TEXT: John 7:37-8:1
Turn with me this morning to Leviticus 23:39-43, for a brief background of the celebration that is taking place in our text today: 39 “So beginning with the fifteenth day of the seventh month, (the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles or Succoth as it is referred to by Jews today. It is probable that the Thanksgiving celebration by the pilgrims was patterned after this celebration)  after you have gathered the crops of the land, celebrate the festival to the LORD for seven days; the first day is a day of rest, and the eighth day also is a day of rest. 40 On the first day you are to take choice fruit from the trees, and palm fronds, leafy branches and poplars, and rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days. 41 Celebrate this as a festival to the LORD for seven days each year. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come; celebrate it in the seventh month. 42 Live in booths for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in booths 43 so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in booths when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.’” NIV
In those verses God established for Israel the great harvest celebration known as The Feast of Tabernacles. It was a seven-day event with a Sabbath day added as the eighth day, known as the Shemini Atzeres or Solemn Assembly. During this feast the Israelites dwelt in little temporary booths or huts made from tree limbs. There is an entire volume in the Talmud directing how these booths were to be erected. The dimensions are minutely described.  But the purpose was to remind Israel of God’s faithfulness in bringing them out of Egypt into the Promise Land. This is the festival going on in Jerusalem at the time of our text in John 7. Jesus was teaching and interacting with the Jews in the middle of this great celebration—perhaps as early on the fourth day. Our text this morning opens on the seventh day. It is the last and greatest day of the Feast.  Everything came to a great climax of joy on this day.
To grasp the full significance of Jesus’ invitation in verses 37-39 of John 7 we need to know:
I. The Jewish CONTEXT in which He spoke.
At the break of day the worshippers leave their booths to take part in the services. They are all dressed in festive array. Each worshipper carries in his right hand what is called the “Lulabh” or palm branch. (A myrtle and a willow branch tied together with a palm branch in between).
In each left hand is a citrus fruit called “Ethrog” thought to be the Paradise-apple. The crowd would divide into 3 groups. Some would remain at the temple. Another group would go in procession to Maza (which some think is the Emmaus Road) and gather willow-branches to adorn the altar with a leafy canopy.
The third group is of particular importance to our text. As music sounded they would follow a Priest in procession from the temple down the Tyropoeon Valley to where it merges with the Kedron Valley through the Fountain Gate to the Pool of Siloam. The Pool of Siloam  was fed by the Rogel Spring of water further up the Kedron Valley. When the procession reached the Pool of Siloam (which overflowed to another pool) the Priest would fill a golden pitcher from the waters of the Siloam.
They then went back—timing their journey so that they reached the Temple just as the morning sacrifice was being laid on the Brazen Altar. A 3-fold trumpet blast welcomed the Priest as he entered through the Watergate. As the Priest ascended ‘the rise’ of the altar he is joined by another Priest carrying wine for the drink offering. (I hope you sense the awesome pageantry of all this.) The saying in the Jewish writing is, “He who has not seen the Rejoicing of the Place of Water-drawing has never in his life witnessed a real celebration.” 
These two priests come to two silver funnels leading down to the base of the altar. Into the eastern funnel the wine is poured. At the same time the water is poured into the western funnel. (Both the wine and the water represent the Holy Spirit in scripture.) As the priest pours the water the people are shouting for him to raise his hand. 
Immediately after the water is poured the great ‘Hallel’ is chanted to the accompaniment of the flute. The ‘Hallel’ is Psalms 113 to 118. As the Levites chant the first line of the Psalm, the people repeat it; while to each of the other lines they respond by “Hallelu Yah” (Praise the Lord). In Psalms 118 the people not only repeat the first line (O give thanks to the Lord) but also these (“O then, work now salvation, Jehovah, O Lord now send prosperity”) and again at the close of the Psalm, “O give thanks to the Lord.”
As they repeated these lines, they shake the Lalabh in their hands toward the altar as a praise for past blessings and to remind God of His promises.  (The pouring of the water signified the prayer for abundant rain which was necessary for the growth of their crops.)
Then a silence follows. And while having this silence, one voice rises in the crowd, “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.” Jesus is not interrupting the ceremony. He is interpreting it. The celebration has come to a climax. It is a celebration of God’s goodness. It is a prayer for God’s provision. Here is the ultimate cause of celebration. Here is the ultimate provision of God. The Messiah stands in their midst as the fulfillment of this great feast.
Imagine the impact of Jesus’ invitation in that setting. He is not sitting in a teaching position but standing  to proclaim an invitation. His voice is not soft and mellow but full of emotion and intensity.  Who would dare to speak up like that at such a holy moment? The Lord of Glory speaks up because it all points to him. IT IS ALL FULFILLED IN HIM. No wonder the people respond as they do John 7:40-41. “On hearing his words some of the people said, ‘Surely this man is the Prophet.’ Others said, ‘He is the Christ.’ They understood the claim he was making by that invitation. Only the Prophet, only the Christ could make such a claim.
