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John 7:37-39 Study Guide: What's the Deal with Jesus? Part 3: Sending the Spirit

Community Group Study Guide — What’s the Deal with Jesus? Part 3 - Sending the Spirit
John 7:37-39

Study Information:
Over the last two study guides we’ve been exploring Jesus at the Feast of Tabernacles. We first saw how the people were dividing over his identity. Some in the crowd thought he was a good person, others that he was leading people astray, others questioned his sanity and behind it all was the question “is he the Christ?” It is impossible for Jesus to be simply a good person because we either have to accept his teaching of being God in the flesh and the one who would save his people from their sins or he’d be a liar and therefore not a good person. To quote CS Lewis, Jesus is either a liar, a lunatic or the Lord but he cannot be a good person. 

We next looked at how Jesus’ identity connected to the Feast of Tabernacles. The Feast celebrated God’s presence with Israel during their wandering in the wilderness after God had freed them from slavery to Egypt. During Jesus’ time they were waiting for a similar type freedom from Roman oppression, but Jesus offered them something different than a freedom from Rome. The Feast of Tabernacles was a celebration that God dwelled with them in the wilderness and Jesus went to the feast to say “I am God with you” dwelling with you in your present day wandering. Jesus taught in John 7:14-24, at the mid point of the feast, that he was the “truth from God” but they did not receive him as truth because they were hard hearted and unable to believe. 

On the last day of the Feast, during the high point of celebration, Jesus interrupted everyone and everything by crying out loudly “If anyone thirst, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the scripture has said ‘out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” John tells us that Jesus was saying this in reference to the Holy Spirit who’d be given when Jesus was glorified (John 7:37-39). Jesus points to God’s redemption and a future day when they’d have God dwelling in them by the Holy Spirit. 

Let’s explore what Jesus was teaching.

Water from the Rock:
A key moment in Israel’s wilderness wandering was when God provided water from the rock for them, which happened twice (Exodus 17, Numbers 20). Psalm 78:15-16 tells us that this water flowed out like a ranging river in the desert. At the Feast of Tabernacles, the priests would commemorate God’s provision of water by bringing water from the Pool of Siloam, which was located near one of the gates into the city of Jerusalem and they’d take that water up to the temple where they’d circle the altar 7 times and pour the water out onto the altar. It was considered a high point of the celebration. It is at this moment that Jesus cried out to the people “all who are thirsty come to me… out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:4 that the rock in the story of God providing them water was Christ. Jesus is saying that that image and part of their history was fulfilled in him. All who are thirsty can come and believe and be satisfied in Christ. 

Specifically this satisfaction of their thirst would be marked by Christ sending the Holy Spirit. John 7:39 told us that this referred to the Spirit who had not yet been given because Jesus had not yet been glorified. When Jesus went back to his Father’s side after his resurrection, he sent the Holy Spirit, which is available to everyone who believes in Christ today.  This means that if the "rock was Christ”, then the pouring out of the holy spirit is like the water pouring out from that rock satisfying our thirst. 

This is foreshadowed in Nehemiah 9:15-21 which tells us that in the wilderness wandering things like manna, water from the Rock, the cloud by day and fire by night and blessings like not having their feet swell or clothing wear out all had a spiritual significance. Nehemiah 9:20 highlights that God gave them his good Spirit to instruct them, manna for their mouth and water for their thirst. Even before Jesus, they connected the Spirit and the water from the rock in the wilderness.  

If the Feast of Tabernacles was about how God dwelled with them in the wilderness, and Jesus was that dwelling of God among them, then this is a promise that he will send the Holy Spirit who will make all who believe into the dwelling place of God. The Holy Spirit is God’s presence among his people. 

Life by the Holy Spirit:
The Gospel of John focuses on the Holy Spirit more than any other gospel account and probably more than any other place in the New Testament. Jesus will teach about the Holy Spirit in John 14 and 16, because it is central to John’s theme of God dwelling with his people and because sending the Spirit was a key aspect of Jesus’ ministry. The Holy Spirit gives us access to God because he is God in us. Likewise, the Holy Spirit is the way we experience inside out change (Ezekiel 36:25-27); the Holy Spirit makes us holy. The Holy Spirit is also a seal for us that our future hope of redemption is sure (Ephesians 1:13-14). Overall, what Jesus taught in John 7:37-39 is that the Spirit is the way we experience salvation in the here and now and gives us hope for eternity. 

All of us have some sort of thirst in our lives where we feel like sin is winning, or God is absent or that we’re in a huge need. Many of us look to satisfy that thirst with puddles, trickles from a faucet or something that satisfies us less and less and we need to go back for refills. Jesus is inviting us to bring our thirst to him because from him flows streams of living water.

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:
Read John 7:37-39

How does Jesus use the symbolism of the Feast of Tabernacles to communicate about his identity?

What are some reasons the Bible use the image of thirst to communicate our spiritual need? Read Jeremiah 2:13 and Isaiah 55:1. How do these verses help us understand Jesus here?
(note: a Cistern was kind of like an underground water tank carved out of rock to store water for seasons of drought). 

What benefits do we have because Jesus sent the Spirit?

We all have some sort of spiritual thirst that can only be satisfied in Jesus. What seasons of life show you your spiritual need and how do you go to Christ in those seasons?