For the next two weeks, we'll look at how Jesus Christ came into our world to quench our spiritual thirst. Our focus will be on John 7.
Let's start with how it's part of our fallen nature to quench our thirst in less than God-honoring ways. Here's a true, yet quirky, cautionary tale.
Years ago, Brandon and Suzy won a contest. It was a recycling contest. It was during a time when the push was on to recycle 2-liter pop bottles. The contest was to see who could return the most 2-liter bottles over a certain amount of time. Brandon and Suzy won it hands down. They turned in over 1000 2-liter bottles. The grand prize…$2500.
Here's where things get weird. Every single 2-liter bottle they turned in was Shasta Diet Cola. Apparently, that's all they drank. They averaged between 10-15 bottles a day. That's a lot of Shasta Diet Cola. It took their advertising slogan - "It Hasta be Shasta" - to the extreme. So extreme, in fact, they kept bed pans beside their bed at night and a port-a-potty in their car. Brandon and Suzy confessed, "If we couldn't get it we'd probably feel that we'd died." That is one serious cola habit.
The irony in the story is the $2500 was in the form of a gift certificate to a supermarket that didn't carry Shasta Diet Cola.
That true story also serves as a cautionary tale. It's easy to focus on the wrong thing and think the wrong thing can quench our thirst. It doesn't matter how much of it you drink, you always need more. Jesus Christ is the only place we can go to find our thirst fully, completely, and eternally quenched.
Here's a breakdown of our journey through the Gospel of John so far. John 1:1 opened with, "In the beginning…" Jesus Christ existed from the very beginning of time. He co-existed with the father. After that profound statement of the divine nature of Jesus Christ, the focus was on the first 2-and-a-half years of Jesus' life. Those years are covered in chapters 1-6. We turn a corner in chapter 7. John 7-10 focuses on the last six months of Jesus' life and ministry. Then John 11 to the end focuses on the last week of Jesus' ministry and his resurrection. Things get really focused.
We're also going to see how people's attitudes about Jesus Christ narrow and become more focused. If people didn't like him, they're now going to hate him. If people love him, they're now going to love him more. These are chapters of separation, where people split and go in different directions. Some walk away from him. Others walk closer with him. This is also where Jesus talks more and more about how only he can meet the needs of their lives.
Here's how John 7 begins:
After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. Now the Jews' Feast of Booths was at hand.
What are the first two things you notice? Verse 1 says Jesus purposefully stayed away from Judea because his life was in danger. Second, this takes place during the Feast of Booths. As we've seen throughout John, time is marked by key events and Holy Days. Also, Jesus' travels are not random or haphazard. They are part of God's plan and directed by that plan.
The Feast of Booths, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles, was near. We need to understand the feast in order to understand the passage. The Feast of Booths is one of the three great feasts of the Jews. If possible, you went to celebrate in Jerusalem. There would be a crush of people. The Feast of Booths happened five days after Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the highest Holy Day. Yom Kippur is when people, in sadness, atone for their sin. Then, five days later, the Feast of Booths is a great celebration. It's like a spiritual thanksgiving. And it lasted eight days.
So what about the booths? It's call the Feast of Booths. It is a time to remember when the Jews wandered the wildness, fleeing slavery in Egypt. As they were waiting for God's timing to lead them into the Promised Land, they were nomads, living in tents, being fed manna from the sky and drinking water from a rock. Remember, last month we talked about how God instructed Moses to strike a rock with his staff, and water would appear. Life-giving water from a rock. The Feast of Booths was a time to remember those things.
The Feast of Booths served two important purposes:
It looked back to Israel's journey in the wilderness. You find assurance in God's plan for your future when you remember His provision in your past.
It looked ahead to the promise of the Messiah.
That is the context for chapter 7. Our first look at chapter 7 will explore the different ways people have to quench their spiritual thirst.
The first thirst is the thirst for popularity and position. Many people have a thirst to be known. They want to be seen as somebody. And so they seek human strategies to satisfy this thirst. They seek the political solution. And not political in the narrow way we understand it. But political in terms of acting in a calculating way. If I say or do things in a certain way, then I will get the response from people that I desire. Very calculating.
Here's what we know from verses 3-5:
So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” For not even his brothers believed in him.
