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Jesus' Water Works

Jesus’ Water Works

Life to the Full—John 7

October 7, 2012

 

Connect Question:  Share a memorable camping experience from your childhood or adult life with someone near you. 

 Intro:  We’re back into the Gospel of John today after about 3 months away from our series we began last spring entitled “Life to the Full.”  We picked that title because it summarizes pretty well what Jesus is offering people all through John’s Gospel—life that is full, abundant, and connected to God. 

 

Turn to John 7 today, if you would.  This chapter is apparently taking place during the Hebrew camping season.  It went by another name (called The Feast of Tabernacles), but on the Jewish calendar of festivals and celebrations, this was an annual all-nation camp-out. 

Interestingly enough, that very Festival fell this year, 2012, on this very week!  It started Oct. 1 and ends tomorrow, Oct. 8. 

In the Jewish calendar it is called Sukkot or the Feast of Tabernacles and is a week-long fall festival commemorating the 40-year journey of the Israelites in the wilderness. It is one of the three great pilgrimage feasts recorded in the Bible when all Jewish males were required to appear before the Lord in the Temple in Jerusalem.

The word Sukkot means "booths." As a historical feast, it's main characteristic is the requirement to dwell in temporary shelters or booths in remembrance of God's protection, provision and care during their 40 years in the wilderness. This joyous fall harvest celebration is a reminder of God's protection, provision, and faithfulness.

During Sukkot, two important ceremonies took place. The Hebrew people carried torches around the temple, illuminating bright candelabrum along the walls of the temple to demonstrate that the Messiah would be a light to the Gentiles. Also, the priest would draw water from the pool of Siloam and carry it to the temple where it was poured into a silver basin beside the altar. The priest would call upon the Lord to provide heavenly water in the form of rain for their supply.

Both of those themes—water and light—Jesus picks up in John 7 & 8 as he proclaims that he is the source of Living Water (7:36)and the Light of the World (ch. 8:12).

 

But back to camping.  Can you imagine what a National Camping Week would look like in America?  Can you imagine what it would do to national life?  To family bonding?  To the divorce rate!  J

 

Story:  Video by marriage counselor Gary Smalley in which he talks about a survey that was done of adults in which they were asked to tell about their most memorable family outings.  Camping consistently came up as #1.  When they probed a little deeper about WHY it was that camping was so often one of people’s most memorable family experience, the results got interesting. 

            What they found was that family camp-outs almost always included some sort of unplanned incidents—tents getting flooded or blown down, someone forgetting an important item (like sleeping bag or stove or can opener), bears raiding the campsite. They weren’t such great experiences in the moment.   In fact, during whatever catastrophe was happening, usually nobody was laughing.  But give it about two weeks and it was that event that everyone was telling their friends about and laughing about around the dinner table.

 

Our culture…and even God’s people in America… need to learn something about shared celebrations and traditions.  Just imagine what it would do to American family cohesion if every American had to “camp out” for one week together every year.  Imagine what it would do to help people appreciate life at home, a comfortable bed, a roof over their heads and a kitchen where there is running water and a refrigerator.  It would be like celebrating Thanksgiving for an entire week in unheated lean-twos, cooking outdoors, spending the week with friends and family, all to be reminded what our Pilgrim forefathers endured and how God saw them through truly serious obstacles. 

Now the Feast of Tabernacles was, as I said, one of the three annual feasts for the Jews where all males were supposed to go to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices for the entire week and be reminded of how God took care of their forefathers when they were in the wilderness.  So Jesus would be planning to go to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast. 

            But in today’s chapter (John 7), John is showing us just how divergent the views of people were about Jesus.  From his family to the political big-wigs, views about Jesus were all over the map! 

Some people loved him while others despised him. 

Some were questioning while others were convinced.  And the really interesting part is that Jesus didn’t seem to bend over backwards in the least to try and win people over.  He seems more intent on pushing them over one way or the other.  He seems bent upon moving them off some comfortable dead-center to some alive-commitment or outright rejection.  Jesus doesn’t fit your typical nice-guy Messiah image in this chapter. 

Let’s start reading in John 7:1. 

“After this, Jesus went around in Galilee. He did not want to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him. But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his own brothers did not believe in him.

