Let’s deviate on our tour through Jesus’ Bible and look briefly at one of the Biblical fall festivals. Please take out your Bible and read John 7:37-39.
The feast that John’s Gospel speaks of in this passage is the Feast of Tabernacles. We could also refer to the festival using its Biblical name, Sukkot. Sukkot is the final of the pilgrim celebrations on the Jewish calendar and is considered the most joyous of all the festivals. All of Israel gives thanks to God for their bountiful harvest and for his caring for them throughout the previous year.
The event recorded by John takes place on the last day of the festival and, as John points out, it is considered the “great day.” This day is the culmination of seven days of joyous celebration. One of the names given to this day in Hebrew is Hoshana Rabbah, that is, Great Salvation, for this name is a request for a great salvation from God. What an appropriate day for Jesus to make his announcement about springs of water!
So now we can ask, why does Jesus talk about water? To answer that, we must look at the significance of water as it relates to Sukkot. Prophets Joel (Joel 3:18) and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 47:1) both allude to the idea that in the end of days there will be water flowing from the Temple. Looking forward to this day, the Temple offerings given during Sukkot have water poured on them to symbolize the future when the water will flow naturally. This water is drawn with great pomp and circumstance, with joy and singing and dancing that lasts all night. It is said that whoever has never seen the water drawing ceremony has never seen joy in his life.
It was in this setting, the single most joyous event of Sukkot, that Jesus revealed himself by quoting the prophet Isaiah. Each of us would benefit from reading the entirety of Isaiah 55, for by quoting the first verse of this chapter, Jesus is actually referencing the whole passage. Jesus is the source of the living water. This festival of Sukkot points, as do all Biblical festivals, to Jesus as the source of salvation (the Hoshana Rabbah, if you will). This is not only salvation for the nation of Israel, but for all the nations of the world. There could be no better setting for this revelation than the water drawing ceremony on the last day of Sukkot. As a believer, the festival of Sukkot has become an important time to celebrate the great salvation of Messiah Jesus.
There are many more connections between Jesus and Sukkot, but my space is up now — however, there’s a way to learn more.
If anyone would like to experience just a tiny bit of the joy of this festival of Sukkot, I suggest the Sukkot celebration held at Church of the Messiah in Xenia. On Friday, Oct. 6 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 7 at 6 p.m. there will be singing, dancing, and teaching. It could be said that if you have not experienced the joy of Sukkot at Church of the Messiah, then you are really missing out on a time of joy and celebration centered on the great salvation of our Lord and Teacher Jesus. Details can be found at www.churchmessiah.org.
Frank Fenton is a lifelong student of the Word of God. He attends the Church of the Messiah in Xenia where he shares teaching duties for the weekly Bible study class, as well as contributing to the congregational teaching.