John 7:37–39—Jesus foretells the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit will be fully poured out upon the Church, causing living waters to flow out from their hearts, that is, all believers will be empowered to testify to the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation which comes through Jesus Christ alone.
From His open heart, our crucified and risen Lord pours out His Holy Spirit in “rivers of living water” (John 7:38) and invites everyone who thirsts to come to Him and drink freely (John 7:37). Through this life-giving work of the Holy Spirit, we hear the gospel message “telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God” (Acts 2:11) that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:21).
Although not mentioned often in the New Testament, the Festival of Tabernacles was one of the “big three” annual festivals (along with Passover and Pentecost) for which adult Jewish males were expected to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and it was generally the most joyous and popular of the three. Originally a harvest celebration, by the time of Jesus it had also taken on the significance of remembering God’s provision for the people of Israel during their wilderness wanderings.
God provided water for the Israelites in the wilderness as well, but its thirst-quenching effects were also temporary. Here, at this festival that celebrates God’s provision in the wilderness, Jesus offers the living water that quenches all thirst and is a source of life eternal. John adds a note of explanation, so that no one may miss the significance: “Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were yet to receive, for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (7:39)
This “Paraclete” or “Spirit of truth” will teach them, remind them of all that Jesus has said to them, and guide them into all truth (14:26; 16:12-14). The Spirit will be the abiding presence of Jesus with his disciples, continuing his work in and through them. This promise is fulfilled on the evening of Easter Sunday, when the risen Jesus comes to his disciples, breathes into them the Holy Spirit, and sends them out in mission. (20:19-23)
Jesus speaks of this promise at the Festival of Tabernacles -- the promise fulfilled at Passover/ Easter according to John, or at Pentecost according to Luke-Acts.
John interprets the Jewish festivals anew in light of God’s revelation in Christ. All that the festivals celebrate -- the deliverance, presence, and provision of God -- find new significance in God’s sending of the Son to tabernacle among us, and sending of the Spirit to abide with us forever, so that rivers of living water may flow from within us to a thirsty world.
Almighty and ever-living God, You fulfilled Your promise by sending the gift of the Holy Spirit to unite disciples of all nations in the cross and resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ. By the preaching of the Gospel spread this gift to the ends of the earth; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Go into all the world, copyright © Ed Riojas, Higher Things
Collect for Pentecost Eve Lutheran Service Book, copyright © 2006 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis