A THIRST-QUENCHING INVITATION — John 7:37-39

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INTRODUCTION:

Have you ever been thirsty?  We’ve all had that experience, haven’t we?  For some of us, it may occur on a daily basis, or even several times a day.  The feeling is not in your imagination.  God has given us a sense of physical thirst to let us know when our bodies need water because water is essential to human life.  Medical authorities tell us that an adult person needs about three quarts of water a day in order to operate efficiently.  Some of us need more than that amount because of strenuous work, hot climate, or other personal reasons.  Water breaks up and softens the food we eat.  Our blood, which is 90% water, carries the nutrients of that food to all the cells in our body.  Water regulates our body’s temperature through perspiration.  Without it’s lubricating qualities, our joints in our bodies would creak like an old, rusty gate.  Crrrreeeek!!!  I don’t like the sound of that! It probably feels worse than it sounds!

In this passage of Scripture, John 7:37-39, the Lord Jesus is going to be making it known to the crowd that, just as water is necessary for physical life, in the same way He and His words provide what is necessary for spiritual life.

I.  THE INVITATION (verse 37)

It’s the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot or Booths), and verse 37 refers to it as the “great day of the feast.”  It was a very special and solemn day.  The priests would march around the altar chanting Psalm 118:25 which says, “O Lord, do save, we beseech Thee; O Lord, do send prosperity.”  This would be the last morning that the priests and the people would go in procession and draw water from the pool of Siloam and place it in a gold pitcher.  During the procession the people recited Isaiah 12:3, which says, “Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”  When they returned, the priest would pour out the water at the side of the altar in the temple.  This act symbolized the event in Exodus 17 where God caused the water to gush forth from the rock when Moses struck it with his staff, and the people’s thirst was satisfied.

This ceremony was not given to Moses in the Law of the feasts.  It was not commanded by God, but was added later by the religious leaders, and drew the people’s attention away from the real meaning of the feast.  The drawing of the water could not satisfy the spiritual thirst of these people.  Only God could satisfy their deepest needs.

Thousands of worshipers were inside the temple at that moment.  Can I be more specific?  Historians tell us there were over one-hundred thousand men there in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles.  Of those, how many men could fit into the temple that Herod built?  I’ve read that ten thousand people could be in the temple at one time with a comfortable distance between one another, and the temple could easily hold twice that many people for a service such as this.  That’s a lot of people, with thousands more outside watching the procession and listening to the ceremony!

It may have been right after this ceremony was over that Jesus shouts, as loudly as He can, to everyone within ear-shot of His words.  He begins by shouting an invitation:  “If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.”  That action on His part must have startled many people, especially the ones closest to Him.  Many must have considered those words, spoken in that manner, to be a rude interruption.  But Jesus secured their attention and thousands of people in that temple who were within “shouting distance” heard the words He uttered.

IS LOUDNESS AN ATTENTION–GETTER?

Did I get your attention?  That’s about as close as I can get to being LOUD on this page without taking up too much space.  Loudness of voice is a way of gaining attention, isn’t it?  But now you have to keep the attention of your audience once you’ve gained it.  Jesus does so by relating His words closely to the ceremony that has just been enacted before their eyes, and to the words that were said by the priests and by the people. He said, “If any man is thirsty”.  The Greek word, dipsos, expresses a passionate longing for something without which one cannot live.  In the hot, arid region of Palestine, the people knew the full meaning of physical thirst  Jesus is speaking here of a spiritual thirst, not a physical thirst for water; and His invitation is offered to all who sense their need for salvation.  He’s reminding them of the Father’s promise in Isaiah 55:1, “Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters.” There is also the prayer of King David:  “O God, you are my God; my soul thirsts for you, my body yearns for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1).  Jesus is holding their attention by bringing familiar Scriptures to their minds, and applying those Scriptures to Himself.

