Sapphire Sky

March 22, 2015

If Anyone is Thirsty

Filed under: theology — Tags: — Steve Knaus @ 5:32 pm

It has been six months since John’s last record of Jesus on the shores of Galilee (John 6). During that time, Jesus has been quietly teaching his 12 closest disciples.

Many events have occurred during these six months [6], but there were three significant events that happened in rapid succession. First, Peter confessed, on behalf of the rest of the 12 disciples, that they finally understood who Jesus truly is. He is the Christ (the Messiah) and he is God  (Matt 16:13-20, Mark 8:27-30, Luke 9:18-21).

Secondly, Jesus delivered news to them that left them devastated. Jesus’ popularity had been growing, with the disciples had looking forward to the approaching kingdom of the Messiah. Instead, Jesus dismissed the crowds and had taken his disciples away to be alone. But then he delivered the most tragic news: He will be rejected. He will be arrested. He will be killed. He will rise again (Matt 16:21-26, Mark 8:31-37, Luke 9:22-25).

This was the first time Jesus told them that the was going to die. The disciples were deeply grieved by this news, and it may have been why Jesus brought his three closest disciples (Peter, James, and John) away to a high mountain. It was on that mountain that they see Jesus shining in brilliant glory and talking with Moses and Elijah (Matt 17:1-8, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28-36).

Jesus had taken the last six months to be apart with his disciples. He had taught them what would happen to him, and what they would need to expect in order to be his disciples. Now, the time has come to enter back into the controversy. Jesus would take them back to confront the crowds and to offer one more opportunity to believe in him.

Jesus headed South to Jerusalem. It had been at least a year since Jesus was back in Jerusalem (John 5), and now the leaders want to kill him. Their hatred had been festering for the past year, turning to murderous rage. The two opposite religious groups, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, united in their mutual hatred for Jesus.

The Feast of Tabernacles is at hand, one of the three great celebrations on the Jewish calendar (Passover and Pentecost are the other two). It is a time of tremendous joy and feasting as the Jews celebrate their harvest and spend a week in temporary shelters made of Palm branches.

Jesus was the main topic of conversation during this week-long feast, but few believed in him. Even his own brothers did not believe. The people privately debated who he really is, but all public discussion is forbidden. The Jewish leaders did not want any more debate about Jesus. They only wanted to kill him.

Jesus came down in the middle of this week-long feast, showing up in the temple and astonishing the people with his teaching. They were surprised that he taught with authority, yet he has not been trained in any of the rabbi schools. Jesus replied that his teaching is not his own, but it is from God.

In the eyes of the Jewish leaders, Jesus was a lawbreaker. He had healed a man on the Sabbath during his last visit to Jerusalem the previous year. But they were inconsistent with their own laws. Jesus uses circumcision as an example that there are some things which are higher than the Sabbath. 

Every day during this week-long celebration, the priest would leave the temple, fill a golden pitcher with water, and ceremoniously carry back the pitcher and pour the water on the altar. On the final day, the people would bring their palm branches and proceed with the priest as he gathers the water and brings it back to the temple.

It is during this time, on final day of the celebration, that Jesus breaks the silence of the crowd by shouting out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”

Jesus has made one more appeal to this unbelieving crowd. The only way to eternal life is do believe in him. The opportunity to come to him will not last much longer. The results were mixed:

  • Some wanted him dead
  • Some think he has a demon
  • Some think he is just a good man
  • Some are in awe of him
  • Some believe in him

This is a long chapter with several messages that you can personally apply. However, there is one outstanding message that I see across this entire chapter. Jesus was met with opposition through the entire week, yet he continues to offer the invitation. Believe. Believe. Believe in him.

But his invitation also has a warning. The time is short to accept his invitation and to believe in him. Soon, it will be too late. “I will be with you a little longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. You will seek me and you will not find me. Where I am you cannot come.”

For those who do not believe in Jesus, I beg you to consider him before it is too late. A time will come where he will no longer keep prompting you.

For those who are enjoying a life of sin, I beg you to let go of the sin before it is too late. You will understand God’s teaching when you are ready to do what he says. But the time is short and soon, it will be too late.

