Feasting with God #25
Rivers of Living Water
Text: John 7:37-39
37On 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. 38Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39Now 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.
Today marks the celebration of Jesus’ ascension, 40 days after Easter. We read in the Gospel account that, after these 40 days, teaching and appearing to people and performing miracles, Jesus took his disciples and “led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven” (Luke 24:50-51). But he left with a command and a promise: Luke records that he said, “You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (24:48-49). Matthew records these words: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20). The command was this: Tell others what you have seen. The promise was this: You will have God present with you in this task.
Jesus promises the same thing in the text from John, although he said these words a good while before his ascension, even before his crucifixion. He states the task—“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’”—and connects with it the promise—“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.”
Spiritually, we in our nature are dying of thirst; our soul is a cracked desert where nothing can live. The only way to bring life to these dry souls is by the living water of Jesus Christ: he it is who suffered the hell we deserved, dying on the cross and being forsaken by God. By that act he opened up the stores of God’s grace, and as the water and blood flowed from his side when the centurion pierced it (John 19:34), mercy and forgiveness flow to us when we are baptized in water, when we drink the refreshment of Jesus’ blood in the Lord’s Supper, when we hear the cool words of grace in the Bible.
That is how we are saved. When we come to faith, all God’s gifts—grace, forgiveness, eternal life—come into our possession: they are ours! And with them as well comes the Holy Spirit who lives in our hearts so long as we have faith. This Spirit Jesus promised to his disciples, to his followers, once his work on earth had been completed: “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). Jesus accomplished our salvation, and, his work done, he left our presence visibly. Because he left, he could send the “other Helper,” who is the Holy Spirit. This event we see on Pentecost, when the Spirit came upon the disciples like tongues of fire and they were able to speak so that those of many languages could understand.
And this is the work of the Holy Spirit: he speaks through us, turning us into fountains of living water. We received the water from Jesus’ side through the means of grace—the Word and Sacraments—and having received that, the Spirit dwells in us, so that we can share that living water with the rest of the thirsty world. That is the task we are given, but we are given the promise of the one who makes us able to accomplish it. We are saved, and that makes us able to perform the work of salvation, nourishing the souls of others.
O Holy Spirit, bring the refreshing waters of grace upon us every day, so that we never go thirsty. Lead us constantly back to the sure forgiveness we have on account of Jesus Christ, and lead us then to take those cool waters to others in need. All this we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.