Are you thirsty this morning? There are many options you have if you are and you need your thirst quenched. Think of all the advertisements of thirst-quenching products. We are urged to drink sports drinks, soft drinks and especially beer! However, if you are like me, nothing quenches my thirst like plain old water. So what quenches your thirst?
Many people are thirsty today. I don’t mean the kind of thirst that we have just been thinking about. Many people are looking for something in their lives that will satisfy something deep inside them. Some try filling up with money and all the stuff money can buy. Some try to quench their spiritual thirst by seeking positions of power. Some try drugs and alcohol. In fact, the things that people try to quench their spiritual longing only makes them desire even more and they aren’t satisfied. What is it that such people want, even if they don’t realize it?
Jesus, in John 7:37-39, offers a clear answer to man’s thirst when he says, “If any man is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.” How does Jesus fill that spiritual thirst? The answer from Jesus himself is that it is through the giving of the Holy Spirit to those who believe in him. Let’s read John 7:25-44.
I. The setting of Jesus’ words in verse 37 is the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles.
This festival was a kind of Jewish “Thanksgiving Day.” It was a day for the people to remember and celebrate God’s faithful care when they were rescued from slavery in Egypt and led to the Promised Land. One important part of the reason for their celebration was the way God had provided water for them while in the desert. They had been literally thirsty to the point of death and God miraculously provided water from a rock on two occasions.
As time went on, this ritual not only helped them remember God’s providing water in the past, but also became a prayer for rain for their crops in the future. If there was any rain on these days, they took it as a pledge that God would bless their crops in the next year. The Feast of Tabernacles provided a time when the people thought a lot about water. They expected water from God who would give them food for the coming year.
John 7:37 says that on the great day of the feast, the 7th day with the 7 processions with water, Jesus stood up and said, “If any man is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.” Jesus likely was sitting down and teaching his disciples in the temple area at this time. Now perhaps seeing the highlight of the whole festival with all the people thinking of water, he stands up and cries out in a loud voice to the people. In effect, Jesus is saying, “You people are looking for water so you can live. I am that water that you need.” Jesus is pointing out that the legalistic and ritualistic systems would in fact be a hindrance that would prevent the people getting what they desperately needed.
Jesus is saying in the midst of this feast that he is the water that they really need and the only water that could give them life. Jesus is saying that all they have to do is believe in him and they will have water. John says that Jesus didn’t mean literal water, but rather meant the Holy Spirit.
II. What is the source of the Spirit?
In verse 39, John says that the Holy Spirit was not given until Jesus was glorified. What does it mean to glorify someone? We may think in terms of a welcome home parade for a local hero. One who receives some honor we might say receives some glory. But Jesus was glorified through his suffering and death. That may strike us as an odd way of being glorified for to be executed as a convicted criminal is not typically a means for someone to receive glory. However, Jesus’ death must be linked closely with his resurrection and ascension. Jesus had waged the battle against sin, Satan and death – and had defeated all three when he rose again from the dead. He then returned to heaven in glory having accomplished what he set out to do. When Jesus accomplished his mission, he was glorified for all he had done.
Why couldn’t the Holy Spirit simply be given to us without all that Jesus had to endure? Simply because sin had to punished and God’s justice had to be satisfied. If we received the Holy Spirit without Christ’s being glorified, we might have power, but no freedom from sin. We first had to be set free from the slavery in our lives. Once free, Jesus then empowers us through the Spirit. There is a very close connection between Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
We need to make sure that we don’t separate the Holy Spirit from Jesus which is what many churches have effectively done. Some have such a strong emphasis on things like being baptized in the Spirit, slain in the Spirit, speaking in tongues and the like. There is a tendency on the part of some Christians to emphasize the role of the Spirit so much that the Father and the Son are minimized. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit and Jesus are working intimately together. We must not forget Jesus who is the one who has given us the Spirit. In fact, it is only based on what Jesus has done that enables us to have the filling of the Spirit within us.
Lord’s Day 20 of the Heidelberg Catechism reflects a good balanced view of what the Bible teaches about the Holy Spirit. Question 53 asks, “What do you believe concerning ‘the Holy Spirit?’” The answer: First, he, as well as the Father and the Son, is eternal God. Second, he has been given to me personally, so that, by true faith, he makes me share in Christ and all his blessings, comforts me, and remains with me forever.” The Holy Spirit is part of the triune God first of all. Second, the Holy Spirit is given to each personally but given so that I can share in Christ and all his blessings. The Holy Spirit is not given to us simply to give us powerful individual freedoms. The Holy Spirit is given to us so that we can become more like Christ himself. The Holy Spirit is given so that we can share with others the blessings of being saved by Christ.
III. Finally, let’s look at the abundance of the Spirit as see in verse 38.
Jesus says that after he is glorified, after his mission is fully accomplished and he returns to heaven, whoever believes in him will receive the Holy Spirit. But what is important to see is the quantity of this gift. Jesus fills our lives with the Holy Spirit not like a trickle of water from a faucet. Jesus says that streams of living water will be flowing from within us. Jesus abundantly fills our lives and quenches the thirst we have in our lives. In fact, Jesus says that he will fill our lives to the point of overflowing. The picture is of a torrent of water that is flowing. It is not pooling or just sitting there like a reservoir; it is flowing! Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit to not only flow into us but also flow out from us. The Bible never teaches that we are just to sit and receive and that is all. The Holy Spirit as living water flows into our lives and then out again to affect the lives of others around us.
How does that work practically? When you use your spiritual gift which each of you have, you are serving others. When you use your gift of teaching, hospitality, evangelism, giving, discernment, you are enabling others to benefit from the Spirit who is flowing within you. The purpose of spiritual gifts is not to horde them but to use them to help others.
Think of the spiritual fruit we are all to be producing. We are to be continually exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit so that others can see God’s love and grace in your life. Our lives should be characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The key is to help others and to channel the flow of the Holy Spirit to others.
Jesus has fulfilled His promise and sent us the Holy Spirit. So what? Let’s thank God for the pouring out of that gift in our lives. Let’s pray that God may fill us more and more with His Spirit so that we may have the Spirit flowing from within us. We need this thirst-quenching Spirit in our lives for us to live as Christians. We need the life-giving Spirit to help us in our struggles and hurts. But let’s not grow “bloated” by only absorbing water into ourselves. Let us not let those streams of living water with which Jesus fills us become stagnant within us because it doesn’t flow out from us. Let us all keep this flowing water surging through us. Let us share the abundant and joyful life we have with others. Think consciously of the fruit of the Spirit which should be evident in our lives and how that fruit impacts others. Let’s make sure our lives are a channel of God’s grace and love to others.