Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Last & Greatest Day

(from "Carta's Illustrated Encyclopedia
of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem," 2005)
Today is the last and greatest day of the Feast of Tabernacles.  Sound familiar?
On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice..." John 7:37a
What Jesus proceeded to say caused great division among the people - some hailed Him as the Messiah, while others called for His arrest.  Why?  What was so shocking about His teaching that day?

If we retrace our steps back to the first day of the Feast of Booths/Tabernacles (see my previous blog entry), it will become clear why the Galilean's words were so revolutionary.  Why His pronouncement was either completely divine or absolutely heretical.

You see, by Temple times, a water ritual had been added to the Feast as a way of asking God for abundant rain in the year ahead.  

Here's what the ritual looked like.  As the week-long feast began, a chosen priest would walk down the Temple steps and make his way to the sacred Pool of Siloam (yes, that healing Pool of Siloam spoken of in John 9).  The priest would fill a golden flask with water, make his way back to the Temple, and hand the vessel to the high priest.

All the while, throngs of pilgrims trailed behind the priest on his journey to the Pool and back, shouting praises in a joyful procession.

Taking the golden vessel, the high priest would then pour the water out on the altar.  He did so first as a supplication to The Lord for rain.  But he also poured out the water as a supplication for eternal, divine water, looking forward to Zechariah's prophecy:
Behold, a day is coming for The Lord...On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem...And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one.  Zechariah 14:1a, 8-9 ESV
On the last day of the Feast, the water ritual reached a fevered pitch.  This time, all the priests would join with the crowd, following the water-fetching priest on his march to the Pool of Siloam and back, blowing golden trumpets and singing sacred songs all the way.

The worship was so exuberant that rabbis proclaimed a person had never experienced true joy if they hadn't taken part in the final water ceremony.

On this last and greatest day, the high priest offered up an extended prayer for rain, which ended with three final pleas: "for a blessing and not a curse, for life and not for death, and for plenty and not for famine."

So, then, what did rabbi Jesus teach to the crowd sitting under His teaching that day?
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." John 7:37-38
Everything the people had been begging God to give them, Jesus announced that He could provide. 

Jesus was letting everyone know - the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims that were bursting Jerusalem at its seams - that the He Himself was the answer to their prayers for life and for blessing and for abundance.

That He is the source of living water, which - as recorded in Jeremiah 2:13 - is what God calls Himself.

On that last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus was announcing that He is God.

No wonder His words evoked such an emotional response. There was no mistaking His claim, and people had to come down on one side or the other - divine Lord or heretical egomaniac.

It is no different today, on this last and greatest day of the Feast of Tabernacles.

All of us must do something with Jesus.

We can choose to believe and receive Him as our Living Water and our Sustainer and our source of life itself. Or we can reject Him. There is nothing in between.