Mystery entices us. Many modern TV and movie writers have recognized the power of mystery. Shows like 24, Lost, How I Met Your Mother, kept us engaged through mystery. But as much as mystery keeps us engaged we still long for satisfying answers, and nothing is worse when we have journey through a movie or TV series to be nothing but let down in the end. It leaves a bad taste in our mouths.
Many people in our text today are exploring the mystery of who Jesus is. Many people today are still trying to figure that out. Unlike the TV show or movie Jesus will never let us down. I believe our text today tells us this…
Theme: Our mystery exploration of Jesus always ends with rivers of refreshment.
1. The Purposeful Party—John 7.1-13.
We have just come out of the section on Jesus being the “Bread of Life.” Jesus demonstrated this truth by feeding a massive amount of people with 5 loaves of bread and two fish. In John 7 Jesus is going to go to the “Feast of Booths.” Understanding the purpose of this festival is important to understanding what is happening with Jesus in our text today.
The Feast of Booths was a national celebration for Israel. It was designed to remind Israel of God’s liberation of Israel and His gracious provision during their wilderness wonderings. This would be similar to the “4th of July” celebration our country celebrates every year. Everyone in the country would celebrate at this Festival.
During this time Jesus’ half-brothers are attempting to goad Him into going to the Festival and show off His power (John 7.1-4). Why did they do this?—READ John 7.5. Jesus responds to their mockery with sound doctrine. Even though Jesus is the Son of God He submits every decision in His life the Father. It is not as Jesus cannot go up to the feast, but He knows if He goes the circumstances of His life could radically change—READ John 7.1. Jesus knows He will have to die someday in Jerusalem, but He also knows that will happen when His Father wants and not some earthly master. There is a sense of Divine Prerogative in Jesus understanding. God will do what He wants when He wants. We cannot tell God what to do or when to do it.
We quickly learn it is not as if God did not want Jesus to go, but He wanted Him to go in a manner He saw fit—READ John 7.10. By choosing to go to the festival God is giving Jesus a massive opportunity to explain how this purposeful party has always been pointing to His arrival.
2. The Inquisitive Questions—John 7.14-36.
After Jesus arrives He notices there is a debate among the people about who He is. Some people believe Jesus is good and others a false teacher. Jesus decides to address this publically by doing some teaching (John 7.14). Jesus talks about His authority being from God and demonstrates this by using the teachings of Moses to show them a contradiction in their own line of thinking. They are ready to kill Jesus because He healed someone on the Sabbath, but they will circumcise someone on the Sabbath. Both circumcision and healing on the Sabbath are ways for God to demonstrate how much He cares for our suffering. The religious leaders are ready to “MURDER” someone for doing something loving. They are ready to murder Jesus because He is doing something they are doing themselves.
This contradiction is VERY revealing in displaying for us the motives of these men. They are clearly self-righteous arrogant hypocrites. But before we so quickly dismiss them as villains in many ways they reflect ourselves. One author I read this week put it like this:
The moment you stop suspecting yourself is the moment self-righteousness seizes control. Do you think the religious leaders thought they were being self-righteous? No, they thought they were just doing what was right. Self-righteousness often feels right. That’s why it’s so deceptive.—Carter & Wredberg, p. 176
The same author went on to ask 2 diagnostic questions that can help us evaluate the depths of our own self-righteousness: (1) How do you treat people who are different from you? (2) Do you excuse in yourself what you accuse in someone else?
All of this left the crowds even more confused. When Jesus mentioned people plotting to murder Him some thought He was being paranoid (John 7.20), but others knew people were plotting to kill Him. But that group was perplexed why they didn’t do anything because He is publically calling them out (John 7.25-26).
Another question they are dealing with is they knew Jesus. They know His biological family. They know the little boy who used to play with them growing up.
Finally Jesus speaks with them about Him going to a place they cannot go, and they are puzzled again—READ John 7.35-36. The irony of this question is it will actually happen. Not directly through Jesus, but through His followers. According to Acts 8 when religious persecution arose in Jerusalem the Christians left the city and went to Gentile cities spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
There are still many people today who are struggling with questions surrounding who Jesus is and what does His life and teaching mean. There are mixed beliefs about this. As one of the leaders in this church my hope and prayer is we are cultivating an environment where people can feel safe hear to wrestle with those questions. I hope we are the type of people that allow people to wrestle with these questions, and make ourselves available to walk them along the way through those questions. Far too many communities are not open to allowing people to ask hard questions.
3. The Refreshing Response—John 7.37-39.
What is Jesus’ final response to all of this? What is so great about this response? In order to understand the significance of Jesus’ response I would ask you to permit me a moment to go back to the backdrop and connect some dots.
Most of this story has Jesus at “The Feast of Booths,” which was a national holiday that celebrated the merciful liberation and miraculous provision God performed for Israel. While God liberated them they still had to wonder through a tumultuous desert climate. This led to a great deal of complaining, grumbling, and questioning the heart of God. Someone who has spent many hours in a desert climate or even a very hot climate knows how REFRESHING a glass of water can be. The point of the festival was to remind God’s people that life is a wilderness. No matter what or how much we pursue in this life we are never satisfied.
The famous French Algerian Albert Camus wrote a powerful short story called The Adulterous Woman that I believe embodies this idea. In this story a woman is traveling with her husband on a business trip. She has completely bored with the idea of her husband. She believes she appealing than he is. She longs for something more exciting. They stop at a hotel for the night and she seeks out to indulge her enticing desires. When she comes back to the hotel her husband wakes up and finds her overcome with tears. When he asks her what’s wrong she simply says, “nothing, nothing.” The Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias once commented on this story. Listen to what he said, “The loneliest moment in life is when you have just experienced that which you thought would deliver the ultimate & it has just let you down.”
Think about all of that as we read what Jesus says in these last few verses—READ John 7.37-39. The Feast of Booths was a weeklong feast reminding us our desperate need, and on the last day Jesus got up, and said these words. Jesus wants us to understand that He knows life is a long wilderness—our souls are in a dry and weary land. What Jesus is offering us is not just one refreshing drink, but rivers of living water. Can you imagine being in a scorching hot desert, and someone is NOT offering a Nalgene of water, or an oasis with a refreshing spring, or a small stream, but RIVERS of water? The language is plural to communicate the ABUNDANT overflow that is being offered here. Friends, Jesus is the ultimate and He will NEVER let you down. Jesus is inviting us all to continue to explore His goodness as He promises us rivers of refreshing waters for our dry and weary souls.