Rivers of Living Water
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on May 15, 2016
Open your Bibles to John 7:25-39. If you recall from last week, John Chapter 7 is a point of geographical transition. It marks the point in Jesus’s ministry that he leaves his lifelong home of Galilee, never to return until after his death. The event that brings him out of Galilee and to Jerusalem is the Feast of the Booths.
As we saw, Jesus went up to Jerusalem, not publicly but privately. The reason for this is because Jesus was avoiding a premature “Triumphal Entry.” That day and that hour would come when Jesus would ride into Jerusalem with great fan fair, but this was not to happen at the Feast of the Booths it was to happen at the Passover. Therefore, Jesus delayed his departure and took a shortcut through Samaria, according to Luke 9, so as to fly under the radar screen regarding his arrival.
Once arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus did not hide out. The reason Jesus traveled incognito was not because he was afraid, it was merely about timing. Why can we say this? Because last week we read in verse 14, “About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching.” Jesus was not afraid, he was obedient. He trusted in his father’s sovereign plan and knew that he was immortal until his destiny with the cross. So with that introduction, let us pick up the story in verse.
John 7:25-39 – “Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, “Is not this the man whom they seek to kill? 26And here he is, speaking openly, and they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ? 27But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from.” 28So 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. 29I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.” 30So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. 31Yet many of the people believed in him. They said, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?” 32The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent officers to arrest him. 33Jesus then said, “I will be with you a little longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. 34You will seek me and you will not find me. Where I am you cannot come.” 35The 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? 36What does he mean by saying, ‘You will seek me and you will not find me,’ and, ‘Where I am you cannot come’?” 37On 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. 38Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39Now 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 the Booths
In order to understand this passage, we must understand the Feast of the Booths. Another name for the Feast of the Booths was the Feast of the Tabernacles. According to the Jewish Historian Josephus, the Feast of the Booths was one of the most festive celebrations for the nation of Israel. This Feast was one of the three Jewish feasts that God commanded in Deuteronomy 16:16 that all males appear before the Lord. And as I also stated last week, it was celebrated in the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar which would fall in late September and early October.
A description of the feast can be found in Leviticus 23:39-43. This is what it says, “On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the Lord seven days. On the first day shall be a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest. 40 And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days. 41 You shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It is a statute forever throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. 42 You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths, 43 that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”
The primary focus of the feast of the Booths was the grace of God when he brought Israel out of Egypt in the year 1500 B.C. and provided for the people as they wandered in the wilderness. If you recall, one way the God provided for Israel was by giving them food and water.
We talked about the food aspect of that in John 6. If you recall, after Jesus fed the 5,000 he said in John 6:48, “I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.” Manna was a bread like substance that was the primary food source for he Israelites. However, it was not merely manna in the wilderness that God provided. He also provided water.
We see this giving of water to the Israelites in Exodus 17, “Then all the congregation of the sons of Israel journeyed by stages from the wilderness of Sin, according to the command of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, and there was no water for the people to drink. 2Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water that we may drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?” 3But the people thirsted there for water; and they grumbled against Moses and said, “Why, now, have you brought us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” 4So Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, “What shall I do to this people? A little more and they will stone me.” 5Then the LORD said to Moses, “Pass before the people and take with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand your staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6“Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.” And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7He named the place Massah and Meribah because of the quarrel of the sons of Israel, and because they tested the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD among us, or not?”
The people of Israel where desperate for water. They yearned for it. Their body craved it. Why? Because their bodies were designed for water. God has ordained that life does not exist apart from water, and the people of Israel, as they wandered in the desert knew that without water they would perish. So what did they do, Moses cried out to God and he told him to take his staff and strike the rock and water would flow out for the people.
You Do Not Know Him
And this is the backdrop of the events of John 7. This is why thousands of people, if not a million, had come to Jerusalem; to remember what God had done for his people 1500 years earlier. And Jesus puts himself right in the middle of this celebration. He is not on the outskirts of this festival, he is smack dab in the middle. He is at the temple teaching. What is he teaching?
Verse 28, “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. 29I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.” This teaching of Jesus is in response of the crowd not knowing what to do with Jesus. He was mysterious. He was someone just like them in appearance, born in Nazareth, but yet, unlike anyone they had met before. He was a category all of his own.
What is interesting is about Jesus's teaching is how blunt it is. Jesus was not one who minced words, he preaching directly. Jesus point blank tells them that the reason they can't figure him out, they did not know God.
For a Jew, these are fighting words. Remember, the Jews were God's chosen people. They are the only nation to be handpicked by God to reveal himself to the World. They had received the oracles of God and God had used them throughout history to display His glory. And Jesus tells them, they don't know God.
Jesus, on the other hand, knows God. Why does he know God? Verse 29 says that Jesus knows God because he comes from God. Jesus seems to be saying, that the reason they don't know God is that they don't come from God, like he does. So let us follow the logic, to know Jesus, you must know God, and to know God you must come from God. Which leads to the question, how then is it possible for us to know God?
