Today, we ask and answer the most important in the world: Who is Jesus? Now, I know your first thought may be, “Ryan, we’re in a church: we all know who Jesus is. And for that matter, we’re in the gospel of John, we’ve seen over and over who Jesus is. So why are we asking this question again?” And I’ll admit to you that even this week when I started studying this part of John 7, I thought to myself, “Eek, there’s nothing particularly new here. We’ve covered this. It might seem repetitive.”
But, I have to remind myself sometimes that part of the beauty of going through books of the Bible, at least as our regular practice as a church—part of the beauty is that we’re kind-of forced, in some ways, to emphasize what God emphasizes. You see, one question we need to be asking is, “Do we believe the right things?” But the further question we need to ask is, “Do we emphasize the right things?”
We believe what God has told us in His Word, but do we also emphasize what God emphasizes in His Word? So that’s the beauty of reading all of God’s Word, and preaching all of God’s Word. Because, hopefully that helps us not to leave things out. You know, leave the parts out that we don’t think are as important. So, I want to admit to you, earlier in the week, I was unsure that this section warranted a whole Sunday, but by the end of the week, I was really glad not to be skimming over it.
That’s just a little side-note for all of us. When you read the Bible on your own, and I really hope you do this. If not, please let us help you get started in reading the Word on your own. We have our own Bible-reading calendars; maybe that could be a New Year’s resolution. But when you read it on your own, don’t be disappointed when you don’t walk away, every single day, with 10 completely convicting, and completely new nuggets of truth.
That may not happen every single time you read the Bible. You may just read one part of the narrative, the bigger story, that it will take weeks in the Word to be able to say, “Wow, this is what God is doing.” So, with that, just be patient. God’s Word is not a neatly and conveniently-packaged happy meal where you can get exactly what you want in 5 minutes, nothing more, nothing less.
God’s Word, instead, is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, joints and marrow.” That’s Hebrews 4:12, in case you’re wondering. Just a little side-note: let God do his work in his timing when you read the Word.
But, speaking of living and active, let’s get into the Word. If you remember last week, Jesus had just traveled to Jerusalem privately, at first, then in the middle of the Feast of Booths, Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. And he ends up interacting with some of those listening, about his authority, in particular. And so, after he teaches, that’s when we get to verse 25. We’re going to read verse 25 all the way to verse 52.
25 Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, “Is not this the man whom they seek to kill? 26 And here he is, speaking openly, and they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ? 27 But we know where this man comes from, and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from.” 28 So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I come from. But I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know. 29 I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.” 30 So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. 31 Yet many of the people believed in him. They said, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?”
32 The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent officers to arrest him. 33 Jesus then said, “I will be with you a little longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. 34 You will seek me and you will not find me. Where I am you cannot come.” 35 The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? 36 What does he mean by saying, ‘You will seek me and you will not find me,’ and, ‘Where I am you cannot come’?”
37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
40 When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.”41 Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? 42 Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” 43 So there was a division among the people over him. 44 Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.
45 The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?” 46 The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!” 47 The Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived? 48 Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? 49 But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.”50 Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them,51 “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?”52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”
So today, we’re answering the most important question in the world. And when I say that, I can’t help but think of the movie I, Robot. I don’t know if any of you like that movie, but I think of the part where the video recording of Dr. Lanning tells Detective Spooner (played by Will Smith), he tells him: “I’m sorry, my responses are limited: you must ask the right question.” And, eventually, Detective Spooner asks a certain question, and Dr. Lanning says, “That, Detective, is the right question.”
That’s what comes to my mind when I think of the right question. But, really, what is THE right question for the entire world? What’s the most important question anyone can possibly ask?
It’s the question, “Who is Jesus?” That is the ultimate question. That question is more important than any other question anyone can ask. Who is Jesus? And we see, more and more throughout the gospel of John, that people are struggling with this question. Especially in chapter 7. Let’s just walk through all the different people…
In the first few verses we just read, we saw the people confused about Jesus, because they were surprised he was teaching! Everyone knew that the Jews were looking to kill him, which is why no one would speak openly about him—they too were afraid of potential consequences of thinking anything different about Jesus than the Pharisees thought. And so, they were being quiet about him, and then when they see him teaching openly, and unafraid of being caught, they wonder: “Have the Pharisees decided he is the Christ, and so it’s ok for him to be teaching like this?” Is that why he’s teaching openly?
And so, they’re wondering if he’s the Christ, but then they’re like, “Wait, we know where he’s from, and we’re not supposed to know where he’s from…How can he be the Christ if we know where he’s from?” That was a common rabbinical teaching, that no one would know where the Christ came from. Some thought they knew exactly where he’d be from, others thought he’d come out of thin air, so to speak.
But Jesus admits, in verse 28, that, “yes, you do know me. But I don’t just come from Nazareth, or Galilee, I come from God the Father!” And when he says that, we see, again, the Jews wanting to kill him. But, by God’s providence, he was kept safe, because it wasn’t yet time for him to die. So, many were still asking the question, “Who is Jesus? Is he the Christ or not?” Verse 30: “Many believed, and said, ‘When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?” They’re kind-of making the argument that, well, “What more can be done to prove that you’re the Christ?!” You know, “all these incredible miracles?”
The crowd is constantly whispering about Jesus, and who they think he is, or who they think he might be. Eventually, some of them were convinced (in verse 40): “This really is the prophet. This is the Christ.” Others were unconvinced, “I didn’t think he was supposed to come from Galilee, and I thought he was supposed to come from the line of David.” Even the officers who were sent to arrest Jesus, apparently didn’t follow through, because they didn’t want to interrupt him! In verse 46, they kind-of, give their excuse for coming back empty-handed: “No one ever spoke like this man!” The Ryan Gilbert paraphrase would be, “We didn’t want to arrest him; we were impressed!”
Even Nicodemus, who was a Pharisee himself and a member of the Sanhedrin, wanted to make sure that his fellow Jews didn’t too quickly condemn Jesus to death. He wanted him to have a hearing. I can’t help but think that Nicodemus is already questioning for himself whether or not Jesus was the Messiah to come, the Christ. Over and over and over, more and more and more, the most important question in the world is being asked: Who is Jesus? And that question, which was the most important question anyone could ask 2000 years ago, is still the most important question anyone can ask in 2018, almost 2019.
And the answer to that question, Jesus gives us in vs. 37-39, and I want to read those again. Verses 37-39:
37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
So what is the answer to the question, Who is Jesus? Well, from these verses, he’s the only one who can give life. Now, we spoke in depth about Jesus being the only one who can give life and the only one to truly satisfy several times already over the last few chapters of John, especially when he called himself the Bread of Life. But I want you to see a few more ways in which Jesus describes himself in only chapters 5 and 6:
- The Giver of Life (6:60-71).
- Our Savior (6:41-59).
- The Bread of Life (6:1-59).
- SUPREME (6:1-21).
- God (5:30-47).
- The Culmination of God’s Plan to Redeem Mankind (5:39-40).
- Ruler of All (5:1-29).
That’s who Jesus is just from the 2 chapters in John that we’ve been reading the past month or two. So, really, what’s the answer to this question, “Who is Jesus?” Well, the answer, most broadly, is that Jesus is the answer! The answer to the brokenness of the world is Jesus. The fact that the world is broken is one of the two basic questions that every person asks: 1) Why are we here? And 2) What is wrong? Right? How do we fix what is wrong? No one looks at the world and thinks, “There’s nothing wrong! Wouldn’t change a thing!”
So what’s the answer to everything that’s wrong in the world? The answer is Jesus. The only thing that can truly fix the corruption and fallenness that WE have introduced with our sin is Jesus. Jesus is how God is reconciling mankind to himself through his death and resurrection, and Jesus is how God will create a new heavens and a new earth. Jesus is the answer.
And he says in verse 38, that “whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” What Scripture is Jesus referring to? Well, it’s really a bunch of Old Testament verses combined into one. But let me take you to one of the most obvious ones: Isaiah 55, verse 1. Isaiah 55:1 says this: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters.”
How do we know this is one of the verses Jesus is referring to? Well, if you look at what leads up to Isaiah 55, it becomes obvious. All of the first 39 chapters of Isaiah are focused on judgment. Just judgment judgment judgment judgment judgment. And then, chapters 40 through 66 (the rest of the book), we see God promising to save his people. And all these promises we see focus in on someone Isaiah calls “the Servant.” And leading up to Isaiah 55, especially chapter 53, we see it as clear as can be who he’s talking about. Let me read from Isaiah 53, two chapters before this verse that Jesus is paraphrasing:
“For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief…he was despised and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and by his wounds we are healed. We all like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
We know who Isaiah is talking about there. Isaiah may not have fully known who he was talking about, but we do. We see more foreshadowing and prophesying of Jesus’ death and resurrection in Isaiah 54, the next chapter, and that’s when we get to chapter 55, which verse 1 is one of the verses to which Jesus is referring in John 7. I’m going to read Isaiah 55:1 again in just a second, this time the whole verse. Because I want you to see the significance of what Jesus is offering here. Jesus says, in John 7, “Whoever believes in me, the Scripture says, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”
You may think, well, surely for something like that, we have to bring something to give to God. Surely, it’s not just believing upon Jesus, trusting in him alone to save me and give me his Spirit. Surely, I must bring something to the table, something to give in exchange for these rivers of living water.
