A THIRST-QUENCHING INVITATION — John 7:37-39

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INTRODUCTION:

Have you ever been thirsty?  We’ve all had that experience, haven’t we?  For some of us, it may occur on a daily basis, or even several times a day.  The feeling is not in your imagination.  God has given us a sense of physical thirst to let us know when our bodies need water because water is essential to human life.  Medical authorities tell us that an adult person needs about three quarts of water a day in order to operate efficiently.  Some of us need more than that amount because of strenuous work, hot climate, or other personal reasons.  Water breaks up and softens the food we eat.  Our blood, which is 90% water, carries the nutrients of that food to all the cells in our body.  Water regulates our body’s temperature through perspiration.  Without it’s lubricating qualities, our joints and muscles would creak like an old, rusty gate.  Crrrreeeek!!!  I don’t like the sound of that! It probably feels worse than it sounds!

In this passage of Scripture, John 7:37-39, the Lord Jesus is going to be making it known to the crowd that, just as water is necessary for physical life, in the same way He and His words provide what is necessary for spiritual life.

I.  THE INVITATION (verse 37)

It’s the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot or Booths), and verse 37 refers to it as the “great day of the feast.”  It was a very special and solemn day.  The priests would march around the altar chanting Psalm 118:25 which says, “O Lord, do save, we beseech Thee; O Lord, do send prosperity.”  This would be the last morning that the priests and the people would go in procession and draw water from the pool of Siloam and place it in a gold pitcher.  During the procession the people recited Isaiah 12:3, which says, “Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”  When they returned, the priest would pour out the water at the side of the altar in the temple.  This act symbolized the event in Exodus 17 where God caused the water to gush forth from the rock when Moses struck it with his staff, and the people’s thirst was satisfied.

This ceremony was not given to Moses in the Law of the feasts.  It was not commanded by God, but was added later by the religious leaders, and drew the people’s attention away from the real meaning of the feast.  The drawing of the water could not satisfy the spiritual thirst of these people.  Only God could satisfy their deepest needs.

Thousands of worshipers were inside the temple at that moment.  Can I be more specific?  Historians tell us there were over one-hundred thousand men there in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles.  Of those, how many men could fit into the temple that Herod built?  I’ve read that ten thousand people could be in the temple at one time with a comfortable distance between one another, and the temple could easily hold twice that many people for a service such as this.  That’s a lot of people, with thousands more outside watching the procession and listening to the ceremony!

It may have been right after this ceremony was over that Jesus shouts, as loudly as He can, to everyone within ear-shot of His words.  He begins by shouting an invitation:  “If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.”  That action on His part must have startled many people, especially the ones closest to Him.  Many must have considered those words, spoken in that manner, to be a rude interruption.  But Jesus secured their attention and thousands of people in that temple who were within “shouting distance” heard the words He uttered.

IS LOUDNESS AN ATTENTION–GETTER?

Did I get your attention?  That’s about as close as I can get to being LOUD on this sheet of paper without taking up too much space.  Loudness of voice is a way of gaining attention, isn’t it?  But now you have to keep the attention of your audience once you’ve gained it.  Jesus does so by relating His words closely to the ceremony that has just been enacted before their eyes, and to the words that were said by the priests and by the people. He said, “If any man is thirsty”.  The Greek word, dipsos, expresses a passionate longing for something without which one cannot live.  In the hot, arid region of Palestine, the people knew the full meaning of physical thirst  Jesus is speaking here of a spiritual thirst, not a physical thirst for water; and His invitation is offered to all who sense their need for salvation.  He’s reminding them of the Father’s promise in Isaiah 55:1, “Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters.” There is also the prayer of King David:  “O God, you are my God; my soul thirsts for you, my body yearns for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1).  Jesus is holding their attention by bringing familiar Scriptures to their minds, and applying those Scriptures to Himself.

If you look at the two Scripture passages I mentioned earlier [Psalm 118:25 and Isaiah 12:3], you will observe that they both speak about spiritual salvation, yet the priests and the people have been applying those Scriptures to the provision of physical water.  The Lord Jesus extends the invitation when He says, “let him come to me and drink.”  He’s inviting each one of them to personally come to Him, their Messiah, and He will satisfy the spiritual needs of their thirsty souls.  He is the only One who can satisfy that thirst, and His supply is never-ending.  Why would anyone want to refuse such an invitation?  Can you think of some reasons?  Maybe you’ve used some of them yourself in the past.

