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HG094+96 John 7:2-52

Harmony of the Gospels  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  26:12
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John 7, today’s reading, which you can read for yourselves in the weekly readings, is on The Feast of Tabernacles which is a Jewish Feast that celebrates the harvest. Today, so happens to be Harvest Sunday and we will celebrate Harvest Supper on Wednesday. We remember the many ways God has supplied our need in different ways over the course of our lives. This Jewish Feast lasted a week. It was a time to remember all the ways God supplied all their needs whilst in the desert for 40 years. The command to have this festival in:
Leviticus 23:39–43 CSB
39 “You are to celebrate the Lord’s festival on the fifteenth day of the seventh month for seven days after you have gathered the produce of the land. There will be complete rest on the first day and complete rest on the eighth day. 40 On the first day you are to take the product of majestic trees—palm fronds, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook—and rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. 41 You are to celebrate it as a festival to the Lord seven days each year. This is a permanent statute for you throughout your generations; celebrate it in the seventh month. 42 You are to live in shelters for seven days. All the native-born of Israel must live in shelters, 43 so that your generations may know that I made the Israelites live in shelters when I brought them out of the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.”
This is a huge festival, one of the three compulsory ones where all the males had to go up to Jerusalem. So the City was buzzing during this week. Now I used to, in my early 20s, go to Christian Festivals where over 5000 people were camping in a field, a number of times to something called Faith camp in Peterborough, another to Spring Harvest in Minehead. It was quite something.
Well, Jerusalem was like this. It is called the Feast of Booths; today they call it ‘Sukkot’ and it happens every year in September. This year it starts at sundown today. Every year they would put up tent-like structures that had to be thin enough for sunlight to come through and could open to the stars above. Why? It reminds them of their time under the stars in the desert. The rooftops are filled with these structures. When they were out and about you would see the people wearing their Sabbath’s best. They called this the season of gladness.
Sukkot also teaches us that salvation is a journey with God: we are led out by God towards the Promised Land and he travels with us. After the Exodus, God himself 'tabernacled' or camped with his people in the desert and provided for their needs with manna. So, this festival reminds us of God's provision and his presence. He was a pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night, and he was worshipped in the Tent of Meeting, itself a temporary structure. He dwelled with his people.
Centuries later, God dwelled among us uniquely by tabernacling in another temporary structure, a human body: "...the Word became flesh and dwelt [or tabernacled] among us" (John 1:1).
The Feast of Tabernacles was a time of spiritual revival for the people of Israel, taking place at key moments in their history. Solomon dedicated the first Temple and brought in the ark during the seventh month, the time of the Feast of Tabernacles. This Festival takes place straight after Yom Kippur which is a time of mourning and reflection and confession of ones sins. It is hardly surprising that revival would be the result. At this dedication of the Temple but God Himself arrived:
1 Kings 8:10–12 NKJV
10 And it came to pass, when the priests came out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord, 11 so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord. 12 Then Solomon spoke: “The Lord said He would dwell in the dark cloud.
Fire also came down and consumed his offering and cloud filled the Temple, symbolising God's presence with his people in the desert as pillars of cloud and fire. Repentance always precedes revival. Without it there will not be one:
2 Chronicles 7:14 NKJV
14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
One tradition of the Feast of Tabernacles was a water-drawing ceremony (described in the Mishnah). Each morning at dawn during the Feast a procession of priests, musicians and other worshippers would leave the Temple and process about half a mile to the Pool of Siloam.
They would come with a citrus fruit in their left hands (an ethrog). The ethrog was a reminder of the land to which God had brought them and of their bountiful blessings. In their right hands the people would carry a lulab, which was a combination of three trees—a palm tree, a willow, and a myrtle, emblematic of the stages of their ancestors’ journey through the wilderness. Each morning the people gathered together, and the priest made sure everything was in order. The High Priest, dressed in full robes and carrying a golden pitcher, led the throng. At the pool, he would fill the pitcher and then process back to the Temple through the Water Gate of the City. Remember that there are eight gates in Jerusalem. This was one to the South. At the Water Gate, they paused while trumpeters blew three blasts on silver trumpets and the priests would sing or shout, "With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation" (Isa 12:3).
Then the High Priest ascended to the altar, which was elevated, and upon which stood two silver basins. He poured water into one and wine was poured at the same time into the other as the trumpet players blew three more blasts. Then the whole congregation and choir of Levites sang from
Psalm 118:25 NKJV
25 Save now, I pray, O Lord; O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity.
There they would pour both the water and wine into special funnels, which created droplets which would come out at the bottom of the altar. It was a sign of the outpouring of God's Spirit and, as it would turn out, of his own lifeblood. John's gospel tells us that water and blood came from Jesus' side as his life was poured out on the altar that was the Cross.
The worshippers would be waving their lulavs and singing psalms 113-118 beseeching God for salvation. This joyful cacophony would fill the air, culminating in a fever pitch on the seventh day of the feast. This last day was known as Hoshanah Rabbah meaning 'Great Salvation' and it was the most intense day of all, with seven circuits of the altar by the priests and seven trumpet blasts and the people crying, "God save us now".
It was to this Festival that Jesus arrived and what timing!
Let us turn to the reading for today:
John 7:37–41 NIV
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. 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. 40 On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.” 41 Others said, “He is the Messiah.” Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee?
It was at the very moment that the High Priest with his golden pitcher held high that Jesus stood up and cried out, as water flowed from the altar:
If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him."
It was at Sukkot, in fulfilment of its daily water-drawing ceremony and its Messianic expectation, that Jesus stood and declared himself the source of Living Water.
The main fulfilment of this Festival is found in a number of areas. At Pentecost when we were given the Holy Spirit who tabernacles in us, in our temporary bodily structures. But the main fulfilment will be that time in the future when God will say:
Revelation 21:3 NKJV
3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.
Revelation 7:17 NKJV
17 for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
When we read John 7 we find that it is all about this Festival. One which Jesus went to. The people were in expectation and they had one main question: Who is He? Was He good or was he a deceiver? Was He the Prophet or the Messiah? There was confusion. But they were all set to reject Him and of such Jesus said these words which were strange to their ears:
John 7:33–34 NKJV
33 Then Jesus said to them, “I shall be with you a little while longer, and then I go to Him who sent Me. 34 You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come.”
The point for their salvation has almost passed. Their hearts are solid, they are against Him and will not receive the eternal life He offers. They are rejecting The Water of Life. In just six short months Jesus would be back in Jerusalem and there rejected by these same people. There is now no chance of redemption.
Just as Pharaoh hardened his heart God came and established his heart. There is a point of no return. There was no room for repentance for Pharaoh even after he saw the great works of God and his own son die he still rebelled and suffered the consequence. This was how it was for the Jews there on that day in the crowd, along with the Pharisees and the Chief Priests. Their rejection of Jesus led to God’s rejection of them and 40 years later Jerusalem was conquered by the Romans. It was the beginning of the end of the State of Israel.
But even among them there was hope. We read in the closing words of John 7:
John 7:50–51 NKJV
50 Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, 51 “Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?”
Nicodemus spoke up for Jesus about whether it is right to judge without there being due process, of being innocent until proven guilty. Nicodemus was coming to the water to be satisfied.
Do we yet hunger and thirst? Do we look to other things to be satisfied or do we look to the only One who has the ability to quench our thirst? Why do we wait until we are so completely parched before coming to Jesus?
C.S. Lewis, in the fourth book in the Chronicles of Narnia called, ‘The Silver Chair’ wrote of this.
Now, by way of introduction. Jill saw the lion and was scared out of her wits and runs into the forest. She runs so hard that she is about to die of thirst when she hears water. She goes towards the sound, sees the brook but right there before her is the same lion on the grass:
Preaching the Word: John—That You May Believe “Let Him Come to Me and Drink” (v. 37b)

