Here is an invitation in the passage before us. There will be another one in John 8. There will be a number of invitations right on down to the very end of his ministry where Jesus invited people to salvation, to the Kingdom, to the forgiveness of sin and eternal life. But this one is the most dramatic of illustrations. So let me read you John 7:37-39, “On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds,
“Anyone who is thirsty may come to Me! 38 Anyone who believes in Me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’”39 When He said “living water,” He was speaking of the Holy Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in Him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into His glory.”
Jesus is still making invitations through those final six months. Let’s look first at the invitation itself. Verse 37, “Now on the last day, the great day of the feast.” That is an important time indicator. The Feast of Booths was one of the three main feasts of Judaism, together with Pentecost and Passover. They celebrated the wilderness wanderings for 40 years when they lived in tents.
During that period, God protected them, preserved them, and gave them food and drink. It’s a week-long feast and now it is the last day. Every day of the feast, there was a ritual that was repeated. Based on Leviticus 23:40, the people are to take the fruit of good trees and the branches of palm trees, and willows of the brook to build booths to commemorate the wilderness wandering and the goodness of God.
The Pharisees instructed the people to bring their branches to the main altar and to create a covering over the altar. This was in the temple area. Every day of the festival, tens of thousands of people would do this. The high priest would then go to the pool of Siloam with a golden pitcher in his hand, and he would dip it in the water. And he would come back and pour the water out on the altar.
This was to remember that God provided water for the people of Israel out of a rock. And historians tell us the people would recite Isaiah 12:3 saying, “With joy, shall we draw water out of the wells of salvation.” So the whole ceremony is symbolic of God’s salvation. And then they were required then to sing the Hallel, Psalms 113-118. It was the most celebratory of all Jewish feasts.
They also added a prayer for more water, so that God would send rain. Now on the last day, before pouring out the water, the people marched around the altar seven times. To commemorate the march around the city of Jericho because that was the end of their wilderness wandering. And it is at that moment that Jesus says, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come and drink. Let him come to me.”
Jesus dramatically captures the moment and turns it to himself. Jesus says, “You are thankful to God for water in the wilderness, water that satisfied the thirst of your forefathers. Come to me for water that quenches your soul.” In a land where there’s so little water, water symbolizes satisfaction. So Jesus uses that analogy now for the third time in the Gospel of John.
In these words there are three actions: “thirst,” “come,” and “drink.” Notice the general open invitation “If anyone is thirsty.” The invitations of Jesus were always unlimited. Thirst is a conscious craving. A longing for deliverance, longing for hope, longing for peace, longing for forgiveness, for salvation, for liberation from the power of sin. People come to Christ because they’re thirsty, because their souls are empty.
The second action is “come.” It signifies the approach to Him. Luke 9:23 says, “If any of you will come after Me.” Seeing Him as the only source of soul satisfying, nourishing, living water. If He were here, you would do it with your feet, but He’s not here; so you do it with your heart and your mind. Turn your back on the world. Abandon your sin. Cast yourself at the grace and truth in Christ.
The only qualification is that you are thirsty. And very often, benevolent, basically good people, religious people, moral people don’t feel this thirst. That’s why when Jesus came, all the moral, religious people hated Him. And it was the sinners and tax collectors and outcasts that came. It’s the thirsty ones that come. There is nowhere else to go but Him. Jesus is the only one who can satisfy your soul.
Thirdly, “drink.” Drink means to appropriate. A river flowing through the parched valley doesn’t do any good unless you drink from it. Drinking means to take Jesus, receive Him, make Him your own and embrace Him. As He said to the woman at the well in John 4:14, “‘Drink it and you’ll never thirst again.’” As He said in John 6:56, “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.”
Verse 38 continues, “For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.” This is collected from several verses in Isaiah and some reference to Ezekiel 37. This water that flows to you when you come to Christ comes into your life doesn’t stay in you. You’re not a bucket. It goes through you. You become a fountain that becomes a river of living water to others as it flows from us.
This talks about the impact of a believer on the world. We receive spiritual water, which is really an analogy for spiritual life, eternal life, with all of its elements and components meaning conversion, redemption, justification, sanctification and adoption, everything. We receive cleansing water of life in us, sanctifying us, making us more like Christ. But at the same time, we also become a river for the world.
The recipient of sovereign grace becomes a channel of sovereign grace. And in not a trickle, but a gushing river. Oh, I understand that some of you have become stagnant ponds. You might need a dose of spiritual Drano to get the flow going. But this is how we are defined here. The water is ours. It is in us. It is springing up in us and gushing out of us for thirsty souls all over the world.
This is just an amazing statement about how much your life matters. You want your life to matter, right? So when you think about who matters in society, it’s not the politicians, it’s not the wealthy owners of companies. In reality only Christians matter because they are a saver of life unto life. They’re the fountain and river of living water that flows to the world and results in people being redeemed.
Paul asks the Corinthians, “Who is adequate for such things?” This is by grace and grace alone that we should be so useful. How can that be? Verse 39 explains, “Jesus was speaking of the Holy Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in Him.” This happens because of the Holy Spirit power. The Holy Spirit lives in every believer, right? Every true believer possesses the Holy Spirit.
Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. He lives in you. God, the Spirit, takes up residence in you. He is the river of life that flows through you. Verse 39 continues, “But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.” So this in verse 39 is a prophecy. The Holy Spirit couldn’t come until Jesus was glorified, meaning ascended into Heaven.
