John 7. Jesus Holds the Key to the Water of Life.
Key Notes: The crowd sways. Did they want to know? The River will flow after Pentecost. The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. Sinks and sources. The multiplier effect.
John 7 continues the controversy created when Jesus healed the lame man at the Pool on the Sabbath. The occasion of this discussion was the Feast of Tabernacles. The chapter is remarkable for the confusion of the crowd and the ironic way their comments oscillate between true and false. The people are confused and shifting, blowing hot and cold, quizzical and dogmatic. John reports what was said without comment. There are two key verses: 7:17 and 7:37–39.
7:1 Jesus was a man marked for death. (7:19, 25; 5:18). The simple healing of a sick man had generated irrational hostility. Jesus would not easily leave Galilee. In fact, most of His work was done there, as recorded in the other Gospels.
7:2–12 His brothers encouraged Him to go to Jerusalem to the celebration of Succoth, the Feast of Booths, when people lived outside in temporary shelters of tree branches and palm fronds. It was a reminder of their life in the wilderness after they left Egypt. (Lev.23:43). The seventh month (September.) was harvest time (Deut.16:13–15). and began with a festival of trumpets on the first of the month. From the fifteenth to the twenty-second of the month they were to camp out in hand-made shelters. (Lev.23:24, 33–36). On each day the priest brought water from the Pool and poured it out on the altar. The eighth day was the climax, a solemn assembly with a sacrificial offering. It was a joyful and popular festival.
Jesus refused to go with His brothers. It was a question of timing. They were of the World and time did not have the same meaning for them because they were not the objects of the World’s hatred. The outcome would likely have been very different if He had responded to His brothers’ suggestion and had paraded into Jerusalem with the crowds. He might have been killed by an excited mob or forced into a kingly role.
7:13–31 Instead, Jesus waited until the middle of the Feast (perhaps more than a week if we take the festival to begin with the feast of trumpets) , when people were settled in their little shelters, and there was relative calm. He simply appeared in the Temple when people began looking around for Him and gossiping about Him. Their muttering was in fear of the religious police.
“He is a good man.” “No. He is leading the people astray.”
“How can it be that this man has learning, when He has never studied?”
Jesus said His teaching was not His own, but if anyone really wanted to do the will of God, he would know that Jesus was not speaking on His own authority, nor seeking His own glory. They had the Law of Moses. (“Thou shall not kill”). Why did they want to kill Him?
“You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill You?" [The evidence is there. Jn.5:18; 7:1]
He had done a good deed, healing a cripple, a miracle to marvel at. He argued that Moses decreed circumcision on the eighth day of a baby boy’s life; that would fall on Sabbath 10–15% of the time. Was it not more wonderful to make a sick man whole than merely to circumcise a baby?
“Is not this the man whom they seek to kill? And here He is, speaking openly.” “Can it be that the authorities know that this is the Christ?” Yet we know where He comes from...and no one will know where He comes from. They may have been thinking of Mal.3:1 “The Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to His Temple.”
Jesus replied that He came from God, not of His own accord, but was sent.
They tried to arrest Him but it was not His time.
“When the Christ appears, will He do more signs that this man has done?”
7:32–36 They tried to arrest Him a second time.
He would be with them a little longer and then return to the One who sent Him.
“Where does this man intend to go that we shall not find Him? Does He intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks”? They were referring to the Greek-speaking Jews elsewhere in the Empire. [In a short time the Gospel will go to them through Peter's preaching and the work of Paul.]
7:37 On the last day of the Feast, Jesus made a proclamation:
“If anyone thirst, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart (inmost being) shall flow rivers of living water.’”
7:40 “This is really the prophet.” “This is the Christ.” “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ is descended from David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was? “
They tried to arrest him for the third time. 7:30, 32
7:45 The temple police came back empty-handed. Why?
“No man ever spoke like this man.”
“Are you led astray, you also? None of the leaders believe in Him."
“But this crowd who do not know the Law are accursed. “
7:50–52 Nicodemus chimed in. Were they being fair?
“Are you from Galilee too? Search and you will see that no prophet comes from Galilee.”
Comments, taken in reverse order.
