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Teaching series from John

Jesus Fulfills the Feast of Booths

John 7:1-43

Teaching t22480


Brief review of author as eye-witness. Last week (Jn.6), John reported one of Jesus’ most dramatic miracles—the feeding of 15,000+ people by multiplying a few loaves and fish. This week (Jn.7), John reports one of Jesus’ most dramatic claims—that He is the fulfillment of a major Old Testament festival, the Feast of Booths.

The Feast of Booths was a week-long camping festival in Jerusalem. Every Jewish male who lived within 20 miles of Jerusalem was required to construct a small tent made out of branches and live in it for seven days, to remember how the Israelites lived in tents after the Exodus until they came into the Promised Land. Each day, thousands of pilgrims gathered at the temple to celebrate God’s past physical provision for the Israelites (food and water) and to anticipate God’s future provision of salvation. We’ll take a closer look later at how Jesus claims to fulfill this festival, but first let’s look at the conflict and controversy over Jesus that erupt during the festival...

Inter-family conflict

Read 7:1-5. It’s not clear exactly what Jesus’ brothers mean, but it is clear that they did not believe that Jesus is the Messiah. They had already tried to take Him into custody because they thought He had lost His mind (Mk.3:21,31). Maybe they are being sarcastic: “So You think You’re the Messiah, do You? Then what are You doing up here in Galilee? You should be down in Jerusalem making a big splash—impressing Your disciples and winning more followers.”

Jesus’ response is interesting (read 7:6-10). He appears to say: “I am not going to go to this feast”—but then He does go. In other words, it sounds like Jesus either lied to His brothers or that He changed His mind. Actually, that’s not what’s going on at all.

The word time is kairos, which means “right time.” “I am not going up to this feast” can read “I am not yet going up to this feast because My time has not yet fully come” (7:8). Responding to their challenge to openly show Himself (7:4), Jesus is saying: “I’m not going to the Feast yet because the right time for Me to publicly reveal Myself as the Messiah won’t come until the end of the Feast.” That’s why Jesus goes later (during the middle of the Feast) and privately until the right time.

The real conflict between Jesus and His brothers is their different relationships to what Jesus calls “the world.” Kosmos here refers not primarily to people, but to the prideful, self-centered values of fallen humanity (1Jn.2:15,16). His brothers are at home in the world because they are worldly, but Jesus is in conflict with the world—He speaks against living for self and calls people to live humbly for God, as He lives.

If You follow Jesus, you should expect this kind of conflict with your own family. When I came to Christ, my father sat me down and said, “It’s fine that you’re going to Bible studies—but don’t become a religious fanatic.” I said, “What do you mean by ‘religious fanatic?’” He answered, “That you take this so seriously that you let it change your whole life.” I remember thinking: “But that’s what following Jesus is supposed to do!” I learned later that he had been exposed as a kid to an ugly religious fanaticism that turned him off. But even once he realized that that was not true Christianity, this conflict between us over self-centered versus Christ-centered values persisted for many years, until he came to Christ late in his life.

Is there this kind of conflict between you and some of your family members? Do they see your relationship with Jesus actually changing you into a person who lives to serve God and others rather than living for your own prestige, comfort, etc.? Are they defensive, not because you are being a self-righteous sin policeman, but because your Christ-centered servant lifestyle unnerves and upsets them? What does it mean if there is none of this kind of conflict with your family?

We could explore this issue more deeply, but we need to move on to the controversy over Jesus’ identity that breaks out when He gets to Jerusalem...

Controversy over Jesus’ identity

I’m going to summarize this long section (7:11-35) rather than look at it verse by verse. John himself summarizes this controversy in 7:43 (read), which continued for the rest of Jesus’ public ministry (read 9:16; 10:19). His claim to be the divine Son of God makes it impossible for people to be neutral about Him. John records five different verdicts on who Jesus is, and four of them are inadequate. These verdicts are still around today.

Some were saying, “He is a good man” (7:12). They base this verdict on both Jesus’ redemptive miracles and His teaching, which emphasized loving God and others. But it is an adequate verdict because Jesus claimed to be God—and this forces us to either worship Him or reject Him. In fact, viewing Jesus as a good man may be a way of politely dismissing Him. That’s why Jesus rejected this compliment (Mk.10:17,18 – “Either call me God or don’t call Me good!”

Others were saying, “He leads the people astray” (7:12). They base this on the fact that Jesus violated their religious rules (e.g., SABBATH “WORK”). Their logic was: “Since our religious rules come from God, and Jesus violates them, He is not from God.” The problem with this verdict is the premise: their religious rules were not actually given by God in the Old Testament; they were man-made traditions that violated God’s will (e.g., HEALING ON THE SABBATH – see 7:23b,24).

Others were saying, “He has a demon” (7:20). This verdict takes Jesus’ supernatural power seriously, but concludes that His power must come from demons. The problem with this verdict (see Matt.12:25-28) is that it is completely irrational. One of the most outstanding expressions of His supernatural power was in exorcising demons—and why would demons want to empower Him to cast out demons? The logical explanation is that Jesus is empowered by God.

Still others were saying, “He is the Prophet” (7:40). Some looked for a super-prophet, a Moses Part 2 (see Deut.18:15), and concluded that Jesus (because of His miracles and teachings) was that Prophet. The problem with this verdict is that biblical prophets never claim to be God. They claimed to speak for God; that’s why they said: “Thus says the Lord.” But Jesus claimed to be God; that’s why He said: “Truly, truly, I say to you.”

