- Exodus 17:1-17
- John 7: 14-39
Just about two weeks ago we observed Armistice Day. It meant the end of the war in which 17 million soldiers died and 20 million were wounded. We need dates to help us remember.
In 1969 the BeeGees had a hit song “Don’t forget to remember.” The chorus says, “In my heart lies a memory, to tell the stars above. Don’t forget, to remember me my love.”
Don’t forget to remember. The Bible has the same message:
… then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. (Deuteronomy 6:11–12, NIV)
Israel were reminded of different things:
Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm… (Deuteronomy 5:15, NIV)
Moses also told them to remember something else:
Remember this and never forget how you aroused the anger of the Lord your God in the wilderness. From the day you left Egypt until you arrived here, you have been rebellious against the Lord. (Deuteronomy 9:7, NIV)
In fact, the different feasts of Israel were designed for remembrance: Passover, The Feast of the Weeks, and the Purim Feast.
Our reading from John chapter 7 takes us to Jerusalem during the Feast of the Tabernacles. The Feast of Tabernacles was designed to help the people remember the Exodus from Egypt; it reminded the Jews of their wandering and dwelling in booths in the wilderness (Leviticus 23:43).
Sleeping and living in the temporary shelters they needed to remember how God provided for them: He gave them manna, meat in the form of quals, and protection from their enemy. He dwelt with them – right in there midst in the tabernacle. He ministered mercy to them in the form of priests and sacrifices. And they remembered how He provided water out of the rock – the last place anyone thought water could come from.
Jesus, the Father’s Word
Let’s keep in mind the words of John in chapter 1:
Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory—the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father. (John 1:14, NET)
This “took up residence” takes us to a word, which for centuries before John wrote his Gospel, plainly just meant “pitching a tent”. Israel’s Old Testament history is shaped by tent-living. Even God’s presence in Israel during the journey through the desert is expressed in Him living in the Tent of Meeting, or the Tabernacle, which was a tent. In some sense then John says that God again in the Jesus Christ made his residence (or tabernacle) with his people.
John also right in the beginning of his Gospel introduced Jesus as the Word, who was with God and who was God.
So, in our reading today, when Jesus appeared in Jerusalem during the Feast of the Tabernacles is extremely significant. More so when Jesus started to preach,
“My teaching is not from me, but from the one who sent me.If anyone wants to do God’s will, he will know about my teaching, whether it is from God or whether I speak from my own authority. (John 7:16–17, NET)
Christ is the Word of the Father. There were many other rabbis present in Jerusalem during festivals. It was almost like schools and boarding schools showcasing their curricular excellency, as well as their extra-curricular programs to attract students. Every rabbi showcased his knowledge to attract students for their schools. But Jesus did not draw attention to Himself; that would push Him on the foreground, and not the Father.
And purely because He was from the Father, and because He was God, He completely fulfilled all the requirements of the Law of Moses. In spite of the fact that He never disobeyed the Law, and yet the leaders wanted to kill Him. They might have been good rabbis and teachers, but they had no grasp of the Law, which was about Him. They were concerned about a man carrying his bed on a Sabbath after he had been paralysed for 38 years, but not about his well-being. They did whatever they could to circumcise a child on the Sabbath day to make a Jew of him, but Jesus fulfilled the Law in a different way. Listen:
But if a male child is circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses is not broken, why are you angry with me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath? (John 7:23, NET)
The journey through the desert for Israel always meant that something better will come: a permanent land, homes , and most of all freedom to worship God. But the land which Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, David and others by faith saw – which is heaven, the home not built by hands, but by Christ – they lost sight of. And now Christ stood in their midst – God who tabernacled with them, the the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world, the One declared to them by the Holy Spirit that He is indeed the Son of God – and the only thing they wanted to do to Him was to kill Him.
My friend, our message is not about a man who lived 2000 years ago. Our message is about the God/man, Christ, who took up residence amongst us – indeed, the Man who fulfilled the demands of the Law of Moses to become our righteousness. Before him we bow and Him we worship as Lord and Saviour because we have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only who came from the Father.
Some people in Jerusalem heard Him teach, and saw Hm perform miracles. They had different opinions about Him. Some thought He was indeed the Messiah, the Son of God, and they believed in Him. Others ridiculed Him. The Pharisees issued an edict for his death. Where do you stand with Him?
Christ – the Father’s mission
Listen to what our Lord says:
I have not come on my own initiative, but the One who sent Me is true. You do not know him, but I know Him, because I have come from Him and He sent Me.” (John 7:28–29, NET)
Listen carefully to the words of our Lord: The Father sent Him. He knows the Father because He came from the Father. But we don’t know the Father. Do we now understand why Jesus said that He is the gate (John 10:7-9); and later on He said, “No one comes to the Father but by Me”? (John 14:6). Peter said to the Jewish Council,
“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among people by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12, NET)
The mission on which God sent Jesus had one purpose: through his life, death and resurrection those who by nature do not know the Father may get to know Him.
To underscore this the Pharisees and other who did not believe in Him had no idea what our Lord talked about when He told them that He would be with them for only a short time and then He would go away. But because of their unbelief and stubbornness of heart they could not follow – they rejected the only One who could take them to the Father. “If you knew Me, you would have known my Father also.” (John 7:19) The opposite is painfully true: “If you don’t know Me, you would not know my Father.”
How different was the circumstance in John 14 when Jesus spoke to his disciples about the same thing. They were troubled about Him going to the Father, but He comforted them and assured them that He is going to prepare a place for them and that He will come back again to take them to the Father.
Here we are again confronted with the fact of the mission of Christ: to make the Father known to us and to take us to the Father. He is the only One who can do it. The Pharisees banked on their now righteousness of good works of the Law. It leads us to the question: What do you bank on to go to heaven? There is no backdoor into heaven.
Christ – the Father’s provision
This takes us to verse 37:
On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (John 7:37–38, NIV)
This day had the special distinction that it was the last festival day in the entire Jewish church year and was called “the last good day”, “the sacred close of the year”.
Each morning during the seven days of the feast, at the time of the sacrifice, a priest proceeded to the fountain of Siloah with a golden pitcher, filled it with water, and, accompanied by a solemn procession, bore it to the altar of burnt sacrifice, pouring the water, together with the contents of a pitcher of wine from the drink offering, into two perforated flat bowls. The trumpets sounded, and the people sang Isa. 12:3, “Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.” It was a remembrance of the water that gushed out of the rock at Meribah as we read about it today in Exodus 17.
As the first redeemer (Moses) caused the spring to arise when he divided the rock in Horeb, so the last Redeemer will cause water to rise up, as it is written: A fountain shall come forth of the house of God.
Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:4 refers to the rock in the desert as Christ. Without that water in the desert the people would have died. Without Christ there is no life. He is God’s provision for life. The women at the well drank of this water and she never thirsted again. He who believes in Christ will never hunger or thirst again (John 6:35). His Spirit gives the new birth and makes us children of God, not born of the will of a man, but born of God. This is the only way we can know God!
It’s unwise to forget to remember. It is foolish to remember but not know what it means. It is dangerous, to stand in the presence of Him who is the reason why we must remember – and then turn away and don’t pay attention. Remember: the Rock is Jesus who gives eternal live through the forgiveness of sins.
Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 27 November 2016