 

Previous post: The Bread of Life


John 7

After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand. So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” For not even his brothers believed in him. Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” After saying this, he remained in Galilee.

But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private. The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, “Where is he?” And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, “He is a good man,” others said, “No, he is leading the people astray.” Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him.

About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?” The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?” Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well? Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, “Is not this the man whom they seek to kill? And here he is, speaking openly, and they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ? But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from.” So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I come from. But I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.” So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. Yet many of the people believed in him. They said, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?”

The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent officers to arrest him. Jesus then said, “I will be with you a little longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. You will seek me and you will not find me. Where I am you cannot come.” The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? What does he mean by saying, You will seek me and you will not find me,’ and, ‘Where I am you cannot come’?”

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” So there was a division among the people over him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.

The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?” The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!” The Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.” Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”


 

After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand.

 

The Feast of Tabernacles (also known as the “Feast of Booths”) was one of the three celebrations on the Jewish calendar where all Jewish men were required to come to Jerusalem (the three mandatory celebrations were Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles).

 

The Feast of Tabernacles was prescribed in the Jewish Law in Leviticus (Leviticus 23:33-43). The people would fashion crude shelters out of palm branches and live in them for a week, to commemorate their wandering in the desert, when they were without a home.

 

The Feast of Tabernacles feast also celebrated the harvest of the orchard fruits and was a time of great joy and celebration.

 

This also lets us know when these events are happening. The Feast of Tabernacles is in October-November, so about six months have elapsed since the Passover events in John 6 (John 6:4). This marks the midpoint of Jesus’ final year.

 

While it had been six months since Jesus fed the 5,000 people in Galilee and shared that he was the Bread of Life, it was probably a year since he was last in Judea (John 5) [1], Jesus had left Jerusalem after inciting the hatred of the Jewish leaders because he healed a man on the Sabbath. This chapther (John 7) shows that in the year since then, their hatred had turned into murderous rage!

 

 

So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” For not even his brothers believed in him. Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” After saying this, he remained in Galilee.

 

Jesus’ own half-brothers did not believe him. These were other children of Joseph and Mary, who grew up with him, yet they still would not believe him. Notice that Jesus was always waiting on God’s perfect timing. He will not go down to the feast yet because it is the right time.

 

Why did Jesus’s brothers want him to go down to Jerusalem? They did not believe on him, but they may have wanted him to try to be the political Messiah. So they were saying, “If you are who you say you are, then you need to go down to Jerusalem”.  [4]

 

A better translation of Jesus’ response would be, “I am not yet going up to the feast,…”.

 

 

But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private.

 

Most of the Jews from Galilee would cross the Jordan River and travel down its eastern side, rather than go through Samaria. The note that Jesus came down privately indicates that he came through Samaria, where he would have been undetected. His travel through Galilee and Samaria on the way to the Feast of Booths is recorded in Luke 9:51-62 and Matthew 8:19-22.

 

 

The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, “Where is he?” And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, “He is a good man,” others said, “No, he is leading the people astray.” Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him.

 

The crowds in Jerusalem would have been huge, as this city swelled past its capacity in accommodating all of the visitors for this feast. We see here that Jesus was the main topic of conversation (he was “trending”). Some thought he was a good man, while others thought he was leading people astray. Note that none of these conclusions showed any belief in him.

 

Note also how much the Jewish leaders hated Jesus at this point. People were afraid to be seen speaking about him in front of them.

 

 

About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?”

 

It was common for rabbis to gather crowds in the temple courts as they began teaching. But the teachers with the most authority were the ones who could point out that they were discipled by the great teachers of this day (not unlike showing your academic credentials today). The people were surprised at Jesus, since he had great learning, but no academic credentials. He had not been to any of the prominent rabbi schools.

 

Jesus’ response was that the teaching was not his, but from God.

 

The NASB translation says Jesus’ response more clearly: “If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself”. God will reveal himself to those who are willing to obey him. Also, put negatively, the people who do not follow God’s word are not blocked by misunderstanding. They are stopped because they refuse to obey.

