Jesus: The River of Life (John 7)
There is a lot of division in our country. Right now we are experiencing division over politics. Opinion on who should occupy the White House for the next four years is pretty much right down the middle between Democrats and Republicans. But we are not just divided over our politics. We can be divided by the most inconsequential of things, like sports. Whether you root for the Redskins or the Cowboys, one thing is for sure, fans of the NFL have divided opinions. But far more significant than politics and sports, Americans, in fact people all over the world are divided over religion. One of the most basic fault lines is the division over the identity of Jesus Christ. Is he a legendary character like those we encounter in epic novels? Is he a great moral and religious leader? Is he the Son of God, in fact, God himself? At the root of the issue is not a lack of knowledge about the identity, but a lack of faith.
John 7 is set in the context of division over the identity of Jesus. Some think he is a “good man.” Some think he should be killed. What is interesting about this particular scene is that it is set in one of the great annual Jewish feasts, the Feast of Booths.
Because of the nature of the celebration, the Feast of Booths was one of the most loved and joyful feasts on the Jewish calendar. In a broad sense, this feast was given by God to accomplish three things:
First, Israel was to remember the importance of God in this world by building temporary booths. The booths were a symbolic reminder of their temporary citizenship in this world and their permanent citizenship in the Promised Land. Leviticus 23:33-44
Second, Israel was to celebrate the provision of God in the Promised Land with joy. Deut 16:13-15
Third, Israel was to look forward to the reign of God in the future Promised Land through sacrifices and rituals that symbolized the reign of the Messiah and the outpouring of the Spirit of God on the Earth.
What is most interesting is that during this particular Feast of Booths, the fulfillment of the Feast of Booths was in their midst. (1) Jesus was the God that they held in the highest place of importance. (2) Jesus was the provision of God that they were celebrating. (3) Jesus was the Messiah whose reign they were looking forward to.
But rather than seeking to celebrate him and worship him, the Jews were seeking to arrest him and kill him. Amazingly, the Jews were rejecting what they claim to be celebrating.
In the midst of confusion, division, and hatred, and in the context of the Feast of Booths, Jesus reveals his identity by making seven bold contrasts.
Jesus: The River of Life
1. Jesus shines the light of God. (1-13)
But men love their own sin.
2. Jesus teaches the Word of God. (14-17)
But men teach their own wisdom.
3. Jesus seeks the glory of God. (18-19)
But men seek their own glory.
4. Jesus keeps the law of God. (19-24)
But men establish their own law.
5. Jesus knows the mysteries of God. (25-31)
But men design their own messiah.
6. Jesus controls his future with God. (32-36)
But men trust their own ability, though they have no ability apart from Christ.
7. Jesus gives the Spirit of God. (37-52)
But men satisfy their own desires apart from Christ.
On the last day of the feast, what the Jews refer to as “the great day,” Jesus made a profound proclamation. Don Carson helps us to understand the context:
“On each of the seven days of the Feast of Booths, a golden flagon was filled with water from the pool of Siloam and was carried in a procession led by the High Priest back to the temple. As the procession approached the watergate on the south side of the inner court three blasts from the šôpÌ„aÌ„r—a trumpet connected with joyful occasions—were sounded. While the pilgrims watched, the priests processed around the altar with the flagon, the temple choir singing the Hallel (Pss. 113–118). When the choir reached Psalm 118, every male pilgrim shook a lûlaÌ„bÌ± (willow and myrtle twigs tied with palm) in his right hand, while his left raised a piece of citrus fruit (a sign of the ingathered harvest), and all cried ‘Give thanks to the LORD!)’ three times. The wine and the water were poured into their respective silver bowls, and then poured out before the LORD. Moreover, these ceremonies of the Feast of Tabernacles were related in Jewish thought both to the LORD'S provision of water in the desert and to the LORD'S pouring out of the Spirit in the last days. Pouring at the Feast of Tabernacles refers symbolically to the messianic age in which a [river of life from the Temple] would flow over the whole earth” (interpretive brackets mine, referencing Ezekiel 47).
With the image of the water being poured out at the altar flooding their minds for seven days, the Jewish pilgrims hear the voice of Jesus cry out in the temple: “If anyone thirsts let him come to me and drink.” John 7:37
In essence, Jesus cried out, I am the fulfillment of all that you remember, of all that you celebrate, of all that you look for. I am the River of Life that flows from the temple of God bringing life to everything that it touches. Read Ezekiel 47.
Jesus is the River of Life. He who is thirsty must come. And when he comes, not only will he be satisfied himself, but “out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” John tells us that the river that flows from every believer is the Spirit of God.
Have you come to Jesus to drink?
Christian, does the water that satisfies you flow from you to help others find satisfaction in him?