Common Faith Network

Common Faith Network

Morning Companion

The Water Ceremony


On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39, NKJV)
 When Jesus stood up and shouted out his message, it was the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, a mere six months before his crucifixion. His preaching was taking on an urgency as his earthly ministry was coming to close.

On this last day of the Feast the people celebrated with a traditional water ceremony. Water was drawn from the Pool of Siloam, the very pool where Jesus on the next day would instruct a blind man to wash his eyes for healing (John 9). From the Pool of Siloam the priests and the people would walk in procession through Jerusalem, through the Water Gate, and into the Temple. There the priest would pour that water from the healing Pool of Siloam into a silver bowl on the altar as a special offering to God.

It is worth noting that this water ceremony is not a part of any Biblical liturgy. There is no instruction anywhere in the Scripture commanding this tradition, but it is also worth noting that Jesus did not condemn it. Rather he used it as a teaching tool.

During the ceremony a number of scriptural passages might have been in the people's minds. Maybe they were thinking of Isaiah 44 and the analogy associated with water when it is poured on a thirsty ground.
‘Fear not, O Jacob My servant;
And you, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen.
For I will pour water on him who is thirsty,
And floods on the dry ground;
I will pour My Spirit on your descendants,
And My blessing on your offspring;
They will spring up among the grass
Like willows by the watercourses.’
Maybe they thought about Ezekiel 47 and the prophecy of pure healing water gushing from the Temple Mount as a blessing and the bringing forth of life and healing.
This water flows toward the eastern region, goes down into the valley, and enters the sea. When it reaches the sea, its waters are healed. And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will live wherever the river goes.
Maybe they were listening to the words that a choir of priests were singing from Isaiah 12:
O Lord, I will praise You;
Though You were angry with me,
Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me.
Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and not be afraid;
‘For Yah, the Lord, is my strength and song;
He also has become my salvation.’
Therefore with joy you will draw water
From the wells of salvation.
If those that heard Jesus voice that day made the connection with the words of Isaiah 12, Jesus' shout would have been an electric shock to them considering from whom the words were coming. To understand that, understand what the Hebrew says in verse 2. The phrase "God is my salvation" is "el yeshua". "El" is Hebrew for "God", and "Yeshua" is Hebrew for "Jesus", which in turn means "salvation". And verse 3 speaks of "draw[ing] water from the wells of salvation [yeshua]."

So going back back to John 7, a man named Yeshua makes an obvious reference to a passage from the prophets that uses the word "yeshua" in connection with the waters of salvation drawn from a pool of healing. Jesus is offering them a clue to his true identity and origin.

This teaching was shocking but effective. Some believed him (verses 40 - 41), some doubted (verses 41 - 42), and some wanted to arrest him for blasphemy (verse 44). Regardless of where they stood, they knew exactly what he was saying about himself and who he really was.

The theological points Jesus was making are an obvious ones: He is the way to salvation. He can satisfy our search for meaning. He will send the Holy Spirit and that Spirit through us can help heal the world.  

There is also a lesson here on how to reach people with a message. Remember that this Water Ceremony was not a part of the original liturgy from the Torah. It was a cultural thing that was added some time between Moses and Herod's Temple. Yet Jesus had no problem using the culture of the day as a teaching tool.  That should be a clue to us that using our popular culture to teach spiritual lessons is not only acceptable, but also smart. Lessons from movies, lessons from popular books, lessons from news events -- these all can be sources of instruction.

Put differently, we cannot afford to isolate ourselves from society at large. We must understand the thinking process and milieu of those around us. Engage the culture from where it is. Speak in terms that they can relate to. And keep the message positive whenever possible.
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For more information on the Water Ceremony, go to these links:

http://jewishroots.net/library/holiday-articles/water_libation_ceremony.html

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14794-water-drawing-feast-of

https://jewsforjesus.org/publications/issues/issues-v06-n07/sukkot-a-promise-of-living-water/

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