There is a story of an old prospector in the last century who had to make a long journey across a hot desert. He couldn’t carry enough water to make the journey without dying of thirst, but he was told that there was a well halfway across the desert. He set out and sure enough there was a well right where the map indicated. When he pumped the handle, the well only burped up sand. Then he saw this sign: “Buried two feet over and two feet down is a jug of water. Dig it up and use the water to prime the pump. Drink all the water you want, but when you are done, fill the jug again for the next person.”
Sure enough, two feet over and two feet down was enough water for the prospector to prime the pump or finish his journey. Should he pour the water down the well or should he drink it? Most of us would probably drink the water that was buried. We don’t know who wrote the sign on that old pump. It could be a cruel joke. We could pour that water down a worthless well only to watch our lives drain away for lack of water.
The events in John 7:37-39 took place during the Feast of Booths, or Tabernacles. Every morning during the feast there was a procession to the fountain that supplied the water for the pool of Siloam. The priest filled his golden pitcher as the choir sang. Then the crowd proceeded to the temple carrying branches and twigs in the right hand, reminding them of the huts they built in the wilderness. In their left hand they carried a lemon or citron, a sign of the harvest. They proceeded to the altar waving the branches and singing. The priest went to the altar at the time of the sacrifice and poured the water into a silver funnel through which it flowed to the ground.
On the seventh day the crowed circled the altar seven times to celebrate God’s gift of water when Moses struck the rock in the wilderness at Meribah. It was at this moment in the midst of the celebration that Jesus stood and cried, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.” This invitation was rooted in the time and place when Moses faced the thirsty crowd at Sinai crying out for water, and almost in desperation, he struck the rock, and water came out abundantly. As the rock was struck in the wilderness, Jesus will be struck and broken open and life will flow forth to be shared with everyone who will come and drink.