Rivers of Living Water

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On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37–39, NKJV)

Verse 37 begins, “on the last day, that great day of the feast.” Chapter 7 describes a series of interactions Jesus had with the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. Verse 2 tells us that Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles.

The Old Covenant instructed the Jews to celebrate several festivals throughout the year. The Feast of Tabernacles (Booths, Shelters) was the third of the three major yearly festivals (the first was Passover and Unleavened Bread, the second was Pentecost). It was called the Feast of Tabernacles because on the first day of the feast every household constructed a very simple shelter from tree branches which they lived in for the rest of the eight-day festival.[1]

The first day of the Feast of Tabernacles was a Sabbath day and no secular work was permitted. Every day a series of sacrifices was required including bulls, rams, lambs, and goats, as well as grain and drink offerings. Also, by New Testament times, a tradition developed where each of the seven days of the Feast a priest led a parade of people making joyful music to the Pool of Siloam, where he drew water using a golden pitcher and brought it back to the temple.[2]

On the eighth day, a Sabbath day, each household took down its shelter and there was a great community feast, but the priest didn’t go down to the Pool of Siloam. This is the day and the great feast when Jesus stood up and said, “He who believes in Me, … out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38).

So on the eighth day, the priest stopped going to get water at the Pool of Siloam. And on the eighth day, Jesus stood up and claimed to offer Living Water. John tells us plainly in verse 39 that Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit. So here, Jesus used the symbolism of the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles and the water from the Pool of Siloam to share the promise of the Holy Spirit for all who believe with everyone at the Feast.

But the timing of Jesus’ statement about himself being the source of Living Water—the Holy Spirit—has additional significance. The Feast of Tabernacles was instructed as a festival of remembrance for the time the Israelites spent wandering in the wilderness.

It might seem like the shelters were a form of fasting—depriving them of the comforts of living in their own homes. And in a literal sense they were, but spiritually, something else was going on. The shelters were a physical reminder of how God delivered the Hebrew people from bondage in the house of Egypt and into freedom that comes through trusting God for everything they need.

In Exodus 16, the Israelites complain to Moses about not having food and the LORD provided Bread from Heaven for their daily sustenance. In Exodus 17, the Israelites complain to Moses about not having any water and we see how the LORD provides water for Israel. Water that flows from the rock, the rock which was stricken, in the wilderness, so that the Israelites might live. That rock is a picture of Jesus Christ, and the water is a picture of the Holy Spirit.

When Jesus spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well of Jacob in John 4, he said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water” (John 4:10).

On the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles—the Jewish festival that celebrates God’s provision for the Israelites in the wilderness—Jesus stood up, quoted Isaiah 55:1, and proclaimed, “If anyone thirsts, let Him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, … out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

Christ is the Rock of our salvation. And for all who are willing to come to him and ask, He gives us eternal life. But God didn’t intend for our eternal inheritance to be characterized by a dry, arid wasteland of legalistic intellectualism. Nor did He intend it to be a wild-eyed, unrestrained exhibition of unbridled emotionalism. God intends for his gift of eternal life to be characterized by the outpouring and overflowing of His life-giving Spirit, Who nourishes us daily, fill us with God’s love, grace and mercy, leads us in all truth, empowers us to serve His Kingdom, and comforts and strengthens us even in our darkest times of grief, frustration, and heartache.

But such a vibrant life in the Spirit has one recurring condition. We can’t do it on our own power and He won’t force it on us. To experience the life-transforming power of the Spirit in our lives, day-by-day and moment-by-moment, we have to humble ourselves and draw near to our Lord Jesus Christ. As the Scriptures say, we must go to Him to drink.

[1] R. K. Harrison, “Booths, Feast of,” in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Rev. ed., ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979–1988), 535. Logos Bible Software.

[2] Merrill F. Unger, “Festivals,” in The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, ed. R.K. Harrison (Chicago: Moody Press, 1988). Logos Bible Software.

The Deity of Christ

In my last post, I offered five evidences showing how the Bible teaches that Jesus is human. The humanity of Jesus is not all that controversial. It is generally accepted by most faith systems and even in mainstream secularism.

In this post, I want to offer Biblical evidences for Jesus’ identity as God the Son. The deity of Christ is a much more controversial issue. Even some groups who self-identify as Christian do not ascribe to the orthodox view that Jesus Christ is fully-God.

As I’ve asserted before, the Bible should be permitted to speak for itself. And when read plainly, it teaches that Jesus Christ is fully-God. He is God the Son, the second member of the triune God. Here are five evidences that show how the Bible teaches that Jesus is God.

1. Jesus had divine origins. While Jesus’ fetal development and growth into adulthood were typically human, his conception was not. The Scriptures claim that He was concieved in the womb of the virgin Mary through the power of the Holy Spirit, clearly evidencing his divine origins (Luke 1). Also, as the eternal Word, he exists eternally, having neither beginning nor end, in fellowship with God (John 1).

