“On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.'” ( John 7:37 – 38)
It almost seems like, read out of context, Jesus just randomly burst out with this comment. But actually chapter seven in John concerns Jesus going to the Feast of the Tabernacle and preaching there. His listeners and the Jews/scribes there were voicing their perspective and commentary on who Jesus was. It is not, actually, a random outburst but an outburst that continues in the vein that Jesus was speaking coming very close to revealing completely who he was. But it was not quite time yet for the complete revelation – according to the writer of the gospel of John.
“Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (Verse 39)
As I have said on several occasions, the writer of the gospel of John has a purpose and reason for writing his gospel – the establishing of Jesus’ Divinity. The gospel he wrote based on the life of Jesus is a slow building toward that purpose. Because of the gospel writer’s purpose, he does not use all of the events of Jesus’ life and puts them in a certain context and perspective. It was only when Jesus had been glorified – that is, his Divinity on full display – that the coming and bestowing of the Spirit would come.
“When it was evening on that day [that is, the evening of the day Jesus was resurrected], the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:19)
That appearance, in itself, shows that Jesus was now beyond the physical form and ability of being just human – it is time.
“After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.” (Verses 20)
But he is the same teacher and rabbi they had known before. But different.
“Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (Verse 21)
Now is the time. All that was to be accomplished has been, except for one thing.
“When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (Verse 22 – 23)
The writer of the gospel of John does not give the same sort of bestowing of the Spirit as other gospel writers. When we are talking about what the fuller celebration of the Pentecost is, we think about the time in the upper room, after Jesus had been taken up into heaven, when tongues of flames came upon the disciples. And when they spoke in tongues, and Peter preached. We will also look at that passage later in the week; it is in the book of Acts, and attributed to the writer of the gospel of Luke.
So I have to wonder, when did the Spirit come upon them? And how? In gradual stages? Or are we reading only one person’s interpretation? When I checked, none of the other gospels note a specific time that Jesus bestowed the Spirit on them. So I have to wonder if this was the “big” bestowal. Because later in chapter twenty Jesus comes again, when Thomas is there. And I don’t think Jesus would have meant Thomas to miss out on the bestowing of the Spirit.
But my wondering does not make me doubt; the coming of the Spirit does not have to be the same for all people and at all times. And that the Holy Spirit was/is an aspect of the Divine means that it can come in many ways and at many times. Whose to say which disciple felt it for the first time in what way. We celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit in the most dramatic way on the Day of Pentecost. And we take the account in Acts as the “official” account. But all we can really be sure of is that there is a “before” and “after” in the coming of the Spirit. May you, beloved reader, dwell forever in the after. Selah!