2014-02-23 – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato – First Baptist Church Edmonton
GodStory, Act IV: Jesus
Key Event #25 of 40
Reading: John 7:1-52
Title: “Rivers of Living Water…Will Come Pouring Out”
“If we could just be like Jesus’ first followers”…. “If we could just be like the early church”… ever heard that phrase before? That whimsical, nostalgic feeling of “if we could only go back to the great and glorious days of Jesus’ ministry”…
Well…it appears that Jesus leads the slowest growing church in galilee. In fact, from John 6 to John 7, Jesus attendance numbers have dropped from 5000 to 11. Five-thousand people being wildly fed with a pauper boy’s breakfast…let’s make him King! But then a mere 52 verses later….Jesus is asking his inner circle the question:
“Do you want to go too?”
WWJD? Blow up mega churches and turn them into sorry, scared groups of 11 people. Hmmmmm…
So the question arises… “Who wants to follow the John 7 Jesus?” Is this not the slippery slope to obsolescence??
In John 7, Jesus moves from the rural hills of Galilee and back to the urban vibe of Jerusalem…it’s Festival time (we know that feeling right?)…and it’s a Fall Festival called the Festival of Booths…one of the most exciting and exhuberant festivals of the year…party!!
We’re going to “voice” John 7 together this morning…we all have roles to play here…and this is what it means to truly “enter in” to the story of our scriptures today. We will dwell in the world of the text…we will encounter Jesus, in the Living Word…and then we (hopefully?) will find ourselves transformed by the story and the presence of Jesus.
So come! Come to the story of Jesus again this morning…it’s not just fairy tales and nice moral stories of how to be good…it’s the story of a Living God, who meets us in the face, voice and heart of Jesus and desires that we might get our thirsty souls quenched…by a Living God who loves us, reaches out to us and seeks to encourage us today.
You’ll note that we’re using another translation today…this one by Bruner…I trust you’ll find the story easier to enter…and another significant reason for using other translations is to ensure that we have easier access points to the characters in the story! So today, we’re trying NOT to paint a picture of those ignorant, obstinate Jewish people of the Bible (we can get pretty anti-semitic if we’re not careful here!). Instead it’s Judeans, Jerusalemites, the crowd, senior pastors, church leaders, seekers, doubters, guessers…we’re all in this mix and Jesus speaks to all of us and invites us to respond to him and his invitation of grace, welcome and abundance.
One other reason to take on such a big text today is to realize that this was a week-long experience with Jesus. Jesus is stirring up quite the drama during this 7-day festival and we get to see, hear and feel lots of different emotions and perspectives on this one who John names as the “son of God” and the “lamb of God.”
So find your lines in the script, as we bring to life the story of Jesus in chapter 7 of John’s gospel.
[ Read the story with many voices involved ]
* * < Recorded sermon starts here > * *
I hope you’ve heard me say this in the past few weeks in regards to the Jesus stories…this following Jesus stuff does not cultivate certitude. Don’t get me wrong here…Yes, Jesus is the way, truth and the life…but that is not equal to finding a life of certainties, sureties, and crisp and clear answers to life’s biggest questions.
I find it interesting that in section I of today’s story…Jesus brothers don’t even get it!?! Isn’t that intruiguing and fascinating?
You’d like to think Jesus’ bro’s might have those inner insights on their Messiah brother but apparently not…
I guess we should give them a bit of a break…Jesus did say: “My time is not yet here”…a phrase that echoes his quick and clear response to his mother at the Wedding Feast in Cana.
— Once we hit the midway section of the festival (in section II), Jesus is dodging accusations of being “too smart for his own good” and at worst a “demon possessed quack”!
And Jesus keeps hammering at his accusers with their own medicine…he tosses religious rulings and regulations back at his critics…
“Why are you trying to kill me?”
“I did 1 work…and you’re all up in arms!”
“Why in the world are you so mad at me? All I did was heal a grown man on the Sabbath”…what’s so bad about that?
—– WHERE is he going with all this?
In Section III Jesus continues to push at his “I AM”-ness….
I AM the bread of life (John 6)…and then in John 8, he’ll say…
– I AM from above…I AM not of this world
– I AM the light of the world
– He pushes the envelope even further… I tell you…even before Abraham WAS….I AM!!
Where is he going with this? He’s going from the earthy to the cosmic…like the gospel of John is prone to do….
I am going to be with you…but then I’m going back to the ONE Who Sent Me….I’m here & now…but then…you’re going to look all over the place for me…and you’re not going to find me…
—– Which leads us to the apex of today’s story (section IV)….the last day of the festival….
In the midst of all this hearsay, theresay, who’s zoomin’ who…we have Jesus crying out, during the closing part of the festival where the priests have told the story of water springing out from the rock and satisfying the grumbling Israelites in the desert….and in the midst of this ritual, the priests bring out 25 litre water jars and pour fresh water on the altar near the temple courts as they rejoice over God’s goodness and look ahead to a season that they hope & pray is filled with the blessings of rain for the crops. Imagine 100’s of people rejoicing, dancing and singing as the water gushes out of the jugs [rain down, rain down!]
And in the midst of the shouts, prayers and singing, Jesus stands up and cries out:
If anyone is thirsty, please come here to me and drink away.
The person trusting me, as Scripture said,
‘Rivers of living water will come pouring out of that person’s innermost being.’
– – – – – –
And for the final frames of today’s story we’re left with all the responses of this pondering and pontificating [puzzling?] crowd…
Criminal! Arrest Him!
And isn’t it interesting to note that the lowliest, least-respected,
ruffians of the crowd – –
The TEMPLE POLICE get it!?!…(these are not upstanding members of the Edmonton Police squad)… these are the security thugs…getting paid minimum wage to beat down the crowd as needed and make the “rough’em up” arrests when called upon…imagine retired WWF wrestlers who have become bar-bouncers in the inner-city…these are the type of scoundrels who respond to the religious leaders and talk excitedly like the lowly Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the Well in Sychar…
“No one ever spoke like this man!”
And note who sides with these low-lifes?
The “sneak a visit with Jesus in the dark” Pharisee named Nicodemus.
He sheepishly [courageously?] speaks out: “Doesn’t Jesus deserve a fair hearing?”
It seems that Nicodemus, too, has been touched by this Jesus who “speaks like no other.”
He’s not quite at the point of our first evangelist from a few weeks ago…. Who cries out “come and see a man!” But he’s on the way…
He’ll get mocked for it now…but he’ll emerge again…showing his true “Jesus-following” colors in chapter 19…
– – – – – –
I hope we get snagged up in today’s intriguing Jesus story.
Wherever you get caught up or fed up with Jesus, will you hear him stand before you and cry out:
Come here to me….drink away.
In the most whole, holy, loving and gracious ways, might you experience and encounter Jesus….and drink away….
Drink away your sorrows.
Drink away your shame.
Drink away your pride.
Drink away your…..
Doubts / Religious right-ness / jealousy / fear / accusations / destructive thoughts /
Division / grumbling / …. You fill in the blank! Drink IT AWAY!!
~ And out of your innermost being, may deep, lasting life gush from you.
And may the words of the GodStory flow through everyone of us:
Behold I do a new thing.
Now it springs up…do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
And streams in the wasteland.
This is good, wet, Spirit-soaked and glorious news.
Splash around in it with child-like joy and abandon!
Living water will come pouring out of your innermost being!
Rejoice in the Lord, you gushers…again I say…rejoice!