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.’ ” Now 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.
The festival that Jesus speaks about here was the Feast of Tabernacles. It was an 8-day celebration of God’s blessing on the harvest in September or early October each year. During this time, God instructed the Israelites to build temporary shelters, or booths, in which to eat and sleep. This is why the festival is also called the Feast of Booths. You will find details in Leviticus 23 and Deuteronomy 16.
One of the features of the celebration was the daily libations — drinks poured out as offerings to God. A priest would go down to the Pool of Siloam, where he would draw water into a golden pitcher. He would then enter the temple and go up to the altar. Then wine, and the water from the golden pitcher, would be poured simultaneously upon the altar as a sacrifice to the Lord.
Now, this might come as a surprise to you, but the water was understood by the Jewish teachers as symbolic of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that was promised by God. Speaking for him, the prophet Isaiah said, “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my spirit upon your descendants, and my blessing on your offspring” (Isaiah 44:3)
So, on the last day of the festival, when Jesus cries out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink” his listeners would have known what he was talking about. And then he went on to tell them that if they believed, rivers of living water would flow out of their hearts, something that he told a Samaritan woman one day by a well (see John 4:1-42). This was, of course, the Holy Spirit that was to come.
Jesus keeps inviting us to come to him: Come if you are weary. Come if you are burdened. Come if you are thirsty. If nothing else, just come and see! Is there anyone among us who can say they aren’t weary or burdened or thirsty or searching for something? Let us accept his invitation today, because there is a promise attached to it. The promise is of the Holy Spirit who will flow within us, keeping us fresh at all times, as he leads us towards eternal life.
So feel like a drink today? Well, you know where to go!
God bless you.