This teaching was confusing to and it also stoked the fire of the anger of the Jews. Their response of Jesus saying these things was to issue an arrest warrant. As I stated, Jesus was not some passive, tolerant, don't rock the boat kind of Messiah. He was uncomfortable. He was divisive. His words stung. And you can see why Jerusalem was such a hotbed for Jesus. His presence, and his teaching, was explosive and it didn't take longer than a few days that the rulers wanted to put an end to him for good.
So what does Jesus say in response to this warrant for his arrest? Verse 33, “Jesus then said, “I will be with you a little longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. 34You will seek me and you will not find me. Where I am you cannot come.” The Jews, because they don't get it, can't figure out what he is talking about. But for us, on the other side of the cross, and with open eyes know exactly what Jesus is talking about. He is talking about his death, resurrection, and ascension.
Come to Me and Drink
What is interesting is how Jesus is talking about his death. His main focus is on his location after his death. Instead of saying that he is going to die for the sins of the world, he says that he is going to a place that is not accessible to the Jews. Why talk about his death this way?
It has to do with the Feast of the Booths. In verse 37, our attention is drawn to the last day of the feast. This is important because what happens on the last day. According to D. A. Carson's commentary on John, the last day is the pinnacle of the entire feast. On that day they held what is called the water-pouring rite. What would happen during that rite was that in the morning a golden pitcher was filled from the pool of Siloam and carried by the High Priest to the Temple. While doing so, a choir would be singing Pslam 113-118. As the choir reached Pslam 118 the High Priest would pour the water into a bowl. Next to the water was a bowl of wine. At that time, the water and the wine were poured out together, as an offering to the Lord. This water-pouring rite was to symbolize both the water that came from the rock that we looked at earlier, and the pouring out of the Spirit in the last days.
It was on this day, and most likely, during this water-pouring rite that Jesus stood in the midst of perhaps a million people and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”
What on earth was Jesus doing? Didn't he know that he had an arrest warrant out on him? Why in the world would he, at the climax of one of the most festive events of the year with perhaps a million people watching cry out such a thing as “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” Talk about stealing the thunder of the moment.
But let us be absolutely clear. Jesus stole nothing! This moment was not for the pomp and the circumstance of religion. This moment was for Jesus! This was the hour that was ordained since this feast was first implemented 1500 years ago. This Feast was for the purpose of Jesus yelling at the top of his lungs to the lost sheep of Israel that he is the source of water for their perishing souls.
Jesus was proclaiming that he is the rock. In fact in Psalm 118, the last Psalm that the sung before the poured out the water and the wine it says this in verse 22, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
Jesus is the stone that was rejected by having a spear stuck into his side as he hung on the cross, and what poured out of his side? John 19:34, “But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.” Blood and water. Wine and water.
Everything about this celebration was about Jesus. And there he was crying out in the midst of the dessert of Jerusalem, “Anyone! Anyone!” Did they come and drink? Some did, many did not. And what was their end? The ones who drank, they lived. The ones who rejected, they perished.
The call of Christ 2000 years ago is the same call of Christ today? This world is full of those who are perishing. Their souls are thirsty. They are wandering through the dessert of this life and they must find water before it is too late. Some may be in this room. Perhaps you are just like the sea of faces that surrounded Jesus. Perhaps you are not sure what to make of him. Perhaps you think the stories about him are intriguing. Perhaps he makes you uncomfortable in regards to what he says. But you have never drank from him. You have never recognized your desperate need for water and come to him to quench your deepest thirst. If that is you, drink before it is too late. The vultures are circling.
Rivers of Living Water
For those who do drink, what is the result? Life yes. But what kind of life? Abundant life. Jesus describes this new state of reality as Rivers of Living water coming form your heart. This is very similar language that Jesus used earlier in John 4:14 when speaking to the women at the well, “The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
What is this spring? What are these rivers? John tells us. It is the Spirit of God. Verse 39, “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 Jesus, the Cornerstone, is rejected and struck by crucifixion, he is glorified both in his death and his resurrection. After his resurrection, as he stated earlier, he will be leaving. He will be going to a place that those who rejected him can't go to. The place he goes is the right hand of the Father. But when he arrives, something very important happens. He speaks of this in John 16:5-7, “But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.”
And this is what Jesus says in John 14:16-17, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”
Their is a fundamental difference between a Christian and a non-Christian. A Christian, one who has drunk from the well of Christ, inside of him dwells God himself. The Spirit of God takes up residence in your heart. And the Spirit of God is not something that can be contained, it burst out of you like rivers flowing out into the world. Soaking everyone and everything around you. For the non-Christian, they have no water to give, the are but empty cisterns, but we are a walking oasis, producing life abundant, loving, sacrificing, proclaiming, believing, enduring, rejoicing.
Christian, does this describe your existence? When those who are perishing look at you, do they see rivers of living water pouring out of your heart, or merely a trickle. If you are in Christ, rivers of life is your reality, it is a fact. So become on the outside what you already are in the inside. Do not dam up the waters of God, let them flow out upon the perishing of this world.
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