Then Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, when the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost and launched the church. And then the river on the inside began to flow to the world. And it happened instantaneously because immediately on the day of Pentecost, all those Galileans who didn’t know those multiple languages began to speak the works of God in all kinds of gentile languages as the river began to flow.
For forty days Jesus taught them theology, and in Acts 1:8, He says, “‘When the Spirit has come upon you, you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the outermost part of the earth.” The Holy Spirit will open the gates, and the river will flow. John 16:7, “I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away. If I do not go away, the helper will not come to you. If I go, I will send Him to you.”
He ascends in the next chapter after which He sends the Holy Spirit in Acts 2. Rivers of blessing begin to pour out of those believers early in Pentecost. Peter preaches, the river starts, and 3000 people are saved. They preach again; another 4000 are saved. Tens of thousands are being saved. In Jerusalem and to Samaria, and we are still living the history today. Only the Holy Spirit can make the river flow.
So starting in verse 40, there are four responses. They are typical of responses today. The first group are the convinced, they receive the truth. Verse 40, “When the crowds heard him say this, some of them declared, “Surely this man is the prophet we’ve been expecting.” Verse 41, “Others said, “He is the Messiah.” Still others said, “But he can’t be! Will the Messiah come from Galilee?”
The prophet is promised in Deuteronomy 18:15, “Moses continued, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your fellow Israelites. You must listen to Him.” In Acts 3:23 Peter quotes Deuteronomy 18:15 and says the following, “Then Moses said, ‘Anyone who will not listen to that Prophet will be completely cut off from God’s people.”
So there were disciples who believed Jesus was the Prophet Moses spoke of. He was the Messiah. They would be collected with the apostles and disciples of Jesus. They are the believing remnant in Romans 9 and Romans 11. They are those who came through the narrow gate, as Jesus put it in the Sermon on the Mount. These would be some who would be part of the 120 believers in the upper room.
The second group are the “contrary,” they reject the truth in verse 41. And it’s just mockery, sarcasm and scorn. Well, they are the skeptics. These are the ones who mocked Jesus: Pharisees, scribes, rabbis, religious leaders, and those who followed them. Verse 42, “For the Scriptures clearly state that the Messiah will be born of the royal line of David, in Bethlehem, the village where King David was born.”
Jesus didn’t come from Nazareth; He came from Bethlehem where he was born. That’s why the New Testament makes such a historical record about his birth in Bethlehem. And both his father and his mother was in David’s line. His father’s genealogy starts the New Testament in Matthew. His mother’s genealogy in Luke. They could have checked the temple records.
Verse 43, “So the crowd was divided about Him.” There was plenty of evidence that He was who He claimed to be. And also God was at work in their heart. The Father was drawing them. For some it was a real faith. They were like Peter, “To whom shall we go? You, and you alone, have the words of eternal life.” That’s still true today. Some believe, but most people reject Jesus.
There’s a third group that we’ll call the “confused.” Verse 44, “Some even wanted him arrested, but no one laid a hand on him.” This is the third time in this chapter they wanted to seize him, but they can’t. And they wrestle with the truth. Verse 45, “When the Temple guards returned without having arrested Jesus, the leading priests and Pharisees demanded, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”
Verse 46, “We have never heard anyone speak like this!” the guards responded.” They’re used to people with authority, but they were not used to hearing anybody like Jesus. This is a level of authority that was far beyond their ability to respond. Jesus says in John 10:18, “Nobody can take my life from Me. I sacrifice it voluntarily.” They couldn’t touch him unless God allowed it.
Jesus says, “Take Me. Receive Me. Believe in Me. And drink of this living water.” Their leaders say, “Arrest Him so we can kill Him.” Jesus says, “Receive Me, and I will give you life.” Their leaders say, “Arrest Him so we can give Him death.” The people have pressure coming from both sides, and so they do nothing. They’re just bewildered, and in their confusion, the Pharisees move.
Verse 47, ““Have you been led astray, too?” the Pharisees mocked.” Another question that expects a negative answer. So they play on their pride. Verse 48 - 49, “Is there a single one of us rulers or Pharisees who believes in him?” 49 This foolish crowd follows him, but they are ignorant of the law. God’s curse is on them!” Not one of the rulers or Pharisees has believed in Him. So now it’s about their pride and loyalty.
The fourth group are the “compliant.” Compliant is a synonym for yielding. They are the people who are in process. They research the truth. Verse 50 -51, “Then Nicodemus, the leader who had met with Jesus earlier, spoke up. 51 “Is it legal to convict a man before he is given a hearing?” he asked.” There’s a genuine search for the truth. And so he speaks up. He wants to defend Jesus.
He’s not going to declare himself a believer in Jesus. But for now, he’s going to hold them to the integrity of their own laws. You cannot arrest and execute a man until he’s had a trial. Verse 52, “They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Search the Scriptures and see for yourself, no prophet ever comes from Galilee!” Did they forget Jonah, Nahem, and Josea? All of whom came from Galilee.
Some people believe. Some people reject. Some people remain in limbo. But some people are in a process, right? And that was Nicodemus, honestly seeking. And God says, “If you seek me with all your heart, you will find me.” What will you do with Jesus? What will you do with this great invitation? Don’t be contrary, confused or compliant. Just accept Jesus and believe. Let us pray.