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Gems in the Gospel of John



Part 32 – John 7:37-38

Living Water



When I was in a youth group in Scotland (a long time ago) we use to sing in what we hoped was a broad Scots dialect ‘I’m as blithe as blithe can be, Ma bickers fu’ an’ skailin o’er’. If you can work out what that means you should get a prize! It is in fact ‘I’m as joyful as can be, My beaker (cup) is full and slopping over’. It was based on the line in Psalm 23 ‘my cup runs over’ rather than what Jesus says here “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me rivers of living water will flow from within them” but it expresses the idea behind what Jesus said perfectly.

It was the last day of the festival of Tabernacles, a kind of harvest festival celebrating the end of the growing season and the last of the harvests. It included both lights (of which more in the next gem but one) and water. Huge pans of water were taken through the city in processions – 5 times on this last day. This was a visual prayer for the rains to come. Their harvest was at the end of a very dry season with no rain at all. To someone living in the UK a very dry season sounds like a very good idea as we have too much of the wet stuff anyway. But many of you living in other parts of the world will have a much better appreciation of how important it is to get rain at the time of the year when you expect to get rain.

Jesus stands up and shouts out these words. There is some doubt about what exactly he meant, hence the alternative reading in a footnote of the NIV, but the overall message is clear – anyone who believes in him will become the source of great riches, both to himself or herself, and to other people. Those riches, John points out in the next verse, consist of the possession of the Holy Spirit, though not quite the Holy Spirit as he later became available to all those who believed in Jesus after Pentecost. But Jesus is part of the Triune God, as is the Holy Spirit, so participating in him by believing in him was not much different from having the Spirit.

Jesus is using another vivid metaphor to explain who he is and what he brought to the people who met him. They, like all of us, were spiritually thirsty. They wanted purpose to life; they wanted to know that there is a supreme God in control of this world; they wanted to know of a source of strength they could draw on when not everything was going right for them; they wanted to have the understanding that this life is not all there is – there is something good to come later. All that is thirst, so Jesus stands up and promises them living water, running water, spring water, clean water, the sort of water it is a delight to drink.

When people get this water, this Spirit, they will not be able to keep it to themselves. It will slop over, sometimes accidentally but also sometimes when we mean it to for someone else’s enjoyment.

The result of his words was chaos. Some thought he must be the prophet that Moses said would be ‘like me’ (Deuteronomy 18: 15); others thought he must be the long looked for Messiah; still others reckoned his background wasn’t good enough for either; the leading men wanted to put him safely behind bars but discovered they couldn’t get anyone to arrest him.

What a wonderful and amazing man he was. To all those who thirst – no other qualification required – he promised riches, the true riches of a fulfilling life, not gold – and we know that he fulfilled that promise – and what he got was chaos. So it is with us – we can choose – either a full and rich life following him or a world of chaos.


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