The signs of the Messiah, 2:13-12:50

5. Jesus the water of life, 7:1-8:59

iv] The life-giving Spirit


On the last day of the feast of Tabernacles when water from the pool of Siloam is poured out in the Temple court from a golden pitcher, Jesus announced that "if anyone is thirsty let him come to me .... and drink." The crowd is divided in their opinion of Jesus, but, other than Nicodemus, the authorities are determined to act against him.


Jesus is the light of the world. As the living God revealed himself to the children of Israel during their wilderness wanderings, so Jesus reveals himself to the people of Israel in his day. This revelation is divine, it is like a bubbling stream of water; it is a revelation that carries with it the life-giving Spirit of God.


i] Context: See 7:1-13.


ii] Background: The Feast of Tabernacles; See 7:1-13.


iii] Structure: This discourse, The life-giving Spirit, presents in two major parts:

Jesus the source of living water / the Spirit, v37-44:

The water of life, v37-39;

Messianic authority, v40-44;

The unbelief of the authorities, v45-52:

Division among the people, v40-44;

The unbelief of the religious authorities, v45-52.


iv] Interpretation:

Jesus is the source of the water of life, the life-giving Spirit which supersedes Israel's cult and Law.


Of all the Signs of the Messiah which serve to reveal the gift of eternal life in Christ, this fifth episode, Jesus the water of life, is the most difficult to deal with. Unlike the other sign episodes which consist usually of a miraculous sign with an associated discourse, here we have no overt sign (ie. miracle), but rather a series of discourses, covering a number of topics, all within the context of the manifestation of the messiah, which manifestation prompts questions, confusion, debate, conflict and ultimately rejection. Our author / editor wants us to recognize the Feast of Tabernacles itself as the sign which unifies the exposition of the gospel in chapters 7 and 8, such that the "features of the festival and its ritual are applied to Jesus in such a way as to make them signs of the kingdom of God, comparable to the miracles earlier recounted, and leading to further dialogues", Beasley-Murray. Adopting this approach Dodd titles this episode "Light and Life: Manifestation and Rejection."

The manifestation of messiah is certainly central to this episode, given that it begins with Jesus' family urging him to go up to the festival in Jerusalem and reveal himself there, 7:1-13. Jesus resists their prompting, but does go up secretly and in the middle of festival begins to teach openly. Immediately there is conflict, generated by Jesus' earlier healing of the lame man on the Sabbath, 5:1-15, cf. 7:21. So, Jesus, as "the light of the world", reveals himself and consequently faces the same stubborn hardheadedness exhibited by the children of Israel during their wilderness wanderings.

The Feast of Tabernacles celebrates the wilderness wanderings of the children of Israel, of that time in the wilderness when the people of Israel met with their God. It is within the context of Israel's historic experience of heightened divine revelation, a revelation met with stubborn rebellion, that we are confronted by the self-revelation of the divine man - the light of the world. Like Yahweh of old, Jesus claims to be the source of kingdom blessings, of redemption, of life eternal for all who believe; Jesus is the water of life, the source of God's refreshing Spirit.


v] Sources: See 7:1-13.


vi] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 7:37

Divine manifestation / revelation of the Messiah, v37-52: i] Jesus the water of life, v37-39. Jesus had secretly come to the Feast of Tabernacles, a festival which celebrates the wilderness wanderings of Israel under the guiding hand of God. Midway through the festival Jesus begins to reveal his messianic credentials to the gathered crowd. It is now the last day of the festival and so Jesus reveals that he is the source of God's life-giving Spirit. Those who desire the enlivening presence of God in their life need only come to him, need only believe in him. Ezekiel's prophecy of the bubbling waters flowing from the temple, giving life to the land, is even now being fulfilled in the person of Jesus, cf. Ezk.47. Jesus' words prefigure the outpouring of the Spirit which will follow his glorification, ie., his death, resurrection and ascension.