Isaiah 55:1, again (this time the whole verse): “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” Do you see it? It’s the gospel written 700 years before the first Christmas! Before Jesus ever came! We saw in Isaiah 53, “The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” We see the atonement there. And now we see explicitly, in the very verse Jesus is paraphrasing, that we can do nothing to deserve this! Believe in me, trust in me, fall back on me, and out of your heart will flow rivers of living water. Come, without money, and buy and eat, buy wine and milk.
It’s grace! It’s nothing but the pure, undeserved grace of God. We bring nothing in exchange. I’ve been so reminded of my own sin and selfishness and greed and pride and impatience and every other depravity known to man. I guarantee you, we don’t deserve this grace. We don’t deserve Jesus. We don’t deserve rivers of living water. Of all things, the Holy Spirit, God himself, dwelling in us to constantly nourish and satisfy and remind us that we are God’s children despite our sin. We don’t deserve this. We didn’t bring anything to exchange for this. We’re given these rivers of living water, when we have no rights to the land and no rights to the water. But Jesus has rights to the land. Jesus has rights the water. And in him alone can we too be given these rivers of living water.
What’s the result of all of this, if you want to sum it up. The result of believing in Jesus, and receiving the Holy Spirit, which is what refers to when he says, “rivers of living water.?”
We were dead; now we’re alive and nourished. Now this may be something that you didn’t catch when you read this on your own. You have to keep in mind what is going on in John 7. You have to keep in mind the Feast of Booths, or the Feast of Tabernacles, same thing. You can read more specifics about the feast of Booths in Leviticus chapter 23. But what are the Jews celebrating during the Feast of Booths? They’re celebrating God delivering the Israelites from out of slavery in Egypt long ago. So, during this feast, they would construct a booth for their family to live in for a week, to remind themselves of the journey their ancestors took through the wilderness from Egypt all the way to Canaan.
But just think about this for a second: Why did they need booths, or little tents, shelters, back when they were in the wilderness? Because they’re in the desert, and there are no houses in the desert, right? They were on the move, so they didn’t have time to stop and build a city.
So, they’re commemorating a time when Israel is in the desert. And now, Jesus, on the last day of the feast, the climax of the feast, says, “Believe in me, and out of your heart will spring forth rivers of living water.” Listen, in the desert, especially, water literally is life. To be thirsty in the desert means to be dying. To have water in the desert is to have life. Jesus is saying a lot more than the people listening to him realize. He’s saying, “You’re all dying, and I can give you life.”
I don’t think the majority of Jesus’ audience, here, understood that they were dead. I don’t think they understood their desperate need for Jesus to give them life. This is why I think it’s so important to explain sin when we share the gospel. And I know we just talked about some of this last week, but I have to say it again: Do you see how dead you are without Christ?
How depraved, how wretched, how sinful, how rebellious, how dead you are in your sin without Christ. Let’s briefly evaluate ourselves just using the 10 Commandments:
- You shall have no other gods before me.
- You shall not make for yourself a graven image.
- You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
- Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy.
- Honor your father and mother.
- You shall not murder.
- You shall not commit adultery.
- You shall not steal.
- You shall not lie.
- You shall not covet.
How many of those, just those 10, have you broken? Do you see your depravity? Do you see your deadness? And yet, Jesus says, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” How do we drink? We believe in Jesus: “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” You’ll be given life in the desert! And let me tell you, that’s where you are. And you’re not in the desert walking around looking for water. The true meaning of the picture Jesus is painting is that you are already dead and buried in the sand! And yet Jesus can give you life.
By believing in him, trusting in him, standing upon Him having nothing of your own to stand on. Are you thirsty? Do you not even realize that you’re dead and buried in desert sand? Come to Jesus. Drink. Be given LIFE! And if you have already taken a drink. If you have already been given life, stop convincing yourself that you’re still thirsty. Rivers of living water. That’s what we have in Christ.