“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” (John 7:37).
One of the most important perspectives which arose out of the 16th century Protestant Reformation was the principle that Scripture interprets Scripture. This means that what God previously revealed in Scripture will be essential to what God presently reveals. In other words, what the Gospel of John says in John 6 about coming to Christ is essential to understand what John 7 says about coming to Christ.
Within the immediate context of John 7 and the observance of the Feast of the Tabernacles, John 7:37 begins by saying it was the last day of the feast, the great day. This was the final day of the feast in which a very special tradition was observed. Dr. John MacArthur explains:
“A tradition grew up in the few centuries before Jesus that on the seven days of the Feast of Booths, or Tabernacles, a golden container filled with water from the pool of Siloam was carried in procession by the high priest back to the temple. As the procession came to the Water Gate on the south side of the inner temple court, three trumpet blasts were made to mark the joy of the occasion and the people recited Isa. 12:3, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” At the temple, while onlookers watched, the priests would march around the altar with the water container while the temple choir sang the Hallel (Ps. 113–118). The water was offered in sacrifice to God at the time of the morning sacrifice. The use of the water symbolized the blessing of adequate rainfall for crops. Jesus used this event as an object lesson and opportunity to make a very public invitation on the last day of the feast for his people to accept him as the living water. His words recall Isa. 55:1.”
We must first of all recall that this is not the first time Jesus referred to Himself as the living water or that thirsty people could come to Him and drink. This is most reminiscent of what Jesus said to the Woman at the Well (John 4).
It also is not the first time Jesus spoke of people coming to Him. However, Jesus stressed in John 6 that the only way people could come to Christ for salvation was when the Father gave them, the elect, as a gift to the Son (John 6:35-44). Jesus said that “all that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (John 6:37). Jesus also said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44).
So, when Jesus stood up on the last day of the feast and passionately cried out with all of His being, ““If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink” He was saying this in light of what He has previously stated in His Bread of Life Discourse. Additionally, the verb phrase “let him come” is a present imperative command but in the passive voice. This coming is not something we do actively by ourselves but rather is done on our behalf. By whom? I would submit by God the Father who draws us to the Son, gives us to the Son and enables us to come to the Son by sovereign regeneration (John 3:1-8). When God the Father does this sovereign work, we are enabled by the Holy Spirit to drink of the waters of salvation.
Notice the three key words: thirsts, come and drink. To thirst means to strongly desire. To come literally means to become. Finally, to drink means to soak up, to experience and to absorb. God the Father’s sovereign work, based upon the person and work of Jesus Christ and the regenerating work in the soul of the unconverted by the Holy Spirit, satisfies the sinner’s longing in their soul and they become a child of God and finds what their thirsty soul has longed for and has discovered in the Gospel.
Clara T. Williams wrote the following lyrics in 1875. The song is entitled Satisfied.
- All my life I had a longing
For a drink from some clear spring,
That I hoped would quench the burning
Of the thirst I felt within.
Hallelujah! I have found Him
Whom my soul so long has craved!
Jesus satisfies my longings,
Through His blood I now am saved.
- Feeding on the husks around me,
Till my strength was almost gone,
Longed my soul for something better,
Only still to hunger on.
- Poor I was, and sought for riches,
Something that would satisfy,
But the dust I gathered round me
Only mocked my soul’s sad cry.
- Well of water, ever springing,
Bread of life so rich and free,
Untold wealth that never faileth,
My Redeemer is to me.
Soli deo Gloria!