Tuesday, January 12, 2016
"Rivers of Living Water" Sermon: John 7:37-39
“Rivers of Living Water”
January 10, 2016 Second Reformed Church
We return to our look at the Gospel of John today.
We are in the midst of the seventh chapter of the Gospel – it is about six months before the Crucifixion. We are in the midst of the account of what Jesus did in Jerusalem during the Feast of Booths – the harvest celebration of Israel – a thanksgiving.
Jesus had gone up late to the feast so He could travel without people coming after Him – either for help or to kill Him. But, once He arrived in Jerusalem, in the Temple, Jesus spoke to the crowd and told them that He is God the Savior – the Christ – and that some of the Jews wanted to kill Him for healing a man on the Sabbath.
The crowd was confused about whether Jesus was the Savior or not and why the Jews were not taking Him away for making the claims He was making. If He was not the Christ, they should have taken Him away; if He was the Christ, why weren’t they revealing it to everyone?
On the last day of the feast – it was a week-long feast – Jesus again spoke to the crowd, and this is our text this morning:
And we see, first, whoever drinks of Jesus will never thirst.
“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.’
On the last day of the feast, Jesus stood where the crowd could see Him and shouted – He cried out – with the offer that anyone who came to Him would have their thirst quenched.
The crowd would have understood the symbolism. Perhaps we do not:
Part of the Feast of Booths was a water purifying ceremony. This ceremony took place every day of the feast except for the last day. The priest would take water from the Pool of Siloam and pour it into a funnel that was built into the altar for burnt offering. Then the water would flow down through the altar and come out through the base.
This ceremony was to remind the people of Israel both of God’s provision of water – and all their needs – during the forty years in the wilderness, and it was also symbolic of the spiritual bounties that would come in the Messianic Age – in the time of the Savior – the Christ (Hendricksen, John).
The people who viewed the ceremony would see the water running through the altar and remember what happened in the wilderness:
“All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, ‘Give us water to drink.’ And Moses said to them, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?’ But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, ‘Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?’ So Moses cried to the LORD, ‘What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.’ And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.’ And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel” (Exodus 17:1-6, ESV).
They rejoiced in thanksgiving for what they had that year at the harvest and they remember that God always provided what His people needed for the day – through natural and miraculous ways.
And they would have also remembered God’s promise of bountiful spiritual provision in the Holy Kingdom of the Messiah – the Savior – the Christ:
“You will say in that day:
“’I will give thanks to you, O LORD,
for though you were angry with me,
your anger turned away,
that you might comfort me.
Behold, God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation.’
“With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day:
’Give thanks to the LORD,
call upon his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples,
proclaim that his name is exalted.
Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously;
let this be made known in all the earth.
Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion,
for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel’” (Isaiah 12, ESV).
The spiritual bounty to come would be in forgiveness through the Savior – and more. Like the drawing of water, all those who have believed and been saved by the Christ – the Savior – will receive forgiveness and be saved from the parching effects of sin and be eternally indwelt with that water – as we will shortly see.
What this tells us is that salvation can only be received by faith. And we must understand that “faith” is not just a way of saying “accepting something that can’t be proven – or can’t be believed.” Faith is the way in which we receive evidence about something, so we can examine it and draw conclusions – here, the conclusion of the witness of the Old Testament prophets – using the symbolism of water – which reminded the people of what God had done in recorded history to provide for His people in the wilderness – which reminded them of the promises God made of spiritual abundance once the Messiah came – and going forth from that point until God’s Kingdom came to earth. Faith receives the historical facts and the promises that have been made and weights them out to discern whether these things are true or not.
So, Jesus was telling the people to look at the water, remember the historical facts, remember the promises of God, now take that information and compare it with Who Jesus says He is and what He has done and discern – is He the Christ? – and if He is, come to Him to receive the promise of God the Father – spiritual abundance.
Jesus went on to explain, second, that whoever believes in Him will have rivers of living water flowing out of him.
‘Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”’
This is imagery He used before with the Samaritan woman – if we remember back to chapter four:
“A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’ (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?’ (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink,” you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water’” (John 4:7-15, ESV).
We see this imagery again of believing in Jesus and what He can do, and then being indwelt with water that continues to flow up so the believer will never be thirsty again. Of course, Jesus was talking about spiritual thirst – that spiritual parch-ness that non-believers have that cause them to search in one way or another for something else – until and unless they receive the Savior by faith and believe in Jesus as that Savior – believe in Who Jesus said He was and what He accomplished in history to save all those who will believe.
In believing in Jesus as Savior, we have the assurance and the reality of the water continually welling up within us – we are assured of our salvation and the promises that God has made to His people. We will not ever fully stray away from Jesus, because He Alone gives us the water to live and to live fully – abundantly.
As Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:10-11, ESV).
Through faith alone and by believing, we are not merely made alive by the water Christ gives, we are most assuredly and with confidence, filled with abundant life in Christ – so that no matter what happens to us, we have hope and a certain future with Him.
Third, the rivers of flowing water are the gift of the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit.
“Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
Up until the Day of Pentecost, God the Holy Spirit had come upon people, but He had not indwelled them. One of the gifts that all those who receive Jesus by faith and believe in Who He claimed to be and what He did in history is the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit.
Jesus promised that after He had ascended back to the Father – after He had been glorified and seated at the Right Hand of the Father, They would send the Holy Spirit to indwell believers that we would be transformed into the Image of the Son by the workings of the Spirit in us.
Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:15-17, ESV).
And the Holy Spirit came to indwell all those who believe by faith alone in Jesus the Savior on the Day of Pentecost and indwells all those who believe in Jesus, receiving Him by faith alone:
“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4, ESV).
“But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
“And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved”’” (Acts 2:14-21, ESV).
If we have received and believed in Jesus Alone by faith alone, then God the Holy Spirit indwells us, and He is working in us to change us – a work that will continue until Jesus returns and glorifies us in the Kingdom. For now, He teaches and guides us. He makes clear the way to escape the temptation to sin. He keeps us from totally falling away from Jesus. He empowers us to do all that we have been called and created to do in the Name of our Triune God. He assures and reassures us of our salvation and the fact that Satan is a defeated foe. We have been freed from slavery to sin and set free to abundant life.
All people are called to hear and believe the Gospel message of Who Jesus is and what He has done. The Gospel is a rational proposition – calling each of us to look at the facts of Jesus, the facts of what God has said and promised – to see if it all adds up as truth.
Those of us who believe through faith have been convinced of the truth of the Gospel and God the Holy Spirit now lives in us and will never – can never leave us – because we are His – sons and daughters of the Father, brothers and sisters of Jesus – and He leads us to an ever more perfect union with Jesus, the Church – all believers, and the Trinity Themselves.
May we be encouraged by these words and the truth we have believed and come to experience. And may we so overflow with the waters of salvation that both in word and deed others will hear the Gospel and be called to believe through faith.
Let us pray:
Almighty God and Father, You chose us for Yourself and gave us to Your Son. You have given us faith that we would receive the Truth of the Gospel and believe savingly – that we would receive the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit. Grow us and use us to Your Glory. For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.