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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Water and Fire

It is early autumn. The weather is perfect – sunny days in the upper 70’s and clear nights in the upper 50’s. The hills surrounding Jerusalem are dotted with sukkots or make-shift tents with green, leafy roofs. The air is fragrant with citrus. It is the Feast of Booths or the Feast of Tabernacles, and the city of Jerusalem is filled with pilgrims from all around the known world.

Jesus had initially told His family he would not be in Jerusalem for the Feast. Things are getting tense for Jesus. The “Jews” are plotting to kill him – and will succeed in about seven months.

Soon after, Jesus changes His mind. He and his disciples quietly make their way to Jerusalem and slip mostly unnoticed into the city to celebrate the Feast.

During the week of the Feast, Jesus makes His way to the Temple and teaches. The focus of His teaching is that He is from God and teaches the Truth of God.

The Feast of Tabernacles is a remembrance of the 40 years of wilderness wanderings that the Children of Israel experienced after the Exodus. It is also a celebration of the provision of God – taking place at the time of the corn and grape harvest.  King Solomon dedicated the Temple he built to the Glory of God during the Feast of Tabernacles. The celebration includes reading of the Word of God, family meals, and the ceremonial bringing of water to the Temple from the Pool of Siloam.

It was during the bringing of water, on the “Great Day” of the Feast (when the people would walk around the temple seven times and recite Psalm 118:25 - Save now, I beseech thee, O Lord: O Lord, I beseech thee, send now prosperity.) that
Jesus stood and cried, saying, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. 38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” – John 7:37-38

Jesus was speaking of the coming of the Holy Spirit in about 7 months.

Our story fast-forwards through those seven months to the spring of the year. Jesus has celebrated Passover with His disciples, and then was betrayed, suffered, and was crucified for the sins of the world. Three days later He rises from the dead – giving us the promise that we, too, will rise from the grave one day!

For 40 days, Jesus goes in and out among His disciples, giving final teaching and preparing them for the coming of the Holy Spirit and their new mission on earth – to proclaim the Gospel and make disciples.

The Feast of Pentecost arrives – a celebration 50 days after Passover. It is a remembrance and celebration of the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai. Jerusalem is again filled with pilgrims from all around the known world.

The Holy Spirit arrives just as Jesus promised. Now the minds and hearts of the disciples are opened by the Spirit to understand the Scriptures. They now understand how Jesus fulfilled the Law given on Mt. Sinai and why Jesus came and what He did to save the world.

And now the disciples have the power to proclaim this Good News. The air of Jerusalem is filled with the fragrance of the barley and grain harvest. With the coming of the Holy Spirit as a loud, rushing wind and what look like tongues of fire on the disciples’ heads, they proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

And the world is turned upside down!

The Feast of Tabernacles includes water and wine. The Feast of Pentecost includes bread and fire.
Jesus Christ uses water, wine, bread and fire to make us new people – His people – who will share the Good News with all that we meet. As Jesus has promised – you have streams of living water flowing from you as you proclaim the Gospel.


Almighty and ever-living God, You fulfilled Your promise by sending the gift of the Holy Spirit to unite disciples of all nations in the cross and resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ. By the preaching of the Gospel spread this gift to the ends of the earth; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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