Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES” Part 5

John 7.11-52 

What does it profit a man to gain the whole world if he loses his own soul? That is a profoundly important question, that deserves to be addressed, especially by fathers on Fathers Day. One can be the best possible dad, devoted in ways other fathers are not, but the result will be eternally bad if that father’s sons and daughters are not prepared for eternity. And what of the father or father-to-be who does not enjoy and benefit from a relationship with Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of the living God? Ah, that is the question. Is it not?

This morning we resume our consideration of the Lord Jesus Christ’s attendance at the last Feast of Tabernacles that He attended, approximately six months before His crucifixion, burial, glorious resurrection from the dead, and ascension to heaven where He is presently enthroned until His second coming in power and great glory.[1] We are in John chapter seven.

Our Lord Jesus Christ brought His twelve apostles and an unknown number of other disciples to Jerusalem. He spent time during the Feast of Tabernacles in the large Court of Gentiles where multiplied thousands of pilgrims mingled each day. He typically sat surrounded by the curious to hear Him teach, with scribes, Pharisees, and members of the priesthood on the outer fringes of His attentive audience.

Last week I mentioned that the impression is given that the leaders and perhaps some of the crowd that had listened to Him teach in the Court of Gentiles began to disperse and walk away from Him. John the evangelist’s use of the word “cried,” translating the word krazoo, suggests this development. The word refers to screaming or crying out in a very loud voice, either to make an important announcement or to make yourself heard above the din.[2] My considered opinion is that some of our Lord’s audience departed, and when the crowd began to break up, my Lord began to lift up His voice to make several important statements to His adversaries that were heard by everyone. When you can effectively communicate outdoors to thousands seated on a hillside, to deliver the Sermon on the Mount[3], to teach 5,000 on one occasion[4], and 4,000 on another occasion[5] who have just been fed, you have the strength of voice to be heard by 50,000 in a surrounded enclosure.

What did He say to the departing scribes, Pharisees, and priests so loudly that everyone at that venue could hear Him? Look to John 7.28-29: 

28  Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not.

29  But I know him: for I am from him, and he hath sent me. 

Of course, that very public outcry turned heads and provoked both the Pharisees and the chief priests to dispatch the Temple guards to apprehend Him, 

“but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come.” 

This morning we continue John’s narrative of the events that unfolded during the Feast of Tabernacles, beginning with the apostle’s tenth discreet recorded event: 

Where JOHN RECORDS THE LORD’S ASSERTON TO HIS AUDIENCE 

John 7.33-34: 

33  Then said Jesus unto them, Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me.

34  Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come. 

It appears that these two verses record statements made by the Lord Jesus Christ to those officers of the Temple guards who were dispatched to apprehend Him following the unsuccessful attempt to lay hold on Him by the subordinate Temple guards. Let’s pay very careful attention to the Lord’s words, whereby we see testimony to His sovereignty, His humanity, and His deity: 

“Then said Jesus unto them, Yet a little while I am with you.” 

The officers may not have understood the full implications of what the Lord Jesus Christ was saying at the time, but in retrospect, we can see a sovereign declaration. Those men had come to arrest Him. And we know their puppet masters had evil intentions for the Lord; they were going to kill Him. But despite their determination to take Him into custody, He said, “Yet a little while I am with you.” In other words, “I’ll be here a while longer.” And there was nothing they could do to prevent it. More specifically, He would be with them for about six more months, and would not leave until the time appointed of the Father. And no matter how much effort was put into it by His enemies, no power on earth could hasten His departure from their midst. 

“And then I go unto him that sent me.” 

Physically, the Lord Jesus Christ was at that time standing in the largest of the Temple courtyards, the Court of Gentiles. And at that time, He spoke of going to the immediate presence of the Father Who sent Him on His mission to lay the groundwork for the redemption of sinful men. So, He is telling these officers that He would remain, despite their determination and best efforts, until the time to go to the Father. Do you see implicit in His words a complete control of the situation, His absolute sovereignty? At the same time, the Lord Jesus is speaking here from the reference point of His humanity. In His humanity, He is standing before them and would at a future time go to His Father. 

“Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me.” 