No prophet from Galilee? Isa.9:1–3 hints of a great prophet ("a great light") appearing in Galilee. Jonah and Nahum came from Galilee district. Jonah came from Gath-hepher, north of Nazareth (IIK.14:25); Nahum of Elkosh (Nah.1:1) may be from the town of Capernaum.
The crowd that does not know the Law is accursed. Unfortunately, Paul points out that the opposite is true.
“For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse: for it is written ‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, and do them.’” Gal.3:10
The confusion about where Jesus came from could have been solved with a little research. The Romans recorded birth-places in their census, and Jesus’ birth was in Bethlehem to confirm the prophecy. (Mic. 5:2; Matt.2:5–6). If they really wanted to know, they could have found out. (7:17). That He came recently from Galilee was agreed. That He came from the Father was the real question at issue.
The miracle was not contested. His speaking was unparalleled. His amazing knowledge cannot be explained. His birth-place is established: He is called Son of David many times during His ministry. (Matt.9:27; 15:22; 20:30; 21:9, 15; 22:42). But only the Holy Spirit can remove the veil of unbelief and that happens when people turn in Jesus’ direction.
“…when a man turns to the Lord the veil is removed.” II Cor.3:16
7:38 “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘ Out of His heart (inmost being) shall flow rivers of living water. Now this He said about the Spirit, which those who believed in Him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
This is a key passage, which separates the work of the Holy Spirit into two periods. In the Old Covenant, the Holy Spirit was given for specific tasks.
*Bezalel’s tabernacle crafts. Ex.31:1–3
*Moses’ administrative skills. Num.11:17
*Joshua’s wisdom. Deut.34:9; cf.Num.27:16
*Othniel (Judg.3:10), Gideon (Judg.6:34), and Saul’s skill in war. ISam.11:6–11
*David’s psalm-writing. IISam.23:2
*Ezekiel’s prophecy. Ezek.3:14
At Pentecost the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles in unique power. After Pentecost, the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit became the seal of salvation. Rom. 8:9
Then what of the Holy Spirit's work in salvation of OT saints (Adam, Enoch, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, etc. to John the Baptist) before the Cross and the release of the Spirit? We do not know. We know that David prayed that God would not take His Holy Spirit from him. (Psa.51:11). But we are not certain whether that meant he could lose his salvation, or lose his spiritual powers as Samson lost his (Judg.16:20) when the Lord left him.
And what of the endowment of NT saints for special ministry? There is plentiful evidence for that in the gifts of the Spirit. ICor.12: 7–11, 27–31
“If anyone thirst, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said,’ Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” (Jn.7:37–38)
"As the Scripture has said" is difficult because we cannot find such a quotation that matches it. Perhaps “…and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.” (Isa.58:11). This is as close as we come to a direct scriptural quote. There are several references to water flowing from the altar, from the temple, from Jerusalem, but not of water flowing from a person.
Does the water flow from Christ or from human beings?
Jesus told the Woman at the Well “…the water that I shall give her /him will become in her / him a spring of water welling up to eternal life”. (Jn.4:14)
Clearly the water flows from within the believer, with Jesus as the Giver.
Does the water, the life-giving Holy Spirit, flow from us? Are we sources or sinks? An artesian well flows freely from water pressure below the surface. It is a source. It flows spontaneously, No pump, no electricity required. It runs full bore all the time. The spring at Jericho has run for more than two thousand years.
The sink has to have water poured into it and it has a drain. It needs to be refilled every week or two from some other source. Many people depend on the church to keep them going. They are sinks. They have to go to a weekend conference to get recharged. A church bill-board up north offered “A Fellowship of Excitement”. Sink people go where there is excitement.
If the American Evangelical community cannot be statistically separated from the rest of society (Barna), where are those from whom the water of the Holy Spirit is flowing? They must be a minority so small that they cannot be seen by surveys, or perhaps the surveys are asking the wrong questions.
Jesus offers us a drink that will produce a river, rivers in fact. In another metaphor, if we accept the seed of the Word, we may reproduce thirty, sixty, a hundred-fold. There was a multiplier in effect with the Woman at the Well. Her village came to Jesus. Where the Church is exploding in growth, for example in Africa or China, you can see this multiplier effect easily.
Lord, May Your Life flow through me to bless others and grow your Kingdom.