May 15, 2005 - Pentecost

John 7:37-39

 37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood up and proclaimed, “Let anyone who is thirsty, come to me; 38 and let the one who believes in me drink, for the Scripture says: Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.”

39 Jesus was referring to the Spirit which those who believe in him were to receive; the Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus had not yet entered into his Glory.

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Notes from [The Community Christian Bible]


Spirit had not yet been given. In Wisdom 1:7, however, we read, “the Spirit of God fills the universe.” Actually God never ceased communicating himself. His Spirit enters into a person’s spirit whom he awakens, animates and impels. At all times he has been active in the artists, thinkers and  heroes,  and is  also  present in the spirit of people of upright heart.

The Spirit is not poured out like water. The Spirit of God becomes one with the spirit of the one who receives him. As long as we do not know God in truth, the Spirit comes “over” us, as occurred with the liberators of Israel, who did not necessarily become better for having been an instrument of God (Jdg 11:29). Only after Jesus had entered into his Glory could he give his Spirit to those who would be united with him.

Spirit had not been given. Many manuscripts read: There was no Spirit. In fact the meaning is the same. In this second way of speaking spirit refers to the manifold communications of God’s Spirit.

This ambiguity sounds strange to believers, who consider the Spirit to be a divine Person. Of course, the Spirit is as much person and as much God as the Father and the Son are, but the Spirit’s manner of being God and person and One is not the same. The Spirit is “communication of God dispensed” to all creatures through all times. He is somehow able to distribute himself, dwelling in each creature with different gifts; then he brings them back to unity in God. Because of this, Scripture sometimes says: “the Spirit,” at other times: “spirit” (Lk 1:15; Acts 6:3), or even: “the spirits” (Rev 1:4; 3:1).

Out of him shall flow rivers of living water. Compare 4:10. Bread and water: the Body of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit. In 7:38 we read: Out of him shall flow rivers of living water.

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Comments by Wesley

1. "Rivers of living water" is a lively image. It is another reference to the "I am" sayings that is not quite that direct. It can be seen in the prologue, "in the word was life (a river of it)" [chap. 1]; in a miracles river of wine (living water) [chap. 2]; in a wind that blows new life from above (river of life and new life) [chap. 3]; in all, including Samaritan women (river flowing to eternal life) [chap. 4]; in healings (living water comes to you instead of requiring you to come to it) [chap. 5]; and in being a river of living water one can walk on water [chap. 6].

2. The Greek does not read that this river comes from the "heart," but from the "belly". This can also be seen as prelude to the crucifixion scene with blood and water gushing forth as a river of life from Jesus' side. In this sense, Jesus is the believer's belly. As we live in him, we will flow forth. This can also, then, be an image of birth, not just death. Can you not only imagine yourself being birthed through Jesus, but birthing others into new life. We are part of the river of new life and are birthed into life and birth others into life as we flow along.

3. It is always interesting to play with alternative translations. Is there or is there not a distinction to be made between, "there was no Spirit" and "the Spirit had not been given." While there are similarities as noted in the note above, there are also significant differences. I must admit a partiality for the beginning spot of there being no Spirit. It gives a sense of moving toward a new heaven and a new earth, a new me and a new you. The future is not just an extension of the past but open to new ways of being and being together

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