This is a prophetic utterance of our Lord that will find fulfillment on several different levels: Six months later the Lord Jesus Christ will be crucified, almost certainly after having been taken by some of these same men in the Garden of Gethsemane. But following His resurrection from the dead three nights and three days after His crucifixion and burial, and after the stone was rolled away from the opening of the tomb, where it might have been sealed by one of these officers, they would look for Him. But they would look in vain and would not find Him. Never would they see Him again . . . until they stand before His great white throne for their final judgment before being cast into the lake of fire.[6] So, there is a fulfillment of this prophetic utterance that is purely physical. There is also a spiritual fulfillment to this utterance. Scripture commands sinners to “seek the LORD while He may be found.”[7] But this statement by the Lord shows us that He will not always be found by those who seek Him only when they feel so inclined. Listen to the sentiments of the Lord Jesus Christ that are found in Proverbs 1.22-33: 

22  How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge?

23  Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.

24  Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded;

25  But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof:

26  I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh;

27  When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you.

28  Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me:

29  For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD:

30  They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof.

31  Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices.

32  For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.

33  But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil. 

Oh, my friends, how critical it is to seek the LORD while He may be found. Things happen in life and decisions are made which provide for us no idea what the LORD’s posture toward a sinner may be. There are many who would have sought the LORD, who could have sought the LORD, and who should have sought the LORD . . . but who did not until it was too late. Don’t be one of them. Seek the LORD while He may be found. Don’t hate the knowledge of the LORD. Instead, choose the fear of the LORD and hearken unto Him and find safety. Most of those our Lord spoke to that day were fathers, fathers who would not heed, fathers who would not listen, fathers who led their children to outer darkness by their terrible example. 

“And where I am, thither ye cannot come.” 

Barely seconds earlier the Lord Jesus Christ told them that He would go to Him that sent Him. But here He indicates that He is already there, by saying “And where I am,” not where I will be. My friends, this can only be true if Jesus Christ, a man born of a virgin named Mary, is also the everywhere present and beyond the boundaries of time God. This is a declaration of His deity, indicating that He is in a sense already, yet not physically in His humanity, in the throne room of heaven with the Father. He is not limited by time. Additionally, the place to which He refers is a place those He is speaking to cannot come to simply. And why not? Simple. In John chapter 3 the Lord Jesus Christ pointed out that Nicodemus could neither see nor enter the kingdom of God unless he was born again. But the kingdom of God, in its full manifestation, is the millennial kingdom of Jesus Christ here on earth, set up after His second coming. But its physical location will be here on planet earth. If someone who is not born again cannot possibly either see or enter that future kingdom established by the King of kings down here on earth to fulfill promises made to Abraham, and the nation of Israel, and to David, what chance has that same person entering heaven, which is outside the bounds of the physical universe that God has created?

Several phrases, but only two sentences were here uttered by the Master. Two sentences that convey such profound truths about His humanity, about His deity, about His sovereignty, and about the hopeless helplessness of sinful man. Truly was it observed that never man spake like this man. How blind is the man who does not see who Jesus Christ is? How deaf is the man who does not by faith hear His voice calling out to Him? Even sadder when that man is a father. 

Eleventh, JOHN RECORDS THE ASSUMPTIONS OF HIS AUDIENCE 

John 7.35-36: 

35  Then said the Jews among themselves, Whither will he go, that we shall not find him? will he go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles?

36  What manner of saying is this that he said, Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come? 

What has the Lord Jesus Christ been talking about? Has He not been alluding to His return to His Father in heaven? And had they not touched on His identity two separate times? They could not surmise what He was referring to when He spoke of His return to heaven. Why could they not? First Corinthians 2.14: 

“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 

Instead of understanding that the Lord Jesus Christ meant He would return to His Father in heaven, from where He had originally come, they thought He would leave Palestine and go to where Jewish people lived in Gentile country, perhaps to teach Gentiles. Why would they think such a thing?

Besides the fact that they were natural men who had no spiritual insight, they probably remembered the reports given to them by their spies:

So, they probably had a warehouse of stored up hostility towards Him for His kind treatment and disposition toward those they hated, the Samaritans and the Gentiles.

Notice verse 36 again: 

“What manner of saying is this that he said, Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come?” 

Their capacity to comprehend what the Lord Jesus said is just missing. And it’s missing even though these are well-educated men, these are intelligent men, these are sophisticated and clever men. But they are also unregenerate men who cannot understand such things without the illumination of the Holy Spirit of God. They are also fathers, which means their children will suffer the terrible consequences of their fathers’ lost condition. 

