In the Bible the idea of ‘the week’ really matters. God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh day satisfied with His work. This gives us the pattern and structure of what a week should be and look like. That’s why we see the command of the Sabbath rest as the fourth commandment. But with the dawn of Christ comes something new. All over the place Jesus presents His Work as the true meaning of the Sabbath and Himself as where our souls find true Sabbath rest. We see this as John’s gospel begins. In chapters 1-2 we see the very first week of Jesus’ earthly ministry. It begins in John 1:29 the moment John the Baptist cried out “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” and it ends at the famous wedding in Cana where Jesus turns water to wine. When all the guests present at the wedding felt the satisfaction of the best wine they’ve ever tasted, what they didn’t know is that Jesus (on the seventh day of this first week) gave a taste of what His kingdom looks like. And it looked like satisfaction.

We also see this as John’s gospel ends in the very last week of Jesus’ earthly ministry. This is the week containing Jesus’ triumphal entry in chapter 12, His Upper Room discourse in chapter 13-17, and His Passion from chapter 18-20. As we saw satisfaction at the end of Jesus’ first week we see satisfaction at the end of Jesus’ last week. Not in the richest of wine as before, but in the crucified, died, buried, but now risen Christ![1] These two weeks form bookends to John’s gospel. But there are many other important weeks present throughout John, and one of the most important is the Feast of Booths in John 7. John 7:1-13 showed Jesus begin this week privately, but our text today, v37-52 shows Jesus end this week publicly. Knowing how Jesus’ first and last week ended in John’s gospel – with the kingdom power of satisfying rest – it should not surprise us to see the same here as Jesus stands among the crowd on the last day of feast week to offer none other than ultimate satisfaction. Yet, we see more on this last day of feast week in v37-52. We not only see satisfaction, we see deep division that comes as a result of Christ’s offer of ultimate satisfaction.

So that’s where we’re headed this morning, let’s examine this passage and see it’s power for us today. 

Christ the Satisfier (v37-39)

The feast week has now concluded, all the ceremonies and rituals are at an end, and all those who came to Jerusalem will soon depart for home. But before they leave there is one more grand gathering. Notice v37? This last day of the feast is called ‘the great day’ where everything would be wrapped up and concluded. Into this context Jesus comes forward again. Not to merely answer objections from His foes, but to teach. It says in v37 He cried out, He exclaimed, shouted even. See here a passion in Christ to preach the truth here. This large crowd is leaving soon, back to their homes and villages around the nation. This moment may be the last chance Jesus has to speak to many of them. And being a particular dry time of year this group is likely thinking of their need of physical rainwater to live, and so Jesus’ words have a unique relevance to their true need.[2] He stood up and cries out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow streams of living water.’” He had once told the same thing to the Samaritan woman, and He had on a few occasions shared the same things with small companies and local crowds before. But never before in John’s gospel had Jesus so publicly declared that He is the source and great fountain of salvation.[3]

The great claim and great invitation is held out in v37, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.” Then the great promise comes in v38 that explains what coming to Christ looks like. “Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” So to come to Christ is to believe in Christ, and to believe in Christ brings the great fount of satisfaction into the soul that quenches the soul’s deepest desires. And adding glory onto glory here, v39 brings more clarification about what this means. This soul satisfaction found in the living water of Christ, has everything to do with the life of the Spirit in the heart of sinners. John’s add-on comment in v39 points this out. That this is how the Spirit will function in us, but for them this must wait until Jesus has been crucified, died, buried, risen, and ascended. Then and only then, will the Spirit come. And sure enough, after Jesus was glorified in His humiliation and exaltation Pentecost happened. And everything changed. Those who formerly ran away in fear of being killed along with Jesus were now boldly preaching the gospel and rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer with and for Christ.

But backup a bit and think of how these words would’ve hit the ears of this crowd. They had gathered together all week to celebrate the many ways in which God had provided for them in the wilderness wanderings. Remember some of the ways God did this? The cloud of glory by day and fiery pillar of glory by night? Manna from heaven? Quail meat? When these words of Christ about streams of living water hit the ears of the audience they would’ve recalled one way in particular God had provided for them. At a particularly low moment in their wilderness wanderings, when all the people were grumbling and ready to kill Moses, God commanded Moses to strike a rock, and do you remember what happened? Water gushed out for them to drink. And they drank and were satisfied. You see the parallel Jesus is speaking of? Jesus is saying He is the true fountain of life and reliever of all spiritual wants.[4] He is the Rock God will one day strike with the full force of His wrath. Though He was ever obedient and fully deserving of all the covenant blessings He received all the covenant curses for us. And from this wrathful blow against Him, a billow of living water will flow forth, at conversion, by the Spirit, into the souls of all who will believe. And as a river flows to bring life and refreshment to weary dry land, so too the Spirit flows in the believer to satisfy and refresh the weary and dry soul.[5]

Anyone thirsty? Anyone lived a life of going from well to well to well to well and found nothing but emptiness of hollow promises? O do I have good news for you today. In Christ crucified, risen, and reigning there is flowing forth a mighty rushing river. A river which Psalm 1 mentions, that gives drink to all those who meditate day and night on the Law of the Lord, making them evergreen in every season. A river which Psalm 46 mentions, that makes glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. A river which Revelation 22 calls the river of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb. This water is none other than the living water Christ is extending to them here and extending to you today.

Church, I know you’re thirsty, the question is: will you, as Psalm 36:8 says, drink of the river of God’s delight?