Those words of Jesus were also a partial-fulfillment, or reminder of the words of the prophet Haggai, spoken over 500 years earlier (Haggai 2:1-7).  On the very same day  [the twenty-first day of the seventh month, which is the seventh day of the feast of Tabernacles], God spoke these words of encouragement to the remnant of His people as they began the work of rebuilding the temple:

“. . . ‘And I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations
         and I will fill this house with glory’, says the Lord of Hosts.”  (Haggai 2:7)             

God is referring to a different temple that will be built on the very same spot where Solomon built the temple in I Kings 6.  The author of Hebrews records those same words spoken by Haggai, and applies them to Jesus Christ when He returns to reign as King (Hebrews 12:26-29).  The Jews listening to Jesus, here in verse 37, were looking forward to the fulfillment of that prophesy, and Jesus is giving them a “sneak preview” of what’s to come.  The day is coming when He will be in that temple in all His glory, and will be surrounded by people from all nations of the world who have come, not just to listen to Him, but to worship Him.

II.  THE PARTICIPATION (verse 38)

In verse 38, Jesus’ description gets even better and more amazing.  He says, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture says, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”  Jesus is describing to them the salvation experience:  “thirst” . . . “come to Me” . . . “believe” . . . and an “overflowing heart”.  What does He mean when He says, “come to Me” in verse 37?  It’s an act of the will, isn’t it?  It’s a recognition of one’s need and helplessness.  It’s an expression of trust.  It’s a change of direction.  The word “drink”, in verse 37, becomes the word “believe” here in verse 38.  We are coming in obedience to His calling, acknowledging our total dependence on Him, and yielding to His control over our lives.  It is a gift given from the only true source of supply.

As a result of that coming to Him by faith, Jesus says that “out of his mouth will flow rivers of living water.”  When the Spirit of God enters our lives, He changes our hearts.  That “living water” is described as a river of water being fed by an overflowing spring of clear, clean, cool, refreshing water.”  God saves us and fills us with His Spirit so that our lives might overflow as a witness to others of the saving power of Jesus Christ.

Henry G. Bosch shared a true story of an amputee soul-winner in Melbourne, Australia who has had a remarkable ministry.  A pastor who visited this woman writes,  “When this girl was 18, she was seized with a dreadful affliction and the doctor said that, to save her life, he must take off her foot.  Next the other foot was removed.  The disease continued to spread, and her legs had to be amputated at the hips.  Then the malady broke out in her hands.  And by the time I saw Miss Higgins, all that remained of her was the trunk of her body.  For 15 years now she has been in that condition.  I went to offer comfort, but I did not know how to speak to her or what to say.  I found the walls of her room covered with texts, all of them radiating joy, and peace, and power.  She explained that one day, while lying in bed, she inquired of the Lord what a total amputee could possibly do for Him.  Then an inspiration came to her.  Calling a friend of hers, who was a carpenter, she had him construct a device to fit her shoulder, and attach to it an extension holding a fountain pen.  Then she began to write letters witnessing to the grace of God.  She had to do it entirely with body movement, yet her penmanship was beautiful.  She has now received over 15 hundred replies from individuals who have been brought to Christ through the letters she produced in that way.”

The preacher asked her, “How do you do it?” and she replied, “You know Jesus said of His own that out of them ‘shall flow rivers of living water.’  I believe in Him, and He has helped me to overflow to others.”

Imagine in your mind a river that is flowing from a huge fountain of spring water.  What thoughts come to your mind when you think of such a river, or when you watch a river flowing?  In 1927, Jerome Kern wrote the music to a song, and Oscar Hammerstein II wrote the lyrics.  It became one of the songs for the musical, “Showboat”.  The song is “Ol’ Man River”, and here are a few words from the chorus of that song:

 Ol’ man river
Dat ol’ man river
He mus’ know somepin’
But don’t say nuthin’,
He jes keeps rollin’
He keeps on rollin’ along.

As he describes the Mississippi River, he’s pointing out that it is constant.  It’s been around a long time and it has never stopped flowing.  The Lord Jesus is telling the people that those who believe in Him will become like “rivers of living water” spiritually, overflowing with the knowledge and the joy of their salvation, and spilling that crystal-clear, life-giving water onto others through their witness and testimonies.  The gospel will be a constant and abundant supply of blessing for them and for the world around them.

