John 7 – Living water

Erkki Koskenniemi
Milla Koskenniemi

Is Jesus going to the feast or not? 7:1-13

According to Josephos, the Feast of Tabernacles was the greatest and most sacred of all Jewish feasts. It was celebrated according to the law of Moses on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, in September or October. It was the time when the ground usually got rain which made everything fruitful. The feast lasted eight days and was very joyful in nature.

The passage of the celebration is explained in Deuteronomy 23:34-44. During that time, people lived in shelters made of sprigs in remembrance of how Israel slept in temporary shelters when they walked from Egypt to the Promised Land.

Chapters 9-14 of the Book of Zechariah combine the Feast of Tabernacles and the Lord's Day (14:16-21). Zechariah conveys the promise that on the Lord's Day "living waters" will flow in Jerusalem (14:8) and that in the day of the Lord's work the people of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem will have "an open source against of sin and uncleanness" (13:1). Thus, the Feast of Tabernacles has been a thankful celebration and time for the expectation of "the last days". It is also referred to in the book of the Zechariah's prophecy of the king riding a donkey (9:9).

The brothers of Jesus did not believe in Jesus, but gave him advice: It was the Feast of Tabernacles that would be the best place to spread his movement. Jesus does not care about their "great business advice". He looks forward to God's right time and refuses to act before it. It may be that in his words, there is wordplay typical of the gospel of John - Jesus does not "rise up to the feast" nor does he "rise up to the glory of heaven". He starts moving, however, but not prominently as a centerpiece of the pilgrimage, but secretly and in silence.

Who breaks the law of Moses? 7:14-24

When entering the feast, Jesus comes with the utmost authority. The hearers realized that he did not belong to any known sect or school of thought. He taught his own teaching. Jesus urged the skeptics to follow God's will in order to see if his teaching really came just from him alone. The subject mentioned in chapter 5 is raised again by Jesus himself: that Jesus can not be sent by God because he violates the law by curing on the Sabbath.

Jesus appeals to the Jews' own practice. According to the law, the circumcision of a boy was to be done on the eighth day of his birth (Lev. 12:3). If this day happened to be the sabbath, there were two orders against each other. Which one was given priority? The Jews decided that in that case the circumcision would not be a violation of the Sabbath law. "Great is the circumcision that abolishes the harsh sabbath law," it was said. If one was allowed to circumcise, why was it not allowed to cure the whole body? Thus, Jesus shows the core of the Sabbath command just like the synoptics: man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath was made for man.

Who is Jesus? 7:25-36

In Jesus’ time, there were lot's of common beliefs and speculations about the Messiah, who was coming. One of such, which appears in the Jewish literature outside the Old Testament, was that the Messiah remains hidden until his moment comes. This did not match with the fact that the origin of Jesus was well known - He was born in Nazareth.

In his typical, mysterious style, John lets people talk like this, but in the deepest sense, the Jews did not know who Jesus was and where he came from. They actually knew something right, but were completely ignorant of the rest. They knew that Jesus was a man, and he was born in Nazareth. What they didn’t know was his heavenly origin, because they did not know the Father.

The words of Jesus will brought, again, the desire to kill him. It leads Jesus to foretell his death and return to the Father. As often in the gospel of John, people do not at all know what Jesus talks about. Their speech is hardly blasphemy or irony, but rather a complete blindness to God's truth.

Living water for the thirsty! 7:37-52

The Feast of Tabernacles reached its highpoint on the last day. Undoubtedly that was the moment when people pondered upon the question of end times. We remember the words of Zechariah on the streams of living water (Zech. 14:8). During the water ceremony, people would sing “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation" (Isaiah 12:3). This is the basis for why Jesus spoke in public. “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.”

Jesus says there that he is the source of living water. There is another competitive interpretation for these verses. That is: the streams of living water do not flow from inside the believer, but from Jesus. Now John clarifies that living water means the Holy Spirit.

John writes with a splendid skill about the jews argumenting about Jesus. Is Jesus "the Prophet" (Deut. 18:18)? Or the Messiah? Or a cheater?
 Unlike Luke and Matthew, John does not tell that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. For this reason, it is often said that John did not know the traditions at all. But now he writes that Jesus' opponents reject Jesus based on “the fact” that Jesus was not born in Bethlehem. It shows that John assumes that his readers know that the Jews are wrong here.

An interesting and important debate is taking place at the end of the chapter. Nikodemos expresses his critique in the form of a question. Even more important is the answer given to him by others: It has not been predicted that a prophet will rise from the despised Galilee - thus, Jesus is a false Messiah. Apparently, this refers to a great prophet spoken of in Deu. 18:18. Jesus returns to this sentence in his first teaching in chapter 8, verse 12. Scriptures does not tell about the prophet rising from Galilee, but Galilee and light are strongly connected (Isaiah 8:23 - 9:6).