Five Minute Devotions: John 7
John 7 covers a series of events that take place over the course of the Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkot. This was a major celebration in Jewish life, one of the three travel festivals where the entire country would converge on Jerusalem and enjoy a national campout that symbolized and remembered the Exodus.
You are to live in shelters for seven days. All the native-born of Israel must live in shelters, 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.” – Leviticus 23:42-43
Through the ages, particularly in rabbinic Judaism after the Babylonian exile, the Jewish people had added other rituals and celebrations to this time of remembrance of God’s provision for his people—and his dwelling among them.
An Invitation to Think
As you read the book of John, you can begin to see the escalating tension between Jesus and the Jewish leaders. His initial absence is the talk of the party, but not publicly. Halfway through the festival, Jesus walks into the synagogue and takes command. We aren’t told what he was teaching, but it was powerful enough that, just like when he was twelve and in the Temple, the people all marveled at his teaching.
They soon get into a back and forth concerning his healing on the Sabbath in John 5. Jesus argues that, even within Jewish law, certain “works” are permissible on the Sabbath. Circumcision, which takes place eight days after a baby boy’s birth, is allowed to be done on the Sabbath. The law of circumcision is greater than the law of Sabbath. So too, says Jesus, the principle of healing is greater than the principle of rest.
This legal argument is interesting coming from Jesus. He doesn’t throw away the law entirely. Instead, he uses it in the way it was meant to be used. He shows them a new interpretation, one uncluttered by their religious fears and their desperation to earn salvation. They have perverted a good law—the law of Sabbath—by shrouding it in legalism.
He continues to present himself as Lord even over the Sabbath. The crowd is divided. Some believe him to be Messiah. Others think he’s crazy. Above it all, you have Jesus claiming directly that he comes from God—and that the people do not really know who God is.
An Invitation to Drink
The Jewish leaders move to arrest Jesus, but they cannot. We are not told why. John simply says his time had not yet come. The furor subsides. The crowd disperses. Normalcy reigns. Until the last day of the festival.
On the last day of the festival, the priests performed what they called a water libation ceremony. The high priests would lead everyone down to the pool of Siloam. The gathered crowd would be hold palm branches to wave in celebration. The priest would take a golden pitcher, fill it with water, and take it back to the Temple courtyard, where they would pour it over the altar.
This was the one day that ordinary people were allowed around the altar. The place of sacrifice was normally a place for priests only, but not on this day. This was an elaborate celebration. The Talmud says that “Anyone who has not seen this water ceremony has never seen rejoicing in his life.”
Now picture all of that. And now the voice of Jesus cuts through the crowd.
On the last and most important day of the festival, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. The one who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.” – John 7:37-38
Jesus is interrupting the biggest party that the Temple has and he shouts down the celebration with his claim to be its fulfillment. It’s a direct claim to be Messiah. The same challenge that Jesus laid before the crowd he puts forth before us today. Come to me and drink. His words hearken back to the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. Do you want this living water?
Father, we praise your name and celebrate your provision and presence. We are humbled that you would choose to tabernacle among us, God in flesh, Immanuel. Fill us with your Holy Spirit, that stream of living water that will overflow from us and change the world.
What is the significance of Jesus saying all these things during the Feast of Tabernacles?
Initially in John 7, Jesus does not attend the festival but later comes secretly. Why do you think Jesus does this?
John 7:53-8:11 is not included in most newer translations because the best and oldest manuscripts we have do not include it. What are your thoughts on this?
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