Video of the Divine Service here.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
On the last and great day of the feast, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me; and let the believing one come to Me and drink. Because, as the Scripture says, ‘Out of His belly rivers of living water will flow.’” Out of whose belly? Out of the believer’s? No. Because Jesus, John tells us, was speaking of the Holy Spirit, who was about to be given to the believers, but He had not yet been given because Jesus had not yet been glorified. The believers are the ones who will be given the Holy Spirit. The believers are the ones who come to Jesus and drink. They are the thirsty ones, whose thirst will be satisfied.
How do I know—in spite of our English translations—that Jesus is speaking of Himself when He says that rivers of living water will flow from His belly? Because there is another great Sabbath day coming in the Gospel of John. Prior to that great, important, significant day—like this great, important, significant day of the feast—the leaders of the Jews did not want crucified men hanging on their crosses and dying. So they asked Pilate to get rid of the bodies. The soldiers, in order to hasten death, break the legs of the one and then they break the legs of the other. But when they come to Jesus, they see that He is already dead. So they don’t break His legs; as the Scriptures say, Not one of His bones will be broken. Instead, a soldier pierces His side with a spear and—John tells us—immediately, blood and water flowed forth. He says, I saw it, and I bear witness to it, so that you may believe. So that you may believe, and come to Him and drink. From His side—from His belly—flow rivers of living water.
Until then, the Holy Spirit had not been given, because Jesus had not yet been glorified. But now! Now, Jesus, before He dies, says, “It is finished.” And, bowing His head, handed over the Spirit. Jesus is glorified on the cross; exalted and lifted up so that everyone will know that the Father has sent Him; lifted up so that He can gather all people to Himself by giving them the Spirit. The Father draws, the Spirit brings, the Son gathers to Himself to drink. This is the Jesus who pours out His entire life, to the point where He can say, “I thirst.” Jesus! Who says to the woman at the well, If you knew the Gift of God, and who it is who says to you, give Me a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water. He, who is the source of living water, says, I thirst! And then He pours out water and blood and gives over the Spirit.
Just as Ezekiel prophesied, the river starts as a trickle from the Temple—about which Jesus said, “Tear down this Temple, and I will rebuild it in three days.” It starts with the blood and water from His side. But then it becomes an expanding creek, as Jesus appears in the presence of His disciples after His resurrection. “Peace to you!” And then He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whatever sins you forgive, they are forgiven.” And then the river grows and flows over its banks on Pentecost, knee-deep and still growing, as the Spirit is poured out on the Apostles, who speak the words of the Spirit concerning the Jesus who was dead, but is alive. And, as Ezekiel says, that river from the Temple will water the whole earth. And there trees will grow that will have fruit for the eating and leaves for the healing of the nations. Rivers will appear in the desert. We draw with joy water from the wells of salvation! And, as John Himself saw, eventually that River will cover the earth, when the New Jerusalem comes down out of heaven from God, and the Kingdom of God encompasses the whole creation. The city where the River of the Water of Life flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the center of the city. And there is the Tree of Life, with leaves for the healing of the nations, which bears its fruit each month.
The tree of life, watered by the River of Life, flows from the side of Jesus at the tree of His cross. It is the fruit from that tree that gives us life. And to Him, the Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” The Spirit who washes the Bride clean with blood and water, and the Bride who is presented holy and blameless before Christ. Let the one who hears the Voice of the Spirit in the Words of Jesus say, “Come.” Let the one who is thirsty come and drink from the water of life without any price, except what has already been paid by Jesus. He feeds us the fruit of the cross; He gives us living water to drink. This is the Gift of God, the Holy Spirit given to us. And He who calls, gathers, enlightens, and makes holy will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life—when He raises up me and all the dead and gives eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 6/2/17