The Gift of the Spirit: John 7:37-52

Focus Passage: John 7:37-52 (NIV)

37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39 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.

40 On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.”

41 Others said, “He is the Messiah.”

Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? 42 Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” 43 Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. 44 Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.

45 Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and the Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”

46 “No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards replied.

47 “You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. 48 “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? 49 No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.”

50 Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, 51 “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?”

52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.”

Read John 7:37-52 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Part way through Jesus’ ministry on earth, on the last day of a festival Jesus was attending in Jerusalem, Jesus stood up and proclaimed a message in a loud voice. This happened in the temple and with guards present who were looking for an opportunity to arrest Jesus.

But while there were guards present, Jesus’ final words in this event are powerful, and potentially confusing. John tells us, “On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘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.’” (v. 37-38)

John knows that some of his readers may misunderstand or not pick up on the spiritual symbolism Jesus is using in this statement. Perhaps at this point in the young Christian church movement, there were people who had already misunderstood or misinterpreted Jesus’ words here, or maybe there were those who had written Jesus off because of this statement. Whatever the reason, John breaks from the story here to insert a side-note about this statement. John tells us, “By this he [Jesus] 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.” (v. 39)

The truth John wants us to grasp from this concluding statement is that the only way we can receive the Holy Spirit is by believing in Jesus. Jesus shares the results of this belief. He describes it as “rivers of living water will flow from within them”. (v. 38b)

Jesus is not speaking literally here in a physical sense. Jesus is sharing a metaphor for how the Holy Spirit draws people into spiritual truth. The Holy Spirit prompts people with a spiritual “thirst” (desire) to learn more, and Jesus provides the truth. When someone believes in Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes and lives within them. And when the Holy Spirit is living in someone, they will have a self-sustaining spiritual life while the Spirit is within them.

When I read Jesus’ words here, I cannot avoid realizing my dependence on the Holy Spirit when I open up my Bible to read and study. The only way I can learn spiritual truth is through paying attention to the Holy Spirit and one of the best tools the Holy Spirit uses is the Bible. The truth I believe Jesus is sharing here is that by coming to Him, we all can receive true spiritual life through the Spirit, and this life will flow outward – being visible towards those around us.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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