Pentecost – A LSB #’s 849, 589, 540
Text – John 7:38
Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’
RIVERS OF LIVING WATER
The Great Salt Lake & the Dead Sea are examples at the other end of the spectrum. Life giving water flows into them, yet those bodies of water are a dead end. Since the water has no further place to go, it evaporates there. This leaves behind the minerals & nutrients in such high concentrations that, rather than feeding normal plants & fish, they are poisoned instead.
Selfishness & greed have the same effect on the human soul. When we hoard the blessings God showers upon us, not allowing them to pass through us & on to others, then you & I become a dead end. All the gifts that our Lord intended for good serve to poison us & the people around us. What God intended for good becomes a curse instead.
Though still early in Jesus’ ministry, the opposition to His teaching has become hostile. The Gospel reading for today skips over all the early material in chapter 7. However, it is important for the context of the Gospel reading especially because that reading is so short.
Verse 1 tells us that Jesus could not publicly attend this major & days long celebration because the Jewish leaders there “were seeking to kill Him.” Verse 5 says that, “…not even His brothers believed in Him.” By the words of the Gospel reading, the great Feast of the Tabernacles had reached it’s climax & closing day. On that day Jesus stood up & cried out,
“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me & drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37-38 ESV) The leaders of the Jewish people were examples at the other end of the spectrum. They were all take & no give. They taught the law, but did not practice some of the most important points of it, such as justice, mercy & faithfulness to God. They obeyed the minutiae of the law such as tithing spices, but not the more challenging matters of the law such as repentance & humility. Even though they saw Jesus do miracles that could only come from God, they refused to receive the guidance & counsel of God’s Son. Jesus came to counteract what the Jewish religion had become.
Like all other false religions, the Judaism of Jesus’ day had become focused solely upon the works of man. No matter what any purely human guru teaches, all of us know instinctively that we fall short of the glory of God. Our works are no match for earning our way to heaven. We know & we feel the weight & the number of our sins.
Every fiber of our being thirsts for relief from the brokenness of this world. Miraculously, so does our Creator. He did not simply dip His toe into the stream of human life. He took on human flesh in order to experience, as we do, as His entire creation does, the full effect of the horrors that sin brings into human existence. Jesus expressed that from the cross:
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34b ESV) During those moments of time, Jesus experienced hell, for you, for me. Jesus knows what it is to be the Dead Sea: “For our sake [God] made Him to be sin who knew no sin…” And God the Father did that, “…so that in [Christ] we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV)
Knowing what we know, having experienced what all human beings experience, after living in this sinful world for 30 years as one of us, Jesus cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me & drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-38 ESV)
The Feast of Tabernacles, or Pentecost as we Christians refer to it, was a festival to celebrate the harvest of crops. It was similar, though many days longer, to what our Thanksgiving holiday was meant to be. It was a feast to celebrate God, with the purpose of thanking Him especially for the harvest of food that He provides. The majority of Americans no longer give any thought to the heavenly Father at our Thanksgiving holiday. And judging by the few people who believed in Jesus as Messiah in His day, it would appear that most of His fellow Jews no longer gave thought to the true God then.
That thoughtlessness regarding God the Father is but a minor symptom of the disease of sin. We have the war in Ukraine destroying the lives of millions of people. We have the hatred & bitterness of the divisions in our society. As a whole, our government & all its institutions are displaying corruption, greed & selfishness with wanton abandon.
And the worst of it – they no longer even care if it gets found out. They know they can bury it & face zero consequences in any court of law. All of our struggles in life are a direct result of the sin that lives in the heart & soul of every human being. Trying to cancel sinners will not isolate it, solve it, or in any way make up for the evil that human beings do to each other.
Only hell, for every one of us, for all of eternity can do that. So God the Father sent “His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 ESV) That is why Jesus stood up & cried out:
“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me & drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37-38 ESV) God has so blessed His children on earth that our well is overflowing. You & I are overloaded with the nutrients & minerals that give spiritual life to the human beings around us.
If we hoard the blessings God showers upon us, by not allowing them to pass through us & on to others, then you & I are a dead end. Then, all the gifts that our Lord intended for good serve to poison us & the people around us. What God intended for good becomes a curse. Is the culture around us filled with selfishness & greed? Certainly! Have you & I been corrupted by the same sins? Without a doubt! Along with the thief at the cross, all that we can say is, “…we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And [Jesus] said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:41-43 ESV)
Repentance is always the answer to our sin, because turning back to Jesus, & away from our sins, is the only path to life. And our heavenly Father prepares that path for us in advance. It is not a path that you & I need to hew out of the granite of our sorrows & struggles & sins. Jesus created that path with His suffering, humiliation & death. He did that for you out of love.
The world’s method of dealing with sin is demonstrated by today’s cancel culture. It says we should erase anyone who is deemed by the culture to be evil. In their minds, the epitome of that is to ban someone from Twitter, or other forms of social media. And what does the cancel culture do? It brings more sin, more bitterness, more death. Jesus brings life!
In fact, He brings rivers of it as He sends the Holy Spirit into our world, into our lives, into our heart & soul. And from there He will reach out to bless the people around us, & every other aspect of the old & broken creation in which we live. So, Jesus stood up & cried out,
“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me & drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:38-39 ESV) For now we live that by faith. One day, in heaven, we will live that by sight. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Speak, O Lord, Your servant listens, let Your Word to me come near; newborn life & spirit give me, let each promise still my fear. Death’s dread power, its inward strife, wars against Your Word of life; fill me, Lord, with love’s strong fervor that I cling to You forever! Lord, Your words are waters living when my thirsting spirit pleads. Lord, Your words of bread life-giving; on Your words my spirit feeds. Lord, Your words will be my light through death’s cold & dreary night; yes, they are my sword prevailing & my cup of joy unfailing. Amen. LSB 589:1, 3.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet