Have you ever had a time when you were so thirsty that you thought you were going to die if you didn’t get something to drink right away? When Jesus said to the disciples, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled.” he was speaking of that kind of thirst. It wasn’t just that I need a drink of water but the idea that if I don’t have water soon it will be too late. He wants us to have such a deep longing for righteousness, that we don’t feel we can survive if we don’t get it soon.
Later in John 7:37-39 Jesus was at the Feast of the Tabernacles in Jerusalem. It was the last and great day of the festival when Jesus stood up and with a loud voice began to speak to the people. “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.”
The Feast of Tabernacles or Booths was a time to remember God’s care for the Israelites during their forty years in the desert. He had on different occasions to assist them with water, either by curing its bitterness or by bringing water out of a rock so all the people and their animals could drink. At this feast, the men were required to come if they lived within twenty miles of Jerusalem and each morning they would come to the temple with olive branches to remind them of those days. The priest would take a pitcher holding about 2 pints and walk down to the pool of Siloam and bring back the pitcher full of water to be poured out at the altar. There were songs being sung from the Psalms and readings from Isaiah taking place. It may have been during all of this that Jesus stood up and loudly offered living water to those who believed in him.
In many ways, it sounds like the same promise he made to the woman at the well described in John 4. He first asked her for a drink and she questioned why as a Jew he would ask her for water. Jesus said, “If you knew who I was you would ask me and I would give you living water.” She was confused about how he could give such living water when he didn’t even have a bucket to put the water in. He told her that those who drank of this water were soon thirsty again but if one drank of the water he gave they would never thirst again but it would become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.
It was available for those who were thirsty and those who believed in Him as the Messiah or Son of God. Notice the picture of the water becoming an overflowing well inside them to supply drink to those around them. We might well have read this many times and reached all kinds of conclusions of what Jesus was talking about had John not supplied the answer by saying, He was speaking of the Holy Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to later receive. John also explained that this gift of the Spirit wasn’t yet available but would be after Jesus was glorified. It is powerful to see that John refers to the Spirit as “Whom”, not some kind of influence in our lives. He is one of the persons who is called God in the Bible along with the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit had always been involved in the lives of God’s people. Even in the creation, the Spirit hovered over the waters. But there was a special gift of the Spirit to be given after Jesus was glorified and it is that gift that Jesus is now speaking of. Later in John’s account of the gospel, he will speak more about the coming of the Holy Spirit to guide them and be with them. Jesus was glorified in his resurrection from the dead (Ephesians 1:21-23).
Jesus’ promises about the coming Holy Spirit involved both the overwhelming of the Spirit in baptismal form as foretold by Joel the prophet so that He would guide them into all truth and bring to their memory all the things Jesus had said and done among them. He would prepare them to preach and teach the word in such a way to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment to come. But he also promised that the Spirit who had been with them all along would be in you. On the Day of Pentecost, described in Acts 2 the baptism of the Spirit came on the apostles and they spoke in languages they had never learned before of the wonderful works of God. They told the crowd how they had taken and crucified the very Son of God who was sent to be their savior. They were cut to their hearts by the message and cried out, “what shall we do?” Peter told them to repent and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit for the promise is for you and for your children and as many as the Lord our God shall call. 3,000 people were baptized that day and received that gift of the Holy Spirit to be in them. The promise that the Holy Spirit would be in those who are following Jesus was an amazing blessing that resulted in our bodies becoming the temple of the Holy Spirit that dwells in us and bears the fruit of the Spirit in us all the time.
One other marvelous thing about our receiving the Spirit as a gift from God is that the Spirit in us is to flow out of us to bless the people around us all the time. Having the Spirit should change who we are and what we do in life. People should be able to see that something is going on in our lives that is beyond their explanation. The spiritual person doesn’t become a selfish person thinking only of their needs, wants or desires. Their lives turn toward others and ways to bless their lives.