If you look at the two Scripture passages I mentioned earlier [Psalm 118:25 and Isaiah 12:3], you will observe that they both speak about spiritual salvation, yet the priests and the people have been applying those Scriptures to the provision of physical water.  The Lord Jesus extends the invitation when He says, “let him come to me and drink.”  He’s inviting each one of them to personally come to Him, their Messiah, and He will satisfy the spiritual needs of their thirsty souls.  He is the only One who can satisfy that thirst, and His supply is never-ending.  Why would anyone want to refuse such an invitation?  Can you think of some reasons?  Maybe you’ve used some of them yourself in the past.

Those words of Jesus were also a partial-fulfillment, or reminder of the words of the prophet Haggai, spoken over 500 years earlier (Haggai 2:1-7).  On the very same day  [the twenty-first day of the seventh month, which is the seventh day of the feast of Tabernacles], God spoke these words of encouragement to the remnant of His people as they began the work of rebuilding the temple:

“. . . ‘And I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations
         and I will fill this house with glory’, says the Lord of Hosts.”  (Haggai 2:7)             

God is referring to a different temple that will be built on the very same spot where Solomon built the temple in I Kings 6.  The author of Hebrews records those same words spoken by Haggai, and applies them to Jesus Christ when He returns to reign as King (Hebrews 12:26-29).  The Jews listening to Jesus, here in verse 37, were looking forward to the fulfillment of that prophesy, and Jesus is giving them a “sneak preview” of what’s to come.  The day is coming when He will be in that temple in all His glory, and will be surrounded by people from all nations of the world who have come, not just to listen to Him, but to worship Him.

II.  THE PARTICIPATION (verse 38)

In verse 38, Jesus’ description gets even better and more amazing.  He says, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture says, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”  Jesus is describing to them the salvation experience:  “thirst” . . . “come to Me” . . . “believe” . . . and an “overflowing heart”.  What does He mean when He says, “come to Me” in verse 37?  It’s an act of the will, isn’t it?  It’s a recognition of one’s need and helplessness.  It’s an expression of trust.  It’s a change of direction.  The word “drink”, in verse 37, becomes the word “believe” here in verse 38.  We are coming in obedience to His calling, acknowledging our total dependence on Him, and yielding to His control over our lives.  It is a gift given from the only true source of supply.

As a result of that coming to Him by faith, Jesus says that “out of his mouth will flow rivers of living water.”  When the Spirit of God enters our lives, He changes our hearts.  That “living water” is described as a river of water being fed by an overflowing spring of clear, clean, cool, refreshing water.”  God saves us and fills us with His Spirit so that our lives might overflow as a witness to others of the saving power of Jesus Christ.

Henry G. Bosch shared a true story of an amputee soul-winner in Melbourne, Australia who has had a remarkable ministry.  A pastor who visited this woman writes,  “When this girl was 18, she was seized with a dreadful affliction and the doctor said that, to save her life, he must take off her foot.  Next the other foot was removed.  The disease continued to spread, and her legs had to be amputated at the hips.  Then the malady broke out in her hands.  And by the time I saw Miss Higgins, all that remained of her was the trunk of her body.  For 15 years now she has been in that condition.  I went to offer comfort, but I did not know how to speak to her or what to say.  I found the walls of her room covered with texts, all of them radiating joy, and peace, and power.  She explained that one day, while lying in bed, she inquired of the Lord what a total amputee could possibly do for Him.  Then an inspiration came to her.  Calling a friend of hers, who was a carpenter, she had him construct a device to fit her shoulder, and attach to it an extension holding a fountain pen.  Then she began to write letters witnessing to the grace of God.  She had to do it entirely with body movement, yet her penmanship was beautiful.  She has now received over 15 hundred replies from individuals who have been brought to Christ through the letters she produced in that way.”

The preacher asked her, “How do you do it?” and she replied, “You know Jesus said of His own that out of them ‘shall flow rivers of living water.’  I believe in Him, and He has helped me to overflow to others.”

Imagine in your mind a river that is flowing from a huge fountain of spring water.  What thoughts come to your mind when you think of such a river, or when you watch a river flowing?  In 1927, Jerome Kern wrote the music to a song, and Oscar Hammerstein II wrote the lyrics.  It became one of the songs for the musical, “Showboat”.  The song is “Ol’ Man River”, and here are a few words from the chorus of that song:

 Ol’ man river
Dat ol’ man river
He mus’ know somepin’
But don’t say nuthin’,
He jes keeps rollin’
He keeps on rollin’ along.

