What God wants from revival – John 7:1-52, Part 4

Have you heard about the Asbury Revival of 2023? The university has chapel services, and students are required to attend a number of chapel services each semester.  At one particular service recently, something happened.  The manifest presence of the Holy Spirit was like a stream of living water in the lives of the students.  The service kept going, and kept going.  Read more here. What is the purpose of revival? Is it just a prolonged worship service? Or is there more? In today’s post, we’re going to learn about God’s heart for revival, as we continue our study of John chapter 7.

In John 7, Jesus is attending one of the Jews’ religious feasts in the city of Jerusalem. There he has a testy conversation with both people in the crowd and with the religious leaders. In the previous post we learned that some in the crowd were furious at Jesus, even attempting to seize him, while others placed their faith in him. The religious leaders, though, remain steadfast in their opposition to him.  Look at verses 32-36,

“The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him. Jesus said, ‘I am with you for only a short time, and then I am going to the one who sent me. You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.’ The Jews said to one another, ‘Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? What did he mean when he said, ‘You will look for me, but you will not find me, and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?”

The discussion between Jesus and the Jewish leaders and the people in the crowd grows ever more conflicted.  It seems the chief priests and Pharisees have had it with this situation, and they send police to arrest Jesus. 

Meanwhile, Jesus and the people continue their back and forth conversation.  Jesus is semi-cryptic, and the people don’t seem to understand him.  The conversation is a kind of a mess. 

Then the scene changes in verse 37, where we read, “On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice…”  Let’s pause there. Jesus is in the middle of what would have been a large crowd who had traveled to the city for this important festival.  When Jesus calls out in a loud voice, did the noise of the crowd quiet down?  Could most people hear him?  What will he say?

He says, continuing reading verses 37-44,

“‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. On hearing his words, some of the people said, ‘Surely this man is the Prophet. Others said, ‘He is the Messiah.’ Still others asked, ‘How can the Messiah come from Galilee? Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?’ Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.”

More confusion, more disagreement.  Who is Jesus?  He’s the Messiah!  No, he’s not!  Yes, he is!  No, he’s not.  On and on it goes.  

But look at what Jesus says in verse 37.  I wonder if anyone in the crowd understood this important teaching.  Jesus says, “Whoever believes in me will have the living water of the Spirit flowing from within him.”  We need to give careful attention to what Jesus says.  In the middle of a conflicted situation there in Jerusalem, when people have tried to seize him, and when the temple police are looking to arrest him, Jesus gives us a powerful principle.  Jesus desires all people to have an inward experience of his Spirit, and that leads to an outward explosion of his Spirit. 

John tells us Jesus is referring to an encounter with his Spirit that came later, and which we can read about in Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit descended upon and filled Jesus’ first followers. Then the Spirit continued to do so throughout the stories in the book of Acts and in the letters.  Throughout history there have been other outpourings of the Spirit, just like the one is happening right now on the campus of Asbury University. 

Here’s what I believe is important about revival and the work of the Spirit.  It is never meant to be contained within a person. It will start there. Lots of wonderful interior work might need to be done in the life of a person.  But then revival breaks out.  God’s heart for revival is to see changed people change their societies. 

A survey of the book of Acts will show what happened when the Spirit came. Revival broke out and transformed society. The sick were healed.  People stopped hoarding resources and gave sacrificially.  No one saw their property as their own, but gave it up to help those in need.  They crossed cultural and ethnic boundaries.  They crossed gender boundaries, so that in Christ there was neither male nor female, neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, but all were one in Christ. 

Revival begins as a work of God’s Spirit in individual lives, and the living water of the Spirit gushes up like a fountain and spreads the Fruit of the Spirit all around.  Spirit-filled, fruit-flowing Christians continue the revival by standing against and tearing down the structures of injustice in society.  This is why Jesus said in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46) that when we reach out to the sick, the homeless, the prisoner, the hungry, we are reaching out to him. He loves all.  He gave his life for all.  All are made in his image.  A Spirit-filled life will have a heart growing more and more like Jesus’ heart, which equally reaches all.

You cannot put Jesus in a box, and you cannot put the Spirit in a box.  The religious leaders especially tried to put Jesus in box.  Meaning they had a very specific opinion about him.  In their minds, he was not the Messiah because he didn’t act how they thought the Messiah should act. 

So they sent the temple police to arrest him.  Remember that back in verse 32, which we read above?  Jesus was right out in the open there in the temple courts.  The police should have no problem arresting him.  But where are they?  You’d think by now they would have shown up and put Jesus in chains.

They show up, but in a most unexpected place. We’ll find out about that in the next post.

Photo by Ismael Paramo on Unsplash

Published by joelkime

I love my wife, Michelle, and our four kids and two daughters-in-law. I serve at Faith Church and love our church family. I teach a course online from time to time, and in my free time I love to read and exercise, especially running,

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