First Mennonite Church
February 24, 2019
Stagnant or Flowing Stream?
Text: John 7:37-39
7:37 On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, 7:38 and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.'” 7:39 Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
I am sure you share the joy of having been blessed with a good rainy season this year. After these many years of drought, every drop of rain is a much needed blessing. Thanks be to God for his goodness!
Today, I want to follow-up on Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman about the “living water” Jesus offers. In chapter six, Jesus declares that he is the “living bread.” Next Sunday, we will be looking at that passage. In the same chapter, Jesus also says he is the “word of life.” And once again, here in chapter seven Jesus assures the believers that out of them shall flow rivers of “living water.”
John puts Jesus in Jerusalem together with the people from all over Judea and beyond, celebrating the Festival of Booths. This feast is the commemoration of Israel’s dwelling in the desert during its exodus journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. It is the reenactment of the Hebrew people’s living in tents; thus, on those days the temple compound and adjacent spaces were filled with temporary huts where the pilgrims lived for seven days.
John also continues to make reference to Jesus’ teaching and particularly regarding the living water and the movement and power of the Spirit.
During the seven days of the festival, every morning the priests would go to the Pool of Siloam to fetch water with their silver jars to bring it to the cisterns in the temple court. As the priests go and come, the people followed, singing and dancing. It was indeed a festive occasion for the pilgrims. But on the seventh day, the last and most important day of the festival, the priests and the people would go seven times to and from the pool to the temple. The abundant water fetched that last day was supposed to illustrate the abundance of God’s mercy, patience, and provision for his people Israel. John tells us that on the last and most important day in the Festival, Jesus stands in the middle of the crowds and makes a public announcement. He cries out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’”
If seven trips of water fetched represented God’s abundant mercy, faithfulness and provision and it was as well reason for great rejoicing, how much greater would God’s grace and the people’s joy be if there were a river overflowing its banks? That was the contrast Jesus wanted to highlight. Cisterns would eventually run dry; fetching water would be needed over and over again, but a spring of living water meant God’s continuous presence and fullness of life for the believer.
The living water is available to those who thirsts. It is available to everyone, but it would be for those who thirst, come, believe and drink of it.
We thirst as a result of our body losing some of its fluids. This loss happens as we breathe and much more so when we are active. Upon losing some fluids, our cells communicate with our brain. We have a natural, yet very keen sensitivity in our body that tells us when we are thirsty. To live requires hydration. And so the question is, how sensitive are we to the needs of our spirit? Or do we try to quench this deep thirst of the soul by giving it something other than the living water? Many people try quenching their thirst by staying constantly active or by overworking, by seeking pleasure or the accumulation of material possessions. In other words, many are drinking from temporary water holes or cisterns that run dry. And it could be that their thirst is quenched only for a short time. They find cisterns, but not the spring of living water. So in order to recognize our need for the living water, we must feel the thirst in our soul. Unless you and I realize we are thirsty, Jesus’ offer will go unnoticed.
So I want to invite you to take time to quiet your mind and to silence your thoughts. Listen to the cries of your soul and hear its clamor for water, living water. Take time to listen to your heart. Do you feel dissatisfied, confused, or drained in your life? Are you constantly seeking for something, yet you do not know what it is? Do you have a longing for inner peace, but nothing gives it to you? If you experience any of these, it could be that your soul is thirsty for the living water Jesus offers.
For us who have drunk from the living spring, we should be reminded that drinking from the living spring is not a once-and-for-all event. The verbs thirsts, comes, drinks, and believes are all in present tense, indicating continuing action. We must constantly be thirsting, coming, drinking, and believing in Jesus. We never end having thirst because we never stop coming and being refreshed in the Lord. In John’s gospel the verb to believe is not merely the mental affirmation of something, but having a living experience in what or whom we believe. In that sense, believing in Jesus means, having an ongoing experience with him, an experience that is ever growing in intimacy and in his image.
John clarifies Jesus’ words by saying that the “rivers of living water” refer to the Spirit the believers would receive. In the Hebrew language as well as in the Greek language, Spirit is the same word for wind. And just as the living water implies movement, so also the wind or Spirit of God. The living water means water that it is in motion, not stagnant. Throughout the Bible, the Spirit of God is always in motion. In Genesis we read that the Spirit of God hoovered over the watery cosmos. In the Gospels, the Spirit led Jesus. In Act of the Apostle, the Spirit of God alighted upon the 120 disciples in the upper room and also empowered them. When you go up on Highway 101 north, before you arrive to Salinas, you will see a couple of wind-turbines. The wind in that area is always blowing strong; therefore, regardless the amazing size those propellers have, the wind gets them spinning.
My dear brothers and sisters, when the living water flows, spiritual apathy disappears. Our hearts burst with joy before the presence of God in worship. We experience a great desire and passion for God and his word. When the living water flows from within us, we look forward to connect with one another and to build up one another. When the river of living water flows in us, seeking the face of God in prayer becomes a priority. The imagery of the psalmist becomes vivid in us when he wrote: As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God (42:1, 2).
I know you are here because, as God’s people, we desire to be in his presence. We come to worship because we acknowledge we are thirsting for God. And He is the only one who can satisfy the spiritual thirst we have. Feel the thirst in your heart. Jesus says, those who thirst, come, drink, believe will have a river of living water flowing out from them. I know the river of living water is in you and me, let us allow it to flow from us. Let us not make it stay stagnant, but flowing in us to transform us and flowing from us to others. Let us allow the Spirit of God to wash us, to cleanse us, and to renew us each day. Here is Jesus’ invitation once again: “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” Let us come and drink from him. Let us pray.