III.  THE EXPLANATION (verse 39)

In verse 39, the apostle John tells us how this amazing transformation is going to come about.  He uses the following words to tell us who is going to orchestrate this event:  “But this He spoke of the Spirit”.  It was the Holy Spirit of God who was going to empower and transform lives.  He would be the source of the “rivers of living water”.  The Holy Spirit is the One “whom those who believed in Him would receive.”  He’s explaining this to his readers because this concept was beyond the understanding of the disciples at that point in time.  Jesus’ disciples knew that the Spirit of God has been active in creation, speaking through the prophets, empowering His people, and coming upon certain individuals for a period of time.  But this was something new.  Each believer in Jesus Christ would receive the Holy Spirit when he believed.  The Lord Jesus will be saying this to them several times in the weeks ahead (Jn. 14:16-18; 14:26; 15:26; 16:7-15).  It’s not a concept that’s easy for them to grasp.  How is the Spirit of God going to accomplish this amazing feat in the lives of believers?  Evangelist D.L. Moody gave an illustration that may be helpful in answering that question.  Speaking to a large audience, Mr. Moody held up a glass and asked:  How can I get the air out of this glass?”  One man shouted, “Suck it out with a pump!”  Moody replied, “That would create a vacuum and break the glass.”  After numerous other suggestions Moody smiled, picked up a pitcher of water, and filled the glass.  “There”, he said, “all the air is now removed.”  He then went on to explain that victory in the Christian life is not accomplished by “sucking the sins out of our lives” but by being filled with the Holy Spirit.

I’m sure His disciples were wondering when this transformation was going to occur, or whether it happened already.  Therefore John ends the verse by saying, “for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”  (MORE TO FOLLOW SOON)

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  (A Work-In-Progress)

Welcome to another work-in-progress — John 7:37-39.  I’m nearing the end of this construction project and the best is yet to come.  Hope you’ll return and continue to study along with me.  May God give you strength,peace, joy, and purpose in life as you seek to imitate His Son by the power of the Holy Spirit.

GOTCHA! – John 7:19-24

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INTRODUCTION:

“Gotcha” is an American slang term that literally means, “I’ve got you”.  It has been used in a number of ways.  Many of us have used that word in a conversation, and we had a specific purpose and meaning in mind.  It can mean “I understand what you are saying”, or “I’ll do what you’ve asked”.  The word is sometimes used in the sense of capturing or apprehending someone, taking someone by surprise, embarrassing or disgracing someone, exposing a person’s mistakes, or proving that the person is wrong.  That’s quite a range of meanings and uses for the word, and that’s not all of them.  Why would I be using the word “gotcha” to describe an event in the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ?  Does that choice seem strange to you?  As we study this passage of Scripture, I’ll let you decide for yourself whether or not this title is appropriate.

TRANSITION:

As we begin our study of John 7:19-22, let’s imagine the scene at that moment in Jesus’ life.  It’s the week-long Feast of Booths [or Tabernacles].  Jesus arrived unnoticed, went into the temple and began to teach.  A crowd of people has formed around Jesus to listen to Him.  The Jewish religious authorities have arrived, have made their way to the front of the crowd, and are standing in front of Him, making accusations about Him; and Jesus is once again defending His authority.  Meanwhile, the crowd is standing there, watching and listening.

I.  THE ACCUSATION (verse 19a)

In verse 19, there is a change of direction.  Jesus takes the offensive position against them and assumes the control of the conversation.  “Turnabout is fair play”, as the saying goes.  It’s time for Him to examine their words and their actions, and offer His conclusions.  It’s time to bring them back to reality.  He begins His attack by saying, “Did not Moses give you the law”?  They are thinking in their minds, “Of course he did!”  They prided themselves on this, and believed that every violation of the law of Moses was deserving of death.  While they are gloating about their self-righteousness and their exalted position in the eyes of God, Jesus goes on to say yet not one of you carries out the law.” Those are stinging words to His questioners!  These leaders revere Moses and obey his every word – at least they try to give the impression that they do so!  Jesus is telling them, “You’re not carrying out the Law that God gave to Moses.  You’re carrying out your own version of it.  Those aren’t the Sabbath laws that God gave to Moses.  You’ve changed them and added to them to the point where they have become a despicable burden to the people.  It’s no surprise that you reject My teaching because you have rejected Moses’ teaching” (John 5:46-47).

