Living Water by Lauren Neal

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, and 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.” ’

 —John 7:37-38

Sukkot, the Feast of Booths, alsliving watero known as the Feast of Tabernacles is a Jewish festival which lasts about a week and is meant to remind the people of the time they spent in the wilderness, after leaving Egypt.  This week’s passage from the Gospel of John specifies that it is the last day of this feast when Jesus cries out to a crowd: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”

Right before Jesus says this, he encounters officers sent by the chief priests and Pharisees to arrest him, but his words in verses 37-38 change their mind.  Some of those in the crowd take his statement as evidence that he is a prophet and the anticipated Messiah, but not everyone is convinced.  However, the debate is enough to prevent the officers from following through with their orders to arrest him.  When the priests and Pharisees ask them why they failed to arrest Jesus, the officers reply that it is because they had never heard anyone speak as they heard Jesus speak. 

This incident is reminiscent of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4.  He tells her everything she had ever done.  Like the experience of the officers in chapter 7, the words that Jesus speaks are astounding.  The officers are convinced that no ordinary man could speak this way.  And like Jesus’ words in 7:37-38, in chapter 4, he promises the woman “living water.”

So what is this “living water”?  The Feast of Booths is a time for remembering the scarcity of the desert journey, but it is also a time when the people would remember that even in times of scarcity, God always provided for them.  Similarly, the Samaritan woman at the well must struggle on a daily basis to gather the water she needs to survive, she understands scarcity.  This is why when Jesus mentions living water that will cause her to never thirst again, it sounds like a pretty awesome deal.  No longer would she have to trek back and forth to the well every day.  However, the provision that Jesus is talking about both to her and to the crowd later during the Feast of Booths is not a gift of physical water.

The question then becomes what do these situations have in common that might give us some insight as to what exactly the “living water” is?  In both cases, Jesus’ words are convicting.  The woman is made aware of her sins, and the officers are convicted away from their assigned duties.  In both situations, the people involved encountered the unexpected when they encountered Jesus.  Just as no one ever expects the Spanish Inquisition, no one ever expects to be confronted with their sins, with their mistakes or misconceptions; and unfortunately, that is why it is often so hard for us to recognize when we have been wrong. 

The “Living Water” is the power that can only come from Jesus Christ and the power to recognize the hardest truth of all, the truth about ourselves.  The world tries to define us by what we wear, what we do, and a whole host of other things that are really only incidental, but only Jesus knows who we really are, and where our hearts truly lie.  When we believe in Jesus and have the living water that he provides, then too can we begin to see the world as it truly is: broken and fallen but still beautiful and striving for perfection.  The world is thirsty, and the water is scarce.  Let us pour out our abundant living water that comes from Jesus Christ.

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