10 However, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went also, not publicly, but in secret.

Jesus Teaches at the Festival

14 Not until halfway through the festival did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. 15 The Jews there were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having been taught?”

28 Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own authority, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him,

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.

JOHN 7:2, 10, 14-15, 28, 37-39

Water is the simplest form of drink: it contains no calories and few minerals or vitamins, but we are largely made of water and without it we die. Even those who fast must take water. Water is the juice of life; it is the liquid of baptism, the rain from heaven, and it covers two thirds of the earth’s surface. We know it as ice caps, oceans and geysers and, while we depend on it, it is water that may ultimately inundate and destroy our habitat.

There was a Jewish festival, the Feast of Tabernacles (or ‘Booths’), which was an early version of harvest festival: ‘You shall keep the festival of booths for seven days, when you have gathered in the produce from your threshing-floor and your wine press… for the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all your undertakings, and you shall surely celebrate’ (Deuteronomy 16:13, 15).

The seventh day of the Festival of Booths culminated in a particular ritual involving water. The people gathered in and around the temple mount in Jerusalem and the priests would pour water down the mount, streams of water celebrating the gift of life and the abundance of God’s goodness. This flowing water was also reminiscent of the water that Moses produced from the rock at Horeb (Exodus 17:6).

It is extremely likely that this very act was taking place when Jesus invited the crowd to come to him for living water. In his Gospel, John has already quoted Jesus saying to the Samaritan woman, ‘Those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life’ (4:14). Now, Jesus associates his mission and ministry with another Jewish tradition, the flowing water of the feast of Tabernacles. It is as though he says, ‘You see the water flowing down the mountain? That is me. I am the living water and, if you drink of me, you will never thirst.’

John tells us that he is referring to the gift of the Holy Spirit. Not only is Jesus going to give living water but the water is going to flow out as well as in; the Spirit will gush forth from those who have drunk of Christ, spreading the love and mercy of God until the end of the age.  The Holy Spirit is often likened to water – flowing, gushing, baptising, even drowning us. God’s gift of the Spirit causes our cup to overflow (Psalm 23:5), and truly we cannot have too much of him.

God, fill us until we overflow with that living water of your Holy Spirit, to cleanse, revive and refresh our lives. Amen