At this point in Jesus’ discussion, it’s important to know the words that Moses wrote in Deuteronomy 31:10-13.  Here are those words:

Then Moses commanded them saying, “At the end of every seven years, at the
time of the year of the remission of debts, at the Feast of Booths, when all Israel
comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place which He will choose,
you shall read this law in front of all Israel in their hearing.  Assemble the people,
the men and the women and children and the alien who is in your town, in order that
they may hear and learn and fear the Lord your God, and be careful to observe
all the words of this law.” 
[bold print added to emphasize key words]

We aren’t told whether or not this is the seventh year but, if not, Jesus may be alluding to that command to remind the Jewish leaders that, when the people hear the words of the Law being spoken, they will notice many of the differences between the Law of Moses and the teachings they have received from these rabbis.

II.  THE QUESTION (verse 19b)

As further proof of their disobedience to the law of Moses, Jesus asks them a question:  “Why do you seek to kill Me?”  He is saying, “Where does Moses say specifically that I should be killed for healing a person on the Sabbath day over a year ago?  What offenses deserve the death penalty in the law of Moses?  If My healing-miracle is not one of those offenses, then one of the commandments in the law of Moses says, ‘You shall not kill’.  So you’re the ones who are breaking the law of Moses by seeking to kill Me.”

III.  THE CROWD’S RESPONSE (verse 20)

I can imagine that the leaders of the Jews were standing there dumbfounded.  Jesus’ reasoning was too solid.  They weren’t prepared for this, and didn’t know what to say.  The crowd, most of whom were from outlying areas and weren’t familiar with Jesus or with the things He was saying, come to the defense of their leaders.  In verse 20 we read, The multitude answered, “You have a demon!  Who seeks to kill You?”  They weren’t telling Jesus that He was demon possessed.  During that period of time, many Jews believed that all unusual or uncalled for behavior was prompted by the devil.  In this day and age, we might use the words “you’re out of your mind”, “you’re crazy”, or “you’re paranoid”.  They misunderstood Jesus’ words because they didn’t know the history behind them.

IV.  THE QUESTION ANSWERED (verse 21)

I’m sure the leaders were relieved that the crowd directed the attention of Jesus away from them, but it didn’t last for long.  Rather than become distracted by the crowd and direct His conversation toward them in defense of His sanity, Jesus ignores their remark and continues His conversation with the leaders of the Jews, answering His own question.  In verse 21, He says,  “I did one deed and you all marvel.”  The religious authorities were amazed when they learned that Jesus healed, in an instant, a man who had been lame for 38 years, just by saying the words.  It was a miracle that only God could perform.  Yet they wanted to kill Jesus because He performed that miracle on the Sabbath Day.

V.  THE APPLICATION TO CIRCUMCISION (verses 22-23)

In verse 22, we find that the Lord Jesus isn’t finished with His argument.  He is still building His case against them.  This time He applies their Sabbath laws to the rite of circumcision when He says, “On this account Moses has given you circumcision (not because it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and on the Sabbath you circumcise a man.”  First, He corrects their misunderstanding about circumcision.  Moses was not the originator of circumcision.  Before God told Moses to put the command of circumcision into written form in Leviticus 12:3, it had been practiced by “the fathers” (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) over 700 years earlier.  In Genesis 17:10-12, God said to Abraham,“This is the covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you; every male among you shall be circumcised. . . . every male among you who is eight days old.”  Therefore, in obedience to that law, every man-child (male baby) is circumcised on the eighth day, no “if’s”, “and’s”, or “but’s” about it.  There are no exceptions to the rule.  It’s the law, and this ceremonial law even takes precedence over the Sabbath laws.  That was the teaching of the Jewish religious authorities of that day.  However, there were exceptions to that rule.  In the Talmud (the collection of the teachings of the rabbis), it states that, should the baby suffer from an illness, the circumcision is postponed seven days for the sake of the well-being of the infant.  Therefore, the baby’s health is more important than this rite of purification, and this is one of several exceptions in the Talmud.

With that information in mind, Jesus presents His next argument in verse 23, saying, “If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath that the Law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made an entire man well on the Sabbath.”  Jesus is saying, “You make exceptions to circumcision on the Sabbath because the health of the child is more important than the strict observance of the Law, so why are you upset because I healed this man completely on the Sabbath?”  He’s telling them that they are contradicting themselves because they say one thing but do another.

