The trip through the Cascade Mountains is beautiful this time of year, but the best time for traveling is in March and April. This is the time of year when there is water…much water. There are dozens of waterfalls...some smaller, some larger...and it can be distracting. It is enjoyable just to pull over and take an up-close look at these beautiful blessings from the Lord…then, take your hands, cup them together and get a drink. It is pure and good. I am certain that this is the type of imagery that Jesus would want His followers to envision when He tells them in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him" (John 7:37-38). There is just something wonderful and pure about fresh, clean water…so much so, that people now bottle it up and make money on it. But, the water that Jesus comes to offer is free for those who will receive it…just as He shared with the Samaritan woman back in John 4. There, He was talking about everlasting life…and here, He speaks of the Holy Spirit, although I don’t know that there is any great distinction, because the believer who has the Spirit has everlasting life.
It is the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles…the 7th day. It was a special day where the priests would march seven times around the altar, chanting Psalms 118:25, “O Lord, do save, we beseech you; O Lord we beseech you, do send prosperity.” This would also be the last time that they would draw the water from the laver and pour it out. No doubt, just as they were pouring out the water (symbolic of the water that Moses drew from the rock), it is at this point that Jesus stands up and makes His proclamation...an invitation to thirsty sinners. In referring to the water from the rock experience from Exodus 17, Jesus is trying to give them a modern application…His Holy Spirit. Christians are not only to drink the Living Water – the life giving, sustaining qualities that the Spirit provides – but are also to be channels of this life to others. The well of water that Jesus spoke about to the Samaritan woman in chapter 4 has now become a flowing river. Just as water satisfies thirst and produces fruitfulness, so the Spirit of God satisfies the inner person and enables us to bear fruit. At the feast, the Jews were reenacting a tradition that could never satisfy the heart…Jesus offers living water and eternal satisfaction.
So, what is the result of this declaration and invitation? The people are divided – some defend Him and others want Him arrested. Who is He -- is Jesus a “good man” or “a deceiver?” (7:12)...or, is He the Christ? (7:31) If they would indeed honestly examine the evidence, they would discover that He is the Christ, the Son of God. But, they identify Jesus with Galilee (1:45-46, 7:52), when He was actually born in Bethlehem of Judea – they should have done their homework. Some of the religious leaders send temple officers out to seize Jesus and bring Him in, but they return empty-handed. One would think it would be relatively easy for them to get a hold of Him…it is interesting to note what their excuse is – “Never did a man speak the way this man speaks!” In other words, they melted! Instead of arresting Jesus, they themselves are arrested by the Word of God spoken by the Son of God.
Instead of listening to the officers or to the crowd, the Pharisees themselves continue to wrongly rationalize and willingly be blinded to the truth, ultimately, to their own demise. Ironically, “one of their own” speaks up...Nicodemus, who is one of the great characters in John’s gospel. He comes to Jesus’ defense. Nicodemus is listening to his heart after doing some significant studying and soul searching concerning Jesus; he is not afraid to stand for the truth. He is certain that the council is not giving Jesus an honest hearing. He simply wants them to consider Jesus’ words and His works, yet they reply, sarcastically, and attack Nicodemus. They cannot consider that a prophet could come out of Galilee…and yet, Jonah was a prophet from Galilee. Ironically, it is Jonah whom Jesus uses as an illustration of his own death burial and resurrection (Matthew 12:38ff). There is no recorded response or happy ending here as we would like for there to be, but if the Pharisees had been honest, many of them, like Nicodemus, could have tasted of the living water that Jesus had to offer them. So many people…so many different responses…
Jesus’ living water flows absolutely freely and purely….and yet, so many reject it. In fact, many believers do not understand Him, while others do not want to…and so, reject the Living Water of the Holy Spirit do their detriment, and perhaps to their own demise. Paul shares concerning the Holy Spirit, that He is our seal of redemption (Ephesians 1:13-14). That one day, when Jesus comes again, He will see His Holy Spirit in His people…and those who have Him will have life, while those who do not have Him will not have life (Romans 8:9). It is that important that we understand the working of God’s Spirit in our lives…and it is a growth process. But, it must be a process for growth. We need to and want to have our physical thirst quenched when we are thirsty. How much more do we need to have our spiritual and eternal thirst quenched by Jesus and be spiritually vibrant and alive through His Spirit. He is willing and able to quench any spiritual longing that we have and fill us to over-flowing. Let’s not be like the religious people of Jesus’ day and reject the Living Water, but be among those who are seeking Him and longing to be spiritually satisfied in and by Him.