Jesus' brothers wanted him to try human strategies rather than trusting in God. Their problem was the proverbial "missing the forest for the trees." They were so caught up in the crowds, they missed the wonder of it all. They thought they had to manufacture some way to get their spiritual thirst quenched.
They said, "Go to Judea, where more people can see the miracles." Give the people what they want. That's a good political strategy. They were tempting Jesus to do something spectacular for the crowd. Remember what the crowd did after the feeding of the 5000. They wanted to make Jesus king. Jesus said no to that temptation. And he said no to his brothers.
Jesus' brothers thought he could ride to success on the applause of the crowd. But they were wrong.
Then Jesus said, "I won't work in secret." What that means is he won't manipulate people. His brothers thought they had a better strategy. They thought more people needed to know the great things he was doing. If more people see you do things like you did at the wedding at Cana - where you changed water into wine - it will stoke the fires of your popularity.
In other words, Jesus needed better ads. Greater exposure to the masses. They had a thirst for increasing popularity. And they wanted Jesus to use a very human strategy. A political strategy.
Here's what we do. We reach for our human strategies. We decide we're going to help God out. We've read books. We've gone to conferences. We've listened to consultants. We've got it all figured out. We think we know what we need, and here's how we're going to get it. But then verses 6-9 say:
Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. 8 You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” After saying this, he remained in Galilee.
What is Jesus saying? It's not the right time. Here's something you might want to write down. This is a big idea that can help in all kinds of situations:
Sometimes something is God's will but it's not time yet.
There's a difference between God's will and God's timing.
Here's how that played out in our church. In the first six years of Covenant Church, we rented the old St. Peter's Episcopal Church. In the first two years of those six years we had people who wanted to start planning for a new building. Good hearts and good intentions. Our core leadership said the timing didn't feel right. It was too soon. We believed God wanted to lay the foundation for a healthy church culture before we could even begin to think about an actual foundation. God had to get our church culture aligned with who God was calling us to be.
God's timing is so important. The reality is, even when you know what God wants, you don't have to rush into it. So Jesus said, "It's not the right time."
So, the first thing is, Jesus' brothers had a thirst for power and popularity. But Jesus told them, "We're not doing it your way. We're doing it God's way." Jesus didn't run around the truth. Or finesse the truth. He told the truth. And he followed God's timeline.
Second, in the search for answers to life's deepest questions, people practice the art of speculation. We've all done it. We do it in little things. "Why did she speak to me that way?" "Why is he mad?" We do it in deeper things. "Why am I hurting?" "What is happiness?" "Why is there evil in the world?" People speculate all the time.
When Jesus finally decided to go up to the feast, people were talking about him. Speculating. They were looking for him. "Where is he?" Let's pick it up at verse 12:
And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, "He is a good man," others said, "No, he is leading people astray."
That's about the truest expression of speculation there is. Either Jesus Christ is a good man…the Son of God…or he's a liar. They were arguing about who he was. That gets to the heart of a deep spiritual thirst. What is the meaning and purpose of life? What is the reason we're here? And what will happen when we're gone? Those are huge questions that get at the thirst for meaning and purpose. Like people today, they were speculating, philosophizing about Jesus Christ.
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Before I ask you what you do - because we all speculate about all kinds of big questions - we're going to look at the general thing people do when it comes to speculation. We think we're going to help God out. Human philosophy says I'm going to try to figure God out. I'm going to defend and explain him using human philosophy. That's what God needs. And by helping God out, it's going to quench my thirst for understanding my meaning and purpose. I hope that makes sense. So when I'm laying awake at night wondering about what's going to live on after I'm dead, I convince myself my philosophical speculation will quench that thirst for meaning and purpose.
We've all done that when it comes to tragedy in our lives. When something bad happens to us or someone we love, our minds race with speculation. If I can just figure it out. If I can figure out all the reasons, then my inner thirst will be quenched. But here's the problem. The truth is there are some things in this world we can't figure out. The world and it's problems are bigger than we are. And God is certainly bigger than we are. So because of that, philosophical speculation will always leave is thirsty.
That's where we're going to leave off. In preparation for next week, I want you to start thinking about what you would be saying about Jesus if you were with the speculating crowd.
What do you know about Jesus?
What do you say about Jesus?
Who do you say Jesus is?