John 7:37-38  Jesus’ cry in the Temple

Introduction:  We have in this text a verse which has been misunderstood.  We can not deal with this text without dealing with the work of the Holy Spirit of God.  In this text we will see that Jesus calls men to be saved and appeals to them based upon the occasion of the feast of the Tabernacles and all that it represented. 


I.  The cry of Jesus for men to be saved.

(John 7:37)  In the last day, that great [day] of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.

            The feast lasted seven days.  On the eighth day there was a special sabbath observance.  I believe that the seventh day of the feast is the day of this event and not the eighth day.  The feast itself was over after the seventh day and was a great day of celebration which they could not do on the eighth day do to the restrictions placed upon them by the law of the Sabbath. 

            According to Dr. Harold Davis, there was a ceremony preformed each day of the feast of Tabernacles which was not commanded by the scriptures but was one which was done solely because of tradition.  The ceremony involved the drawing of water from the pool of Siloam, the pouring of the water before the altar at the Temple, and the reading of Isaiah chapter twelve.  He states in his sermon on this text that there was a moment of silence after the reading from the book of Isaiah.  Let us read the text in Isaiah that we might have a better understanding of what happened in the temple that day.

(Isaiah 12:1)  And in that day thou shalt say, O LORD, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me. 2)  Behold, God [is] my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH [is] my strength and [my] song; he also is become my salvation. 3)  Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation. 4)  And in that day shall ye say, Praise the LORD, call upon his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted.  5)  Sing unto the LORD; for he hath done excellent things: this [is] known in all the earth.  6)  Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion: for great [is] the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.

            The pouring out of the water was reminiscent of the water which was twice provided for the people from the rock in the wilderness.  That rock represented Jesus and the water that came from it represented the salvation which Jesus provides to man so freely.   The rock was first smitten showing that salvation would come from the suffering Messiah.  The second time Moses was to speak to the rock showing that by calling upon the name of the Lord salvation would be received.  As we know, Moses struck the rock the second time ruining the beautiful picture of salvation by grace and for this Moses was not allowed to enter the promised land. 

            It was during this moment of silence that Jesus cried out.  He makes the same offer to the crowd at the temple as He had made to the Samaritan woman at the well.  Jesus provides a quenching of the thirst of the soul of man.  Those who drank of the water in the wilderness were saved from physical death.  Those who will come to Jesus believing in Him as their savior will be saved from the consequences of spiritual death.  They will be made alive spiritually and saved from the torments of Hell. 


II.  The cry of Jesus about the living water.

(John 7:38)  He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.


My translation of verse 38:  The one who believes in me as the scripture has said (according to that which is required and taught by the scriptures); rivers of living water shall flow out of his belly.

Let us diagram this sentence to gain an understanding of its meaning. 


Rivers                        /             shall flow

     /                                                /

Of living water                      out of  belly




                                                            He that believeth


                                                                                    on me


                                                                                    as the scriptures / hath said



            The purpose of this Gospel written by John is stated in

(John 20:31)  But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

One who will be saved must believe on Jesus.  He must believe that Jesus is the savior of men.  He must believe that Jesus can save and will save all those who come to him.  Hebrews 11:6 teaches that those who will come to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.  One must be serious about his sin and serious about his need for a savior and must seek the forgiveness and pardon, which only Jesus can give, sincerely if he is to be saved.

            Jesus does not mean that literally rivers will come flowing out of the abdomen of the saved.  He is talking about the work of the Holy Spirit of God in the life of the believer.  The believer becomes a vessel of the Holy Spirit of God and the Holy Spirit uses us as a base of operation to do His work and to reach others through us with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This event would be seen most dramatically on the day of Pentecost after Jesus’ ascension back to Heaven.



III.  John’s explanation of Jesus’ words.

(John 7:39)  (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet [given]; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

            This is the verse which is often misunderstood.  Some have taken this verse to teach that the Holy Spirit did not work on earth until the day of Pentecost after the return of our Lord to Heaven.  Genesis 1:2 states that the Holy Spirit was moving over the face of the waters so the Holy Spirit was active even in the oldest of times.  Some teach that in Old Testament times there was no Holy Spirit working in the lives of men.  The Spirit of God came upon many in the Old Testament.  (Genesis 41:38, Exodus 31:3, Numbers 24:2) Some teach that the Holy Spirit only indwells the church and not the individual believer.  Romans 8:9-11 teaches that the believer does have the Spirit of God dwelling within.   

            There is no need for confusion about this verse.  If we keep this verse in context and read it with the understanding that John was writing to gentiles well after the time of Jesus we can achieve a proper understanding of this text.  Follow with me the steps to understanding this text.


1.  Jesus said that out of the belly of those who believe SHALL flow rivers of living water.  Jesus was not quoting scripture here.  The use of the word “shall” by Jesus here is not only used in the since of occurring in the future but also in the since of certainty. I encourage you to look up this word in Webster’s dictionary for there he tells of its proper use.  If one falls into the lake he shall get wet.  Shall is not a word often used today.  Jesus tells of the certainty of the indwelling of the believer by the Holy Spirit of God and that event will be dramatically displayed very soon. 


2.  In this verse John is explaining to his readers that Jesus is talking about the work of the Holy Spirit of God in the believers. 

(John 7:39)  (But(de) this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should(emellon) receive(lambanein): for(gar) the Holy Ghost was not yet [given]; because(oti) that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

My translation of verse 39:

But this He spoke concerning the Spirit which those believing on Him were going to receive: because the Holy Spirit was not yet sent; because Jesus was not yet glorified.

John in the second half of this verse is explaining to his readers his use of the term “should receive” or “were about to receive.”  He explains that this event occurred before the day of Pentecost when Joel’s prophecy would be fulfilled.  Thus Jesus was prophesying the events of Pentecost and beyond.  Those who believed in Jesus would soon be very apparent to all the Jews.


All those who are saved have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God.  When one is saved their lives should bear the fruit of the Spirit.  The word fruit is singular in Gal 5:22.

(Galatians 5:22)  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23)  Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

It is used in the since of evidence.  The evidence that the Holy Spirit is dwelling within you is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance.  Those who are saved will exhibit these qualities because of their regenerated, Spirit indwelt, inner man.

            The Spiritual gifts which arrived on the day of Pentecost have ceased to exist.  1 Corinthians 13:10 teaches that when the Bible was completed and men had in their possession the completed revelation from God that the Spiritual gifts would cease to exist except for Faith, Hope, and Charity. The work of the Holy Spirit is just as powerful today as it was then.  A child of God fully committed to Christ and bearing the fruit of the Spirit is a powerful influence for good.  Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world.

            Your body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit according to 1 Corinthians 6:19.  By being obedient to the commands of Christ the Spirit uses us to spread the Gospel to this lost and dead world.  Today more than ever we need to avail our selves of the power of the Holy Spirit of God and let that water of Life flow from us to those who are lost.