We have talked about the context of Jesus’ great invitation. Now look closely with me to
II. The CONTENT of this invitation.
A. A UNIVERSAL CALL TO COME TO CHRIST.
“If anyone is thirsty…” That means you are not excluded from this invitation.
In our text, Jesus makes a universal call to mankind. There is only one prerequisite to Jesus’ invitation. “If anyone is (what) thirsty…” Only thirsty people drink.
Jesus calls people to recognize, to become aware of, their inner thirst. THERE IS NO LASTING EARTHLY SATISFACTION. Marriage, family, money, fame, enlightenment, travel, athletics, academic achievements – NOTHING COMPLETELY SATISFIES US. Any satisfaction or significance we gain in our quest fades quickly and becomes a vague memory, if remembered at all. Yes, certainly, there are happy events along the way, unexpected moments when we experience pure delight. But those moments are fleeting, and we can never go back in time to relive them and recapture the sensation.
Why then do we keep seeking for something to satisfy us? Simply put, it’s because we have to. YOU AND I ARE THIRSTY PEOPLE. We long for a deep satisfaction, the kind that makes our insides very alive, that makes us enriched people. WE THIRST. Deep in our souls, down at the core, we desperately want something-and want it legitimately-that we don’t have -to be respected, to be deeply involved with someone who truly accepts us.
WHETHER WE REALIZE IT OR NOT, OUR SOULS ARE THIRSTING FOR GOD.
Never let the Devil tell you that people are not interested in God. Only a fool would not be. “The fool has said in his heart there is no God.”  But even when he’s telling himself that—he knows, he longs for reality (reality that extends beyond the confines of this temporal, material world). That is the universal appeal of the Gospel.
God has mercifully created us with a built-in need for Him. We are all born with a thirst for God—a longing to know God—a longing to know and be known. There is a thirst, a craving, in every soul for the eternal God. There is a God-given desire to be valued and loved—to express love. We were born for His love and we cannot truly live without it. Every desire, every aspiration, every longing of our nature is nothing less than a yearning for God. There is a deep search for significance, meaning, and spiritual reality in the souls of men. That’s why you find religion all over the world. Man intuitively knows there’s more. Man intuitively knows there’s God.
Jesus is addressing something of great significance, the thirst of the human soul. He is simply saying that He is the joy that we have been searching all our lives. EVERYTHING THAT WE DESIRE IS FOUND IN HIM – AND INFINITELY MORE IS FOUND IN HIM!
JESUS IS THE ANSWER FOR THIS DEEP THIRST. But it’s our responsibility-and our opportunity-to drink deeply of Him, to trust Him to produce the kind of change that way down deep inside we know we want for ourselves.
And so, if you find yourself restless and thirsting for something more in life; respond to Jesus’ invitation, “Come to Me and drink.” Go to Him, drink freely of His grace and forgiveness, and experience true joy and the personal significance that only Jesus can provide. Happiness depends on happenings, but joy, satisfaction, significance and so much more depends on drinking in from Jesus!
B. A VERY SPECIFIC INSTRUCTION.
“If anyone is thirsty LET HIM COME TO ME…” There is only one place we can go to eternally satisfy the thirst of our souls. “Let him come to ME…” not religion, not alcohol, not drugs, not pornography, not adultery, not greed, not materialism, not Buddha, not a bunch of legalistic rules and regulation. “Come to Me, Jesus say, and I will give you rest, I will be your peace, I will be your joy.”
Israel stands as a warning to every person who hears this invitation. We know that ultimately this crowd rejected Jesus’ invitation and called for his crucifixion. Israel had a history of turning to the wrong places to fill their thirsting souls.
Jeremiah, the prophet, wrote (Jeremiah 2:12-13)
12 Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror,” declares the LORD. 13 “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”
Have you ever heard the expression, “That won’t hold water.” It’s worthless. It won’t get the job done. I Corinthians 10, tells us that Israel’s history is recorded in scripture for our benefit—as a warning that we not follow that example.
We too can find ourselves going to empty wells for satisfaction. This world is offering us a life full of broken cisterns. “If I could just have that—I would be satisfied. If I could just make $ 500 a month more. If I could just marry the right person. If I only had that job. If people would just recognize my ministry. One more car. One more house. One more piece of furniture. One more dress. One more hunting rifle.” This list of broken cisterns can go on and on and on.
But Jesus is not inviting us to those things. Neither is he offering to give us those things. HE IS OFFERING US HIMSELF. He is our peace …our joy…our hope. THE SATISFACTION/FULFILLMENT IN LIFE ONLY COMES BY HAVING A RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS. (ILLUSTRATION ABOUT ACCEPTING JESUS AS LORD AND SAVIOR – WOH CONTEXT)
So people try to quench their thirst with all the wrong things. The tragedy is this: THEIR THIRST IS DECEPTIVELY QUENCHED. Like a child who tries to satisfy his hunger with more and more candy. The hunger temporarily subsides but no real nutrition is received.
Is your thirst for God being satisfied by a rich relationship with Him? Are you thirsty or have you been drinking from broken cisterns? Thirst is a wonderful blessing because it can lead us to Christ.
