The Ministry of Messiah, 2:1-12:50

5. Jesus the water of life, 7:1-8:11

iv] The life-giving Spirit


On the last day of the feast of Tabernacles, in the context of the ceremony where water from the pool of Siloam is poured out in the Temple court, 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 source of the water of life, the life-giving Spirit which supersedes Israel's cult and Law.


i] Context: See 7:1-13. Of all the episodes in The Ministry of Messiah, this fifth episode, Jesus the Water of Life, 7:1-8:11, is the most difficult to deal with. The Feast of Tabernacles seems to serve as the illustrative background for the discourses; 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. As already observed, the discourses cover a number of topics, all within the context of the manifestation of the messiah, a manifestation which prompts questions, confusion, debate, conflict and ultimately rejection.

The manifestation of messiah is certainly central to this episode. 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. Jesus continues to reveal his messianic credentials and consequently faces the same stubborn hardheadedness exhibited by the children of Israel during their wilderness wanderings.


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


iii] Structure: The life-giving Spirit:

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:

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. On the last day of the feast a pitcher of water from the Pool of Siloam is poured out in the Temple court. At a practical level, it was associated with prayers for rain, but at a spiritual level it signified the outpouring of God's Spirit in the coming messianic age. 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. Like Yahweh of old, Jesus claims to be the source of kingdom blessings, of redemption, of life eternal for all who believe, realized in the outpouring of God's refreshing Spirit - Jesus is the water of life.

Jesus' messianic claim is met with a number of responses. For some in the crowd, there is merit to Jesus' claims, but for "the Jews" (Israel's disbelieving religious establishment) and their supporters, the idea of a Galilean Messiah is totally stupid. Although the temple police are under orders to arrest Jesus, they are in two minds as to what they should do within the confusion of the moment, so they report back to the Sanhedrin; they are unsure whether Jesus is, or is not, a messianic impostor. The Sanhedrin knows better, with only Nicodemus arguing for a fair hearing.


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. 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 (also a possible allusion to the water that flowed from the rock in the wilderness, Ex.17:6, cf., 1Cor.10:4). Jesus' words prefigure the outpouring of the Spirit which will follow his glorification / the cross, and its consequences: resurrection, ascension, ......

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative.

en + dat. "on" - in. Temporal use of the preposition; "On the last day of the feast."

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

th/ megalh/ dat. adj. "the greatest day" - the greatest [day]. The adjective serves as a substantive, dative in apposition to "the last day." "Most important day of the feast", Berkeley.

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

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

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

diya/ (diyaw) pres. subj. "is thirsty" - [anyone] 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" - [let him come] to me [and drink]. Spacial, expressing motion toward. Missing in some manuscripts, but regarded as a "scribal oversight", Metzger.


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

eiV + acc. "in [me]" - into [me]. When used with "believe", interchangeable with en, "in", giving a spacial sense, expressing direction of action and arrival at, resting on, relying on.

kaqwV "as" - like, as, just as. Here the conjunction introduces a comparative clause.

hJ grafh (h) "the Scripture [has said]" - the writing [said]. Nominative subject of the verb "to say", singular, indicating" a particular text. Some commentators suggest that the quote is "whoever believes", cf., Isa.28:16, but "whoever believes" more likely relates to the clause "if any one thirst, let him come to me: and let him who believes in me drink", cf., NEB - possibly a reference to Isa.55:1, although Barrett points out that drinking and thirsting are not synonymous. Most modern commentators suggest that the scripture in mind is "streams of living water will flow within him", but the source of the quote is anything but clear. The best we can say is that it draws on the wording of Psalm 46:4f, while alluding 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) gen. pres. part. "of living [water]" - [rivers of water] living. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "water" and genitive in agreement, as NIV. The genitive noun u{datoV, "water", is adjectival, attributive, idiomatic / content, "rivers which are full of / containing living water", or product, "rivers which consist of living water."

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

autou gen. pro. "him" - of him. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, limiting "belly." The intended referent is unclear. Usually taken as either Jesus or the believer: a) Jesus, so Brown, Schnackenburg, Beasley-Murray, .....; b) 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 fulfillment 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 "by this he meant" - [but/and he said] this. Accusative direct object of the verb "to say." Fee notes that the phrase "this he said" 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 / the 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.

oiJ pisteusanteV (pisteuw) aor. part. "those who believed" - [which] the ones believing [in him]. The participle serves as a substantive. Note that the pronoun o{, "which", is neuter, given that "Spirit" is neuter.

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

gar "-" - for. More reason than causal, introducing an explanation of the previous statement and so often not translated, as NIV.

ou[pw adv. "Up to that time [the Spirit had not been given]" - [the spirit was] not yet. 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" - [jesus not yet] was glorified. Divine / theological passive - God is the agent. 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 Jesus is the messiah, some a prophet, but most are confused, with some even wanting to have him 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 presumably 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 / resumptive, rather than inferential; "when they heard these words", ESV.

akousanteV (akouw) aor. part. "on hearing" - [some from the crowd] hearing. The participle is best treated as adverbial, temporal, "when they heard this saying", AV, but it could also be taken as adjectival, attributive, limiting "crowd", "some of the crowd who had been listening", NJB.

twn logwn (oV) gen. "[his] words" - the words [of this one]. Genitive of direct object after the verb akouw, "to hear." Possibly "these words", Cassirer, ie., toutwn serves as an attributive modifier of "words".

ek + gen"some of [the people]" - certain = some of = from the crowd. The preposition here stands in the place of a partitive genitive, parting an assumed tineV, "certain" = "some"

elegon (legw) imperf. "said" - were saying. The imperfect is possibly inceptive; "began to say."

alhqwV adv. "surely" - [this man is] truly, really. Modal adverb, expressing manner; "without a doubt", Harris.

