IV. A Call to Belief (vv. 37-38)
a. The Invitation (vv. 37-38)
In the face of this great unbelief John tells us that “on the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘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.’” This is the great climax of the entire chapter. Here Jesus gives the invitation to all who thirst to come and drink. By using thirst as a metaphor Jesus is referring to a spiritual need caused by sin and unbelief. As we have seen thus far, this is a great need for all men. We have all sinned, and the natural disposition of our hearts is unbelief. Here Jesus is offering to break through our hard hearts and provide us with the spiritual refreshment that we need. Verse 38 makes it clear that when Jesus says that we need “to come to [Him] and drink” it is a metaphor for believing in Him. This same figure of speech is found in Isaiah 12:3-4 where it says,
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day: “Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted.
Jesus is the Savior who has made this great salvation available, and His invitation to all is to believe in Him and receive salvation. As Romans 3:21-26 puts it,
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Furthermore, by using water as an illustration of salvation Jesus was drawing on the very prominent place that water had in the Feast of Booths. On each day of the feast a special ritual involving water was preformed to commemorate God’s miraculous provision of water during Israel’s wilderness wanderings. This was not commanded in the Old Testament, however it had become an important ritual in the centuries leading up to Jesus’ earthly ministry. Each day the high priest would draw water and carry it back to the Temple in a procession. The water would then be poured out as a sacrifice to God. Here in John 7 Jesus is offering Himself to the people as the eternal thirst-quenching water that far exceeds the water used for the ritual in the feast.
b. The Benefit (v. 39)
In verses 38-39 Jesus reveals the result of coming to Him in belief when He says, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” John goes on in verse 39 to explain that Jesus was talking about the giving of the Holy Spirit. Thus, all who believe will receive the Spirit. This giving of the Holy Spirit is the fulfillment of the prophecy found in Jeremiah 31:31-33:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
It is through this giving of the Holy Spirit that God is going to write His laws upon the hearts of His people. And through the work of the Spirit God will be their God, and they will be His people. In fact, it is through the giving of the Holy Spirit that men are able to overcome their unbelief, and accept Jesus. This is exactly what Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3, and this is why we need to the Spirit to follow Jesus. As we consider the results of accepting Jesus’ invitation it is clear that Jesus’ offer it provide for every spiritual need that we have. Unfortunately there were still many in the crowds who did not believe what Jesus had to say.