Do followers of the Messiah Jesus need to ask to receive the Holy Spirit or does the Spirit indwell us when we believe? Who would have thought that the Jewish Holy Day that begins tonight, would help answer that question.
The Jewish Holiday tonight is the seventh night of Sukkot (the biblical festival of Booths or Tabernacles). The seventh day of the festival is called Hoshana Rabbah (or the great Hosanna). It is mentioned in John 7:37, where it says, “On the last and most important day of the festival, Jesus stood up and cried out.” So what was happening on the last day of the festival? To begin, there was a water libation poured out on the altar in the Temple, to remind the people, that when the Messiah came, God’s spirit would be poured out on all the nations, and the knowledge of the Lord would cover the earth, as the waters cover the seas. Second, there was a torch ceremony, where all the Priests and Levites would carry torches onto the Temple Mt and march around indicating that when Messiah came, He would bring His light to the all the world. It’s said in Rabbinic Literature that the light from the Temple Mt was so great during the ceremony, that it could be seen as far away as Galilee. Finally, as the torches were carried around the Temple, the priests and Levites chanted, “kol mevassar, mevassar v’omer” (meaning, “the voice of the messenger, he announces and says”) a phrase that anticipates Elijah’s role as herald of the Messiah.
Right in the midst of this, Jesus cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, he should come to me and drink! The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said will have streams of living water flow from deep within him” (John 7:37b-38). What does Jesus announcement mean?
First, Jesus announces that He is the Messiah—we should seek no other. All the ceremonies of that night anticipated the coming Messiah. By declaring that He alone could give living water in the midst of the water libation, Jesus was identifying Himself as the Messiah for this crowd. That’s why, in the passage that follows, a dispute breaks out among those who heard Jesus; they begin to argue about whether He is the Messiah. (John 7:40-43). It’s a great reminder for us—in the midst of all of life’s difficulties—Jesus is only one for us. To whom shall we go? He alone has the words of eternal life.
Second, Jesus announces that the Holy Spirit is coming, seek him no more. Jesus words about the Spirit are a summary of several passages in the Hebrew Bible that anticipates the coming of the water of salvation and arrival of the Holy Spirit (Isa 12:3; 55:1-5; 58:11). John explains Jesus’ point in v. 39: “He said this about the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were going to receive, for the Spirit had not yet been received, because Jesus had not yet been glorified” (John 7:39). And the book of Acts reveals that after Jesus ascension to glory, the Holy Spirit fell upon His followers on Pentecost. Since that day, every follower of Jesus, fully receives the Holy Spirit at the moment of faith. We don’t have to wait for, pray for, or look for the Holy Spirit. He indwells everyone who has faith in the Messiah Jesus.
Jesus’ response to all the controversy that ensued after his declaration is found in John 8:12. There, in the midst of the torch ceremony, which anticipates the coming of the Messiah as the light to the nations, He declares of Himself: “I am the Light of the World. Anyone who follows Me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.” This declaration is clear to all who hear—Jesus is claiming the mantle of the Messiah and promising His light to all who follow Him.