Christ the Divider (v40-52)

Sometimes when the clarity of the pleasure and satisfaction that can be had in the gospel is preached there is not only satisfaction that results. Sometimes the result is division. And this shouldn’t surprise us, for Jesus Himself had said in Matthew 10:34-35, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother…” We see this in the rest of our passage in two ways. First, in v40-44 there is division among the people. Second, in v45-52 there is division among the Pharisees.

Among the people in v40-44 see the opinions present. Some said “He is a Prophet!” Maybe these people heard Jesus make the offer of living water and think He is the greater Prophet like Moses as Deut. 18:15 calls for. Others said “He is the Christ!” This group seems to be on the right track, after all this is the truth! But the way it’s stated in v41 seems to give the notion that it was just an opinion for conversation and not a cherished belief.[6] Whatever depth of belief that group had when they said ‘He is the Christ’ their statement instantly got shut down by others in the crowd who said “He can’t be the Christ, remember he comes from Galilee, the Christ will come from Bethlehem where David was.” For another time in chapter 7 we see variety of reactions from those who hear the preaching of Christ. We find the same thing at work today. Anytime the gospel is preached, we find reaction to it for better or for worse. The one thing that never happens when the gospel is preached is nothing. In this crowd at the feast some believed in Him others wanted to arrest Him. But, despite the varied reactions to Him, we read in v44 that no one could lay hands on Him. Why couldn’t they? Because as 7:8 says before, His time “has not yet fully come.”

Division wasn’t limited only to the crowd, but existed among the Pharisee’s too, we see this next in v45-52. In v45 we learn an interesting detail, that the Pharisee’s didn’t even think Jesus worthy of coming out of their ivory tower but stayed deceptively behind the scenes and sent city officers to go arrest Jesus.[7] These officers were sent out in v32 to nab Him but here in v45 we see them come back empty handed. Understandably the Pharisee’s were furious and asked “Why did you not bring him?” Their answer in v46 is one of the most famous statements about Jesus in all of Scripture. They didn’t blame the crowds for being hostile or too riotous, that was not the reason they didn’t arrest Him. It had everything to do with Jesus Himself. They said, “No one ever spoke like this man.” These officers recognized that when it came to the quality of Christ, they found Him pure and wise. When it came to the characteristics of Christ, they found Him serious and earnest. When it came to the matter of His message, they found it unmatched and incomparable. They were sent to arrest Jesus, but Jesus’ powerful preaching arrested them! They were sent to take Jesus captive, but Jesus’ offer of ultimate satisfaction captivated them![8]

The Pharisee’s response to these officers not arresting Jesus is appalling. “Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in Him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.” They haven’t believed been captivated with Jesus and His teaching, and since they’re the ones who clearly define what is religiously appropriate they can’t believe anyone else has as well. More so, because this crowd has been so captivated by Christ they condemn the very crowds of people they’ve just spent the whole week ministering to and conclude that they know nothing of the Law. Can you get a sense of the religious elitism and arrogance in view here? We see this and get disgusted and think, ‘Ugh, I know some Christians like this. Who think they’re the crem de la crem of Christianity and that whoever doesn’t believe like they do are worthless.’ This is sadly too often true in the Church and we should repent of such sinful pride. But don’t be deceived, we may recognize how disgusting these Pharisee’s are being, but we don’t often recognize that this is what most of the unbelieving world thinks of us! Snobby religious elites who’ve got everything figured out and who are content to watch the rest of the world go to hell.

Yet remember the example of the apostle Paul. When the truth came and transformed him he didn’t conclude himself to be superior to everyone else, he considered himself to a servant to everyone else. May such an attitude be present among us and be true of as a congregation.

Before we write off all the Pharisee’s as arrogant religious elites, there was one among them who stood out. In v50-51 it is none other than Nicodemus, the one who’d had the secret evening visit with Jesus back in John 3, who speaks up now in Christ’s defense. If he came out and boldly testified for Christ, as many do throughout John’s gospel, it would’ve surely further enraged his already raging colleagues. So he goes to the Law, “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” Notice his caution. They had condemned the crowd for not knowing the Law, they had boasted in their own mastery of the Law, but here Nicodemus points out their own disregard for that very Law. They were using the Law to condemn Jesus, but weren’t following the Law themselves.[9]

We know with certainty that Nicodemus had come to believe in Jesus by the end of John’s gospel when he is there taking Jesus down off the cross and preparing His body for burial. Though he and Jesus had a lengthy chat about being born again in chapter 3, we do not know if Nicodemus had been born again by this time here in chapter 7. But we can see him growing nearer to the kingdom in what he says. Nonetheless, the rage of the Pharisee’s continues on, even against him. v52, “Are you from Galilee too? (in other words – are you in league with this Jesus too?) Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.” Well, not technically. In their rage they seem to have forgotten their own Law as Nicodemus pointed out, and that the prophet Jonah was in fact a Galilean. Be warned…religious prideful rage can blind us from the deepest of beauties.

Conclusion:

Satisfaction and division. These two things, which we tend to separate and believe they have little to do with one another, have clearly been set before us. If we could sum up this passage into one statement and one question it would be this. Jesus offers ultimate satisfaction to those who come to Him; this satisfaction is gained by believing in Him, and experienced in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. But this offer of satisfaction is on His terms, and will at some time or another produce deep division between you and those around you. That’s the statement.

Now the question: are you still willing to drink?

 

 

 

Citations:

[1] Richard Phillips, Reformed Expository Commentary: John 1-10, page 479-480.

[2] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, NICNT, page 421.

[3] Charles H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 31, page 674.

[4] J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: John, vol. 2, page 45.

[5] Richard Phillips, page 485.

[6] Ibid., page 491.

[7] Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics, page 327.

[8] Richard Phillips, page 493.

[9] R.C. Sproul, John: St. Andrews Expositional Commentary, page 146.

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