"If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink." See John 7
The Feast of Tabernacles or Booths (vv. 1-5) was one of the three feasts (plus Passover and Pentecost) where every male Jew throughout Israel was required to go up to Jerusalem each year. For seven days the Jews celebrated the completion of the harvest, prayed for the "latter rains" to renew the soil from summer droughts and commemorated God’s goodness to provide water during their wilderness wanderings. The priests and the people would collect water from the Gihon Spring in a gold pitcher and carry it all the way to the Temple and pour it out on the altar. The last day they would do this seven times. In this long, hot and laborious process we see Jesus as "living water" (see John 4) to all who will receive Him.
Though we are not sure of all the motives of Jesus’ brothers we know there were wrong motives for they did not believe in Him. Later on some of Jesus’ disciples urged Him not to go near Jerusalem for the religious leaders wanted to kill Him. (John 11:8) Jesus used a play on words when He said it was not His time to "go up" referring to His ascension which was to be the following spring after His death and resurrection for, as we see later, He did go to Jerusalem but in secret.
Jesus knew the "world hated Him because He told them their deeds were evil." (v. 7) Jesus came with "grace and truth." (John 1:14) He was full of grace and mercy and also spoke truths that challenged people’s thinking about their relationship with God. In teaching through the gospels this past year I was struck by how often people would react to the truths He spoke. We too must speak His truths to others for only as we know the truth about ourselves do we see our need for Jesus and thus seek His power to change us.
There were three different groups of people responding to Jesus with mixed reactions – some believed, some didn’t, some wanted to kill Him. The "Jews" refers to the religious leaders; the "crowd"- those who came up from all over Israel for the Feast, and "some of the people of Jerusalem" (v. 25) were Jews also but not religious leaders.
Jesus didn’t follow the Rabbinic tradition of being trained by a Rabbinic scholar. (vv. 14-19) He said His teachings were not His own but came directly from God. And He knew the Scriptures as He had studied them diligently as a child and young man. He was a Man of the Word. So He had an inherent authority when He taught. He says in verse 17 that spiritual knowledge requires humility, honesty and a willingness to obey. We can learn math or science or business skills etc., without a moral and spiritual response to God but revelation knowledge of God and His ways requires humble obedience in order to truly learn. For example, compare Rahab the harlot (Joshua 2:8-13) who knew very little about God but who applied what she did know, to the Pharisees, who knew much about God but applied very little. Next to the power of the Holy Spirit our will is the most important thing about us. Ultimately, the outcome of our life is reflected in the multitude of choices we make in our relationship with the Lord – little ones and big ones.
Jesus confronts the religious leaders about trying to kill Him (19b-24) because He was breaking their legalistic traditions (e.g., healing a man on the Sabbath – John 5) and exposing their hypocrisy and pride. And though they wanted to kill Him and later did, Jesus knew it was not His time. (v. 30) He had more work yet to do. This is also true for us. God has ordered our days to the very day and no one can thwart His purposes for our life as we "love Him and live according to His purposes." (Romans 8:28; also see Ephesians 2:10 and Psalm 139:16)
We see in verses 25-36, 40-53 the different responses to Jesus and the ignorance of many people about the Messiah. They didn’t understand the spiritual meaning of His messages for they were ruled by natural reason. This is still true today. Many of our friends and family members really don’t know the historical and Biblical truths about Jesus. The apostle Peter tells us that we need to study and be prepared to answer people’s questions about our faith. (See 1 Peter 3:15) And many others reject Him out of intellectual pride as the Pharisees did. (vv. 47- 52) But look at what Jesus says about intellectual knowledge about Him: "At that time Jesus answered and said, "I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight."(Matthew 11:25-26) A person can know the truth about Jesus – that He is truly the Son of God and Savior of the world and still not bend the knee and worship and obey Him. This is a matter of the will not the mind – a matter of unwillingness not of understanding.
"On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive." (vv. 37-39) We see the intensity of Jesus’ passion for people to know Him and receive Him even as living water for their thirsty souls. Year after year the priests performed the ceremonies about the desperate need for water, for their crops, for their lives "in a dry and weary land where there is no water" (Psalm 63:1). And here in their very presence stands Jesus, the water of life – the living water for all who will drink and yet they wouldn’t believe in Him because of their pride.
"Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:13-14) For those of us who have received Jesus, we have received the Holy Spirit and our former self-centered lives now have a new main-spring – God the Holy Spirit – the God Who gives Himself away – the God Who will now flow through us as living waters to others.
"Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." (Ephesians 5:18-21) And we need to be continually "filled with the Holy Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18) so we can continually be a source of His living waters to all He sends us to.
Questions for reflection/application:
How did the Lord speak to you through this passage?
Unlike Jesus, who always spoke the truth in love, we may speak the truth to others but not with love and grace. Or we can be so graceful that we fail to speak truths that people need to hear. Do you feel you err more on the side of grace or on the side of truth in your relationships? (John 1:14) Explain
Comment on our need to humbly obey God’s Word even when we don’t understand it in order to grow in true spiritual knowledge. (See Isaiah 66:2)
How do you refill your life with "living water" on a regular basis?
That we would see Jesus,
Len and Kristen