Notice those last two words in verse 37, “…and drink.” The old adage is “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”
Jesus has provided everything we need for life and godliness.  We do not have to live a meager existence in spiritual poverty and depression. The limitless Resource is available to us. BUT WE HAVE TO DRINK. WE HAVE TO COME TO THE LORD IN OUR THIRST AND DESPERATION…open our spiritual mouths wide, open our souls to him and RECEIVE.
There is a God side to this and a human side. God has divinely provided life in Christ—not just an eternal home in heaven, but LIFE, a flow of spiritual reality and relationship with God that meets every, every need we have. The cross has paid it all and bought it all. All we have to do is want it—want it bad enough to come to Christ for it. And receive it as a gift from Him. “If anyone is thirsty (are you thirsty?) Let him come to me and drink.” Will you come to him and drink this morning?
“Well if God would send Billy Graham, I would drink.” Jesus didn’t say come to Billy Graham or to some evangelist, etc. He said come to ME. “If God would change my circumstance, fix my problems I would drink.” Jesus didn’t say come after everything suits your fancy. He simply said “come.”
Isa 12:3 “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” NIV
There is a joy, there is a peace, there is love available to all who will come and drink.
C. A PROMISE TO OVERFLOW YOU.
38 “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”
On the last great day of the feast, the people had gone to the Pool of Siloam, a pool that overflows into another pool. They had rejoiced in the ceremony of water drawing.
Now Jesus said, “I will not only water your soul. But I will make you a channel of blessing to others as well.” (“As the Scripture has said”)—we don’t know for sure which scripture Jesus is referring to in this invitation. But Isaiah 58:11 is a strong possibility. 11 “The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land, and will strengthen your frame.”
You will be like a well-watered garden, (that is the personal satisfaction we receive when we come and drink; like a spring whose waters never fail. That is the blessing we will be to others.)
This is the essence of all true Christian life—an overflow of the life of Jesus in our lives. The flesh profits nothing. It is the overflow of the Holy Spirit that really helps people. WHEN WE GET FULL OF ANYTHING WE OVERFLOW… “The abundance of the mouth the heart speaks.” Israel in the wilderness got full of complaint and overflowed with murmuring.
- The person full of resentment will overflow with bitterness.
- The person full of covetousness will overflow with greed.
- The person full of the world will overflow with worldliness.
- The person full of JESUS will overflow with HIS LIFE (his fruit, his healing, his encouragement, his sufficiency).
Christian life is nothing more than overflowing with the life of Jesus.
BUT BEFORE WE CAN OVERFLOW WE HAVE TO BE FILLED OURSELVES.
Notice the Apostle John’s comment in verse 39 “By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.” John is writing this after the Day of Pentecost. It was after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension that the Spirit was poured out in fulfillment of Jesus’ promise.
That’s why the Bible (Eph. 5:18) tells us to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit. BEING FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT IS EVERYTHING. It is a personal satisfaction. It is ministry equipping. It is necessary, necessary, necessary! Nothing will substitute for being filled with the Spirit. WE MAY HAVE BEEN FILLED YESTERDAY, BUT WE LIVE IN TODAY…AND MUST BE FILLED EVERYDAY!
Are you full of the Spirit now? Are you thirsty for more? Jesus is a never ending fountain of life. As long as we stay connected to him we will never, never run dry.
During the LIBERATION OF PALESTINE in WWI, a combined force of British, Australian, and New Zealand soldiers was closely pursuing the Turks as they retreated from the desert. As the allied troops moved northward past Beersheba they began to outdistance their water-carrying camel train. When the water ran out, their mouths got dry, their heads ached, and they became dizzy and faint. Eyes became bloodshot, lips swelled and turned purple, and mirages became common. They knew that if they did not make the wells of Sheriah by nightfall, thousands of them would die – as hundreds already had done. Literally fighting for their lives, they managed to drive the Turks from Sheriah.
As water was distributed from the great stone cisterns, the more able-bodied were required to stand at attention and wait for the wounded and those who would take guard duty to drink first. It was four hours before the last man had his drink. During that time the men stood no more than twenty feet from thousands of gallons of water, to drink of which had been their consuming passion for many agonizing days.
It is said that one of the officers who was present reported, “I believe that we all learned our first real Bible lesson on the march from Beersheba to Sheriah Wells. If such were our thirst for God, for righteousness and for His will in our lives, a consuming, all-embracing, preoccupying desire, how rich in the fruit of the Spirit would we be?” [SOURCE: E.M. Blaiklock, “Water,” Eternity (August 1966), p. 27. ]
I pray that God gives us this overwhelming thirst for Jesus! Amen!
[Jesus is the new temple in John’s theology (see 2:21), and just as Jewish eschatology predicted the temple to be the dramatic source of water (displayed in the water ritual), so now Jesus is announcing Himself as a replacement for the temple once again. Jesus is the source of Zechariah’s fountain. Jesus is the source for what the feast of Tabernacles sought. Those seeking eternal water need to look no further.]
The invitation still stands. “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.” Are you thirsty? Do you want a fulfilled life, Come to JESUS today!
- Richard Tow
- Dennis Davidson