Gospel of John: A Better Covenant


To get back inside this story, read Thursday’s post.

This is John’s explanation of what Jesus meant when he spoke of coming to him. My guess is, this was an iconic event in the memories of every believer who had been there, and was a story they passed on, not only to others but over table fellowship, in worship gatherings, and when evangelizing.

My guess is, this was a story that got told and retold, especially when others who had been there were together, reminiscing. This is a story to tell to one’s children and grandchildren.


When all the people cried out

Therefore with joy will you draw water from the wells of salvation,”

and sang

Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob, who turns the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a spring of water,”

It was understood the water represented both physical water from the rock that saved the Israelites in the wilderness, and also the outpouring of God’s Spirit.

Jesus had not said what kind of thirst, but allowed for thirst of any kind, thirst for spiritual things, but also for love, for meaning in life, thirst for righteousness and justice, thirst for goodness, for joy. All of this would be given in that great living river of the Holy Spirit welling up from within all those who came to Jesus.

Think of that river.

It was not just that those who had the river within would be refreshed and receive every spiritual blessing from heaven. It was that this river would well up within and then flow out to others, to the whole earth, wherever we are.

This is the Holy Spirit at work, both regenerating and restoring individuals, but also bringing together in a community the unity of Spirit. A lesson you and I learn in the Garden of Eden is that the deepest satisfaction comes when we can share goodness and beauty with companions.

  1. “Whoever is thirsty.” (John 7:37)

If you and I come to Jesus, we will be personally satisfied

  1. Come to me and drink.” (John 7:38)

To receive the Spirit, you and I are to drink of Jesus.

This is the closest, most intimate relationship we can have with God, even closer and more intimate than God the Son living as a human being among people.

In the past, the Spirit had overshadowed, inspired, guided, and helped. Now, God’s Holy Spirit would dwell within the believer.

  1. “The one who believes in me, as the writings say, ‘a river [flows] out of that one’s inner being.’” John 7:38)

And because of this astonishing phenomenon, of having the Spirit of Christ anchored within our minds, hearts, and souls, God’s very being, God’s character and glory, wells up from our insides, rather than simply washing over our outsides.

  1. “Now, he said this concerning the Spirit, which those who believed in him were meant to receive and take hold of, for Spirit was not yet, because Jesus had never yet been glorified.” (John 7:39)

The giving of the Holy Spirit in a new, never-before way was to be inaugurated by another never-before event. The Spirit would be given once Jesus had risen from the dead and gone to be with the Father in heaven.

John would later explain that Jesus would send his Spirit to dwell within every believer.

To understand that statement is to understand something of the nature of the trinity.

A new covenant was being offered by God to the people, this time on Mount Zion.

Jesus was offering an unconditional covenant. Jesus would pour out his Spirit on all who came to him, thirsty and willing to believe. You and I can be grateful the promises attached to the Messiah are unconditional, because if they had been conditional, we would never have been able to live up to them.

Believing is not a work that fulfills covenant requirements.

It is simply saying “yes” to the offer of the unconditional gift of being reborn.

Jesus chose his words carefully. The water that gushed from the rock when Moses struck it in the desert came by God’s mercy and grace. That same grace and mercy would now provide living water from Jesus, who would be struck down only six months from then.

Technically, Gods covenant of Law is still at work. God’s nature, God’s character, is unchanging and God’s word is also unchanging. So, how can God establish a new unconditional covenant with people, if the original conditional covenant is still in place?

Because God’s original conditional Covenant of Law is fulfilled in the Messiah, who ushered in the new unconditional Covenant of Grace through his perfect life, his sacrificial death, and his victorious resurrection.

You and I can enter into God’s new unconditional Covenant of Grace, and peace with God, into restoration to life and holiness because of, and through Jesus’ righteousness, purity, the perfection of his life’s record of sinlessness.

We can enter through the perfection of Jesus’ good works as a human being so perfectly attuned to God’s will, that Jesus not only followed the Law perfectly in its letter, he also followed the Law perfectly in its intent.

All we do is respond to Jesus by believing in him.

In ancient times, covenants were always ratified in blood, and God’s covenants were no exception.

The Mosaic covenant, ratified in blood at Mount Sinai, was renewed countless times with each animal sacrifice. 

Christ’s covenant was also ratified—this time once and for all time and eternity—with Jesus’ one sacrifice of himself, shedding his own blood, then offering it as high priest upon the true mercy seat in heaven. The writer of Hebrews would later describe this scene,


When Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and perfect tabernacle (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation),

he entered once for all into the Holy Place,

not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood,

thus obtaining eternal redemption.

Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.

Hebrews 9:11-12, 24 (NRSV)

The Holy Spirit not only blesses a believer’s life, the Spirit causes the believers life to be a blessing to others.

There were those in the crowd who were as thirsty as their forefathers were in the desert, and they drank in Jesus’ words.

But there were others who clung to what they thought they knew and missed out on the incredible opportunity to be filled with the very life of God.

God’s way is to go beyond what you and I would ask or imagine.

How much of ourselves are you and I willing to surrender to the Lord?

How much of our insides do we want God to fill to overflowing with the Spirit of Christ?

How aware are we of God’s Spirit refreshing not only ourselves, but all those around us?

In proportion to the control you and I are willing to give God the Holy Spirit of our persons, will be the proportion of the living water that flows into and through our hearts to others.


[Moses Striking the Rock | Jacopo Tintoretto / Public domain]

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