Still others were saying: “He is the Messiah” (7:26,41). Others rejected this verdict because the Old Testament prophet Micah foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Micah5:2), yet Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee (7:41b,42). Of course, Jesus was born in Bethlehem—but many just assumed that He was born in Nazareth. This is the verdict that makes sense of Jesus’ claims, miracles and fulfillment of Old Testament messianic prophecy.

If Jesus’ identity is so obvious and the other verdicts are so inadequate, why was/is there so much confusion about this? Jesus’ answer to this question is penetrating (read 7:17). He says that wrong conclusions about who He is come not from inadequate evidence, but from an unwillingness to subordinate your life to God. This posture creates a mental “grid” that ignores or filters out the evidence about who Jesus is. Stated positively, once you admit that you need God’s leadership and are willing to follow it, He will give you all the evidence you need to know that Jesus is the way to Him. The easy part is getting the evidence; the difficult part is humbling yourself before God.

One implication of this is that we should not expect to be able to argue anyone into becoming a Christian. We should do our best to answer people’s objections to Christianity (1Pet.3:15). But even more importantly, we should share how submitting to God/Jesus has been good, and sometimes we should gently ask: “Do you want to know God? Are you willing to let God direct your life?” Sometimes it’s good to challenge the person to say this to God. This is the real issue, and raising it may help more than hours of debate about the evidence.

This controversy over Jesus’ identity creates dramatic tension that prepares for Jesus’ dramatic claim to fulfill the Feast of Boothsand make a unique offer...

Jesus’ claim & offer

To appreciate Jesus’ claim, we need to understand how the Jews observed this festival.

For the first six days, the people would gather in the Temple precinct. The priests would circle a high platform once, and then ascend it and pour water into a bowl on the altar. This was to commemorate God’s provision of water for the Israelites which came when Moses struck the rock (explain Ex.17). While the priests poured the water, the people also anticipated the coming of the Messiah by reciting these words from Isaiah: “Come, all who are thirsty, come to the waters...With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” (Isa.55:1; 12:3). Of course, these promises were still unfulfilled, and the people were still spiritually thirsty.

On the seventh and final day, they repeated the first six days with a couple of key exceptions. Instead of circling the platform once, the priests circled it seven times while the crowd watched in anticipation. Then, once the priest ascended the platform, he held the pitcher higher and higher (according to people’s shouts)—to increase their anticipation—before pouring it out in the bowl.

It was evidently at just this moment that Jesus stands up and shouts (read 7:37,38). Talk about dramatic! Jesus isn’t interrupting the festival—He is announcing its fulfillment! He is the Rock that will be struck so that rivers of spiritual life may pour out from Him into the hearts of all who believe in Him. John comments in 7:39 (read) that Jesus was speaking of the Holy Spirit who would be given to believers after Jesus was glorified (referring to His death for our sins and resurrection).

What is it like to experience these “rivers of living water?” Paul describes it this way in Rom.5:5 (read; “poured” is ekcheo – “gush out”) and this way in Rom.8:16 (read). God’s Spirit enables you to experience God’s love for you; He assures you deep in your heart that you are God’s dearly beloved child. He communicates God’s love for you abundantly so that you can give His love freely to other thirsty people.

How does this become a reality in your life? Jesus says it’s as easy as coming to Him, admitting that you’re thirsty (i.e., that other “waters” don’t satisfy you), and drinking (personally receiving His Spirit’s life into your soul).

“Drink” one time to receive God’s Spirit forever. Simple ask Jesus to forgive you and to give you His Spirit. He will come into your heart to stay, and He will assure you that you are now God’s beloved child (takes different forms). Have you done this? Why not do it today?

“Drink” as a lifestyle to stay filled with God’s Spirit. “Come” and “drink” are both in the present tense—and could be translated “keep on coming” and “keep on drinking.” Many true Christians have the Holy Spirit, but are not full of God’s love simply because they don’t keep coming and drinking from Him. In Eph.5:18-21, Paul tells us how to do this:

Instead of focusing on your problems/what you don’t have, choose to speak God’s Word to yourself—especially His promises.

Instead of complaining, choose to give thanks to God for His amazing mercy and provisions.

Instead of relating selfishly to the people in your life, choose to serve them. “Power and overflowing joy—these are the characteristics of great drinkers of the Spirit. But... we never experience satisfaction as we are meant to until our lives give satisfaction to others... When our lives become stagnant... the remedy is not to concentrate on our own satisfaction but on... Christ seeking to flow through us (to others). When we come to a wall in our spiritual lives, we need to look for avenues of service.”

The best way to build a lifestyle around this “drinking” is to do with other Christian “drinkers.” This is what being in a home group is all about—helping each other remember God’s Word, helping each other be thankful to God, and helping each other learn to serve the people God has put in out lives. Don’t drink alone!

Philip W. Comfort & Wendall C. Hawley, Opening the Gospel of John (Wheaton: Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 1994), p.122.

R. Kent Hughes, John: That You May Believe (Crossway Books: 1999), p.214.

R. Kent Hughes, John: That You May Believe (Crossway Books: 1999), p.218.