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


ou|toV pro. "He [is the Christ]" - [others were saying] this one [is the christ / messiah]. Nominative subject of the copulative verb to-be with "the Christ" serving as the predicate nominative. Against all odds, some of the crowd recognize Jesus to be the messiah.

de "still [others said]" - but/and [the other ones were saying]. Transitional, indicating a step in the dialogue, a new voice, best expressed as an adversative; "but others argued", REB.

mh "-" - not. This negation is used to introduce a question expecting a negative answer; "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.

gar "-" - for. More reason than cause, explaining the thinking behind the question; "Your not suggesting, are you, that he is the Messiah given that the Messiah doesn't come from Galilee?" Sometimes this conjunction is emphatic, expressing an exclamation like "indeed"; "What! Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee?", Harris.

ek + gen. "from [Galilee]" - from [galilee the christ comes]. Expressing source / origin.


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

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

ek + gen. "from [David's descendants]" - from [the seed of david]. Expressing source / origin

apo + gen. "from [Bethlehem]" - [and] from [bethlehem]. Expressing separation; "away from."

h\n imperf. "[where David] lived" - [the village where david] was [born, comes the christ]. 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, establishing a logical connection; "So the people were of two minds about him", Phillips.

en + dat. "-" - [a split / division became] in [the crowd]. Local, expressing space, so "among the crowd."

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


tineV (tiV) pro. "some" - [but/and] some, certain.

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

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

piasai (piazw) aor. inf. "to seize [him]" - to arrest [him]. The infinitive may be classified as complementary, completing the sense of the verb "to will", or serving to introduce a dependent statement of perception expressing what some of the crowd wanted to do with Jesus.

all "but" - Strong adversative, expressing a contrast, as NIV.

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

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


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), and dramatically contrasts with the confused assessment of the Sanhedrin.

The sequencing of this material, particularly as it leads into chapter 8, does present us with a slight problem in that the attempted arrest, v32-36, is separated from v45-52 by a date change, v37.

oun "finally" - for. Here transitional / resumptive, as NIV.

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

touV arciereiV (ewV) "chief priests" - [came toward] the chief priests [and pharisees]. 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 those ones said] to them. Dative of indirect object.

dia tiv "why" - because why [did you not bring him]? Causal interrogative construction; "why did you not bring him back with you?", Harris.


oudepote adv. "[no one] ever" - [the servants answered, a man] never, not an any time. The temporal adverb is 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" - [a man spoke] thus, this way. Modal adverb, expressing manner. 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" - a man. Nominative subject of the verb "to speak." 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 [the pharisees answered, replied to them]. Inferential, establishing a logical connection; "so the Pharisees answered them."

mh "-" - not [and = also you]. This negation is used in a question expecting a negative 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, with the passive voice implying that Jesus is the agent. "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 replied] to them. Dative of indirect object given that "said / saying" is assumed; "the Pharisees answered and said to them ....."


mh "-" - not. Again this negation is used in a question expecting 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]" - [any] from [the rulers or] from [the pharisees have believed into him]. Again this preposition is used in place of a partitive genitive.


alla "No! but" - but. Adversative / contrastive, as NIV. "Have any of the authorities ....... believed in him? Of course not, just this rabble who know nothing about the Law and so are destined to damnation."

ou|toV pro. "this [mob]" - this [crowd]. The use of the pronoun "this" is derogative here. "But this crowd, who know nothing about the law, are damned anyway!", Phillips.

oJ mh ginwskwn (ginwskw) pres. part. "that knows nothing [of the law]" - not knowing [the law]. The participle is adjectival, 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" - [is = are] cursed = under a divine curse. From the Pharisees point of view "their ignorance is culpable", Lindars, cf., Deut.27:26. Note that the plural verb to-be is used with the collective noun "crowd".


proV + acc. "-" - [nicodemus says] toward [them]. Spacial, expressing movement toward. The support that 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]" - the one having gone [to him]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting Nicodemus, "Nicodemus who had approached Jesus earlier", Rieu.

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

w]n (eimi) pres. part. "who was" - being. The NIV treats the participle as adjectival, attributive, but as Novakovic argues, it is probably adverbial, either concessive, or causal. "Though he himself was a Pharisee", Rieu

ex (ek) + gen. "[one] of [their number]" - [one] from [them]. The preposition here is used instead of a partitive genitive, as NIV.


mh "-" - not. Again, used in a question expecting a negative answer, as expressed in NIV. Given that the following conditional clause states a factual situation, the question is difficult to express in English. The CEV solves the problem by treating it as a statement; "Our Law doesn't let us condemn people before we hear what they have to say. We cannot judge them before we know that they have done."

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

ean mh + subj. "without [first hearing]" - if not = unless [it first hears from him and knows what he does]. Introducing a conditional clause, 3rd. class, where the condition has the possibility of becoming true; "unless, as may be the case, the law does not hear from a person and examine what they have done, then it does not pronounce him guilty" = "Does our Law condemn any man without giving him a hearing and without investigating his actions?" Barclay.


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

mh "-" - not. Again, used in a question expecting a negative answer, as NIV.

ek + gen. "from [Galilee]" - [are you and = also] out of, from [galilee]. 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 to close down a debate!

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

oJti "[you will find] that" - that. Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what Nicodemus will not see / behold.

profhthV (hV) "a prophet" - [from galilee] a prophet [does not arise]. Nominative subject of the verb "to arise." 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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