We are continuing our conversation through the book of John, and it is so much more than a grouping of Jesus stories. Today we are moving into a new section, the third so far.
John starts off with these truths, just in chapter one: God is and always has been. Jesus is and always has been. Jesus is God and is distinct in God. Jesus is the Messiah and there is life / light in relationship with Him. Jesus is God here with us. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes aways the sins of the world. The covenant relationship with God is for you in your best and worst.
Then John starts to paint the picture of Jesus as the Messiah and the life that is in Him by the use of narrative. First, Jesus turns water into wine. Water is life; wine is abundance. Jesus is turning life into abundance. Then Jesus clears the temple, disrupting what is not working.
John continues by telling us how Jesus connected with people that got it and didn't get it. Nicodemus should have gotten it, but didn’t. The Samaritans should have never gotten it, but did. The Royal Official just needed help and got it. The crowd that wanted to see a sign so they could have some proof didn’t get to see one. The crippled man who wanted life from the water was healed by Jesus, who was the water, and the man still didn’t even know who He was. The religious authorities were left wanting to kill Him and not seeing the miracle.
Then John builds perspectives pointing back to the Exodus. He shows us that Jesus is the provider of Bread and that Jesus is over life / the water. With a final declaration that Jesus is the Bread of Life and that we should be sustained, fulfilled and content in Him, John moves to a new section in the text.
John is still walking us towards this objective:
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)
How can you tell that you have a relationship with someone?
There are infinite numbers of types of relationships. Think about how relationships change over time, how they deepen, how they get strong, how they can fizzle out. What are the differences between these?
And they are all relationships: family, friends, acquaintances, romantic relationships, work relationships, neighbors, and more.
And in that infinite number of relationships, there are all sorts of variables: Are they deep? Shallow? Codependent? Discipling? Honest? A facade? Caring? Sacrificing? Mutual or one-sided? Feel the massive layers of complexity in the question we just asked: How can you tell that you have a relationship with someone?
Relationships are complex, difficult, challenging… maybe even rare. There is a tendency to try and take shortcuts to deeper relationships.
If you do a Google search on how to build meaningful relationships, what stands out from the results of that search?
There are good tips out there, and valuable processes and tools. But a problem still remains: motivation. All the tips, tricks, ideas, thoughts, systems, questions, conversations, and processes are nothing without motivation.
We need to process this as we continue our conversation into John.
John is walking us towards relationship with Jesus. And even with all He has for us, it is nothing without… sigh… motivation.
What motivates someone to know someone better?
What motivates someone to pursue deeper relationships?
Here’s something to think about as we jump into today’s text: how can you tell that you have a relationship with God? Think about your answers to the question about how you can tell you have a relationship with someone. We’ll loop back around to this toward the end of today, and remember, following Jesus and knowing God isn’t about getting the right answers.
Jesus is speaking to the people who had followed Him from the other side of the lake after He had fed them. Jesus says that He is the bread of life (John 6:35) that completely satisfies. Jesus boldly declares that He is the living bread that came down from heaven, and that by eating this bread, which is His flesh, and drinking His blood, they will live forever. At this hard teaching, the Jews argue and grumble, and many of Jesus’ own disciples turn away and no longer follow him. Jesus asks the twelve if they too are going to turn away. Simon Peter steps forward and says, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.” Others said, “He is the Messiah.” Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him. (John 7:40-44)
At the end of our passage today, there is this argument and confusion within the group of people following Jesus. Some seem to get it; others are enraged at the claims He and others are making about Him.
Over and over again we see the religious authorities in the Gospel attempting to arrest and punish Jesus. It’s almost as if they believe they have everything figured out and if Jesus doesnt fit into their preconceived notion of what the Messiah is supposed to be or who Jesus was, then it had to be bad.
I wonder if that is the danger of believing yourself to be an expert on anything. If you have it figured out, and someone or something goes against what you believe to be true, then you almost have no choice but to denounce or fight against it.
It’s easy to say we’re open-minded but can be a lot harder in practice.
The Pharisees, as we’ve talked about many times, probably had some really good intentions. But they probably trusted in what they knew, what they were used to, what was historical. They put all their eggs in the basket of what they thought they knew, and it probably stopped them from learning good new things, and as we see from the text, it kept them from being able to see Jesus clearly for who He was right in front of them.
How can “what you think you know” stop you from learning something new?
it’s amazing that Jesus shows up at each point of Jewish holy days/celebration/culture/history and does something new. That all of these historical institutions have always been pointing to Him.