            John certainly isn’t putting any political spin on the situation, is he?  I mean, if I were writing a book to convince people that Jesus was wonderful and someone everyone should believe in, I certainly wouldn’t put a section in about how some in his own family thought he was either crazy or a phony, would you?  But John gives us the unvarnished relatives-response:  we don’t believe he is who he claims to be.

            Don’t you sense a little jealousy here?  They want Jesus to leave Galilee (where they are) and go hawk his wares in Jerusalem.  It’s like they are saying, “Come on, brother.  If you’re really who you claim to be, go do some eye-popping miracles at the capital.” 

Jesus obviously isn’t afraid to wade right into messy family dynamics with his response in vs. 6ff.

Therefore Jesus told them, “My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil. You go to the festival. I am not going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.” After he had said this, he stayed in Galilee.

 

 The “time” he is referring to is the time of his crucifixion.  This is certainly not what those listening to him thought he was saying.  They undoubtedly thought he was talking about time to reveal himself as the new deliverer of Israel, a new political leader.  But Jesus knows how it will go down for him in Jerusalem, and he still has the Father’s work to do before then. 

 

Imagine him saying this to you.  “My time is not yet here; for you any time will do.”  

You ever frustrated with God’s timing?  Ever try and tell him when something needs to be done, like YESTERDAY?  Lord, you have to heal this person NOW!  You need to solve this marriage mess NOW!  You need to get me a new job YESTERDAY!  For us, anytime looks right.  But not Jesus. 

            Part of believing in Jesus is trusting in his timing.  It took Moses 40 years to learn that.  It took Noah 100 years.  I took Abraham  25 years to learn it.  It took me 7 years to begin to get God’s heart on what success is in ministry. 

            Life takes time because God cares more about character than he does about calendars.  He values real encounters with us more than he values completion of events. 

APP:  Is Jesus asking you to stop telling Him WHEN something must be done and start trusting him with who you are becoming while waiting for that “something”???

 

Then Jesus really lights the fuse with vs. 7-- The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil.

Let’s see, what’s the line of logic going on here?  If the world hates Jesus because his righteous words and life points out their evil, but the world “cannot” hate his family members, what is the clear inference about WHY the world isn’t giving his family members a hard time?  Answer:  Their works must be evil too because they are fitting in so nicely!  Now there’s a way to make friends and influence relatives!  J

            Notice that Jesus isn’t letting well enough alone here.  He’s now pushing his own family members who are doubting he is who he claims to be.  He’s pushing them to face the facts and either accept that he is more than just a famous first-born in the family of whom they are jealous.  They must either decide he is a phony charlatan, a madman or the Messiah, the Christ of God. 

 

C.S. Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity, makes that very argument when he says,

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: "I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God." That is the one thing we must not say. A man who said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic--on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg--or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

In making the claims he made about himself, Jesus was either a lunatic (thinking he was someone he wasn’t), a liar (knowing he was not someone he was claiming to be), or Lord (actually what he claimed to be and was). If you are going to claim he was a “great moral teacher” then you better know what he was claiming about himself—to be God in human flesh, sinless, and completely correct about how sinful we are and what a Savior he is. 

 

Two of the three options in Lewis’ Liar-Lunatic-Lord argument is exactly what we see unfold here in chapter 7.  10 However, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went also, not publicly, but in secret. 11 Now at the festival the Jewish leaders were watching for Jesus and asking, “Where is he?”

12 Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.” [Great moral teacher?]

Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.” [Liar?]  13 But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the leaders.

 

And now John makes sure his readers understand that the “lunatic” option is off the table too.  He tells us in vs. 14 that half way through the week, Jesus appeared at the Temple in Jerusalem and started teaching again. 

There is obviously something very impressive about his teaching.  It has a ring of truth, of authority, of wisdom that no other teacher or professor they’ve ever heard had.  But they know Jesus hasn’t gotten his Ph.D. yet, unlike all the other “doctors of religion” hanging around the temple campus that day.  The lunatic option isn’t looking real strong at this point because crazy people don’t talk like this. 

 

Jesus next points to his teaching to prove that he isn’t there like most of the resident wise men trying to get honor for himself.  He’s just telling them the message God the Father wanted him to communicate.  His argument in vss. 16-19 is simply this:  if you really love God and are a person who wants to do God’s will in life, this message will resonate with you.  You will know what Jesus is saying is valid.  But if you would prefer to deceive yourself about your own heart and about God, then you will probably end up saying that Jesus is a lunatic…which is just what they did (vs. 20). 

