“Word for Today” – John 7 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

March 25, 2009 at 5:45 am Leave a comment

bottled-water-1On my desk, I usually keep one or more bottles of water.  As a man who has a not-so-secret love affair with coffee, water on my desk reminds me that, in order to maintain my health and hydration, I can’t just drink the black stuff, I also have to drink the clear, and better for my kidneys, stuff.  Melody, however, has called into question my affinity for bottled water.  “Why can’t you just drink water out of the tap?” she asks me.  The answer, of course, is that San Antonio tap water…  Well, let’s just say I’ve tasted better.  In that way, I suppose I’m a bit of a snob.  Even if it costs me a little bit extra, I’ll take the clean taste of purified bottled water over the chalky taste of our tap water any day.

In the first century, people did not have the luxury of having bottled water on their desks or water coolers in their offices.  In fact, any relatively clean water was a luxury.  In the Ancient Near East especially, which is an arid area to this day, to have clean drinking water was a precious privilege, not a common commodity.  And to use this water for something other than drinking?  Unthinkable.  Unthinkable, that is, unless it was used for a very special purpose.

The Jewish religious calendar contained three primary feasts.  One was the Feast of Passover, commemorating God’s rescue of the Israelites from their bondage in Egypt.  The second was the Feast of Weeks, where the Israelites would thank God for his providence at the onset of the harvest.  And then finally there was the Feast of Tabernacles, in which the Israelites commemorated God’s gracious provision to them while they were wandering in the desert during the Exodus.  According to ancient Jewish sources, a very moving and extravagant ceremony accompanied the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles.  “A golden flask…did one fill with water from Siloam.  When they reached the Water Gate, they blew a sustained…blast on the horn.  The priest went up on the ramp…and would pour out the water as libation all eight days” (Mishnah Sukkah 4:9).  Did I hear this correctly?  A priest would pour out valuable water from Siloam, most certainly suitable for drinking?  Yes.  Such was the pageantry of the Feast of Tabernacles.  And the priest would explain the symbolism of such a profligate performance when he shouted, “With joy will you draw from the wells of salvation.”  Water, poured out, symbolized the very salvation of God.

In our reading for today from John 7, we read this account:  “On the last and greatest day of the Feast…” (verse 37).  What feast is this?  The Feast of Tabernacles, of course (cf. verse 2).  “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’” (verse 37).  Can you imagine the moment?  The priest pours out precious water as part of the pomp and circumstance of the Feast of Tabernacles, and as it falls to the ground, and as people with parched lips look on longingly, Jesus announces, “Thirsty?  I have water for you to drink.  But this is not water to wet your whistle, this is water to saturate your soul.  For this is the water from the very wells of salvation.  And just as the priest poured out water to celebrate God’s salvation at the Feast of Tabernacles, I will pour out the water of my life on the cross to win God’s salvation.”  As the Psalmist prophesies, using words that are meant to be placed on the lips of Jesus himself, “I am poured out like water” (Psalm 22:14).

But Jesus continues: “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (verse 38).  Because Jesus has poured out the water of his life on the cross, our souls need never be parched.  For a gusher of Jesus’ water of salvation can run through our beings.  And so, the same question Jesus asked of those gathered for the Feast of Tabernacles, he also asks of us:  “Thirsty?  I have poured out the water of my life so that you can drink from the water of salvation.”  So drink deeply.  For this is a source of water that never runs dry.  For this is a source of water that is the very grace of God.  And it doesn’t even taste chalky.

Entry filed under: Word for Today.

“Word for Today” – John 6 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com “Word for Today” – John 8 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

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