John 7: 10 ... Saint John tells us Jesus went on the road up to Jerusalem, ‘not publicly but as it were in secret’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)
1 Καὶ περιεπάτει ὁ Ἰησοῦς μετὰ ταῦτα ἐν τῇ Γαλιλαίᾳ· οὐ γὰρ ἤθελεν ἐν τῇ Ἰουδαίᾳ περιπατεῖν, ὅτι ἐζήτουν αὐτὸν οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι ἀποκτεῖναι. 2 ἦν δὲ ἐγγὺς ἡ ἑορτὴ τῶν Ἰουδαίων ἡ σκηνοπηγία. 3 εἶπον οὖν πρὸς αὐτὸν οἱ ἀδελφοὶ αὐτοῦ· Μετάβηθι ἐντεῦθεν καὶ ὕπαγε εἰς τὴν Ἰουδαίαν, ἵνα καὶ οἱ μαθηταί σου θεωρήσωσι τὰ ἔργα σου ἃ ποιεῖς· 4 οὐδεὶς γάρ ἐν κρυπτῷ τι ποιεῖ καὶ ζητεῖ αὐτὸς ἐν παρρησίᾳ εἶναι. εἰ ταῦτα ποιεῖς, φανέρωσον σεαυτὸν τῷ κόσμῳ. 5 οὐδὲ γὰρ οἱ ἀδελφοὶ αὐτοῦ ἐπίστευον εἰς αὐτόν. 6 λέγει οὖν αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς· Ὁ καιρὸς ὁ ἐμὸς οὔπω πάρεστιν, ὁ δὲ καιρὸς ὁ ὑμέτερος πάντοτέ ἐστιν ἕτοιμος. 7 οὐ δύναται ὁ κόσμος μισεῖν ὑμᾶς· ἐμὲ δὲ μισεῖ, ὅτι ἐγὼ μαρτυρῶ περὶ αὐτοῦ ὅτι τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ πονηρά ἐστιν. 8 ὑμεῖς ἀνάβητε εἰς τὴν ἑορτήν ταύτην, ἐγὼ οὔπω ἀναβαίνω εἰς τὴν ἑορτὴν ταύτην, ὅτι ὁ ἐμὸς καιρὸς οὔπω πεπλήρωται. 9 ταῦτα δὲ εἰπὼν αὐτοῖς ἔμεινεν ἐν τῇ Γαλιλαίᾳ.
10 Ὡς δὲ ἀνέβησαν οἱ ἀδελφοὶ αὐτοῦ, τότε καὶ αὐτὸς ἀνέβη εἰς τὴν ἑορτήν, οὐ φανερῶς, ἀλλ' ἐν κρυπτῷ. 11 οἱ οὖν Ἰουδαῖοι ἐζήτουν αὐτὸν ἐν τῇ ἑορτῇ καὶ ἔλεγον· Ποῦ ἐστιν ἐκεῖνος; 12 καὶ γογγυσμὸς πολὺς περὶ αὐτοῦ ἦν ἐν τοῖς ὄχλοις, οἱ μὲν ἔλεγον ὅτι ἀγαθός ἐστιν, ἄλλοι ἔλεγον, οὔ, ἀλλὰ πλανᾷ τὸν ὄχλον. 13 οὐδεὶς μέντοι παρρησίᾳ ἐλάλει περὶ αὐτοῦ διὰ τὸν φόβον τῶν Ἰουδαίων.
14 Ἤδη δὲ τῆς ἑορτῆς μεσούσης ἀνέβη ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἰς τὸ ἱερὸν καὶ ἐδίδασκε. 15 ἐθαύμαζον οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι λέγοντες· Πῶς οὗτος γράμματα οἶδε μὴ μεμαθηκώς; 16 ἀπεκρίθη οὖν αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν· Ἡ ἐμὴ διδαχὴ οὐκ ἔστιν ἐμὴ, ἀλλὰ τοῦ πέμψαντός με· 17 ἐάν τις θέλῃ τὸ θέλημα αὐτοῦ ποιεῖν, γνώσεται περὶ τῆς διδαχῆς, πότερον ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐστιν ἢ ἐγὼ ἀπ' ἐμαυτοῦ λαλῶ. 18 ὁ ἀφ' ἑαυτοῦ λαλῶν τὴν δόξαν τὴν ἰδίαν ζητεῖ, ὁ δὲ ζητῶν τὴν δόξαν τοῦ πέμψαντος αὐτόν, οὗτος ἀληθής ἐστιν, καὶ ἀδικία ἐν αὐτῷ οὐκ ἔστιν.
19 οὐ Μωϋσῆς δέδωκεν ὑμῖν τὸν νόμον; καὶ οὐδεὶς ἐξ ὑμῶν ποιεῖ τὸν νόμον. τί με ζητεῖτε ἀποκτεῖναι; 20 ἀπεκρίθη ὁ ὄχλος καὶ εἶπε· Δαιμόνιον ἔχεις· τίς σε ζητεῖ ἀποκτεῖναι; 21 ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· Ἓν ἔργον ἐποίησα, καὶ πάντες θαυμάζετε διὰ τοῦτο 22 Μωϋσῆς δέδωκεν ὑμῖν τὴν περιτομήν, οὐχ ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ Μωϋσέως ἐστὶν, ἀλλ' ἐκ τῶν πατέρων, καὶ ἐν σαββάτῳ περιτέμνετε ἄνθρωπον. 23 εἰ περιτομὴν λαμβάνει ἄνθρωπος ἐν σαββάτῳ, ἵνα μὴ λυθῇ ὁ νόμος Μωϋσέως, ἐμοὶ χολᾶτε ὅτι ὅλον ἄνθρωπον ὑγιῆ ἐποίησα ἐν σαββάτῳ! 24 μὴ κρίνετε κατ' ὄψιν, ἀλλὰ τὴν δικαίαν κρίσιν κρίνατε.
