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.’”
Rivers of living water
It is the Feast of Booths, when Judeans dwelt in makeshift shelters in commemoration of their years in the wilderness. The feast came at the end of the dry season when the water stored in cisterns was stale and depleted, when people yearned for fresh, ‘living’ (running) water. The festivities included a daily procession from the pool of Siloam up to the altar where a great golden pitcher of water was poured out, an offering of water, a ritual of prayer for the coming rains upon which life depended, and a symbol of the ancient prophecy that in the age to come a river would flow from the temple like the rivers of Eden, bringing life to the world. It was great liturgy, great theater.
But as Jesus observes all this, he rises to call all who are thirsty to come to him, for he is living water – and it is not from the altar that the river will flow to bring life to the world, but from the hearts of every believer.