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Thirsting for the Spirit of Life

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And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, On the fifteenth day of this seventh month and for seven days is the Feast of Booths to the Lord. On the first day shall be a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work. For seven days you shall present food offerings to the Lord. On the eighth day you shall hold a holy convocation and present a food offering to the Lord. It is a solemn assembly; you shall not do any ordinary work.” (Leviticus 23:33–36, ESV)
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.
Our text today we meet our Savior on the 8th day of the Feast of Booths. This feast began on the fifteenth day of the month of Tishri (mid October). This feast lasted an entire 7 day where the People of Israel would present burnt offerings each day of the feast. On the eight day, the first day of the new week, was to be a holy convocation. So in other words, they would celebrate the feast for seven days, then have the eighth day off for rest and reflection on God and the work that He did to preserve Israel during the 40 years of wandering in the desert living in tents.
Lenski, a Lutheran theologian has this to say about this feast: “greatest number of sacrifices were offered on the first day, and this number decreased day by day, so that on the seventh day very few were offered. The eighth day had the special distinction that it was the last festival day in the entire Jewish church year and was called “the last good day” (Succa IV, 8)...
“Each morning during the seven days of the feast, at the time of the sacrifice, a priest proceeded to the fountain of Siloah with a golden pitcher, filled it with water, and, accompanied by a solemn procession, bore it to the altar of burnt sacrifice, pouring the water, together with the contents of a pitcher of wine from the drink offering, into two perforated flat bowls. The trumpets sounded, and the people sang Isa. 12:3, “Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.”
So, here we are. It is during this part of the feast that Jesus changes His role from teacher to herald. Jesus stands up and cries out, “If anyone thirsts, 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.” Jesus is tying Himself to the prophecy of Isaiah, “with joy you draw water from the well of salvation.”
Jesus is proclaiming to the crowds there at the festival that He is their source of life. Paul puts these two together in 1 Cor., “and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown i the wilderness.” (10:4-5).
Even at this time, when Jesus stands up and makes His proclamation, He did not expect many would heed His call. Jesus shouts into the ears of the great crowd, “If anyone shall thirst,” etc., (present subjunctive, “shall be thirsting”). The condition of expectancy implies that some will, indeed, thirst, yet the indefinite singular, “If,” sounds as though Jesus does not expect that many will thirst. He refers to spiritual thirsting (4:14; 6:53–56), which, however, does not emanate from ourselves but, like the coming and the drinking, is the effect of the presence of Jesus, of his call and offer of living water (grace and salvation). He awakens the desire for spiritual satisfaction, even as he also satisfies this desire.
This has become our problem as well. This “if” condition. Jesus is calling all men, women and children to come to Him. He alone offers this living water, that whoever drinks of it, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” Our If problem arises out of a heart that is conflicted between the ways of this world and the fact that we, who believe, are not of this world. This conflict is double mindedness. We seek God to praise and thank Him when all is good, but then tend to blame Him when life gets hard. The world has taught us to laugh at all the wrong things, and cry over the wrong things. How many of us have every laughed when we saw someone get hurt? We should be hurting for them, and with them. We can laugh at our own sin, instead of wailing that we have once again disobeyed our Lord. I will leave it to your own imagination the stuff the world cries about when it should be laughing. We are enslaved to the ways of the world without even realizing.
This thirsting for living water is nothing more than our thirsting for the Holy Spirit. The text says that as of yet, “the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (v. 39).
Jesus calls us all to Himself. He does this through His Word. At the time, Jesus is the Word of God incarnate, physically on earth. Jesus would give them His Word of promise, that all who believe in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. (Jn. 3.16), and as Moses lifted up the bronze serpent in the wilderness so that all who had been bitten by the fiery serpents who simply trusted that by just looking at that bronze snake, they were healed and did not die. Jesus was lifted up on the cross of Calvary to bleed and die, so that all of us who have been bitten by the serpent in the Garden with Adam and Eve, our simple faith that looks to the lifted Jesus, can trust that we will be healed also of the sinful venom coursing through our veins that would lead to our eternal death and separation from our Lord and God.
