(Lake Erie at Sterling State Park)
In John chapter 7 Jesus is in the Temple in Jerusalem on the last and greatest day of the Feast of Tabernacles. This Jewish festival was a celebration of God’s leading the nation of Israel out of Egyptian bondage into freedom and the promised land.
Jewish pilgrims - thousands of them - converged on Jerusalem for this 8-day event. They set up “tents” (”tabernacles”) in the city and lived in them, much as their ancestors lived in tents during the 40 years of wilderness-wandering. They remembered how God provided food for their ancestors, and how, in a dry wilderness, God provided water, having Moses strike the rock at the base of Mount Horeb.
Every day of the Feast of Tabernacles the high priest would lead a procession from the Temple to the Pool of Siloam. He would fill a golden urn with the water of this pool (which were supposed to bring healing). He would lead the large procession back to the Temple. He would pour the water on the altar. And the people would thank God for the provision of water.
All this happened at the end of the harvest season, so thanks for water that grew the crops was given. There were also prayers asking God to send water in the coming year.
It was on the 8th and final day of the festival that Jesus stood up. He announced: “If any of you are thirsty for water, come to me. I will give you streams of living water which will flow out of you.” John tells us that by “living water” Jesus meant the Holy Spirit. And by the Holy Spirit N.T. Wright means: “God’s refreshing personal presence”; and Gordon Fee means: “God’s empowering presence.”
Yesterday in Monroe there was a water emergency. The intake pipe, located a mile off shore in Lake Erie, froze. Monroe residents were asked to not use water unnecessarily. As I drove down Telegraph Rd last night a number of restaurants were closed because of little water to use. And I thought of Jesus at the Feast of Tabernacles.
The human spirit needs watering. Every day. The soul can get dry. It can get dry in a such a way that no earthly thing or accomplishment can nourish it. But Jesus says that, come to him, and streams of living water will flow in your spirit. He gives us the Holy Spirit, the refreshing personal presence of God. It’s water for the soul. It’s fresh rain falling on the deserts of this life.
“On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit…” (John 7:37-39)