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Rivers of Living Water

37 On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, 38and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’ ” 39Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

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37-39. the last day, that great day of the feast—the eighth (Le 23:39). It was a sabbath, the last feast day of the year, and distinguished by very remarkable ceremonies. "The generally joyous character of this feast broke out on this day into loud jubilation, particularly at the solemn moment when the priest, as was done on every day of this festival, brought forth, in golden vessels, water from the stream of Siloah, which flowed under the temple-mountain, and solemnly poured it upon the altar. Then the words of Isa 12:3 were sung, With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of Salvation, and thus the symbolical reference of this act, intimated in Joh 7:39, was expressed" [Olshausen]. So ecstatic was the joy with which this ceremony was performed—accompanied with sound of trumpets—that it used to be said, "Whoever had not witnessed it had never seen rejoicing at all" [Lightfoot].

Jesus stood—On this high occasion, then, He who had already drawn all eyes upon Him by His supernatural power and unrivalled teaching—"Jesus stood," probably in some elevated position.

and cried—as if making proclamation in the audience of all the people.

If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink!—What an offer! The deepest cravings of the human spirit are here, as in the Old Testament, expressed by the figure of "thirst," and the eternal satisfaction of them by "drinking." To the woman of Samaria He had said almost the same thing, and in the same terms (Joh 4:13, 14). But what to her was simply affirmed to her as a fact, is here turned into a world-wide proclamation; and whereas there, the gift by Him of the living water is the most prominent idea—in contrast with her hesitation to give Him the perishable water of Jacob's well—here, the prominence is given to Himself as the Well spring of all satisfaction. He had in Galilee invited all the WEARY AND HEAVY-LADEN of the human family to come under His wing and they should find REST (Mt 11:28), which is just the same deep want, and the same profound relief of it, under another and equally grateful figure. He had in the synagogue of Capernaum (Joh 6:36) announced Himself, in every variety of form, as "the Bread of Life," and as both able and authorized to appease the "HUNGER," and quench the "THIRST," of all that apply to Him. There is, and there can be, nothing beyond that here. But what was on all those occasions uttered in private, or addressed to a provincial audience, is here sounded forth in the streets of the great religious metropolis, and in language of surpassing majesty, simplicity, and grace. It is just Jehovah's ancient proclamation now sounding forth through human flesh, "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no Money!" &c. (Isa 55:1). In this light we have but two alternatives; either to say with Caiaphas of Him that uttered such words, "He is guilty of death," or falling down before Him to exclaim with Thomas, " My Lord AND MY God!"

38. as the scripture hath said—These words belong to what follows, "Out of his belly, as the scripture hath said, shall flow," &c. referring not to any particular passage, but to such as Isa 58:11; Joe 3:18; Zec 14:8; Eze 47:1-12; in most of which the idea is that of waters issuing from beneath the temple, to which our Lord compares Himself and those who believe in Him.

out of his belly—that is, his inner man, his soul, as in Pr 20:27.

rivers of living water—(See on Joh 4:13). It refers primarily to the copiousness, but indirectly also to the diffusiveness, of this living water to the good of others.

39. this spake he of the Spirit—who, by His direct personal agency, opens up this spring of living waters in the human spirit (Joh 3:6), and by His indwelling in the renewed soul ensures their unfailing flow.

they that believe, &c.—As the Holy Ghost is, in the redemption of man, entirely at the service of Christ, as His Agent, so it is only in believing connection with Christ that any one "receives" the Spirit.

for the Holy Ghost was not yet given—Beyond all doubt the word "given," or some similar word, is the right supplement. In Joh 16:7 the Holy Ghost is represented not only as the gift of Christ, but a gift the communication of which was dependent upon His own departure to the Father. Now as Christ was not yet gone, so the Holy Ghost was not yet given.

Jesus not yet glorified—The word "glorified" is here used advisedly, to teach the reader not only that the departure of Christ to the Father was indispensable to the giving of the Spirit, but that this illustrious Gift, direct from the hands of the ascended Saviour, was God's intimation to the world that He whom it had cast out, crucified, and slain, was "His Elect, in whom His soul delighted," and that it was through the smiting of that Rock that the waters of the Spirit—for which the Church was waiting, and with pomp at the feast of tabernacles proclaiming its expectation—had gushed forth upon a thirsty world.