Summary: Jesus issues a gospel invitation at the Feast of Tabernacles which fulfills the words of Isaiah 55:1. What does it mean to "be thirsty" and come to Jesus and "drink"?
A Gospel Invitation at the Feast of Tabernacles John 7:25-39
Human nature is indeed spiritually dead without a life given from above. In John 6:24 Jesus warned: “Do not judge (or stop judging) by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” Jesus forbade judgment of others without exercising moral and theological discernment, yet we read the inability of the Jewish leaders and the crowds were unable to make “right judgments” concerning Jesus as the Messiah in Verses 25-36 ESV:
“25 Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, “Is not this the man whom they seek to kill? 26 And here he is, speaking openly, and they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ? 27 But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from.” 28 So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I come from. (They knew His name was Jesus and that He had come from Nazareth.) But I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. 29 I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.”
Several things here: The people were amazed that although the leaders sought to kill Jesus, He still spoke boldly and He did so in the temple. They THOUGHT they knew where Jesus came from, namely Galilee, and they refused to believe He could be the promised Messiah from Heaven. There had been a tradition based on poor interpretation of scriptures that the Messiah “would appear suddenly, and that no one would know where He had come from. On both accounts, the people had misjudged who Jesus was!
The people knew a little about Jesus but their view was totally inadequate: The reason He was in Jerusalem was that God had sent him on an earthly mission which had begun in Heaven with its roots in the will and purpose of YHWH, the Lord God of Hosts. Although they were God’s chosen people, separated from the pagans around them who knew nothing of God, they didn’t know God as well as they thought they did. If they did, they would have recognized the works which Jesus did as the very works of God, that Jesus, Himself was the fulfillment of Scripture, but they did not! They failed to see Jesus as the very fulfillment of the Law given to Moses and that He was the very goal and purpose of the Law. Jesus, on the other hand knew God, the only TRUE God because He had come from the very presence of God.
30 “So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. (God’s sovereign timetable would not permit Jesus to be taken yet.) 31 Yet many of the people believed in him. They said, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?” 32 The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent officers to arrest him. 33 Jesus then said, “I will be with you a little longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. 34 You will seek me and you will not find me. Where I am you cannot come.” 35 The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? 36 What does he mean by saying, ‘You will seek me and you will not find me,’ and, ‘Where I am you cannot come’?”
Again, the crowds, the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the temple guards all miss the point which Jesus makes so clearly: I am FROM HEAVEN and I will return TO HEAVEN.
37 “On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said (that is, the totality of what the Scriptures teach), ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
There were two special ceremonies associated with the Feast of Tabernacles: One was the lighting of the lights, which is the setting of John 8:12. Here we have the second, which involved a tradition which appeared a few centuries before Jesus, namely the offering of water unto the Lord. A golden container filled with water from the pool of Siloam was carried in procession by the high priest back to the temple. As the procession came to the Water Gate on the south side of the inner temple court, three trumpet blasts were made to mark the joy of the occasion and the people recited Isaiah 12:3, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” At the temple, while onlookers watched, the priests would march around the altar with the water container while the temple choir sang the Halle (Ps. 113-118). The water was offered in sacrifice to God at the time of the morning sacrifice. The use of the water symbolized the blessing of adequate rainfall for crops.” (“The MacArther Study Bible”, Note on p.1555)