Why do we drink muddy water instead of living water?
37 Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
The Feast of Booths, which which was occurring at this time, carried a tradition that involved bringing water to the altar for the first seven days of the feast. The final day (the 8th day) no water was brought. This is the day that Jesus stood up and proclaimed what we read here. He was using the absence of water on this day to accentuate His point.
We read what Jesus was referencing in Isaiah 44:3, “ ‘For I will pour out water on the thirsty land And streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring And My blessing on your descendants;” The Living Water is His Spirit, which will be poured out at Pentecost (after Jesus ascends into heaven). How does this apply to us today?
This Living Water is a common theme so far in John. I’ve been contemplating a lot lately about the things we do when we are without something. When we are without purpose or intention, how much we continue to yearn for something and we do anything to satisfy that craving. Here, Jesus is using the absence of water to relate to others the awesomeness of His spirit which will be poured out (which is now poured out) for us. How often do we try to satisfy our desires and cravings for a relationship with God when we do not have one with Him?
I think about what it is like to go for a very long time without water or food. We start eating and drinking things that we otherwise wouldn’t drink or eat, wouldn’t we? In the military we learn ways to “live off the land” and things we can eat and drink in order to survive. Eating bugs, drinking urine, finding plants that provide nutrition and hydration so our bodies don’t shut down and wither away.
I’m imagining someone stuck out in the desert. They’ve eaten bugs and lapped water from mud holes on the ground, just trying to survive, trying to sustain life and satisfy that hunger and thirst they feel deep inside. Someone crosses their path and offers them clean cool water and a loaf of bread. Why would anyone in their right mind ignore and reject the offer to continue living off the things that they know will eventually kill them anyway and leave them unsatisfied in the end? This is exactly what we do as Jesus offers us this Living Water.
Some of us drink of this Living Water on a daily basis. We are filled and satisfied, healthy and provided for. Some days, however, we decide to go scrounge around for bugs and mud water again just because we want to remember what it is like. Why? Why do we break away from that which we know sustains us? Why do we neglect the water that gives us life?