In the Book of John, Jesus uses both the symbols of the Jewish faith (ceremonial cleansing, the Temple, a Rabbi, and a Holy Well) and the feasts of Israel to show his followers who He is. The next feast Jesus uses is the Feast of Tabernacles (7:2). In the next few days, we’ll see how Jesus uses the symbols of this feast (water and light) to identify Himself.
Every year, the Jews were commanded to come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, a feast that celebrated and remembered their 40 years wandering in the wilderness (each family built a temporary shelter and lived in it for the week of the festival to commemorate the temporary shelters they lived in while wandering), God’s provision for them during that time, and the promise of a Promised Land “flowing with milk and honey”. One of the great symbols of the feast was water.
The priests would travel in the morning to the Pool of Siloam and gather water in a ritual pitcher. They would then process back to the temple with the water and poor it, along with another pitcher of wine, at the base of the altar. This water symbolized God’s Holy Spirit poured out on His people. On the last day of the feast, after the pouring of the water, there was a time of silence to reflect on this. It was probably during that silence that Jesus cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” This Living Water is the same Holy Spirit symbolized by the water poured out at the base of the altar. No wonder the priests and scribes were so incensed!