 

I have to admit that I find vs. 18 very convicting.  Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.” 

Obviously, Jesus is speaking about himself being that One who isn’t out to make a name for himself but rather a name for His Heavenly Father, the one who sent him. Making that his goal rather than wanting to make himself look and sound good is what got him into so much trouble.  People hated him for pointing out their hypocrisy and sin.  They hated him for being so righteous and truthful.  It was doing the Father’s will that got him crucified in the end.  But Jesus is the consummate Man of Truth who held to the Father’s absolute truth even though it meant absolute rejection. 

            Which is why this is so convicting.  Last week we talked about how Jesus has entrusted to us, all who know him as Savior and Lord, the same Gospel, that same “mina” of wealth, so that it might be multiplied into the lives of others.  But I shrink back from stating it like it is.  I want people to like me.  I don’t want to have to tell them that what they are doing is sin that will be judged by God unless they repent.  I don’t want to have to call lust or sexual immorality or materialism or pride or a host of other socially acceptable sins “sin.”  I want to be liked by people. 

            Jesus wanted to be praised by the Father.  He knew that preaching the Kingdom of God would lose friends and make enemies.  But he knew it would also glorify the Father through his life at that time and through the lives of millions of people who would respond to him and the truth he spoke. 

            It is sobering to me to have to confront that my lack of sharing the Gospel of Christ with others is a sign that I’m seeking honor on my own, trying to “gain honor” for myself.   But when I “work for the honor of the one who sent” me into this world to “make disciples of all peoples,” I will be a man caring much about the glory of Jesus Christ and little about my own reputation. I’ll be talking to strangers and friends about their need of Christ because God’s glory will be my passion. 

 

Jesus’ next statements are basically pitting the religious traditions of the Jews against the compassionate heart of God.  Back in John 5, Jesus had healed the paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath.  That was bad enough, but then he told the healed man to “take up your bed and walk.”  That, of course, broke the man-made religious tradition of not carrying any loads on the Sabbath.  That tradition-bashing event so angered many of the Jewish leaders that, John tells us, they “sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath.” 

            So here in chapter 7, Jesus takes on these Jewish leaders with the simple argument that their interpretation about circumcision allowed them to cut, wound and otherwise hurt a child on the Sabbath but somehow wouldn’t allow them to heal, restore and make joyful someone who had been suffering their whole life. 

Sound a little absurd?  It was.  Which is why Jesus ended with these words in vs. 24, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.” 

How many people have been damaged by religious people who are “judging by mere appearances” rather than by the heart of God?  Every one of us knows people who felt the condemnation of the church for not keeping some extra-biblical Christian tradition or ritual that kept them bottled up in some sickness of soul or some straight jacket of legalism. We seem really good about keeping rules that supposedly maintain order in church institutions but don’t do a whole lot to free people really in need of healing and help. 

 

ILL:

  • I’ve experienced it in churches that value protecting their buildings and property more than housing the homeless on cold nights…or any night of the year, for that matter.  Keeping needy people out of “our space” may go a long ways to keep people from stealing “our stuff” or make it easier on us so we don’t have to rearrange our schedules or re-clean “our toilets.”  But what does God say about the value of things vs. people?  Of giving to the poor verses saving for ourselves?
  • I’ve seen it in written and unwritten rules we have about things the Bible doesn’t pass judgment on.  Should children be better behaved in a church building than in a school?  Is running in “the sanctuary” really irreverent?  Is dancing in the “Fellowship Hall” sinful?  (Don’t tell King David!)  Is declining an invitation to have a beer with a buddy from work somehow more spiritual than hanging out with him for an hour and building a bridge of friendship? 

I know, there is always this tug-of-war between liberty and license, between love and lust, between freedom and causing others to stumble.  But if we’re going to follow Jesus where he wants to go and impact the people He wants to save, we better get used to tension.  We better stop judging people by mere appearances and start making the “right judgments” about what will set other people free. 

 

Well, in the rest of this chapter, Jesus goes on to offend and polarize more and more people. 

