Have a listen below or read through the sermon manuscript. Take yourself back to the Feast of Tabernacles and respond to who Jesus is claiming to be.
This evening is going to be more oriented towards teaching than preaching…
- Going to be a thick sermon – just like me – nice and thick!
- As we go through it, I wont be telling any stories or any applications… but be thinking about your thirsts in life, your need for guidance, your need for the presence of God.
My hope is that as we see who Jesus claimed to be, his life and teaching will explode upon us…
- John wants us to know that there is no one like Jesus…
- He wrote his account from the city of Ephesus – which was a cosmopolitan and pluralistic society, not unlike our own.
- He knows faith is not a given…
- So he presents Jesus in all of his glory, full of grace and truth
So we are told in John chapter 7 that the time of the feast of Tabernacles is near…
- The point of these feasts was for the people of God to remember and renew
- The people would live in tents all around Jerusalem, just like the people of God had lived in tents after the Exodus from Egypt when God saved them. And how God tabernacle with them… that is, how God had dwelt amongst them…
There were 3 feasts that the people of God had to attend: Passover, Weeks and Tabernacles
- Tabernacles was the most joyous of the 3
- It lasted for 7 days and Jerusalem overflowed
- You didn’t want to miss this feast – it was a tremendous festival
- Due to the overflow, the people would stay in tents all around Jerusalem
- This served to remind them of how when in their history they had wandered in the dessert, God had lived amongst them in a tent
So there were 3 main parts to the Feast of Tabernacles
- A water ceremony
- A light ceremony
- A presence ceremony where they celebrated the presence of their Holy God
In these ceremonies they would recall wandering in the dessert
- The people had no water and began to grumble against God
- We are told Moses struck a rock and water flowed in abundance
- So the rock and the water had become a sign of provision…. A time when God was very real and present to them…
So all through the Old Testament we find texts that celebrate this.
They would read things like Psalm 78:15-16; He split the rocks in the desert and gave them water as abundant as the seas; he brought streams out of a rocky crag and made water flow down like rivers.
- But more so than just being a sign of provision it became a symbol of a new promise
- Just as the water God had provided water to quench dry bodies, He would send water to quench dry souls
Isaiah 44:3 For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.
Zechariah 13:1, 14:8 “On the Big Day, a fountain will be opened for the family of David and all the leaders of Jerusalem for washing away their sins, for scrubbing their stained and soiled lives clean… On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem!
Isaiah 12:2-3 Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.” With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.
In the water ceremony during the feast of tabernacles the people of God would bring…
- A palm branch in one hand and a bunch of fruit in the other
- They would recite the Psalms shouting God’s praise and shake the palm branches
- Send water on us God, send us rain! Set us free, save us oh God!
A priest would fill a jug and take it into the alter. He would then pour the water on the alter and cry out Isaiah 12:3… “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”
Do you get a sense of what is going on, what it was like to be at Tabernacles in the water ceremony?
We are told in John 7:37 (SLOW)
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.”
- Jesus is saying, I have good news for you, your prayers have been answered. “I am the answer, come to me and your thirst will be satisfied…”
- Of course the people are confused… they ask is this the Prophet promised by Moses?
- Some want to make him king, others want to arrest him
He is claiming here that he is the well. That the promises of God and the hopes of the people are fulfilled in him! He is the dispenser of water that will quench your thirsty soul
John 7:38 “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”
He is saying that if we open our lives to him, he will baptise us!
- He will give us living streams of water to quench our existential thirsts and longings
- This will happen after he has been glorified on the cross
- As Jesus is poured out for us, He will pour out his spirit on us!
- On the cross we will see when he is speared blood and water flow from him
- Sin has been dealt with, the waters of his Spirit can now flow
Are you with me?
The second aspect of Tabernacles was the illumination of the temple – the light ceremony
- It happened in the court of women (they weren’t allowed in the temple)
- Of course we now know that in Christ everyone is equal and has access
There would be four big bowls of water during tabernacles
- At sunset, huge wicks were lit and all of Jerusalem reflected in the light of the feasts…
- This would happen each of the 7 nights of the festival (can you imagine the warm glow?)
- Its purpose was to help them recall how God had guided them through the desert.
