Remember that all this was taking place during the Feast of Booths, called Sukkoth. Ordinarily this was a happy time for the people, who thronged to the Holy City in annual pilgrimage to celebrate God’s goodness and bounty, caring for them the forty years their ancestors had spent in the wilderness.
Redeemed from the oppression of enslavement, and headed towards a land promised to their forefathers centuries ago, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were being formed into the people of God.
An eighth day had been added to the original Feast of Booths to commemorate entry into the Promised Land. This was a solemn day of sacrifices and prayer, as every person of Jewish faith and lineage assembled together in the temple courts.
To get the full impact of what happened on this last day of the feast, please read Psalms 113-118. If you invest time in that small devotion, the two summary sentences in John’s gospel, verses 37-38, will break wide open for you.
If you would rather listen, I have recorded the passage (below).
The lavender sky over Jerusalem was fresh with blushing rose clouds and the first golden rays of sun. Birds sang to each other of dewy grasses, heavy with their ripened grain, and of fruited trees. Everywhere, people opened their eyes as the sun brushed their faces, stretched, yawned, and smiled.
It was the eighth day, the Sabbath of the Sabbaths, for on this day the land had become theirs, apportioned among the tribes, as foretold. Already in the distance, the temple trumpets sounded from each parapet.
Come and worship!
The streets soon filled with excited families, many headed for the pool of Siloam to wash their faces and have a drink of water. Those with smaller children would stay there to meet with the rest, then walk back up God’s holy Mount Zion, to God’s holy temple. Others were already running, so they might not miss the entire parade, and their voices rose with the first of the Hillel Psalms,
Praise the Lord!
Praise, O servants of the Lord;
praise the name of the Lord.
Voices came from everywhere—from the thousand makeshift tents of tree branches and fall flowers, from the houses along every street and alley, from the neighborhood squares, from the outskirts of the city all the way to the temple steps.
Roman soldiers were also emerging from their barracks, quietly joining the processions of families, not singing, yet tense and alert for any sign of trouble. Herod looked from the upper window of his palace, and the procurator from his temporary quarters on the temple mount.
Blessed be the name of the Lord
from this time on and forevermore.
From the rising of the sun (and here the people shouted with upraised arms to the sun rising above them) to its setting
The name of the Lord is to be praised.
The Lord is high above all nations,
and his glory above the heavens.
Psalm 113 had been sung with great anticipation, and now the people began to sing anew,
When Israel went out from Egypt,
the house of Jacob from a people of strange language,
Judah became God’s sanctuary,
Israel his dominion.
Those who were meeting in the temple’s outer courtyard were now watching as the priest, raising his golden pitcher high, appeared at the priests’ gate and began his descent to the Pool of Siloam. A rousing cheer erupted from the gathering throng,
The sea looked and fled;
Jordan turned back.
The mountains skipped like rams,
the hills like lambs.
And so they sang, many dancing as their favorite King David had done a thousand years before, while the ark was being brought into Jerusalem.
At the pool, great gushes of water sprung from the wall of living rock, splashing in a froth of aquamarine drops and pure white foam. The priest thrust the golden pitcher, now glistening and glinting in the sun, under that abundant stream, filling it to overflowing with living water.
Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord,
at the presence of the God of Jacob,
who turns the rock into a pool of water,
the flint into a spring of water.
Many wept tears of joy, having looked forward to this moment all year long.
And back they went, singing with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength, up, up, up, the slope of Mount Zion, up the hundreds of gleaming marble steps, to the top where another priest held his golden pitcher of rich wine, newly crushed from the grapes they had just harvested.
The temple trumpets far above, along the sanctuary’s impossibly high buttresses, waited for their signal. A massive choir had formed in the people’s absence, flanked by drummers, timbrels, flutes, cymbals, and harps.
A hush came over the multitude as the priest with the water neared the priest with the wine. Then, as they now stood together, both priests slowly presented the pitchers to Almighty God, throwing back their heads and shouting—and all the people with them—“Therefore with joy will you draw water from the wells of salvation,” from Isaiah 12:3.
At that moment, the choir and the people burst forth in song, the Song of Victory, Psalm 118.
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his steadfast love endures forever!
The silver trumpets high above played between each stanza.
Together, the two priests, with great solemnity and dignity, made their way to the altar of Almighty God, and before the people poured both pitchers out together, by the altar, sparkling blue water, and wine as deep and red as blood . . .
I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
The people sang and danced in ecstatic bliss.
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
As the people sang entranced, Jesus summoned his disciples to come behind him as he slowly made his way up the temple steps, among the joyful worshipers. John began to notice how the sun’s rays seemed to follow Jesus as he walked, surrounding him with an otherworldly glow. The thought dawned on him, He is like God’s shekinah, leading us. It caused the hair on his arms to rise, and a swirling sensation filled his chest.
John shivered with excitement. Jesus, the visible radiance of God’s glory! The effulgence of YHWH! Jesus the Light of the World!
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Save us, we beseech you, O Lord!
O Lord, we beseech you, give us success!
Many of the women who supported Jesus financially, as well as followed his teaching, were with them, along with their families, singing and praising God with this added, secret knowing that the Lord Jesus had come from God.
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
We bless you from the house of the Lord.
The Lord is God,
and he has given us light.
God’s brilliant glory, shining in fire and cloud, the Lord’s shekinah was come to God’s holy mountain, God’s holy dwelling place.
With the last notes fading into the rising morning breeze, a voice rose up from their midst, one voice that seemed to speak next to each person individually, from the holy trumpeters far above, to the ear of each faithful worshiper, the lowly beggar, the Roman soldier, and high priest alike.
A beautiful voice. A powerful voice.
“Whoever is thirsty, come to me and drink.”
Startled, strangely stirred, all the people, every person, turned their heads here, then there. Where was the voice coming from? Was this the voice of God? Was Almighty God speaking to them from God’s holy mountain, as God had spoken to their forefathers in the wilderness?
For God had drawn all the people to holy Mount Sinai to covenant with them, to form them into God’s kingdom of priests. Was the Lord making a new covenant?
Jesus’ voice spoke again, “The one who believes in me, as the writings say, ‘a river [flows] out of that one’s inner being.’”
[The River Dan was iconic for the ancient Hebrew, for its source came bubbling forth through the rock of the mountain, pure, clean, life-giving—living—water. Today, in the Tel Dan Nature Reserve which surrounds the Dan river, there is a hike through what is entitled “The Garden of Eden,” a breathtakingly lush and beautiful walk through the national park. | Pikist.com]