  • In vs. 27, some people were allowing incorrect theology to keep them from having to deal with Jesus.  There was a prevailing belief that whenever the Christ would come, he would sort of appear out of nowhere—no parents, no history, no references—just appear as if dropped out of heaven.  And since they all knew Jesus was from Nazareth rather than Bethlehem (vs. 42)…or so they thought…then he couldn’t possibly be the Christ. 
  • APP:  It’s amazing how bad theology can be so sincerely held…and still keep us away from God!  Anybody here have perfect theology?  Fact is, we all have “bad theology” somewhere…and it is keeping us from God to some degree.  That’s why we should hold our theological assumptions with humility, always being open to the possibility that God may want to correct them in surprising ways.  That’s not advocating for NO theology or wishy-washy theology, just humbly-held theological ideas. 
  • Jesus blows their incomplete theology out of the water, not by showing his birth certificate from the Bethlehem County Clerk but by telling them he is “from” Someone they don’t even know—God!  Talk about creating a crisis!

Some of the crowd wanted to literally tear him limb from limb while others “put their faith in him” as the Christ (vs. 31).  The Pharisees dispatched the temple guards to “arrest him” (vs. 32)… and the temple guards are so moved by what Jesus is teaching that they return empty-handed to the Pharisees which earns them another put-down by them as ignorant rabble who must have a curse on them!  J

Finally, good ol’ Nicodemus, who we saw way back one dark night in John chapter 3, earns scathing ridicule from his peers, the Pharisees when he simply tries to bring a little calmness to the whole chaos by pointing out that Moses’ Law (which they seemed to be so eager to obey just moments before) didn’t “condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing” (vs. 51).

 

Do you see what the point of all this back and forth between Jesus and different people is all about?  I think Jesus never likes people to hang out in the comfortable middle.  He knows that indecision and passivity towards him is as deadly as hostility.  It produces the same result:  no functional relationship, no transformation.  Times of conflict and tension are better than times of apathy.

I think Jesus is pushing everyone at just the right time to either be hot or cold, in our out, lover of hater, follower or fighter.  The most dangerous place we can be with Jesus is lukewarm.  We’re pretty comfortable being there.  But Jesus isn’t.  That’s why he prefers to do and say things that will either convince or convict us but certainly not leave us in the comfortable middle. 

 

APP:  God doing or saying some uncomfortable things in your life right now?  Are you feeling offended by Him?  Perhaps confused?  Getting heat for identifying with Him?  Believe it or not, that may be just what Jesus is trying to do to move you off some comfortable middle and into the furnace of spiritual fire. 

 

Here’s the last thing I want you to see in this passage.  Look at vs. 37.

“On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.”

 

This is the same imagery Jesus used with the woman at the well In John 4 when he told her he could give her “living water” (vs. 10).  He goes on to tell her in John 4:14, “…whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 

 

Just as the most important substance necessary for the human body’s existence and survival is water, so Jesus is claiming that the most important relationship for the human soul’s existence and satisfaction is the abiding Holy Spirit that is only given to those who believe in Jesus Christ.  And just as water flowed from that rock in the wilderness that satisfied all Israel in the desert, so the life of Jesus Christ, the rock of our salvation, satisfies every human soul that is thirsty for eternal life.  And just as water of the river of life will one day flow crystal clear from the throne of God and of the Lamb to satisfy every creature and supply every needed crop every month, so the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of every believer today is that living water which is designed to flow from within our souls. 

 

We cannot produce this flow of life.  Only the Holy Spirit can.  We can muddy the water with sin and doubts and anxieties.  But the presence of the Holy Spirit of God in us means that God has placed himself in the deepest reaches of our being so that what flows out of us will be Him.  Our souls were made for God, just as a car was made for gasoline.  Cars are not made to run on Kool-Aid any more than humans are made to run on money or popularity or sex or selfishness. 

            God is at work in us to cause to bubble up from within that life which truly satisfies both our own hearts and the lives of those around us—life in the Spirit, by the Spirit and through the Spirit. 

 

APP:  So WHERE or HOW are you experiencing that soul-thirst for real life right now?  Is there a restlessness of soul that you are trying to fill with something else?  Is there an emptiness or thirst in your life that nothing seems to satisfy?  How about asking Jesus for that water?  How about asking him to teach you how to let the life of the Spirit of God bubble up like a fresh spring in your soul?  How about “coming to Him” to “drink” of life that is truly life? 

WORSHIP that focuses on calling out to God for life.

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