 

“The word ‘willing,’ is from the Greek text, ‘thelo (θέλω)’, and is a very strong word. It means to ‘seize with the mind or to be resolved’. So, ultimately, this was a challenge to the Jewish leaders. They believed they ‘knew the Word of God and the will of God’. Jesus was telling them that they were illiterate.” – Stephen Davey [2]

 

False teachers and false messiahs are looking for their own glory, but the test of a true teacher is if they are seeing God the Father’s glory alone.

 

Finally, Jesus directly pointed out the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders. They cannot carry out the law themselves, yet they are trying to kill Jesus because he had broken their Sabbath laws.

 

 

The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?” Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well? Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

 

The accusation, “you have a demon”, can be best understood here as “you are crazy!”. Note that the response here is from the crowd, not the Jewish leaders (who are indeed trying to kill him and accused him of being demon possessed). Note also that some of the local people of Jerusalem later say that Jesus was the one they were trying to kill (John 7:25). Jesus did not directly respond to this comment but continued his defense of the Sabbath.

 

Both the Jewish law and tradition taught that you needed to break the Sabbath when confronted with a higher law. Jesus uses circumcision as an example: According to the law, a boy must be circumcised on the 8th day, even if that was the Sabbath (Leviticus 12:1-3). Therefore, if circumcision was a higher law than the Sabbath, would it not be right to care for a person’s entire body on the Sabbath?

 

There is no indication here which specific act of healing on the Sabbath is the issue here. It was likely the act of healing the man at Bethesda on the Sabbath the previous year (John 5:1-17).

 

 

Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, “Is not this the man whom they seek to kill? And here he is, speaking openly, and they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ? But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from.” So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I come from. But I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.”

 

The Jewish tradition at this time believed that the Messiah would suddenly appear out of nowhere. This is not consistent with scripture, which states that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). Jesus responded that they know him but he was sent by God, whom they do not know.

 

“It was a settled popular belief, and, in a sense, not quite unfounded, that the appearance of the Messiah would be sudden and unexpected. He might be there, and not be known; or He might come, and be again hidden for a time.” -Alfred Edersheim [3]

 

 

So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. Yet many of the people believed in him. They said, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?”

Note again that Jesus was relying on God’s perfect timing. No one can take him until the time is right.

 

Now the crowd is doing more than simply talking about him (as before). Many of the people are believing on him.

 

 

The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent officers to arrest him. Jesus then said, “I will be with you a little longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. You will seek me and you will not find me. Where I am you cannot come.”

 

John usually referred to Jesus’ enemies as “The Jews”. They were the Jewish leadership who were opposed to Jesus and who eventually had him killed. Note that here, John specifically listed the Pharisees and the chief priests (Sadducees). These opposite religious groups, formerly enemies, were united in their hatred for Jesus. This was the second time in this passage that they tried to arrest him.

 

Jesus will be on earth only a little while longer, and then he will be gone. The invitation to the people is only for a little while longer. For those who miss the opportunity to believe in Jesus, they will never be able to come.

 

 

The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? What does he mean by saying, You will seek me and you will not find me,’ and, ‘Where I am you cannot come’?”

 

The Jews completely misunderstood Jesus. Jesus is talking about his return to the presence of God the Father, and they thought he must be traveling abroad to the foreign Jewish communities.

 

 

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

 

The Feast of Tabernacles lasted for seven days. The great culmination of the feast was on the seventh day. Water was precious to the Jewish people. Their desert existence depended on a water supply and drought meant starvation.

 

“Every day, during this festival, the priest would take a golden pitcher and parade through the streets of Jerusalem until he reached the pool of Siloam. He would fill the pitcher with water and then, walk back through the Water Gate, while the people following would chant Isaiah, chapter 12, verse 3, . . . ‘you will joyously draw water from the springs of salvation’.

The water would then be carried to the temple altar and poured on the altar. This was a symbol of the water gushing from the rock in the wilderness that gave life to the Israelites. On the last day of the feast, which is the context of verse 37, the people would gather their palm branches, from which they had constructed their little booths. They would then parade through the streets, as the priest went to get water. When they returned, they all marched around the altar seven times and poured the water. Along with the praise, from Isaiah, they would chant the prayer, “O bring now then salvation.’” -Stephen Davey [2]

 

It is in this context that Jesus yells out, above the crowds, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink!” Jesus has used water as a metaphor for spiritual life with the Samaritan woman (See here). But this passage gives more information: here we know that Jesus is talking about the Holy Spirit, who has not yet come.