At this time, Jesus said that “the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. So, let me ask you a question, “When was Jesus’ exultation to glory actually started?” Drew, you remember the stair steps of Jesus’ humiliation and His exultation? Remember we discussed that it was very easy to determine these steps through the second article of the Creed? That’s right, Jesus glorification began as soon as He said those words, “It is finished.” He died at that moment. What happened right after that, according to the Creed? That’s right, Jesus’ decent into hell. This does not seem like the first step in His exultation and glory. But remember, hopefully you all remember out there, that Jesus didn’t descend into hell for the purpose of suffering. All His suffering began the night of His betrayal, and ended with an abandoned Jesus dying on the cross, His Father in heaven turns His gaze away from His Son as He pours out every last drop of judgment that I deserve, that you deserve, that all humanity deserves, is poured out on God’s perfect, innocent Son. That was Jesus’ hell. He descends into hell to proclaim victory. Think of it like this. Satan thinks he’s won, he’s down there with his demons celebrating that the King is dead. Then Jesus crashes the party to proclaim the truth, the war is over, Satan has been defeated, sin has been defeated, and in just a few days, death itself will be defeated. All our enemies are tried and convicted. It was only after Jesus’ ascent into heaven that He and the Father poured out the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, the day we celebrate today.
Today, Drew, you will be confirming your Baptismal faith. At your baptism, we read through the Apostles Creed, all three articles, and your parents, God-parents and the new family you were very shortly to be a part of, answered for you. You have been raised in this faith, Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, Church, and now you have completed catechetical instruction, teaching you to observe all that Jesus, the Word of God incarnate, has commanded. Keep the Ten Commandments—or as Jesus puts it, “Love the Lord your God with all your strength, with all your heart and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as I have loved you.” That is the fulfillment of the 10 Commandments. You have learned what happened to you in your baptism, you have been taught the very sacred importance of being honest with yourself, others and God through confession and absolution. And here in just a moment, you will receive, for the first time, the very body and blood of your Lord and Savior, Jesus. Jesus will enter your body, in a very real and spiritual way. He conveys to you once again the forgiveness of all your sins, through your new participation in His Holy Sacrament. This is to be of highest importance to you from this day forth until the day the Lord call you home.
Remember I said that ‘All our enemies are tried and convicted’? Well, guess what? Just like most every street gang in the US is run by people already convicted and serving out their sentence for their crimes. Prison becomes the corporate office for these gangs and most all the business of those gangs is meted out by those in prison, including assassination orders to kill other people out on the street.
Well, so to, our enemies, having been tried and convicted, still have some control over what happens on this planet. Scripture tells us that Satan has been bound and thrown in prison. He still rules this world from his prison cell. But there will be a time in the end when he will get an early release, be unbound and have far more power over this world. He will marshal his armies for war against the Bride of Christ, and as they gather and march against Jesus’ Kingdom for one last battle, fire rains down from heaven and the final conflict is over. All creation is destroyed, the dead are raised and eternity begins. The real battle never takes place, because the war is already over. “it is finished” Jesus said. It is finished once and for all.
So, Drew, David, Diane, Charlene, Jan, and all of God’s children need to be continually fed and nourished on the Spirit of Life. We come to gather around this altar rail, each on their knees, physically, or in spirit, humbling ourselves before our Lord, and with the empty hands of beggars, we reach out for the gift that our Father has for us, the very body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ given and shed for the forgiveness of all our sins. This is spiritual food…it is the spiritual medicine for eternal life. It takes us out of this world that we live in, cleanses us, strengthen us so that we can go back out there in the world and be in it, but not of it.
Dearest family of God, Jesus calls today. “If anyone thirsts, let him/her come to me and drink.” I pray that the Holy Spirit that has been poured out on all believers the day of their Baptism and continues to be poured out on us in measures we need for the moment, continues to make you thirst, and direct you time and time again to Jesus, who died for you that you could be forgiven, and who awaits that time that we all so eagerly await, the resurrection, in which you who have been baptized have also been baptized into, when we will be with Jesus when He bids us drink from the river of life that flows from the throne of God in heaven for all eternity.
May this be true, for you Drew, and for all of God’s dearly beloved children.
In His name and for His eternal glory. Amen.
Lenski, R. C. H. (1961). The interpretation of St. John’s gospel (p. 574). Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House.
Lenski, R. C. H. (1961). The interpretation of St. John’s gospel (p. 574). Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House.
Lenski, R. C. H. (1961). The interpretation of St. John’s gospel (p. 573). Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House.
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