There is another argument that isn’t spoken by Jesus, but it’s implied, and all the rabbi’s standing around Him know what that argument is.  As they add this final argument to the ones already stated by Jesus, they realize that they have lost their case and there is nothing to refute.  Are you wondering what that final argument is?  It has to do with one of the teachings of their most famous rabbi, Hillel the Great.  Hillel’s first great law of interpretation was, “The Major may be inferred from the Minor”.  What does that mean?  In this case, circumcision, which was considered to be the ceremonial law of the purification of newborn males) overrides the Sabbath, and health overrides circumcision.  So the Sabbath and circumcision are ‘Minor’ when compared with health.  Thus Jesus’ case against them might be put into these words:  “I did what’s considered ‘Major’ according to your laws and the teachings of your most famous rabbi, when I healed that man completely on the Sabbath, so why are you majoring in the ‘Minors’?”

What excellent arguments!  Case dismissed!  As I review Jesus’ arguments, a word comes back to mind.  The word is GOTCHA!  Does that word seem appropriate to you also?

VI.  THE LESSON TO BE LEARNED (verse 24)

While those teachers of the Law are standing there, looking at Jesus in wide-eyed amazement, experiencing the shame and agony of defeat, the Lord Jesus uses that moment to teach them a lesson in verse 24.  Here are Jesus’ words of instruction to these rulers of the Jews.  He says to them, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”  He’s telling them to repent of the way they have mistreated Him and do what’s right in the sight of God.  How easy and how tempting it is to make judgments about the actions and motives of others before all the facts are known, or in spite of the facts that are known.

A newspaper correspondent attended an auction where he saw, among other items, a pair of excellent crutches.  A poor, crippled boy was the first to bid on them.  A well-dressed elderly man was also interested in them and kept offering more money for them.  Some of the people frowned in disapproval, and one lady said, “Shame on you; let the boy have them!”  Whenever the boy called out a higher price, the man would always top it.  At last, the boy held up a five-dollar bill, all that he had, and made a final bid.  When more was offered, the young fellow turned away in tears.  The crowd muttered angrily.  Then, to everyone’s surprise, the gentleman presented the crutches to the boy, saying, “These are much too small for me, so I won’t have any use for them.  When I saw that you were crippled, my heart went out to you.  So I decided to buy the crutches and give them to you.”  The crowd began to applaud for they realized they had completely misjudged the man and the situation.  They looked at outward appearances only, and came to their own conclusions, when they should have given the situation time to allow the true motives to be revealed.  That same principle is reflected in our attitude toward God’s Word, the Bible.  Are we committed to what God’s Word actually says, or to what we want it to say?

One of the things that can cause us to make wrong judgments is peer pressure.  Em Griffin in his book, “The Mindchangers”, describes an experiment done by Solomon Asch with groups of 12 people.  They were brought into a room where four lines of unequal length were displayed.  They had to decide which two were the same length and publicly vote for their choice.  Person after person after person (11 in all) voted for the wrong line – because they had been told to do so ahead of time.  The one individual who was in the dark couldn’t imagine how in the world all these seemingly normal people could all choose the wrong line.  When it was his turn to vote, he had to decide, “Do I go with what I know my senses are telling me, or do I go with the crowd?”  One-third of those tested caved in to group pressure and changed their vote to agree with their peers.  Are you feeling the pull of peer pressure in your life?  Don’t let peer pressure keep you from repenting of your sin and following Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.  He will give you a new life, a changed life manifested by a love for Him and desire to obey Him and depend upon Him for strength, guidance, and victory.

Fellow-believers, a decision needs to be made in our hearts to do what is right in God’s sight even when everyone around us, where we live or work or go to school, wants to go the wrong way.  Ask God for the desire and the strength to make the right choice and do the right thing, even if it means standing alone.  In actuality, we won’t be alone.  The Lord will be with us, and there are many Christians over the past 20 centuries who have chosen to live righteously.  Some of their testimonies are written down for us in the Scriptures and in the history books.  I’ll close by giving you one of those examples.  In the third century, Athanasius, the bishop of Alexandria, strongly opposed the teachings of Arius, who declared that Christ was not the eternal Son of God, but a subordinate being.  After being exiled five times for his beliefs, he was summoned before emperor Theodosius who demanded that he cease his opposition to Arius.  The emperor reproved him and asked, “Do you not realize that all the world is against you?”  Athanasius quickly answered, “Then I am against all the world.”

May we have that kind of tenacity in our obedience to the truths of God’s Word.

CONSTRUCTION SITE:  COMPLETED

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