2. Jesus performed miracles. Over and over again the gospels portray Jesus as healing the sick, exorcizing demons, commanding non-human nature, and even reviving the deceased. No mere mortal can calm a storm with a rebuke (Matt 8), cast out a legion of demons (Mark 5), or revive a man deceased for four days (John 11). The Bible provides these as evidence that Jesus is God.

3. Jesus claimed equality with God. Many people believe that the Bible never says Jesus claimed to be God. But Jesus identified himself as the Jewish Messiah (John 4), claimed oneness with the Father (John 10:30), and identified himself as the Son of God (Luke 22:70). In Judaism, these are claims of deity. Jesus, a Jewish rabbi, would have known this, yet he made such claims anyway, equating himself to God.

4. Jesus ascribed names of God to himself. Jesus not only claimed equality with God, but claimed names of God for himself. Two well-known Jewish titles for the God of Israel are “I Am” (Ex 3:14) and “the First and the Last” (Isa 44:6). Jesus elevated himself above Abraham, claiming the title “I Am” (John 8:58). And having died and risen to life, he also claimed to be “the First and the Last” (Rev 1:17–18, 2:8).

5. Jesus shares the essence of God. John 1:1 not only identifies the eternal Word as being with God, but also as having the nature of God. In the Greek, the anarthorous predicate nominative is not an indefinite noun (“a god”). It emphasizes the nature of the Word.[1] Thus, the Word has the same nature as God. Colossians 1:19 and 2:9 echo this idea, stating that the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Jesus Christ.

Does this solve all of the interpretive difficulties involved with understanding the person of Jesus Christ? Certainly not. But we need not solve every puzzle to observe what the Bible plainly teaches. The clear witness of the Scriptures is that Jesus is fully-God. He is God the Son—distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit, but sharing the very same divine nature as a member of the Godhead. He exists co-equally and co-eternally distinct from, but in in perfect union with, the God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.

[1] Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 45.

The Humanity of Jesus

There is no denying the breadth of impact Jesus Christ has had on the world. We need only look at recent news headlines or skim a grade level history book to recognize how far-reaching his influence has been during the last 2000 years.

But just who is this Jesus? Is he a fictitious myth? Or perhaps a first century spirit-person? Many efforts have been undertaken to reconstruct the so-called ‘historical Jesus’ and distinguish him from the alleged theological legend often referred to as the ‘Christ of faith.’ What many of these efforts have in common is an intentional disregard for the witness of the Scriptures.

But the Scriptures should be allowed to speak for themselves. Their witness concerning the person of Jesus Christ should not be arrogantly dismissed. This post is the first in a series about who the Bible says Jesus is. The rest of this post will focus on what is probably the least controversial topic of the series, the Humanity of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is a human being.

For all that he said and did, and for all the controversy surrounding what may or may not have happened 2000 years ago, Jesus Christ is a human being. And the Bible plainly teaches that he is fully-human. Here are some of the Scriptuiral evidences for his humanity.

1. Jesus experienced typically human birth and growth. Jesus was conceived as a human fetus, in the womb of a human woman, developed according to a typically human pregnancy, experienced human birth and circumcision, and grew as a normal human child (Luke 2).

2. Jesus had typically human needs and weaknesses. He experienced hunger (Matt 21:18), thirst (John 19:28), fatigue (John 4:6), sleep (Mark 4:38), agony (Luke 22:44), and death (John 19:33–34). Death, in particular, distinguishes him as a corporeal, temporal being.

3. Jesus experienced typically human emotions. As one  scholar notes, “Jesus expressed joy (John 15:11) and sorrow (Matt. 26:37); He showed compassion (Matt. 9:36) and love (John 11:5); and He was moved to righteous indignation (Mark 3:5).”[1]

4. Jesus possessed a human spirit. Jesus He was vulnerable to temptation, demonstrating his spiritually-human weakness toward sin (Luke 4:1–13; Heb 4:15). He also experienced exceedingly great sorrow in the depths of his soul when faced with physical death (Matt 26:38). Both traits are distinctly-human when considered within the context of all living creatures.

5. Even after the resurrection, Jesus was fully-human. Jesus’ resurrection body was the same body that was crucified. It bears the marks of his crucifixion (John 20:25–29). It is corporeal (Matt 28:9, John 20:17), being composed of “flesh and bone” (Luke 24:39), and able to eat and digest food (Luke 24:42–43).

The Bible plainly teaches that Jesus Christ was fully-human. Whatever else Jesus is, he is human. Sure, some of these traits are not exclusively human. But when these five evidences are considered together, the conclusion that Jesus is human is the most reasonable view. Even interpretative difficulties (like how Jesus didn’t sin and his resurrection body could supersede natural laws), do not preclude Jesus’ humanity. The witness of the Scriptures is that Jesus is truly—and fully—human.

[1] Walter D. III Draughon, “Incarnation,” in Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, ed. by Chad Brand et al., (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 813.

The Law of Moses

Every so often I hear a Bible teacher preaching about the Law of Moses. I praise the Lord for faithful teachers who are willing to address difficult, controversial issues like this. After all, the Law features prominently in both the Old and New Testaments. So anyone who wants to learn and apply the Scriptures in their lives encounters this difficult topic.

