The setting is the Feast of Booths, or Tabernacles- a harvest thanksgiving festival, but also a time when the Israelites lived for seven days in tents, reminding themselves of their nomadic wanderings and God redeeming them from Egypt. There was also the recognition of God’s protection and provision as their forefathers journeyed through the wilderness and looked towards the Promised Land. In this sense, God had ″tabernacled″, or dwelt, among His people (Leviticus 23:33-43).
Jesus’ biological brothers (Matthew 13:55), who do not yet believe in Him (v. 5), suggest that He move to Jerusalem, the seat of religious and political power, rather than performing signs in rural Galilee. Even John the Baptist might be concerned (see Matthew 11:1-3): If Jesus is the promised Messiah, why is He not in Jerusalem?
Jesus eventually moves to Jerusalem and begins teaching in the temple (v. 14). In verses 14-24, Jesus makes it clear that He is from God (v. 16)- His teaching is God’s teaching (vv. 16, 17) and His chief concern is to glorify God (v. 18).
Moses had given the Jews the law, including the commandment, ″Do not murder″. Yet they try to kill Him (v. 1). Jesus questions their judgment (v. 24). They pursue Him for restoring a man’s wholeness on the Sabbath (John 5:1-16), yet they circumcise on the Sabbath, an act only of limited benefit compared to healing.
The crowds are confused about Jesus’ identity (vv. 12, 20, 26, 27, 31, 40-43), hence the confused response of the Pharisees and their officers.
The key words of Jesus, delivered on the last day of the feast, are verses 37-38. The Lord Jesus will go to the Father, where they cannot come (v. 34). His going will herald the coming of the Holy Spirit (v. 39). Jesus thus promises thirst-quenching water-a permanent source of refreshment and life coming from within the believer, referring to the Holy Spirit. Notice we do not receive the Holy Spirit by believing in the Spirit, but by coming to Jesus and believing in Him.
The Spirit is given to us because of the work of Jesus (Acts 2:33), and we receive Him when we believe in Jesus (2:38). The apostle Paul deals with a deficiency of the Holy Spirit by telling the disciples of John about Jesus (Acts 19:1-4).
The Holy Spirit has been called the shy member of the Trinity; He seeks no prominence. He is the witness who points away from himself to the Lord Jesus (John 15:26-27; 16:13-15). The Holy Spirit’s ministry is to remind us that we become God’s children through Christ. We are to trust God as our Father and to live out the family likeness (Romans 8:15-17). J. C. Ryle writes, ″All who come to Christ by faith shall find in him abundant satisfaction . . . the greatest of all mistakes is to try to find relief in any other way.″7
7Ryle, John, vol. 2, 48.
Think of some ways in which people try to receive fulfilment in this life. How can you pray for them so that they would come to realise that Christ is the only satisfaction?