Yesterday we saw the events that occurred in the middle of the Festival of Tabernacles and today we are going to see the events that surrounded the ending of the Festival of Tabernacles. Again we will see various and differing reactions to Jesus and his message with some believing that he is the Messiah and with others choosing to not believe that he is the Messiah.
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. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 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.—7:37-39
The largest crowds were on the final day of the festival. The events of the final day are described in verses 37-52. The festival included a famous water-pouring ceremony that served to remind the people of God’s goodness in providing rain for the crops the previous year, water to drink during their ancestors’ wilderness wanderings and hope for water to poured out during the Messianic age. Jesus fulfilled what the Festival of Tabernacles anticipated. The size of the crowds made it necessary for Jesus to cry out in order to be heard. He promised that those who were thirsty and came to him to drink (believed in him) would have their thirst for true life satisfied. John explains that this living water is the Holy Spirit, and that Jesus’ death, resurrection and exhalation were the prelude to the Spirit’s coming.
On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.”
Others said, “He is the Messiah.”
Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.
Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and the Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”
“No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards replied.
“You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.”
Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?”
They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.”—7:40-52
Once again the crowd was divided over Jesus’ identity. Some thought he was the Moses-like prophet; others wondered if he was the Messiah. Still others rejected this idea because he came from Galilee. In verse 45, John shifts narration from the response of the crowds and returns to the meeting of the religious leaders. John had built suspense earlier by describing the dispatching of the temple guards. And he describes the outcome here. The guards had heard Jesus speak and were moved by his teaching. The leadership was furious and pointed out that only ignorant crowds had believed Jesus. Nicodemus, however, suggested that the leadership had not heard Jesus out, and the leaderships response was swift and harsh.
Now let’s turn our attention to a more detailed look at verses 38 and 39, which say:
Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 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.
In verse 38 Jesus referred to the “Scripture” (God’s written Word) because it was the very word of his Father—the supreme authority for his life and teaching. Scripture is also the highest and final authority for those for us who are followers of Christ because God alone has the right to determine our standard of conduct. God has chosen to exercise this authority by making his truth known in Scripture. The Bible, as God’s personal revelation, carries the same authority as if God were speaking to us directly. So what does this mean for those of us who are followers of Christ? It means two very important things.
- The inspired (“God-breathed”, Holy Spirit-directed) Scriptures are your highest authority as a follower of Christ. Church traditions, prophecies, revelations, spiritual beliefs and human ideas must be evaluated by how they compare to the commands and standards of God’s Word. These things should never be elevated to a place of equal authority with the Bible.
- Those who are loyal to the authority of anyone or anything above God and his Word deny true Biblical faith and reject the lordship of Christ, or in other words his leadership over their lives. To say that any person, institution, church or statement of belief has equal or higher authority than God’s inspired revelation is the same as idolatry, which is worshiping false gods or anything else in place of the one true God. This means that all those who are not willing to submit their beliefs to the authority of God’s Word, the whole Bible, are rejecting God’s plan of salvation and rejecting their opportunity to have a personal relationship with God.
When Jesus used the phrase “streams of living water” in verse 38 he is referring to the gift of the Holy Spirit that would be given to his followers after he left the earth. The Spirit guides and empowers us as followers of Christ in a way that allows us to experience his overflowing life. And as we as followers of Christ respond to the Spirit’s direction and exercise his power, this “living water” will “flow” out to others with the spiritually healing, life-giving message of Jesus Christ.
And now come to verse 39, which says, “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.” This verse refers to the glory and honor Jesus would gain by dying on the cross for our sins and being raised from the dead. Jesus had to complete his work on earth before the Holy Spirit could begin his work in the church. And this is also true in individual lives today: one cannot receive the Spirit until one deals with sin, meaning until your sin has been confessed to Christ, forgiven and abandoned. “The Spirit” refers to all the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those of us who are followers of Christ, including spiritual birth and renewal and the baptism in the Holy Spirit. And we will pick up from here tomorrow when see the great scene of Jesus and the woman caught in the act of adultery, which is how John chapter 8 begins.
Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:
1 Samuel 26-28, John 11:1-54, Psalm 117 and Proverbs 15:22-23
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