Lately I’ve been doing a lot of reading about Jewish festivals, and the more I learn the more incredible the connections to Jesus seem. Please forgive the somewhat rushed nature of this blog, but to take the time necessary to fully explicate all the amazing connections would take time that I just don’t have right now.
This week, followers of Judaism celebrate the seven-day festival of Sukkot. In Sukkot, they remember God’s provision by symbolically setting up flimsy tents outside in the elements. In this they remember that God liberated them from slavery and kept them safe through the desert, despite having no material possessions. In contrast to “Gog” and “Magog”, the nations in Ezekiel 38 whose names refer in Hebrew to ‘roofs’, the Jews are a nation without roofs. The man of Gog believes in self-security, in providing for himself, in making sure he has enough money and resources and friends to be safe. The man of God, on the other hand, trusts in God, that God will provide.
There is another thing about Sukkot that I find incredibly interesting. In Simchat Beit HaShoeivah, which was practiced each of the seven nights of Sukkot, the priests would pour out water onto the altar. But the name for this does not translate to the ‘dumping of water’, but as the “joyful place for the drawing of water”. As if the water were coming from the altar, not the other way around…How can this be?
Because throughout all the prophecies in the Jewish Scriptures, there are particular ones that foretell of a day when water will flow out from Jerusalem and provide water to the whole arid landscape around it. Water that is so refreshing it turns the Dead Sea into a living sea that can support fish. Water that flows “from the Temple”. Water from a rock? Crazy symbolic...but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Thus the Ceremony at the place of the Drawing of the Water was a foreshadowing of these prophecies. Correspondingly, there was great joy attached to it. In fact, Jewish scriptures say: "He who has not seen the Simchat Beit Hashoeva has never in his life seen joy!" The greatest joy in the world, which only increases in happiness each night, culminating on the final day of the Feast.
Cut to the book of John, chapter 7: “On the last and greatest day of the festival (Sukkot!), Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” This is the day of greatest joy, of greatest happiness, the foreshadowing of the rejuvenation of the world. And Jesus makes this radical claim that the time of the water flowing from the altar was NOW. In the midst of the joyful procession, Jesus proclaims that the source of water was in fact in their midst!
Skip ahead to John Chapter 19: Jesus is dead on the cross. Then, “one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe.”
It seems this tiny detail, a flow of blood and water from Jesus side, is so important that John has to swear immediately afterwards that it is true. Why? Because blood is necessary for the forgiveness of sins. And water is necessary to fulfill the prophecies about reviving the world. Jesus uniquely fulfills both aspects at once.
Last week was Yom Kippur, which occurs for forgiveness. This week is Sukkot, for a flood of water to renew the lands. And Jesus combines the two. Blood and water, poured out onto the earth for its full, complete redemption, a redemption that cleanses us and gives life to our world.
[If you’re interested in learning more, check out my earlier blog, Streams in the Desert. Also check out the Wikipedia articles about Sukkot and Simchat Beit HaShoeviah, as well as Zechariah 13-14, Revelation 21-22, Ezekiel 37, and Joel 3:18.]