I believe the details in the Scriptures matter. The big picture matters. But the details also matter. And allowing the Holy Spirit to train us to think Biblically means prayerfully examining the details. And when we prayerfully consider how we may apply the Law in our lives, the details matter.

What I want to share in this post is a few observations that have helped form my thinking about the Law. This is not an in-depth theological treatise on the Law. Instead, I hope my observations give you a few nuggets that provoke your curiosity and motivate you to prayerfully examine the details for yourself.

In the Letter to the Galatians, Paul discusses the Law of Moses at some length. His letter is theologically corrective (Gal 1:6–9). It seems outsiders had infiltrated the Galatian congregation and they insisted that obedience to the Law (or portions of it) was necessary for justification (2:17–21) as well as Christian living (3:1–4). With this in mind, Paul responded as follows:

Why, then, was the law given? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins. But the law was designed to last only until the coming of the child who was promised. God gave his law through angels to Moses, who was the mediator between God and the people. Now a mediator is helpful if more than one party must reach an agreement. But God, who is one, did not use a mediator when he gave his promise to Abraham.

Is there a conflict, then, between God’s law and God’s promises? Absolutely not! If the law could give us new life, we could be made right with God by obeying it. But the Scriptures declare that we are all prisoners of sin, so we receive God’s promise of freedom only by believing in Jesus Christ.

Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed.

Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian. (Gal 3:19–25, NLT)

From this passage, I’d like to offer five observations about the Law:

1. The Law was given in response to sin. Paul says that the Law “was given … to show people their sins.” So God gave the law to address specific, sinful practices happening within and around Israel because, without the Law, Israel had no codified reference for Holy living.

2. The Law functioned until Christ came. Paul qualifies that the authority of the law “was designed to last only until the coming of the child who was promised.” Who is this special child? Previously in the same chapter, Paul argued that this special child refers to Jesus Christ (3:16). So the Law in some sense had a divinely-appointed expiration date linked with the coming of Jesus.

3. The Law was given through angels. Paul claims that God gave the Law to Moses through angels. But wasn’t the Law given by God on Sinai? I’ll offer this nugget: remember that God’s angels communicate God’s messages and minister to God’s people. This is an issue of agency (“how” the Law was given—through angels), not of source (“who” gave the Law—God).

4. The Law kept guard over Israel. Here we find one of the “why”s of the Law. One reason that God gave the Law was to guard Israel from sin and its consequences. Had Israel obeyed the Law wholeheartedly, perhaps they would not have fallen into nationwide sin and experienced temporary exile. Regardless, God intended to bring forth the Christ from the nation of Israel, and one goal of the Law was to keep guard over Israel until Christ came.

5. The Law is a guardian to bring us to Christ. Paul explains that God ordained the Law to bring us to Christ. Anyone who reads the Law (Exod 20–Num 10) will clearly see the very detailed nature of the Law. God cares about every aspect, even the smallest details, of our lives. And God desires holiness in every aspect of our being. The detailed nature of the Law reveals how sinfulness permeates our souls and shows us our desperate need for a Savior to overcome sin and death.

Obviously these are only a few details about the Law gleaned from a single passage. Again, my goal was not a theological treatise, but to encourage and provoke your personal curiosity to study the details.

Interpreting Jesus’ Parables

Lately I’ve been spending my devotional time in the Gospel of Luke. When I’m studying the Gospels, I tend to spend a lot of time in the Gospels of Matthew and John, so reading through Luke has been both refreshing and challenging.

For about a week I have been wrestling with different interpretations of the Parable of the Mustard Seed (Luke 13:18–19). It is one of the few parables that appears in all three synoptic gospels, but it is one of many parables that Jesus does not explain. And some of the meaning of the imagery certainly leaves a lot of room for interpretation!

Rather than offer my interpretation of this parable, I want to share a primary consideration for interpreting any of Jesus’parables.

I am a strong advocate for letting Scripture interpret Scripture. I believe the Scriptures are consistent and that God does not contradict Himself. So whenever we interpret difficult passages in Scripture, we should look to less difficult Scripture passages for clarity and consistency.

The Scriptures do not record an explanation of the Parable of the Mustard Seed. But Jesus does explain the Parable of the Sower. And Jesus says that understanding the Parable of the Sower is the key to understanding all of the rest of His parables:

Then Jesus said to them, “If you can’t understand the meaning of this parable, how will you understand all the other parables? (Mark 4:13, NLT)

Jesus tells us Himself that all of the parables He told are linked. He also tells us that in order to understand any of His parables, we need to understand the Parable of the Sower. So, for example, if I am struggling to understand the imagery of the birds in the Parable of the Mustard Seed, I should first prayerfully search Jesus’explanation of the Parable of the Sower for insight.

We do well to heed the words of Jesus Himself. When interpreting His parables, He has given us great insight in His explanation of the Parable of the Sower and clear instructions to start our search for meaning of His other parables here.

So if, like me, you’re struggling to understand one of Jesus’ parables. try spending some time prayerfully studying the Parable of the Sower and Jesus’ explanation of it.