Read the passage at the bottom of this post: John 7:37-39, The Message or John 7:37-39, The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).
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Verse 37. "The feast" here refers to the last of the three Jewish pilgrimages festivals / feasts, Sukkoth, or festival of Booths / Tabernacles. This text is being read on our Christian Day of Pentecost - which is the second of the pilgrimage festivals, Shavuot, or feast of Weeks. This detail is important simply to avoid confusing the two different festivals, and the time sequence.
- Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink.
- I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness.
Thus Jesus presents himself as the answer to the prayers being made.
The reference to "anyone who is thirsty" and "living water" have an interesting precursor in John 3, the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. And subsequently, in John 19:28 where Jesus on the cross says, "I am thirsty."
In John, "thirst" has the double meaning of literal thirst for real water and physical life; and "spiritual" thirst for a real relationship with God and eternal life.
It is this second sense that Jesus is constantly pointing to, and the emphasis on "living" (or "life giving") water. Water that imparts lasting vigor and vitality.
Thus, those who come to Jesus and trust him will have floods of life flowing out of them.
Verse 39 provides an explanatory aside about the Spirit who is yet to come. "Jesus was not yet glorified." When is Jesus glorified? When he is lifted up. Lifted up on the cross. And after declaring that his work is finished, Jesus passes on his spirit.
When Jesus had received the wine, he said, "It is finished." Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Although Jesus does actually die on the cross - John does not want us to be mistaken about that - John also wants us to not be mistaken into thinking that is all that is happening.
The cross is also a sign that points to a spiritual truth: Jesus has been lifted up, and his last breath is breathing out his spirit.
Jesus-resurrected will repeat this breathing out of the Holy Spirit when he encounters his frightened followers in the locked room. (John 20:22)
Historical background information in this post is drawn primarily from Social-Science Commentary on the Gospel of John, see link below, page 154.
* Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Bruce Malina, Richard Rohrbaugh, et. al., Social Science Commentary on ... The Synoptic Gospels; The Gospel of John; The Book of Acts; The Letters of Paul; The Book of Revelation; and others.
John 7:37-39 (NRSV)
37 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, 38 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.'" 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.
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
John 7:37-39 (The Message)
37 On the final and climactic day of the Feast, Jesus took his stand. He cried out, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me this way, just as the Scripture says." 39 (He said this in regard to the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were about to receive. The Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus had not yet been glorified.)
Scripture quotations from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
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