The text for this Pentecost Sunday is John 7: 37-39. This is not at all as exciting as the dramatic presentation contained in the traditional reading of Acts 2: 1-21. This is the scene that describes tongues of fire descending upon the Apostles. This very short passage by contrast is a metaphor, seeing Jesus talking about thirsty people and rivers of life. It is all quite typical of the Gospel of John that is far more ethereal and poetic than the other three Gospels.
The Attraction Behind the Metaphor
Metaphor or not this is a wonderful and powerful text. It describes Jesus and us in a most compelling way. Jesus is seen crying out at the end of the Festival. This would be the Festival of the Tabernacles, which served to commemorate Israel’s journey through the wilderness. This makes the notion of thirst more understandable to those who heard it, not to mention waters continual importance in that part of the world. Jesus is calling to all those who are thirsty to come to Him. Is that not all of us? Don’t we all thirst for meaning in this world, and the next? Are we not all thirsty for mercy, compassion and hope? The notion of thirst extends a lot farther and wider than just those who knew about a wilderness journey, or who live in a dry part of the world. Metaphorically we all are or have been on a wilderness journey.
Jesus then invites those who believe in Him to drink. They will not drink water or receive sustenance from God like those on the wilderness journey that was being celebrated. That sustenance was only temporary. Jesus is offering an eternal life-giving water. This imagery should and does draw us all closer to a God who gives us everything.
What We Become When We Drink
Jesus continues the metaphor and directs it at all those who so believe and therefore drink. He says in Verse 38 that as the Scriptures say, out of the believers heart will flow rivers of living water. Jesus is likely referring to multiple passages. Proverbs 18:4 and Zechariah 14:8 come to mind. Also Psalm 78: 12-16 has this type of imagery in it. What is important here is that the believer will not just drink and never be thirsty, the believer ‘s heart will be changed. From that believing heart will also flow “rivers of living water”. That is, in being changed we will hold out the possibility of helping to change others by our witness.
As Verse 39 makes clear Jesus is talking about the “living waters” of the Spirit, even though the Spirit was not here yet, as Jesus had yet to be glorified. The reason this passage is placed on Pentecost is that it is yet another promise that Jesus makes concerning the Holy Spirit. Believing in Jesus (drinking the life sustaining water) will allow us to receive the Holy Spirit and from that will flow the witness to proclaim God’s love and forgiveness. That is once we believe, we will have the means to obey.
Praise Be to God