Updated: Feb 5
As far as the John 7 reading goes, verse 37 begins by stating, “On the last day of the festival.” The “festival” is identified in verse 2 [not read] as “hē skēnopēgia,” or that “of booths, tents, huts, or tabernacles.” This is known by the Jews as Sukkot; and it takes place in the fall, much like a state fair. In the year 2020 Sukkot will take place between Friday October 2 and Friday October 9. It begins every year on the Jewish date of 15 Tishrei. Tishrei is the first month of the ‘civil year’ but the seventh month of the ‘ecclesiastical year’ in the Hebrew calendar. In case you have never read the Holy Bible and have never been in a church that preached about John 7, this was the third festival God commanded be forever recognized, following the Passover and Shavuot. At this point in Jesus’ ministry two big followings: those who loved his freebie miracles; and, those who wanted to kill him. With that background, John recalled that it once again came time to head to Jerusalem, but this time Jesus told his brothers, “You guys go on. I’m gonna stay here in Galilee, not going to Jerusalem for this one.”
The “brothers” were the sons of Mary and Joseph, who came naturally after Jesus was ten years old. Any brothers that were of Joseph, prior to his marrying Mary, might also have been in that number. Neither sets got to spend quality time with Jesus, so John wrote, “For even his own brothers did not believe in him.” (John 7:5 – not read aloud on Pentecost]. Still, John said the brothers chided Jesus about (I paraphrase), “You need to go to impress them [the disciples].”
With that kind of familial support, it is easy to understand why there was a group of Jews who wanted to kill Jesus. But, as John repeats in this chapter, Jesus’ “time has not yet fully come.” I mentioned this chapter from John in an article I posted (Jesus, the Escape Master), because John 7 reads like Jesus appeared in Jerusalem and preached as a hologram. Certainly, that technology was not known to be available back then, but when we are talking about the powers of God, anything is possible. After all, we just finished discussing Jesu suddenly appearing inside a locked upper room, alongside his disciples, none of who saw him come in. Whatever the case, Jesus went to the Sukkot festival after his brothers left. That should be realized as the background for this “last day of the festival.” Jesus, according to John, had expressed concern about staying away from the temple elite (the Jews) because they were “seeking to kill” Jesus. For all the talk of ‘laying low’, Jesus somehow went to Jerusalem and made a big show during the week-long festival. At one point, John wrote “they were seeking to seize Him; and no man laid his hand on Him.” For the whole week the “officers of the temple” were unable to arrest Jesus and take him before the rulers of Jerusalem. Thus, verse 37 speaks of the final day of the festival. When John’s words are translated to state, “On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there,” the word translated as “great day” is “megalē.” The word simply indicates something that is “great,” but because it is the “last day” (“eschatē hēmera”), the word “day” is added to “great.” That one word, relative to the “feast” represents Hoshana Rabbah, or “Great Supplication.” According to the Wikipedia article entitled “Sukkot,” the following is written about this day. The seventh day of Sukkot is known as Hoshana Rabbah (Great Supplication). This day is marked by a special synagogue service in which seven circuits are made by worshippers holding their Four Species, reciting additional prayers. In addition, a bundle of five willow branches is beaten on the ground.” The symbolism of the Jews making seven circuits around the Temple is a recreation of making the walls of Jericho fall, where this number of seven circuits occurs on the seventh day. This is designed to make the wall that separates the Father from the Temple fall, so God will be close to His people. Each day of the festival prayers are read, with the last day’s prayer calling for prosperity in the next year, with a call also made for the Messiah to be sent.
To read that Jesus “stood” during this pageantry (John wrote “heistēkei ho Iēsous” – “stood this Jesus”), the Greek word “heistēkei” also means “made a stand,” implying that Jesus “cried out” (from “ekraxen”) to get the attention of those beating willow branches (or palm branches) against the altar as they circled by him.
As to the quote from Scripture, “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water,” there is nothing that directly states this. There is no footnote next to it in translated Scripture that says where this quote can be found. For that reason, I recommend reading this article: Living Waters from the Messiah. That article sites Zechariah 14:8 as the source: “On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea; it shall continue in summer as in winter.” It also cites Ezekiel 47:1, which states: “Then he brought me back to the entrance of the temple; there, water was flowing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east); and the water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar.”
That is reason enough to understand why Jesus “cried out” as he did, in the midst of a commanded festival’s ritual. One can see Jesus suddenly standing out in their midst, just as he would do inside the upper room (in the other John optional reading). In John’s fourth chapter he told the story of Jesus at the well with a Samaritan woman. There, he told her he could have given her “living water.” This inclines me to see the comparison Jesus made is to Exodus 17:1-7, when God told Moses to strike the rock with his staff and make waters flow to save the people. Jesus was like the rock, from which eternal waters could flow. Thus, Jesus “stood and cried out” that circling a building would do no good, as he was the Messiah of the Israelites. Their prayer had been answered. The last verse in the reading from John 7 states, “Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
This makes this short reading a perfect fit for Pentecost and the onset of the Holy Spirit in the Apostles. The “Pneumatos” of John is relative to both the Numbers use of “ruach” [Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took some of the power of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied—but did not do so again.] and 1 Corinthians use of “Pneumati” [“Now about the gifts of the Spirit” and “no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God”]. It matches verse 30 from David’s Psalm 104 [“When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.“].
John interprets what Jesus said in Jerusalem as “living waters” equate to the Holy Spirit. It makes the verses about “the great and wide sea, from which living things too many to number” come with a new insight.
The statement, “which believers in him were to receive” make this a fit to accompany the reading from John 20.