The Feast of Tabernacles plays an important role in John’s gospel. It was an important Jewish festival that brought to mind the provision of God while the children of Israel were wondering in the wilderness for forty years en route to the promised land. It occurred after the Day of Atonement and marked the end of the festival calendar . It was full of rich symbolism that Jesus comes to fulfill.
Jesus And The Day Of Atonement
During the festival water would be poured out in commemoration of Number 28:7 and Isaiah 12:3. As Andres Kostenberger explains, “The Feast of Tabernacles came to be associated with eschatological hopes .” On the last day of the festival Jesus tells the crowds that that he is the living water. This is seen in John 7:37 which states, “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”. By doing so Jesus was referring to the Holy Spirit which had not been given as of yet.
The Old Testament background regarding the words of Christ would have been clearly understood by those listening to Christ. By saying what he says our Lord is referencing Isaiah 58:11 and Isaiah 12:3. The later describes that joy will come from the waters of salvation. This, of course, is something only Christ can give. Isaiah 58:11 speaks of one being well waters which is a metaphor for someone being a blessing to those around them.
Jesus And Living Water
By fulfilling this symbolism and doing so at the Feast of Tabernacles Jesus is doing something very profound. He is telling those around him that he is the one who gives the Holy Spirit, and those who come to faith in him will be a blessing to others. If Isaiah could invite the thirsty to drink from the waters (Is. 55:1), Jesus announces that he is the one who can provide the waters.
Quotes For Reflection
Just like as water ever seeks and fills the lowest place, so the moment God finds you abased and empty, his glory and power flow in.” – Andrew Murray
God brings men into deep waters not to drown them, but to cleanse them.- James H. Aughey
When any one demanded admission into the Society of the Fathers of the Desert, they answered him by the following question: “Do you bring a vacant heart, that it may be filled by the Holy Ghost?” Justly did they require a soul detached from earthly goods; for a heart in which the world dwells cannot be replenished with the love of God. Whoever brings to the fountain a vessel replete with sand, will labor in vain to fill it with water unless it be first emptied of its contents.’-St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori
He is the Fountain of life, in whom dwelleth and from whom floweth the fullness of all grace. Prepare, then, the way for the waters of grace.-St. Bernard of Clairvaux
1. Andreas J. Kostenberger. Encountering John. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013), 91.
2. Ibid, 91.