Saturday, April 11, 2015

J—Jesus in Jerusalem

Journey through the Gospel of John from A to Z with rookie bloggers who are seeking 
to honor their good friend, Tina.

As we journey through John we should stop and observe a bit of the terrain that we are passing through. Geographically speaking, this gospel spans three major regions:  Galilee in the northern part of Palestine, Judea in the south, and Samaria in-between.

The other three gospels focus on Jesus' work in the north.  But John's gospel spends a fair amount of time in Judea, where Jerusalem and the temple were located.

Chapters 7 and 8 are primarily set at the temple where pilgrims gather to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, a commemoration of the time when God delivered His people from Egypt and they dwelt in tents.  This was a joyous week-long feast, rich in symbolism of water and of light. Jesus taps into those symbols to continue revealing who He is to the people of Israel.  One claim that He makes at this feast is issued as an invitation:

 On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him."  -John 7:37-38

This offer of living water is an echo of Messianic passages that were part of the scriptural readings for the feast. Jesus was identifying Himself as the Messiah here.  But even more than that, Jesus was identifying himself with the Temple itself. For the waters described in these Old Testament prophecies speak of the water flowing from the temple.

This would not be the first time that Jesus implied this. Jesus refers to his own body when he tells the Jews, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days."  (2:19)  Later, when the dedication of the temple was being celebrated, Jesus tells the Pharisees that He is the one that has been "sanctified" or "dedicated" by the Father (10:36).

The beautiful meaning for us is clear.  Jesus IS where we meet God.  He IS the fulfillment of all that the Lord requires of us. 

This is the change that Jesus cued for the Woman at the Well when Jesus said, "a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem," instead it will be "in spirit and truth" (John 4:21,23).

The Temple is more than just a backdrop for this gospel. John's choice to focus on Jesus' travels to Jerusalem for feasts is very deliberate. It is a powerful symbol to teach us about our salvation. 

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