en + dat. "on" - Here temporal.

th/ escath adj. "the last" - See above; "on the final day when the people celebrated", TH.

th/ megalh/ adj. "the greatest day" - the greatest. "Most important day of the feast", Berkeley.

thV eJorthV (h) gen. "of the festival" - The genitive is adjectival, partitive.

legwn (legw) pres. part. "said [in a loud voice]" - [called out] saying. Attendant circumstance participle, "proclaimed and said."

ean + subj. "if" - Introducing a conditional clause, 3rd. class, where the condition has the possibility of becoming true; "if, as may be the case, ..... then ...."

diya/ (diyaw) pres. subj. "is thirsty" - thirsts. Obviously in a spiritual sense, thirsts: "as the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God", Ps.42:1.

proV me "[come] to me" - Spacial. Missing in some manuscripts, but regarded as a "scribal oversight", Metzger.


oJ pisteuwn (pisteuw) pres. part. "whoever believes" - the one believing. Probably a nominative pendens, resumed by autou, but see autou below. The participle functions as a substantive.

eiV + acc. "in [me]" - into [me]. When used with "believe", interchangeable with en, "in", giving a local sense, of resting on, relying on.

kaqwV "as" - like, as, just as. Comparative.

hJ grafh (h) "the Scripture [has said]" - [said] the writing. "Scripture" is singular indicating a particular text. Some commentators suggest that the quote is "whoever believes", cf. Isa.28:16, but if the reference is backward it is more likely "if any one thirst, let him come to me: and let him drink who believes in me", cf. NEB, pos. ref. Isa.55:1, although Barrett points out that drinking and thirsting are not synonymous. Most modern commentators suggest the reference is forward, although the source of "streams of living water will flow within him" is anything but clear. The best we can say is that it draws on the wording of Psalm 46:4f, but primarily alludes to Ezekiel 47, the life-giving water flowing from the temple, an image that possibly draws on the incident of the water that flowed from the rock during Israel's wilderness wanderings. Note how Paul draws on this imagery in first Corinthians. Pfitzner suggests that the quotation is "a summary of various texts such as Isaiah 12:3, 43:20, 55:1, .... 58:11.....", so Calvin, but this is less convincing.

zwntoV (zaw) pres. part. "[of] living [water]" - [water] living. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "water", as NIV. "Water [which is living]", u{datoV, is a genitive of definition, "rivers which consist of living water", or content, "rivers full of / containing living water."

ek + gen. "from [within]" - out of [the belly]. Expressing source / origin.

autou "him" - of him. The intended referent is unclear. Usually taken either Jesus or the believer: i] Jesus, so Brown, Schnackenburg, Beasley-Murray, .....; ii] the believer, an interpretation common to the Eastern church, going back as far as Origin, so Lindars ("it implies that the believers' response to Jesus' invitation will not only satisfy their thirst, but will be a source within them, so that they too will be fruitful"), Pfitzner, Carson, Barrett, Kostenberger, ..... Given that the statement is probably a quote, it is quite possible that auton is "it/her" = Jerusalem / Temple, with Jesus as the fulfilment of the source of the life-giving water prophesied in Ezekiel 47. See touto de eipen below. "As the scripture says out of the midst of Her shall flow rivers of living water", Torrey.


touto de eipen "by this he meant" - he said this. Fee notes that this phrase usually refers to Jesus' words, in which case autou in "out of the belly of him", v38, would refer to "the one believing", although it is still more likely that Jesus is using outou as an identifier for Jerusalem/temple, an identifier fulfilled by Jesus' person and work.

peri + gen. "meant [the Spirit]" - concerning, about [the spirit]. Reference / respect. Water as a symbol of the Spirit has Old Testament precedence, eg. Isa.44:3, Joel 2:28.

oi pisteusanteV (pisteuw) aor. part. "those who believed" - the ones believing. The participle serves as a substantive.

lambanein (lambanw) pres. inf. "[were later] to receive" - are about [to receive]. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "are about".

gar "-" - for. More explanatory than causal and so not translated, as NIV.

ou[pw adv. "Up to that time [the Spirit had not been given]" - not yet [was the Spirit]. Temporal adverb. "Been given" is only found in some manuscripts and so is obviously an addition, but none-the-less it properly expresses the intended sense. The addition avoids the "unintelligent inference that the Holy Spirit did not exist before the glorification of Jesus", Barrett. "The Spirit was not yet available to be a spring of water welling up to eternal life", Lindars.

oJti "since" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why the Spirit "was not yet."

edoxasqh (doxadzw) aor. pas. "had [not yet] been glorified" - [not yet] was glorified. For John, the glorification of Jesus entails "the cluster of events centering on the crucifixion", Kostenberger - the totality of the redemptive event undertaken by the Son of Man (Dan.7:14) for which he is glorified.


ii] Questions concerning Jesus' messianic credentials, v40-44. In much the same way as the people of Israel questioned God's revelation during their wilderness wanderings, so the crowd questions Jesus' self-revelation. Some think he is the messiah, some a prophet, but most are confused, with some even wanting to have Jesus arrested. John brings a touch humor to his gospel by noting the false assumption of the crowd, namely that since Jesus came from Nazareth, rather than Bethlehem, and since he is not of David's line, then he is obviously not the messiah. The reader, of course, knows better.

The account is presented in such a way as to "heighten the dramatic tension .... [providing] a contrasting backdrop to the clear voice of the Lord's self-revelation", Pfitzner.

oun "-" - therefore. Transitional, or resumptive, rather than inferential.

akousanteV (akouw) aor. part. "on hearing" - hearing. The participle may be adverbial, temporal, "when they heard this saying", AV, possibly adjectival, attributive, limiting "crowd", "some of the crowd who had been listening", NJB.

twn logwn (oV) gen. "[his] words" - [this one's] words. Genitive of direct object after the verb akouw, "to hear." "These words", Cassirer.

ek + gen"some of [the people]" - from the crowd. The preposition here stands in the place of a partitive genitive.

alhqwV adv. "surely" - truly, really. Modal adverb.

oJ profhthV "the Prophet" - The definite article indicating a particular prophet, ie. the prophet like Moses, cf. Deut.18:15-18.


ou|toV pro. "He [is the Christ]" - he, this [is the Christ/messiah]. Some of the crowd recognize Jesus to be the messiah.

de "still [others said]" - but, and. Probably adversative; "but others argued", REB.

mh "-" - This negation is used to introduce a question expecting a negative answer; "for the Christ does not come out of Galilee, does he?" Scripture certainly does not discount the messiah's close association with Galilee and this fact is not lost on the gospel writers, cf. Matt.2:23, 4:15f. Bultmann argues that the argument is not countered because the editor of this gospel doesn't know that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, but this is highly unlikely. When it comes to Jesus' origin for John's gospel, the little town of Bethlehem is subsumed by the heavenly origin of the messiah. It is the divine source of the Word which causes so much confusion for those without faith.

ek + gen. "from [Galilee]" - Expressing source / origin.


ouc "[does] not" - This strengthened negation, when used in a question, produces a positive response, the answer "yes".

oJti "that" - Introducing a dependent statement, indirect speech / quotation, indicating what the scriptures says on the matter.

apo + gen. "from [Bethlehem]" - Expressing source / separation; "from / away from."

h\n imperf. "[where David] lived" - [where David] was. Cf. Mic.5:2 which was commonly taken to indicate that the messiah would be born in Bethlehem, although Micah is only referencing the Davidic origins of the messiah.


oun "thus" - therefore. Inferential; drawing a logical conclusion. "So the people were of two minds about him", Phillips.

en + dat. "-" - [a split / division became] in [the crowd]. A spacial sense is obviously intended, so "among the crowd."

di (dia) + acc. "because of" - Causal.


tineV (tiV) pro. "some" - some, certain.

ex (ek) + gen. "-" - from [them]. Used instead of a partitive genitive; "some of them (the crowd)."

hqelon (qelw) imperf. "wanted" - "Some of them wished to arrest him", Barclay.

piasai (piazw) aor. inf. "to seize [him]" - The infinitive forms a dependent statement of perception expressing what some of the crowd wanted to do with Jesus.

all "but" - Adversative, as NIV.

epabalen (epiballw) aor. "laid [a hand]" - put [a hand]. "But no one laid a finger on him."

ep (epi) + acc. "on [him]" - Spacial; "upon".


iii] The fallout from the attempted arrest of Jesus by the temple officers, v45-52. The people are disturbed by Jesus' teaching and as a result the temple guards are sent to arrest Jesus, but are disarmed by his teaching. The Pharisees are not impressed; as far as they are concerned Jesus stands against the Law as a false messiah. Nicodemus, a Pharisee himself, tentatively tries to point out that condemning someone, without properly assessing their crime, is contrary to the Law. His colleagues know better; "from Galilee one expects no prophets, let alone the messiah." So, the manifestation of messiah has left the crowd confused and that confusion is also evident among the temple officers and now among the members of the Sanhedrin. This confusion serves to highlight the clear revelation of Jesus as "the light of the world", a revelation that is divine in origin. The recognition by the temple officers that Jesus' teaching marks him as "no mere man", Kostenberger, dramatically contrasts with the confused assessment of the Sanhedrin.

The logical placement of this material, particularly in serving to lead into chapter 8, does carry with it a slight problem in that the attempted arrest, v32-36, is separated from v45-52 by a date change, v37.

oun "-" - for. Here resumptive and so untranslated.

oiJ uJphretai (hV ou) "the temple guards" - assistants. Here of officers of the Sanhedrin, particularly in John of those who police temple affairs. These officials were drawn from the Levities and were trained in theology; they are not just bouncers.

touV arciereiV (ewV) "chief priests" - Members of the highpriestly families. The collective touV arciereiV and farisaiouV takes only one article indicating a combined block in the Sanhedrin who are now aggressively opposed to Jesus.

autoiV dat. pro. "[who asked] them" - [and said] to them. Dative of indirect object.

dia ti "why" - because why.


oudepote adv. "[no one] ever" - [a man] never, not an any time. Emphatic by position. A shorter reading exists and is preferred by some commentators, eg. Morris; "no man ever spoke like this."

ouJtwV adv. "the way" - thus, this way. Modal adverb. Possibly in the sense of speaking with authority, cf. Matt.7:29, ie. not a "thus says the Lord", but rather, "I say unto you."

anqrwpoV (oV) "this man" - man. Barrett notes the stress on the last word "man" = "the speech of Jesus is not the speech of a man." "Never did one who was no more than a man speak like this", Morris.


oun "-" - therefore. Slightly inferential; "consequently the Pharisees answered them."

mh "-" - no. When this negation is used in a question it expects the answer "no". The question expresses the Pharisees' hope; "surely you haven't been led astray [as well]?"

peplanhsqe (planaw) perf. pas. "has deceived" - have been deceived. The perfect tense serving to express an ongoing state of deception. "Led astray", Barclay; "deluded", Cassirer.

kai "also" - and. Here adjunctive, "also". The Pharisees take the view that the crowd is deceived, but are expressing their hope that the officers of the temple are not also deceived.

autoiV dat. pro. "[the Pharisees] retorted" - [the Pharisees answered] them. Dative of indirect object given that "said / saying" is assumed; "the Pharisees answered and said to them ....."


mh "-" - no. Again the question expects a negative answer. "The Pharisees among the members of the Sanhedrin react to the officers' statement with anger and contempt", Ridderbos; "none of the religious authorities / authorized teachers of the law have believed in him, have they?"

ek + gen. "[have any] of [the rulers]" - Again this preposition is used in place of a partitive genitive.


"No!" - The implied answer to the question in v48.

alla "but" - Adversative, as NIV.

oJ ocloV "mob" - crowd. "As for this rabble, on the other hand, ...", Cassirer.

oJ mh ginwskwn (ginwskw) pres. part. "that knows nothing [of the law]" - which knows not [the law]. The participle serves as an adjective, attributive, limiting "crowd". Of course, the general population did understand the Mosaic law and those of a religious mind sought to keep it, but the Pharisees saw themselves above the common folk, sophisticated in the observance of the details of the law. So, knowing nothing about the law means "careless about the rules of ceremonial purity", Lindars.

eparatoi adj. "[there is] a curse on them" - [they are] under a divine curse. From the Pharisees point of view "their ignorance is culpable", Lindars, cf. Deut.27:26.


NicodhmoV (oV) "Nicodemus" - The support Nicodemus gives to Jesus is limited, but at least he points out that the Pharisees are in danger of breaking the law themselves by passing judgment on a person before properly assessing the evidence, cf. Deut.1:16f, 17:4, 19:15-18.

oJ elqwn (ercomai) aor. part. "who had gone [to Jesus]" - having gone [to him]. The NIV treats the participle as adjectival, attributive, limiting by description Nicodemus and standing in apposition to the participial construction formed the verb to-be, w]n. On the other hand, both participles may be taken to form substantival constructions in apposition to Nicodemus, so AV. Probably best expressed, "Nicodemus, one of their number ("one of the Pharisees", TEV) who had previously come to see Jesus, said to them."

proteron adv. "earlier" - formerly. Temporal adverb.


mh "-" - no. Again, used in a question expecting a negative answer, as expressed in NIV.

oJ nomoV (oV) "law" - "Law" singular, but all divine law is intended, "the law of Moses", although the Pharisees tended to include their own traditions.

ean mh + subj. "without [first hearing]" - if not [it first hears]. Introducing a conditional clause, 3rd. class, where the condition has the possibility of becoming true (or in this case a-temporal / general, being true); "if, as may be the case, [it (the law) does not hear from him and knows what he does], then [the law does not judge the man]" = "Does our Law condemn any man without giving him a hearing and without investigating his actions?" Barclay. In this verse the Gk. reverses the standard form, having the apodosis (the "then" clause) before the protasis (the "if" clause). The CEV treats the clause as a statement, although note mh above. Nicodemus' observation exposes the hypocrisy of the Sanhedrin.


autw/ dat. pro. "[they replied]" - [they answered and said] to him. Dative of indirect object.

mh "-" - Again, a question expecting a negative answer, as NIV.

ek + gen. "from [Galilee]" - out of, from. Expressing source / origin. The question is obviously abusive. "Out of Galilee" may imply that a person aligns with Jesus and his disciples who are mostly Galileans. On the other hand, the Jews of Galilee were regarded as impure due to intermarriage with Gentiles over the years and so the question carries with it a personal insult. A personal insult by innuendo is always a useful tactic in a debate!

eraunhson (eraunaw) aor. imp. "look into it" - search, examine. Obviously in the sense of "search the scriptures."

oJti "[you will find] that" - Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what you see / behold.

profhthV (hV) "a prophet" - An article is present in some manuscripts indicating that "the prophet", ie. the prophet like Moses, may be intended. Prophets have come out of Galilee, eg. Jonah, although there is no passage in the Old Testament predicting that a messianic prophet will arise from Galilee, although note 2King.14:25. Given the present tense of egeiretai, "comes out of / arises", a "general rule" is probably intended, so Ridderbos; "from Galilee one expects no prophets." The use of the title "prophet", rather than "messiah", may carry an intended contrast, so "from Galilee one expects no prophets, let alone the messiah."


John Introduction



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