 

“Only the Holy Spirit can make the river flow. He is the source of all blessing.” – John MacArthur [4]

 

 

When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” So there was a division among the people over him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.

 

As always, Jesus brings division. Some believed in him. Others looked for a convenient excuse to not believe. They needed only to look at the temple record to find out that Jesus was indeed from the line of David and born in Bethlehem.

 

This is the third time in this scene that people wanted to arrest Jesus but were unable.

 

 

The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?” The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!” The Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.”

 

The final two responses to Jesus are the arresting officers and the Pharisees themselves. The arresting officers were too much in awe of Jesus to arrest him.

 

The Pharisees held to their pride and to their disdain for the common people. They despised the people who were not as educated as themselves, and could not possibly believe that one of their own would ever follow Jesus.

 

 

Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”

 

Ironically, there was a Pharisee, and a teacher of the law who believed on Jesus. Nicodemus speaks up for Jesus and requests that they hear him before judging him.

 

“Nicodemus throws down the challenge and says, ‘Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?’ Do they answer him? Oh, not at all. They answer, it is true, but their answer is an evasion. They said, ‘Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet’ (v. 52). And again they showed their ignorance…They had not been reading their Bibles very carefully. They forgot that Jonah was from Gath-Hepher, a town in Galilee (see 2 Kings 14:25). Then, too, it is generally believed that Nahum was a Galilean.” – H.A. Ironside [5]

 


 

[1] The “unknown” feast mentioned in John 5 was likely the Feast of Tabernacles the previous year, which would have made it exactly one year since Jesus’ last appearance in Jerusalem. If the feast in John 5 was another celebration, it would have been anywhere from a year to a year and a half since Jesus was last in Jerusalem. For further discussion on the unknown feast, see the previous post here.

 

[2] Stephen Davey, Water Unlimited, John 7

 

[3] Alfred Edersheim, The Life And Times Of Jesus The Messiah, Book IV, “The Descent”, Chapter 6

 

[4] John MacArthur, Keeping the Divine Timetable (John 7:1-13),  The Glorious Gospel Invitation (John 7:37-52)

 

[5] H.A. Ironside, Address 25, “NEVER MAN SPAKE LIKE THIS MAN”, John 7:40-53

 

[6] Six months have elapsed since Jesus closed his public ministry. Six more months will elapse before he is arrested, crucified, and will rise again. John is silent on the six months between John 6 and John 7, but Matthew, Mark, and Luke record the following events that have taken place during this time:

  • Escalating conflicts with the Pharisees
  • Jesus makes several trips away from Galilee with only his disciples
  • Jesus asks his disciples who they say that he is. Peter declares that Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of the Living God (Matt 16:13-20, Mark 8:27-30, Luke 9:18-21).
  • Jesus reveals a new shocking truth to his disciples: he will be rejected, killed, and will rise again on the third day! (Matt 16:21-26, Mark 8:31-37, Luke 9:22-25)
  • Jesus takes Peter, James, and John on a high mountain where he was transfigured. Jesus appeared in his glory with Moses and Elijah (Transfiguration, Matt 17:1-8, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28-36).

3 Comments »

  1. […] Previous post: If Anyone is Thirsty […]

    Pingback by Don’t waste your life! | Sapphire Sky — March 28, 2015 @ 3:52 pm

  2. […] Jewish people to remember their ancestors when they wandered in the wilderness (see more details here). The ceremony of water commemorated God’s miraculous provision of water throughout the years of […]

    Pingback by Light of the World | Sapphire Sky — April 19, 2015 @ 12:03 am

  3. […] The Pool of Siloam draws a direct connection to the recent Feast of Tabernacles, since this was the pool used by priests to draw water for the temple ceremonies (see here). […]

    Pingback by Are you blind? | Sapphire Sky — May 3, 2015 @ 2:42 pm


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