It’s already hot here where I live in Central Texas. The hotter it gets the more I seek reprieve from the scorching air in the cool waters of a swimming pool or spring. And the physical waters I crave make me think of the spiritual waters that Jesus offers us in the Word.
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. …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.” — John 4:4 and John 4:14
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scriptures said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’ But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37–39, emphasis added).
Aren’t these words of Jesus so beautiful? Our life-giving Savior knew exactly what the woman at the well and the Israelites on the last day of the feast needed to hear– regardless of how open or not they were to hearing it they were. The woman at the well received His words with joy. The crowd at the festival was divided.
So the “living water” Jesus spoke of was the Holy Spirit. But what was going on during this feast where Jesus was speaking? Was there deeper significance in His statement than we Gentiles might initially realize?
The second passage above occurred during the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles (also called the Feast of Shelters or Booths). This particular feast had two ceremonies that Jesus applied to Himself.
One ceremony was that temple was light brightly, denoting God’s shekinah glory. Jesus declared that He was the light of the world (see John, thus stating that God’s shekinah glory dwelled in His bodily form. (See Colossians 2:9 and John 14:9. You can read more the Feast of the Tabernacles and the ceremony of the lighting of the temple here. )
The second ceremony of this feast that Christ fulfilled was the “water-drawing festival” (also called the “water libation”). During this ceremony, water was drawn from the pool of Siloam and poured into a basin which then flowed over the altar. This significance was that water from Siloam’s pool flowed from the spring of Gihon into the interior, protected part of Jerusalem and offered physical salvation during enemy attacks. The Jews also heavily associated Siloam’s pool with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. This is specifically what Jesus was referring to when He claimed that we could come to Him to drink. He was offering His Holy Spirit.
The Jewish ceremony refers to Isaiah 12:
“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.” (Isaiah 12:2-3)
“One of the names for this day is ‘Hoshana Raba’, which means Great Salvation. And you may know that this is the exact word of Yeshua’s name – Salvation. The Hebrew word literally says, with joy you will draw water from the wells of Yeshua!” (From OneforIsrael, an evangelistic ministry to Israelis.)
Jesus’ very name (which comes from a verb meaning “to deliver”) points to the fact that He saves and offers us life giving water. In Matthew 1:21 Gabriel tells Mary that her child will so be named because Jesus will “save the people from their sins.” It’s through the water drawing ceremony that we understand the beautiful connection between salvation and Jesus offering the Holy Spirit’s living water.
“When Jesus cries out at the end of the Feast of Tabernacles on this particular day, the worshipers meet God in his sanctuary–in the person of his Son. The longing for God is met with God’s invitation to come and be satisfied. In Jesus, God’s own desire for man is expressed and the desire of man for God is met. All that the temple represented is now found in Jesus.” (IVP New Testament Commentary)
So, God extends the offer for any who thirst to come to Him (Isa 55:1). And we do that through Jesus –for He is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). We further understand that our thirst for God is quenched by coming to Jesus and having the gift of the Spirit imparted to us. There is no way to receive this living water, this life eternal, without a saving faith in Jesus.
What a beautiful, simple, peaceful process!
The life-giving water of the Holy Spirit that Jesus pours into us accompanies salvation, gives growth and increase of fruit, helps us mature spiritually, and (as the Rock in a desert place) quenches our thirst for God (see 1 Cor 10:4). (For more about the Holy Spirit, see the series we did in March here at DoNotDepart.)
Let us pray that our roots grow closer and deeper into God — the very source of life and salvation!