On the last and most important day of the festival, Jesus stood up and shouted,
“All who are thirsty should come to me!
All who believe in me should drink!
As the scriptures said concerning me,
Rivers of living water will flow out from within them (alternative; or him).”
Jesus said this concerning the Spirit. Those who believed in him would soon receive the Spirit, but they hadn’t experienced the Spirit yet since Jesus hadn’t yet been glorified.
When some in the crowd heard these words, they said, “This man is truly the prophet.” Others said, “He’s the Christ.” But others said, “The Christ can’t come from Galilee, can he? Didn’t the scripture say that the Christ comes from David’s family and from Bethlehem, David’s village?” So the crowd was divided over Jesus. Some wanted to arrest him, but no one grabbed him.
The guards returned to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked, “Why didn’t you bring him?”
The guards answered, “No one has ever spoken the way he does.”
Let’s get some context about this passage. “The festival” refers to Sukkot, the Feast of Booths (or Tabernacles; see verse 2). This is a celebration about the forty years of wandering. It’s one of the three feast days that people were supposed to pilgrimage to Jerusalem. On “the last and most important day of the festival,” there was a procession of water from the pool of Siloam to the Temple and then the water was poured out at the altar (Mishnah, Sukkot 4.9). During this purification ceremony, people would sing Isaiah 12.3, “You will draw water with joy from the springs of salvation.”
As we can see, this information makes all the difference for understanding Jesus’ statements. It makes perfect sense for him to speak about his giving G_d’s Spirit to people in the imagery of water and salvation.
The are a couple of reasons I preferred the Greek alternative to the last part of Jesus’ statement. First, many Greek Orthodox understand this passage as talking about the followers of Jesus and not Jesus himself (see the Orthodox Study Bible). Second, this view seems to line up very well with the explanation provided by “John.”
Lastly, there must have been something about Jesus that really connected to some of the people but is quite literally lost in translation. I don’t see anything that spectacular in what he said to make people just “ooh” and “ahh” over him like this. So something else is obviously going on.
And don’t they remember that he was born in Bethlehem? I thought Herod gave them a reason to remember that. How could some of them forget that? I guess what’s great about this confusion is that people today are no different. Some think Jesus was just a prophet. Others think he was just a “nice Jewish boy.” And others don’t even think he existed at all.
But then there are others of us that think he was so much more. That there is something deeper going on than a “first reading” will show us. Of course, that’s what’s great about seeing the whole story. As the old saying goes, “hindsight is 20/20.” Some of us just refuse to see it.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC