A final reflection from John’s gospel on Jesus being the Israel of God, fulfilling all that the Old Covenant promised, prophecied and pointed to.
Firstly in John 7 Jesus goes to the feast of Tabernacles. The feast was a remembrance of the time that the children of Israel spent in the desert, recalling God’s miraculous provision. But it was also a looking forward to when the river of life would flow. On the greatest day of the feast a magnificent procession took place. The high priest would pour water into the altar in front of the temple, watched by all the crowds, symbolising that day of God’s presence and power that everyone looked forward to. On this very day – maybe at that very moment, we can’t be sure – Jesus stood and said in a loud voice “if anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me will have streams of water flowing from within him, as the scripture says.” John comments that by this he meant people will receive the Holy Spirit. A huge confrontation between the Old Covenant and the New. The high priest carrying out the symbol and sign, and Jesus claiming to be the reality that it all spoke about. The conclusion – don’t go to the sign anymore when the reality has come. If you are thirsty for God you no longer go to the Old Covenant, you go to Jesus. No wonder that the religious authorities wanted to seize him.
But it gets better still. Among the greatest encounters with God in the Old Testament was when Isaiah was confronted by Yahweh in majesty and judgement in Isaiah 6. He saw the Lord high and lifted up and was blown away by the vision and the conviction of his own sinfulness. Yahweh revealed himself as the judge of his people. John 12:41 says that the almighty God and judge, the one who defines the destiny and identity of God’s people, the one who cut them off and exiled them for sin, was Jesus Christ. Isaiah saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.
The judgement of God in Isaiah is described in Isaiah 5 as God uprooting his unproductive vineyard and building a new one. And deliverance is described in terms of the time when God rebuilds the vineyard and it produces good fruit (Is. 27:2-6). In the image the vineyard is the people of God. So when Jesus, in John 15, says that he is the true vine, his father the gardener and his people the branches, it is a clear fulfilment of Isaiah. He replaces the sinful Old Covenant people of God with himself, inviting people to be connected with himself if they wish to bear the fruit of God.
He is the delight of sinful hearts. He is the beautiful vine. He is the image of the splendour of God. He is the one in whom are all treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Soften your heart to adore him and bring him homage right now.