Jesus is making a big announcement at the end the Festival in this passage. What do you think this announcement means?
25At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? 26 Here he is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to him. Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Messiah? 27 But we know where this man is from; when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.”
28Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, “Yes, you know me,and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own authority, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, 29 but I know him because I am from him and he sent me.”
30At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. 31 Still, many in the crowd believed in him. They said,“When the Messiah comes, will he perform more signs than this man?”
32The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him.
33Jesus said, “I am with you for only a short time, and then I am going to the one who sent me. 34 You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where Iam, you cannot come.”
35The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? 36 What did he mean when he said, ‘You will look for me, but you will not find me,’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?”
37On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
40On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.”
41Others said, “He is the Messiah.”
Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? 42 Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” 43 Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. 44Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.
Today’s passage is full of controversy as to who Jesus is – mostly as to whether or not he is the Messiah. How the crowd responds to him reflects this controversy and division. Some try to seize him (verses 30, 44). Others believe in him (verse 31). The Pharisees try to have him arrested (verse 32). However, no one lays a hand on him because his hour had not yet come (verse 30).
What does this mean? What is this coming “hour”? There is a sense in this passage of expectation; that the controversy surrounding Jesus is building; that he can’t keep preaching and healing like this and expect to get away with it forever. Something is going to happen.
Something does happen during this Festival. Verse 37: “On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink”…”. Having arrived late to the Festival, having taught controversially, Jesus now finishes the week of celebrations by making his boldest declaration yet. He invites the thirsty to come to him and drink, promising not just a thirst quenching drink, but rivers of water flowing from them. It’s a picture of abundant water – of abundant life.
So is Jesus offering abundant life here and now during this Festival? That would make sense – the Festival is celebrating God’s abundant blessing, so surely Jesus giving abundant life would fit well in the vibe of things. But surprisingly, the passage ends with controversy and no one laying a hand on Jesus. Everything is still up in the air. It’s not yet “the hour”. No one really gets who Jesus is, or what he’s come to do. What does he mean by giving these abundant rivers of water? Thankfully John gives us a hint which helps us understand Jesus’ words. He writes: “By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.” (verse 39).
Jesus is making a big announcement at the end of this Festival, but he’s really just hinting of two massive future events which will also take place at festivals. First, Jesus’ glorification: this is a reference to the cross, where the apparent defeat of Jesus (during the Passover feast – John 13-19) was actually God’s most glorious moment in history. And second, the giving of the Spirit (at the Festival of Pentecost – Acts 2), at which point God renews our hearts and places the Spirit within them.
The Festival of Tabernacles was traditionally a time where God’s people reflected on all that God had blessed them with over the previous year (Deuteronomy 16:13-15). But here in John 7, Jesus rethinks the whole celebration, asking God’s people not to look back, but to look forward to true abundant life: life made possible because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, and made personal for us as God gives us his Spirit.
Head: How is your life now abundant because of Jesus and his Spirit?
Heart: What does your heart thirst for? How is this thirst quenched by the Spirit of Jesus?
Hands: Listen to “Spirit of Jesus” and pray that the “rivers of living water” flowing from you will be how God calls others to “come” to him and “never be thirsty”.
Prayer: Father God, thank you for filling my heart to overflowing with your Spirit. You have given me an abundantly full life through Jesus’ glorification; please help me to remember this blessing when I am tempted to drink of other lesser “blessings”. By your Spirit, be at work in me so that others can come to know the abundant life of Jesus and his Spirit. I pray in his name alone, Amen.
A song to listen to: Spirit of Jesus Katharine Yoc