In Gospel according to John, after declaring, “It is finished,” Jesus “bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (Jn. 19:30). Interestingly, that line could be translated “gave the spirit” signifying Jesus’ death as the moment when Jesus is glorified and the Holy Spirit is given. While not certain, this translation is possible, because John’s Gospel is full of wordplays.
In Ezekiel 47, the prophet Ezekiel describes a vision of a river flowing from the temple in Jerusalem creating new life wherever it goes. This passage of Scripture was read on the last day of the Festival of Tabernacles. A ceremony was also performed on that day where priests would pour water over the altar at the temple, symbolizing the promise of Ezekiel 47. There is a theme in John’s Gospel of Jesus attending Jewish festivals and redefining them around Himself. In chapter seven Jesus attends the Festival of Tabernacles and we read,
“On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.” (Jn. 7:37-39)
Earlier in the Gospel of John, Jesus redefined the temple as the temple of His body (Jn. 2:21). With that in mind, Jesus is now further declaring Himself as the temple by claiming to be the source of the living water that flows from the temple. But Jesus goes further and says that whoever believes in Him will also have rivers of living water flowing from within them. Later, the Apostle Paul tells us that, as Jesus’ Church, we are the body of Christ, and that together we are God’s temple (1Co. 12:12-31; 3:16-17). If we are the temple, then we should have living water flowing out of us, and everywhere we go we should spread life. It is no secret that the world we live in is full of death and darkness. As followers of Jesus, our lives should combat the darkness of the world with the light of Christ, and the death of the world with the rivers of living water that flow from us. Our lives should point towards the hope we have of God’s complete restoration of His good world when all of creation is once again His temple and the river of life flows from His throne bringing healing to the nations (Rev. 22:1-5).
But none of this can happen without the Spirit. And in John 7, the Spirit had not yet been given. But in chapter nineteen, after accomplishing everything He set out to accomplish on the cross, Jesus gives the Spirit. Then “one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water” (Jn. 19:34). Three days later, after His resurrection from the dead, Jesus, in His glorified state, appears to His disciples breaths on them and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn. 20:22). Only by receiving the Spirit of Christ, freely given on the cross, can we be the temple of God and have rivers of living water flow from within us to bring healing and life to our broken world.