LINK: John 7
The setting for this chapter is the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem. This feast took place at harvest time each year and celebrated God's provision during the years of wandering in the wilderness. This particular festival was about six months before Jesus was to die.
The scene opens with Jesus' half-brothers trying to convince him to go to the festival and show his powers to the world. They want Jesus to set up his kingdom. Jesus refuses to go with his brothers, but goes to the feast quietly a bit later.
There are three groups of people Jesus encounters at the feast. There are "the Jews," which refers to the religious leaders such as Pharisees, Scribes, Sadducees. They are hoping for a chance to get rid of Jesus. The city is also full of "the multitudes" of people coming to the feast. Many of them haven't heard much about Jesus before arriving in Jerusalem. They weren't up to speed on the opinion of the Jewish leadership about Jesus either. The third group was the Jews who lived in Jerusalem. They have been hearing about Jesus and have also heard about the condemnation of Jesus by the Jewish leadership.
When Jesus spoke at the festival, he clearly proclaimed that he came from heaven. He also told the Jewish leaders that they didn't know God. He would return to the Father where they could not follow. The religious leaders responded with anger and denial.
Jesus said that anyone who believed in him would have rivers of living water flowing from his innermost being. This is likely a reference to Isaiah 55:1. A Jewish student of the scriptures would recall to mind the entire chapter of Isaiah 55 upon hearing something so similar to the first verse.
Water for drinking is also a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Water satisfies physical thirst and allows the production of fruit, and likewise, the Holy Spirit satisfies spiritual thirst and produces spiritual fruit. Jesus would send the Spirit to those who believed in him.
Jesus was also claiming to be the source of the life-giving water in the desert. Each day during the feast of tabernacles, there was a tradition of carrying water up from the Pool of Siloam to the temple and pouring it into a basin by the altar of burnt offerings. This was done as a reminder that God gave them water from the rock in the wilderness. I wonder if Jesus chose the moment the water was being poured out to stand up and cry out, "If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink." Even if he didn't do it just then, it would still be fresh in the minds of the people since all this occurred during the feast of tabernacles. The strong reactions of the people indicate that they thought what Jesus said was very significant.
Do you drink of the living water? Does it flow from you in blessings to others?
Lord, you are the source of life. Let me drink deeply of your living water, and let your Holy Spirit overflow through me. Amen.