Twelfth, JOHN RECORDS HIS APPEAL TO THE WORSHIPERS 

John 7.37-39: 

37  In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.

38  He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.

39  (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) 

The Feast of Tabernacles ran for eight days. The last day of the feast was the “great” day, also translated as “high” day in John 19.31 when referring to Passover. Because it was the last day, and a high holy day, the crowd of mostly men was unusually large in the Temple courtyard. And it was at this time that the Lord Jesus Christ “stood and cried,” our word krazoo again. Think about the fact that in the midst of those who would do Him harm, would kill Him; the Lord Jesus Christ sought to minister to their and others’ spiritual needs.

According to Alfred Edersheim, a Jewish scholar who was converted in the 19th century, on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles there was a specific sequence of events that needs to be understood as the proper context for perceiving what the Lord Jesus Christ was doing when He spoke the words of John 7.37-38.[13] It seems that a procession of priests would leave the Temple courtyard just as the morning offering was being made by a priest. Many thousands were standing by in the courtyard to watch. The priests’ purpose was to walk down to the nearby pool of Siloam outside the courtyard and fill a golden pitcher with a little more than two pints of water and bring it back into the courtyard at the precise time that the morning offering was completed. This was all done with great ceremony, and the priest with the golden pitcher was welcomed back with the water by three blasts of the priests’ trumpets.

The priest with the water would then be joined by a priest with a drink offering of wine in a pitcher, and the two of them would climb a series of stairs toward the altar. At the proper place, the two priests would each pour the contents of their pitchers into two designated funnels that emptied at the base of the altar. Immediately after the water was poured out, with the crowd yelling loudly to the priest to lift up his hand to make sure all the water was poured out, Psalms 113 to 118 were chanted in a responsive reading type of style. Then, after the 118th Psalm was chanted, there was traditionally a period of silence. This was probably when the now standing Lord Jesus Christ cried, 

“If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” 

Imagine the impact on the crowd. They were packed into that courtyard; thousands of them. All morning long they had been happy and excited, watching the majestic processions of priests and hearing the blasts of trumpets, ready to speak as a crowd to the priest pouring the water at the proper time, and then chanting the Psalms under the direction of more than 400 priests and an equal number of Levites. And then, after the 118th Psalm, silence. Not a sound. No chatter. No milling about. All were attentive. And then, crying out to the multiplied thousands, the Lord Jesus Christ voiced words that properly interpreted everything their ceremonies symbolically pointed toward: 

“If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” 

John 7.39 explains what the Lord Jesus Christ was referring to when He said, “out of his belly shall flow rivers of water,” but I want to focus right now on but three words: thirst, come, and drink. What is thirst? Thirst is perceived need. It’s an intense longing for Jesus Christ as the only Satisfier of my soul’s need. What is come? That is coming to Christ. It is the faith that trusts Him. To come to Christ by faith is to do with your heart and to do with your will what you would do with your feet and your arms were He standing before you. As you would run to Him and embrace Him were He physically here, so you embrace Him by faith Who is not physically here. And what is drink? I think this is a distinction without a difference. With the Lord Jesus as water faith drinks Him in. With the Lord Jesus as the bread of life faith consumes Him. Our Lord Jesus was challenging those religious men in the Temple to do something more than observe ritual. And to you here this morning, let me say that there is a difference between a profession of Christ and a possession of Christ. To drink means to become a real possessor, a partaker.

To this huge throng of religious people gathered to observe a divinely instituted and sanctioned ceremony, the Lord Jesus cried out to them and directed them toward the fulfillment of all their religious observances. They had had ritual and ceremony for more than 1500 years. “Would you now like the reality? Do you thirst? Do you want life and forgiveness? Then you need to come to Me and imbibe Me, consume Me, assimilate Me, drink Me, eat Me, receive Me.” That is what my Lord Jesus meant.

Verse 38 reads, 

“He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” 

This is an extremely difficult verse for me to understand with any degree of precision. I’ve looked for references to living water flowing from the belly, and I’ve concluded this refers very broadly to some Old Testament passages.[14] What we do know is that the Lord Jesus was declaring a consequence of believing on Him. Surprisingly, not springing forth from the Lord Jesus Christ, but springing forth from the person who believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, will be “rivers of living water.”