As he describes the Mississippi River, he’s pointing out that it is constant.  It’s been around a long time and it has never stopped flowing.  The Lord Jesus is telling the people that those who believe in Him will become like “rivers of living water” spiritually, overflowing with the knowledge and the joy of their salvation, and spilling that crystal-clear, life-giving water onto others through their witness and testimonies.  The gospel will be a constant and abundant supply of blessing for them and for the world around them.

III.  THE EXPLANATION (verse 39)

In verse 39, the apostle John tells us how this amazing transformation is going to come about.  He uses the following words to tell us who is going to orchestrate this event:  “But this He spoke of the Spirit”.  It was the Holy Spirit of God who was going to empower and transform lives.  He would be the source of the “rivers of living water”.  The Holy Spirit is the One “whom those who believed in Him would receive.”  He’s explaining this to his readers because this concept was beyond the understanding of the disciples at that point in time.  Jesus’ disciples knew that the Spirit of God has been active in creation, speaking through the prophets, empowering His people, and coming upon certain individuals for a period of time.  But this was something new.  Each believer in Jesus Christ would receive the Holy Spirit when he believed.  The Lord Jesus will be saying this to them several times in the weeks ahead (Jn. 14:16-18; 14:26; 15:26; 16:7-15).  It’s not a concept that’s easy for them to grasp.  How is the Spirit of God going to accomplish this amazing feat in the lives of believers?  Evangelist D.L. Moody gave an illustration that may be helpful in answering that question.  Speaking to a large audience, Mr. Moody held up a glass and asked:  How can I get the air out of this glass?”  One man shouted, “Suck it out with a pump!”  Moody replied, “That would create a vacuum and break the glass.”  After numerous other suggestions Moody smiled, picked up a pitcher of water, and filled the glass.  “There”, he said, “all the air is now removed.”  He then went on to explain that victory in the Christian life is not accomplished by “sucking the sins out of our lives” but by being filled with the Holy Spirit.

I’m sure His disciples were wondering when this transformation was going to occur, or whether it happened already.  Therefore John ends the verse by saying, “for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”  As the apostle John writes this Gospel, he’s looking back about 50 years in the past, and now he understands those words of Jesus concerning His own glorification and the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit had not yet been given to all believers because Christ had not yet been glorified.  When we think of the word “glorified”, we tend to think of something that happens in heaven, or that happened to Christ at His resurrection and ascension.  However, the Bible teaches that Jesus was also glorified in His death.  When He was arrested, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of man glorified” (John. 12:23; 13:31).  After Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, the Holy Spirit would be sent, and the lives of Jesus’ followers would be changed forever.

CONCLUSION:

Are you thirsting for meaning and purpose in life?  Are you sometimes frustrated because your life doesn’t seem to be going anywhere and you don’t know how it’s going to end?  Have you found that trying to please yourself and draw attention to yourself didn’t really bring you self-satisfaction?  Even if you’re a very kind and generous person, there is still something that you can’t give because you’ve never received it.  Have you finally come to the conclusion that something is missing from your life and you don’t know for sure what it is?  I hope, for your sake, that you’ve come to that point because, until you do, your deepest need will remain unmet, and your greatest joy remains unfulfilled.

There is a physical abnormality or condition called “adipsia”.  The word means “without thirst”.  The portion of the brain that controls thirst is not functioning for one reason or another  If untreated, it can lead to dehydration and eventually to death.  There are many in this world who have chosen to suffer from spiritual adipsia by ignoring or refusing to acknowledge their inner-thirst for God.   Please don’t continue in your spiritually-dehydrated condition.  You’re heading down the road to the place where your condition will change drastically:  you will always be thirsty, and that thirst will never be quenched – forever.

Fellow Christians, do our lives cause others around us to thirst for what we have?   Are we controlled by the Spirit of God and manifesting the fruit of the Spirit of God [love, joy, peace patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control]? Let’s thoroughly enjoy the spiritual oasis we possess in this dry and weary land, and extend the invitation to others!

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