- As they headed to the promised land it was easy to get lost – so they need guidance
So God guided the people with his presence in a cloud by day and in a cloud of fire by night…
- If they did not follow the cloud by day and fire by night they would be left in darkness and alone
- So they would remember this… and read the Psalms
Psalm 78:13-14 says; He divided the sea and led them through; he made the water stand firm like a wall. He guided them with the cloud by day and with light from the fire all night.
And they would light the wicks… (flame sound)
- But this aspect of the feast of Tabernacles also pointed to a fundamental aspect of God’s character…
- God is light!
Psalm 27:1 says; The LORD is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?
My favourite – Isaiah 60:1-3
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”
And most importantly Isaiah 60:19; The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.
On the final day of the feast Jesus is teaching in the temple courts
- The people are reciting these verses
- Jerusalem is glowing from the light of the fires in the temple court
Jesus stands up and proclaims… “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
What timing… he is claiming cosmic significance…
- Follow me and you will no longer get lost, Follow me and you will no longer walk in darkness
- If you are aimless, fearful, lonely, if you have been taken over by paralysis… if you keep tripping up
- Jesus says I am the light of the world… I give you the light of life…
Are you with me?
OK, one ceremony to go… are you ready?
We have seen Jesus claim that “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.”
- He has said he is “I am the light of the world.”
- This has caused quite a stir… you get why right? He is claiming to be what God has been to the people…
- So all through chapters 7-8 there is so much confusion over who Jesus is claiming to be… and debate rages
But now he is going to claim something and they are going to want to kill him right on the spot!
So these ceremonies all relate to how God had acted in their history – particularly in rescuing them from slavery in Egypt…
- As God freed them he led them through the dessert, and as he did he chose to dwell among them
- Hence the feast of tabernacles
- They are celebrating how God tabernacled amongst them, how God’s presence dwelt amongst them…
Exodus 25:8 – God says to them
- “Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.”
- This would be the place where God would encounter his people… his meeting place
Exodus 29:45-46 says; Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. They will know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God.
So there was an amazing sense of God’s presence around this tabernacle, this tent of meeting… the priests would go in and be overwhelmed with God’s presence…
- What they celebrated at the feast of tabernacles is God manifesting his glory
At the heart of this festival is the fundamental creeds of Israel…
Exodus 3:13-14 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?‘ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ”
So this is constantly how God refers to himself and is what the people of God call him…
Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
Isaiah 43:10-11 says; “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior.
So this is how they know God… I am he, I am he… I am he
And so these creeds would reverberate around the temple and Jerusalem
- The priests would sing out the name of God
- “I am he, I am he, I am he”
- In the Hebrew this was Arnie Hu… I am he…
- In the Greek this had been translated to ego A, me
- So they would sing the name of their God – Ego – A, me… I am he…
- Calling on the name of their God who had dwelt amongst them
Of course in John 8:12 Jesus has said I am the light of the world
- Ego A, me the light of the world…
- In 8:24 – HE SAYS: I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be…
- The authorities are hearing this loud and clear… be under no illusions…
- They know what he is saying, they are burning white hot with anger
- Jesus then says, vs28, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be.”
In verse 52 they accuse Jesus of being possessed by a demon…
- In verse 56 he tells them that their ancient Father, Abraham rejoiced at the day when Jesus would show up
- They mock him… your not even 50 years old, and you reckon you were around when Abraham walked the earth…
Vs 58 “I tell you the truth”, Jesus answered, “Gino-mai abraam egO eimi” – “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”
- “Gino-mai abraam egO eimi”
- “before Abraham was born, I am!”
- “Gino-mai abraam egO eimi”
- “before Abraham was born, I am!
Immediately, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.
Why would they do this…
- Jesus had healed people, making them whole…
- He had spoken words of life…
- He had offered new beginnings and salvation
But they had to – this was the feast celebrating the presence of God… and Jesus has just stood and said… “I am he.”
John 1:1-5 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
Friends as we come to understand Jesus may we behold his glory, may we believe and may we have life!
- He is the living water that satisfies our soul
- He is the light of the world that leads us out of darkness
- He is the glory of God, there before Abraham, with God, the saviour of the world