiritual food, and they all drank the same spiritual drink. They drank from that spiritual rock that was with them, and that rock was Christ,” (I Corinthians 10:3-4).
God through Moses provided water for the Jews who wandered in the desert for 40 years. Through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, he offers the water of life to people all over the world who trust him as their savior.
In the Old Testament times before Jesus was born, the Holy Spirit came upon believers for special jobs that God had for them. Remember the story of Elijah and Elisha? Elijah was a mighty prophet of God who challenged the evil prophets of Baal to a contest (I Kings 18). When Elijah was getting ready to leave this earth, he asked Elisha what he could do for him. Elisha asked for a double portion of God’s Spirit that Elijah had been given (II Kings 2:9).
When King David confessed his sin to God, he prayed that God would not take the Holy Spirit from him (Psalm 51:11). David knew that God could withdraw the Holy Spirit from his life.
We now live in the very special time that the Old Testament prophets predicted (Acts 2:14-21 & Joel 2:28-32). God has poured out his “Spirit on all people.” This is exactly what the prophet Joel predicted and the Apostle Paul preached in his Pentecost message. Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to live inside of every Christian the moment they trust Christ as their savior (Ephesians 1:13-14).
Joel used the word “pour” when he said that God would pour out his Spirit in our time. Jesus spoke of “rivers of living water” flowing from the heart or belly of those who believe in Jesus. When God pours, he wants to see rivers of living water flowing out of all Christians. Just as a river provides life to all who drink from it, so believers in Christ should be channels of God’s life to the people they know. The gospel of grace gives life to all who accept Jesus Christ as their savior.
Here is what Pastor John Burke wrote in his book “Soul Revolution” about the rivers of water: “As we become comfortable doing life with God, we begin to experience the power of his life flowing into our often lifeless world.” The “lifeless world” is made up of all the people who have not received Christ. They are spiritually dead and spiritually thirsty. God wants all believers to share the life of Jesus with those who are spiritually thirsty.
When Jesus rose from the dead and returned to his place of glory in heaven, a lot of things changed. Think about this promise that Jesus made to his disciples before he returned to heaven:
“But the Holy Spirit will come on you and give you power. You will be my witnesses. You will tell people everywhere about me—in Jerusalem, in the rest of Judea, in Samaria, and in every part of the world,” (Acts 1:8).
Please notice that this promise that these Jewish Christian disciples would witness for Jesus includes going to people living in Samaria and to gentiles (non-Jews) all over the world. This was so different from the way they thought about their privileged position as God’s chosen people. This meant that God’s kingdom was wide open to Jews and non-Jews alike. In Jesus’ kingdom, the privileged position that Jews had enjoyed as God’s chosen people would now be offered to gentiles as well.
Here is what Jewish Christian Apostle Peter wrote about all non-Jewish Christians:
“But you are his chosen people, the King’s priests. You are a holy nation, people who belong to God. He chose you to tell about the wonderful things he has done. He brought you out of the darkness of sin into his wonderful light. In the past you were not a special people, but now you are God’s people. Once you had not received mercy, but now God has given you his mercy,” (I Peter 2:9-10).
Jesus is the savior of all people from all nations who trust in him. The people of God are centered around Jesus. Not the 10 commandments, not the temple, not animal sacrifices, not circumcision, not the Sabbath and not good works.
But what happens when the people God called to be channels of God’s salvation become part of the problem?
Although all 12 of Jesus’ disciples were Jewish and the first church in the world started with Jewish Christians in Jerusalem, most Jewish people rejected Jesus as their Messiah. Remember, Jewish leaders yelled “crucify him” when Roman ruler Pontius Pilate asked them if he should release Jesus (John 19:15, NKJV).
In A.D. 70, the Roman army under Titus totally destroyed Jerusalem and the temple. Jesus said that this would happen within one generation of his prediction (Matthew 24). Historians estimate that more than one million Jews died and thousands were taken captive as slaves.
Think about this: Jesus knew that his disciples would need the Holy Spirit as their helper to spread the good news about his offer to give eternal life to all who would believe in him as a resurrected savior. The disciples and all Christians often were persecuted by Jews and gentiles.
Today is no different. We need to learn how to walk in the Spirit so that we can wisely bring the good news to people all over the world!
Memorize this truth: “If anyone believes in me, rivers of living water will flow out from their heart. That is what the Scriptures say,” (John 7:38).
Ask this question: Are you making yourself available for God to use as a channel of blessing for other people?