“Are you not thirsty?” said the Lion.

“I’m dying of thirst,” said Jill.

“Then drink, “ said the Lion.

“May I—could I—would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill.

The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience. The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.

“Will you promise not to—do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill.

“I make no promise,” said the Lion.

Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.

“Do you eat girls?” she said.

“I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.

“I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.

“Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.

“Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer.

“I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”

“There is no other stream,” said the Lion.

It never occurred to Jill to disbelieve the Lion—no one who had seen his stern face could do that—and her mind suddenly made itself up. It was the worst thing she had ever had to do, but she went forward to the stream, knelt down, and began scooping up water in her hand. It was the coldest, most refreshing water she had ever tasted.

Do you see what Lewis is saying? When you come to the water, you are coming to a Lion, you must come on the Lion’s terms, and you have to yield yourself by faith in order to get the water. Some of us need to realize that we are thirsty, that we need that water so badly that we are going to die without it. We need to step out on faith, yielding to the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and receive the water of eternal life.

The invitation to come is not only once but everyday. Food satisfies for a day but Jesus is the only One who can satisfy for life.

Communion

We must come to the waters of life on Jesus’ terms. Repentance and faith. Repentance and trust. Trust in the finished work of Jesus on the cross where He paid the penalty for our sin. Trust that it is enough for us to have eternal life. Trust in the One who willingly laid His life down for His friends. We must turn from our wicked ways. We must turn to the One who alone can satisfy. And that is why we remind ourselves not only of the bountiful way God supplies all our need on Harvest Sunday but also the abundant life that is ours through the sacrifice of Jesus. We are reminded again of a love that will not let us go.
1 Corinthians 11:23–26 NKJV
23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.

Benediction

Ephesians 3:17–21 ESV
17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Bibliography

Belton, H. (2015). High Holy Days 3: Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot)/ Prophecy Today. https://prophecytoday.uk/study/teaching-articles/item/188-high-holy-days-3-feast-of-tabernacles.html (Last Accessed: 22 Sept 2018)
Fredrikson, R. L., & Ogilvie, L. J. (1985). John (Vol. 27). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.
Hughes, R. K. (1999). John: that you may believe. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
Leadership Ministries Worldwide. (2004). The Gospel according to John. Chattanooga, TN: Leadership Ministries Worldwide.
Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
Exported from Logos Bible Software, 09:17 22 September 2018.
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