What does it say?
When Jesus was last in Jerusalem (John 5), his enemies plotted to kill him. The Feast of Tabernacles (harvest festival) is at hand and Jesus wants to go up to Jerusalem. He refuses pressure from his physical half-brothers (7:3-5) with great fanfare. Instead, he delays his travel and goes later as secretly as possible (7:10). There is already controversy surrounding him when he arrived. In the middle of the feast Jesus teaches openly in the temple, polarizing the people and the religious leaders take steps to arrest him. On the final day of the feast (7:37-38) Jesus creates a stir by proclaiming to offer rivers of living water to those that come to him.
John 8 opens with the story of the religious leaders bringing to him a woman caught in the act of adultery. This is obviously a trap to accuse Jesus. He turns the table by asking anyone without sin to cast the first stone. This leads to Jesus saying that he is the light of the world and a long debate between Jesus and the Pharisees.
What does it mean?
By speaking in such a visible context Jesus is increasingly bold and the conflict with the religious leaders escalates rapidly. His proclamation on the feast’s last day is the cultural equivalent to saying that he has power to grant eternal life, a power reserved for God alone. This is, of course, the point. These two chapters contain some of the strongest claims to Christ’s deity.
In John 8 notice that Jesus forgives the adulterous woman and he claims to be the light of the world (8:12). This claim is also tied to the symbolism of the feast, lighting candles to symbolize the pillar of fire that guided the Israel in the wilderness. He says that he is not of this world (8:23). In his harshest words yet, Jesus calls the Pharisees sons of the Devil (8:44). The Pharisees demand that he make it clear who he claims to be (8:53) and his response is breathtaking. He claims to be before Abraham and that he is I am (8:58), the One that spoke to Moses from the burning bush and whose name the Jews refuse to speak out of fearful reverence.
How will I respond?
Does my life truly reflect the power of God’s Spirit flowing from me as rivers of living water? Does God’s Spirit control me totally? If not, I will confess to God any sins and ask him to fill and control me with his Spirit.