“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” Now this He said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:37–39, ESV) (Caps added to pronouns in ESV referring to God the Father, Son, and Spirit)
The week of the Feast of Booths had drawn to an end, and the crowd was beginning to wonder if Jesus really was the Christ. The Pharisees and the chief priests had even sent the temple guard to apprehend Him. But He didn’t leave and He didn’t stop speaking. Our passage tells us that it was the last day. In fact it was the biggest day of the week, and Jesus again stood up to speak, but this time we read that He cried out or possibly shouted with great emotion.
We don’t know what the conditions in the temple were on that day. There might have been a lot of commotion because of the nature of the events, and He needed to be loud in order to garner attention and be heard. He might even have cried out in order to strongly make this final point. From the verses that follow we know that it wasn’t because He had been arrested and was being dragged off, crying out as He was removed from their presence. We know this because verse 44 tells us that no one laid hands on Him. He freely stood before them and spoke out loud and bold, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Jesus had told them that He was sent by the Father and that He was soon to leave them in order to go to a place which they could not go. In response to His words some had begun to wonder if He really was the Christ, and they murmured among themselves.
Jesus, speaking specifically to those who were responding favorably to His words, told them that if they believed in Him that they would receive life just as the Scriptures had promised. In saying that He used the image of water and stressed the necessity of water for life, telling them that He was going to give all who believe living water, or water that would give them life without end. In order to receive this water they had to come through Him. They had to come to Him and drink of what He had to give. While He did not explain further how they would receive this water, earlier He had spoken to another group of Jews in the synagogue at Capernaum and told them that they needed to feed on His body and drink of His blood (John 6:54). But these words were too much for many of them and they left. Here He told those who believed that they had to come to Him and drink. There must have been many in this crowd that did not understand His words either.
Having the benefit of time and perspective, John in writing this record tells us that Jesus was speaking of the Spirit. Our passage continues, “Now this He said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” Those who believed in Him would receive the Spirit. They would not receive it immediately we are told, but very soon they would. Jesus knew that His time to return to the Father was not far off, and when He returned He knew that the Father was going to send the third person of the Trinity—the Spirit to indwell all who believe. John wrote that Jesus was not yet glorified. This is a reference to His condition when His human body receives His resurrection body and is fully glorified by the Father in His presence. It is before Him with this resurrection body that we will one day appear.
Looking forward to the coming of the Spirit who both gives life to the believer and seals and indwells every believer, Jesus was confident that every one that trusted in Him would be spiritually satisfied forever. Scripture has much to say about the coming and the role of the Spirit. Jesus spoke at several keys times about the coming of the Spirit and the disciples need to depend on the Spirit’s enabling. Consider these passages from the upper room on the night on which He was betrayed (John 14-16) and then from the last moments before He was taken back up to be with the Father (Acts 1).
“And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. You know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16–17, ESV)
“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:25–26, ESV)
“But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated Me without a cause.’ “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.” (John 15:25–27, ESV)
“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you. And when He comes, He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see Me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” (John 16:7–11, ESV)
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when He had said these things, as they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as He went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven.”” (Acts 1:8–11, ESV)
Jesus had told them that after He left that the Spirit would come, and Acts chapter 2 records for us that His promise was true. “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1–4, ESV)
This was the initial fulfillment of Jesus’ promise, but this fulfillment is also progressive in that it continues to be extended as true for everyone who has since believed. We read in Romans 8:9-11, “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (Romans 8:9–11, ESV)
Later in Galatians 5:25 we read, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25, ESV) Jesus said to come to Him and drink. There are many things that man can try that prove empty and fruitless. Even as believers we can invest our lives in things that don’t distract from who we are in Christ. Throughout the New Testament we are told that the Spirit is the One who keeps us fresh with God and that we are to live by the Spirit and not according to our own desires. In Ephesians the apostle Paul boils it down between investing ourselves totally in an obviously recognized waste and what should be an equally recognized as the only way for a child of God to live. We read, “Do not be drunk with wine, which will ruin you, but be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18, NCV) In “The Message” paraphrase we read, “Don’t drink too much wine. That cheapens your life. Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of Him.” (Ephesians 5:18, The Message)
We are told to drink, and what we are told to take in is the fullness of the Spirit of God who indwells every single believer. We are saved as a work of the Spirit. We understand God’s word by the aid of the Spirit. We are comforted by the Spirit, and even have the Spirit as our prayer intercessor between the Father and the Son. The Spirit brings the Word of God that we have hidden in our hearts back to our remembrance, and the Spirit supernaturally enables every single believer with gifts which can be used for the benefit of the body. And of course the Spirit grows us in incredible ways, conforming us more and more to the image of Christ. But we have to give ourselves fully to God and entrust ourselves to the Spirit to do those things that we are told the Spirit will do.
“By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” (1 John 4:13, ESV)