It’s tempting to think of Jesus as the long-haired, sandal-wearing hippie walking around saying, “peace and love, man.” But then when we really read the book of John, we see an entirely different man emerge who, of course, was about peace and love but was also radically committed to saving the world. John 3:17 (NIV) says “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” Throughout this gospel account we’ve seen him perform some amazing miracles and give some hard truths that some just could not accept. When we catch up with him in John 7, he’s just fed the 5,000 and told everyone in John 6:51 (NIV), “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” This caused quite the uproar among those following him and some decided to walk away. Pressure was beginning to build among the religious leaders to figure out how to truly deal with Jesus.
In John 7, Jesus sends his brothers to the Feast of Booths (also known as the Festival of Tabernacles) and then travels there in secret himself. This festival was instituted by Moses to commemorate the years that the Israelites wandered in the desert after their Exodus departure from Egypt. Jews today celebrate the festival by living outdoors in booths or tents through the festive period. Because of this, it is a festival of cultural and historical meaning. The last day of the festival was one of the most important and joyful days because of a ceremonial gathering of pure water poured on the altar in the Temple. This was accompanied by great rejoicing and celebration in the Holy Temple. In fact, this joy was so immense, and the celebrations so uplifting, that the sages of Israel emphatically stated, “Whoever has never seen the celebrations of the Festival of the Water Libation-has never experienced true joy in his life.”
John 7: 37-39 (NIV) says, “On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ 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.”
He comes back to the theme of life again as he did in John 6, but now switches metaphors. Instead of describing himself as the bread of life, he now uses a new picture – streams of living water. Jesus connects spiritual transformation to spiritual thirst, and is appealing to a thread that had already been pulled throughout the Bible:
In Psalm 42 (NKJV) David cried out, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul longs after you, o God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”
The prophet Isaiah declared, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.” (Isaiah 55:1 NIV)
In his sermon on the Beatitudes, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6 NLT)
And finally, in the last book of the Bible, we hear this: “Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst… For the Lamb at the center before the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water…” (Revelation 7:16-17 NIV)
John Piper at www.desiringgod.org describes it like this: “When we hear Jesus cry out at the feast of booths, "If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink," we understand him to mean, "If you are thirsty for God, if you are longing for the consolation of Israel (Luke 2:25), if you are eagerly looking for the kingdom of God (Luke 23:51), for deliverance from sin and oppression, then no longer look back to the days of old, and don't look forward to the future—look to me. In me all the past is summed up, and in me the future hope has arrived. If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink."
This invitation is for everyone. No exceptions. There is, however, one condition. We must be thirsty! As humans, we are both cursed and blessed with restlessness. Cursed because our restlessness often means we turn to many other things besides Jesus to satisfy our thirst. Blessed because that restlessness can point us back to Jesus again and again if we’re paying attention. John Piper again: “We are afflicted and blessed with a chronic restlessness, an insatiable soul-thirst, for this reason: that we might keep looking until we find Christ. And that having found him we might be turned back to him again and again when we taste of other springs and find them bitter. We were made for God. The taste buds of our souls were made to relish fellowship with the Son of God.”
I have found way too many bitter springs in my restlessness and the taste buds of my soul crave that fresh, cool spring of an intimate relationship with Jesus! My prayer for all of us is that we remember that when we are weary and spiritually thirsty, we will continually point ourselves back to Jesus, who is the only one who can refresh our souls.
Erin is a speaker and leadership development professional who has been in the learning and development field for over 12 years. She has a unique ability to engage with her audience and create learning experiences that inspire change and action. She is poised, articulate and delivers her message with passion.
Erin feels that God has called her to use her professional skills to further His kingdom. She is passionate about helping people develop skills and knowledge that will empower them to answer Jesus’ call in their lives and understand how they are uniquely wired to respond to His leading. See Erin's other writings at: www.erhspeaks.com