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LSB Pentecost A Sermon – John 7:37-39

June 10, 2014

June 8, 2014 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“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.’”

“Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” Jesus makes that promise to those who believe in Him. It is the promise of the Holy Spirit, the divine gift that the Eternal Father would grant to those who belong to the Son of God. That promise was made prior to Pentecost. You heard it in the words of Jesus that led up to this Sunday: His promises about asking the Father to send another Helper, even the Spirit of Truth. This promise that Jesus makes and fulfills is the focus of this day, the third of the Three Great Festival Days of the Church.

Jesus pledges to His disciples a great gift, the source of eternal life itself. That is the significance of the term “rivers of living water” that He uses. But when Jesus spoke about such “living water” at the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem, it wasn’t the the first time that He had mentioned “living water.” You may remember the incident at Jacob’s Well in Samaria, an event that the Apostle John recorded in a chapter earlier in his gospel and was read this past Lent. Jesus met a Samaritan woman at the well, and then He began to mention what He can give her: “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” And He says further: “The water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

Those statements that Jesus made in Samaria sounds awfully similar to what you heard Jesus say this morning: “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.’” It should. Because in both places, Jesus is talking about the same thing: He speaks of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus says that the “living water” is connected to faith and leads to eternal life. That is precisely the work that the Holy Spirit accomplishes, why He receives the title that we and countless numbers of Jesus’ followers have confessed together in the Creed where we call the Holy Spirit: “the Lord and Giver of life.”

To see this in action, we can reflect for a moment on the account of Pentecost Day in Jerusalem. On that great day, the fiftieth day after the resurrection of our Lord, the Holy Spirit came down to the apostles. And what were they led to do? “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” The apostles were given the ability to speak. But their speaking wasn’t without purpose or point. In fact, the crowds tell about what they heard the apostles speak as the Holy Spirit directed them: “We hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”

And just what were those “mighty works”? They are what had occurred in the three years of Jesus’ earthly ministry, especially the events that took place in the last several weeks in Jerusalem surrounding His death and resurrection. Remember all the things that Jesus did or happened to Him? The raising of Lazarus from the dead, the anointing at Bethany, the procession on Palm Sunday, the teaching in the Temple, the Passover meal in the Upper Room with the foot-washing and institution of the Lord’s Supper, the beating and crucifixion, the hasty burial, the resurrection from the tomb, the appearances to the women and the disciples, the ascension into heaven: these were all “the mighty works of God.” This is what the crowds heard spoken to them in their own languages, as the Holy Spirit worked through the Jerusalem apostles.

But what the apostles were doing wasn’t just a retelling of a story. It wasn’t trying to get an accurate biography of Jesus. No, they were speaking about “mighty works of God”—the foundation of eternal life, the work of Jesus that accomplishes salvation for those chosen to share in it. Those chosen to share in it receive the Holy Spirit and His work that leads to faith and belief. This is what Jesus was talking about in Jerusalem when speaking about the Holy Spirit: “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.’”

Thirst is what the crowds in Jerusalem had. They were all seeking out divine righteousness. Remember how they were described: “Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven.” They had come to observe the festival of Pentecost, to offer their sacrifices of worship and praise to the LORD. The crowd knew the Divine Covenant that had been made with their forefathers and with them. They were keeping it. But on that Pentecost which followed Jesus’ death and resurrection, they were made part of the New Covenant that He had instituted and fulfilled by doing “the mighty works of God.” Through the preaching that the apostles made just outside of Jerusalem’s Temple, the Holy Spirit brought the gift of salvation to the crowds. They were given a share of eternal life. They received the “living water” that Jesus promised.

In that moment in Jerusalem, everything that Jesus promised came true: “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.’” It is the end result of what Jesus accomplishes through being glorified through resurrection and ascension. But it isn’t a First Century event. The glory of Jesus, the effects of His actions, and His promise are all timeless: they extend even to this present day, so that you experience what happened to the crowds in Jerusalem.

What the Church celebrates on this day is not just a past experience. Jesus speaks about belief: those who believe in Him will have the rivers of living water. That is nothing else than saying: those who believe in Jesus will have the Holy Spirit. They are subjects in whom the Lord and Giver of Life has worked. And just like the crowds in Jerusalem, those who believe in Jesus have received the testimony about Him from the apostles who speak about “the mighty works of God,” the that Jesus did.

The Church celebrates on Pentecost a present experience. What Jesus describes is what you have received. You have been instructed in the foundation of the Christian faith. You have heard of the life and teaching of Jesus. It’s been preached to you in your own language. What has been done for you in Divine Service, in Bible Class and Sunday School, in catechism instruction, and in personal conferences is to put in your hearing “the mighty works of God.” This happens because the Scriptures are read and proclaimed in these activities. But these are not ordinary words. No, they are the record of what Jesus did; they are the written form of the apostolic preaching. In them there is the central teaching about the forgiveness of sins earned by Jesus’ perfect life, innocent death, and glorious resurrection. And that same forgiveness of sins is distributed to you through Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution, and Holy Meal.

Through these things, the “rivers of living water” are established in the hearts of believers. The “rivers of living water” have been established in you. The Holy Spirit has been given out and you have received Him and His work. In this way, you are really the same as the crowd in Jerusalem, the generations of Christians throughout time, and all those around the world who call on the name of Jesus and are saved.

This is the work of “the Lord and Giver of Life” that has been conducted in you. Jesus made the promise about it: “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.’” He spoke this about the Holy Spirit, the divine gift that the Eternal Father would grant to those who belong to His Son. That promise has  been extended to you. It is for you, whose whose sin, imperfection, and impending death cause thirst for the righteousness, forgiveness, and life that could never be achieved. But when you come to Jesus and drink, when you hear of “the mighty works of God” conducted for you, and when you are given the forgiveness of sins through Baptism, Absolution, and Lord’s Supper, then you have the “living water” that the Holy Spirit bestows.

That promise fulfilled is the heart of this Pentecost Day. The readings, the red paraments, the symbols of flame and dove, the hymns that speak about the Holy Spirit and His actions: they all center on the unveiled power of God that it was used on your behalf. They remind you that you have heard “the mighty works of God” in your own language, and because of it, “out of [your] hearts flow rivers of living water.” For this day is about what you will continue to receive through the Holy Spirit’s work until all believers in Jesus experience the fullness of everlasting life: being raised from the dead and glorified with the Crucified and Risen Jesus for all eternity. This is what has been promised and done for you, the people who have come to Jesus and have called upon His name.

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

 

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