Verse 39: 

“(But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)” 

From this verse, we see that the comment about the “rivers of living water” seems to have been a reference to the Holy Spirit, which those who believed on Jesus Christ would receive the Holy Spirit. Additionally, we see that the Holy Spirit was not given, during the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the same manner as He is given to believers now. And why the change in the ministry of the Holy Spirit, to indwell believers now as He did not then? It all turns on the Savior’s glorification, according to John in this verse. When Jesus Christ was glorified, following His crucifixion and death, He gave the Holy Spirit to those who believed on Him.

Remember that John’s comment in verse 39 was written some 60 or 70 years after our Lord Jesus spoke the words of verses 37 and 38 in the Temple courtyard during the Feast of Tabernacles. Therefore, it is entirely possible, if not likely, that the Jewish people who heard Jesus Christ speak these words did not understand Him to refer to the Holy Spirit. But we can imagine a connection they did make. The Feast of Tabernacles was a festival of remembrance for God’s provision during the forty years of wilderness wanderings following their Exodus from Egyptian bondage. What did the water the priest poured out represent and remind people of? Would it not have reminded them of those two occasions when God provided life-giving and sustaining water for their nation from a rock? On the first occasion, Moses struck the rock, and it gave forth water.[15] Decades later, when he was instructed to only speak to the rock, Moses sinned by striking the rock.[16] The rock still gave forth life-giving water. And on this occasion when such events as those were remembered by the Jewish people, the Lord Jesus stood in their midst and cried out that He is that water. Incredible. 

Though my plan is to close out our consideration of the Feast of Tabernacles next Sunday morning, we have clearly reached the pinnacle of this passage and have seen the Lord Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of not only this Mosaic system feast but also the fulfillment of the Old Testament types represented by the rocks that provided life-giving water.

What the observance of the Feast of Tabernacles had been pointing to for 1500 years was the Lord Jesus Christ, as He very clearly pointed out to the thousands of Jewish men who had gathered on that occasion in the Temple courtyard. And what the two rocks that issued water during Israel’s wilderness wanderings to preserve the lives of the thirsty people also pointed to was none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today is Fathers Day. It has been a great thrill for me to be a father for more than thirty years. I have cherished every moment of it. I would do anything, and I mean anything, to avoid failure as a father. I am not without natural affection, Romans 1.31. I love and seek to protect and ensure the welfare of my daughter. Therefore, I think back on that courtyard full of so many men, mostly men who were fathers. Upwards of fifty thousand men saw and heard the Lord Jesus Christ identify Himself as the Object of their ceremonial and religious affections. But did they understand? Did they comprehend? Were they even interested?

Despite their interest, understanding, or comprehension their influence in the lives of their sons and daughters was incalculable. Dads and dads to be someday, your influence is beyond measure. Your importance is profound. Even if you choose to abstain from volunteering to be a dad, by just being a nearby guy your presence in an environment, absent any other men, makes you the de facto father even if you are not the de jure father.

I say that only to say this: I sure hope you are a Christian. And if you are not a Christian, I sure hope you come to Christ soon. You see, your influence is unavoidable. So, for your sake and the sakes of those around you, both adults and children, I urge you to consider the claims of Jesus Christ.

__________

[1] Psalm 16.11; 110.1; Matthew 26.64; Mark 12.36; 14.62; 16.19; Luke 20.42; 22.69; John 3.13; 13.1; 14.2-4; Acts 1.9-11; 2.33, 34-35; 7.56; Romans 8.34; Ephesians 1.20; 6.9; Colossians 3.1; Second Thessalonians 1.7; Hebrews 1.3, 13; 8.1; 9.24; 10.12-13; 12.2; 1 Peter 3.22; Revelation 19.11

[2] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), pages 563-564.

[3] Matthew 5.1-8.1

[4] Matthew 14.14-21

[5] Matthew 15.32-38

[6] Revelation 20.11-15

[7] Isaiah 55.6

[8] Mark 7.24-30

[9] Matthew 8.5-13

[10] Mark 5.1-20

[11] Luke 17.11-19

[12] Luke 10.25-37

[13] Alfred Edersheim, The Temple - Its Ministry and Services: Updated Edition, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1994), pages 212-228.

[14] G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson, Commentary On The New Testament Use Of The Old Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), page 454.

[15] Exodus 17.1-7

[16] Numbers 20.1-13

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