There are four Jewish feasts/celebrations here in John during which Jesus does something crazy. The Israelites would have had a concrete understanding of these days. They knew what they were and what their purposes were from a young age. I love the story of God using the normal and mundane to give a glimpse of spiritual truth. Today’s text centers on the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles.
Here's a precursor to this conversation:
Jesus said, “I am with you for only a short time, and then I am going to the one who sent me. You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.” (John 7:33-34)
The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? What did he mean when he said, ‘You will look for me, but you will not find me,’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?” 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. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 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. On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.” Others said, “He is the Messiah.” Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him. (John 7:35-44)
This is a moment where Jesus presents Himself to people again as the living water and they just start arguing about it.
Jesus is asking clearly, “Do you know me?” to the Israelites. How would we answer this question?
Knowledge is not the goal. Connection with God over time is the goal, and learning and gaining knowledge can be a good tool to connect with God more over time.
Jesus spoke this during the Feast of Tabernacles, which was a celebration of how God provided water for the Israelites in the desert after they left Egypt. They celebrated for 7 days, using a golden pitcher filled with water poured out at the altar to represent this, and then on the 8th day, they just prayed for water instead of pouring it out, to signify they had come into the Promised Land.
It was on the 8th day that Jesus spoke this, when people were in the prayer phase. Tabernacles didn’t just end as a festival unto itself; it was seen as the culmination of all the festivals of the year. And here Jesus is, at the culmination of festivals, after the water has already been poured out, to say “if ANYONE is thirsty, come drink from Me; I’m the living water.”
What roadblocks did people run into when they heard Jesus say this at the festival?
What roadblocks do we run into when we read this?
The thing about roadblocks is they can often cause us to think we have to find another way. They can cause us to take things into our own hands and try and work things out in our own strength or power.
Again, the Pharisees are not evil people for doing things the way they did. They had hundreds of years of tradition and history and “the way things were” to try and protect. And along comes Jesus, this guy who seems like a total outsider, making some pretty big claims that not only is He an insider but He is also the Messiah, the Son of God.
So the Pharisees tried to do things their own way. Tried to figure things out themselves. Tried to use their own cisterns, their own ways of thinking and the things that seemed right to them. The things that maybe were comfortable or made sense. The things that didn’t require going around the roadblocks they were facing.
But we see this play out all throughout Bible history, that when the people of Israel face hardship or roadblocks, they turn to God at points, but they tend to try and go their own way and figure it out on their own. It kind of reminds me of when my kids wander when we’re in the woods, and it’s fun, but sometimes they get stuck, or they walk into spider webs, or they fall down.
“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” (Jeremiah 2:13)
But getting through belief roadblocks requires trust--trust that God is actually who He says He is and that He can give us what He says He can. Drinking from Jesus, having “rivers of living water flow from within us,” requires that we stop trying to drink from these other sources, whatever they may be.
What does it mean to “drink of Jesus” and have “rivers of living water flow from within you”?
What do we tend to drink from that isn’t Jesus and doesn’t give us rivers of living water?
It’s amazing how John keeps these pictures running through all of his writing. Pictures of light and dark. Pictures of water. He references Jesus here talking about the “living water flowing from within them,” and the readers would have made some clear connections to some Old Testament writings.
On that day there will be neither sunlight nor cold, frosty darkness. It will be a unique day—a day known only to the Lord—with no distinction between day and night. When evening comes, there will be light. On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half of it east to the Dead Sea and half of it west to the Mediterranean Sea, in summer and in winter. The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name. (Zecheriah 14:6-9)
Another connected text is Ezekiel 47:1-12.
Water was this representation of life and God’s spirit, and God’s spirit was secluded from people in the temple.
But then Jesus comes along and says--no, yells--out to anyone who would hear, on one of the most important days in Jewish culture, if not THE most important day, “IF ANYONE, ANYONE AT ALL IS THIRSTY, LET THEM COME TO ME A DRINK DEEPLY OF THE WATER I GIVE, THE WATER THAT WILL CAUSE WATER TO SPRING UP FROM WITHIN THEM.”
Come drink from Me. I will give you My spirit and you will have the author of life, the source of all life, living in you.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26)
Jesus’ invitation to us today is to come and drink. To stop merely trusting in all the ways that seem right to us and to step into the lifelong journey of growing in a trusting relationship with him.
What does it look like to live out a life full of “rivers of living water?”
Take it Deeper Questions
Read John 7:35-43
How is a follower of Christ identified?
How would someone know if you were a follower of Jesus?
How does a person recognize Jesus?
Do you know God? How do you know you do or don't?
How do you get to know God better?
Bible Reading Plan