25 Ἔλεγον οὖν τινες ἐκ τῶν Ἱεροσολυμιτῶν· Οὐχ οὗτός ἐστιν ὃν ζητοῦσιν ἀποκτεῖναι; 26 καὶ ἴδε παρρησίᾳ λαλεῖ, καὶ οὐδὲν αὐτῷ λέγουσι. μήποτε ἀληθῶς ἔγνωσαν οἱ ἄρχοντες ὅτι οὗτός ἐστιν ἀληθῶς ὁ Χριστός; 27 ἀλλὰ τοῦτον οἴδαμεν πόθεν ἐστίν· ὁ δὲ Χριστὸς ὅταν ἔρχηται, οὐδεὶς γινώσκει πόθεν ἐστίν. 28 ἔκραξεν οὖν ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ διδάσκων ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ λέγων· Κἀμὲ οἴδατε, καὶ οἴδατε πόθεν εἰμί· καὶ ἀπ' ἐμαυτοῦ οὐκ ἐλήλυθα, ἀλλ' ἔστιν ἀληθινὸς ὁ πέμψας με, ὃν ὑμεῖς οὐκ οἴδατε· 29 ἐγὼ οἶδα αὐτόν, ὅτι παρ' αὐτοῦ εἰμι κἀκεῖνός με ἀπέστειλεν. 30 Ἐζήτουν οὖν αὐτὸν πιάσαι, καὶ οὐδεὶς ἐπέβαλεν ἐπ' αὐτὸν τὴν χεῖρα, ὅτι οὔπω ἐληλύθει ἡ ὥρα αὐτοῦ. 31 πολλοὶ δὲ ἐκ τοῦ ὄχλου ἐπίστευσαν εἰς αὐτόν καὶ ἔλεγον ὅτι ὁ Χριστὸς ὅταν ἔλθῃ, μήτι πλείονα σημεῖα τούτων ποιήσει ὧν οὗτος ἐποίησεν;
32 Ἤκουσαν οἱ Φαρισαῖοι τοῦ ὄχλου γογγύζοντος περὶ αὐτοῦ ταῦτα, καὶ ἀπέστειλαν ὑπηρέτας οἱ Φαρισαῖοι καὶ οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς ἵνα πιάσωσιν αὐτόν. 33 εἶπεν οὖν ὁ Ἰησοῦς· Ἔτι μικρὸν χρόνον μεθ' ὑμῶν εἰμι καὶ ὑπάγω πρὸς τὸν πέμψαντά με. 34 ζητήσετέ με καὶ οὐχ εὑρήσετε· καὶ ὅπου εἰμὶ ἐγὼ, ὑμεῖς οὐ δύνασθε ἐλθεῖν. 35 εἶπον οὖν οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι πρὸς ἑαυτούς· Ποῦ οὗτος μέλλει πορεύεσθαι, ὅτι ἡμεῖς οὐχ εὑρήσομεν αὐτόν; μὴ εἰς τὴν διασπορὰν τῶν Ἑλλήνων μέλλει πορεύεσθαι καὶ διδάσκειν τοὺς Ἕλληνας; 36 τίς ἐστιν οὗτος ὁ λόγος ὃν εἶπε, ζητήσετέ με καὶ οὐχ εὑρήσετε, καὶ ὅπου εἰμὶ ἐγὼ, ὑμεῖς οὐ δύνασθε ἐλθεῖν;
37 Ἐν δὲ τῇ ἐσχάτῃ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ μεγάλῃ τῆς ἑορτῆς εἱστήκει ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ ἔκραξε λέγων· Ἐάν τις διψᾷ, ἐρχέσθω πρός με καὶ πινέτω. 38 ὁ πιστεύων εἰς ἐμέ, καθὼς εἶπεν ἡ γραφή, ποταμοὶ ἐκ τῆς κοιλίας αὐτοῦ ῥεύσουσιν ὕδατος ζῶντος. 39 τοῦτο δὲ εἶπε περὶ τοῦ Πνεύματος οὗ ἔμελλον λαμβάνειν οἱ πιστεύσαντες εἰς αὐτόν· οὔπω γὰρ ἦν Πνεῦμα Ἅγιον, ὅτι Ἰησοῦς οὐδέπω ἐδοξάσθη.
40 πολλοὶ οὖν ἐκ τοῦ ὄχλου ἀκούσαντες τὸν λόγον ἔλεγον· Οὗτός ἐστιν ἀληθῶς ὁ προφήτης· 41 ἄλλοι ἔλεγον· Οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ Χριστός· οἱ δὲ ἔλεγον· Μὴ γὰρ ἐκ τῆς Γαλιλαίας ὁ Χριστὸς ἔρχεται; 42 οὐχὶ ἡ γραφὴ εἶπεν ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ σπέρματος Δαυῒδ καὶ ἀπὸ Βηθλέεμ τῆς κώμης, ὅπου ἦν Δαυῒδ, ὁ Χριστὸς ἔρχεται; 43 σχίσμα οὖν ἐν τῷ ὄχλῳ ἐγένετο δι' αὐτόν. 44 τινὲς δὲ ἤθελον ἐξ αὐτῶν πιάσαι αὐτόν, ἀλλ' οὐδεὶς ἐπέβαλεν ἐπ' αὐτὸν τὰς χεῖρας.
45 Ἦλθον οὖν οἱ ὑπηρέται πρὸς τοὺς ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ Φαρισαίους, καὶ εἶπον αὐτοῖς ἐκεῖνοι· Διατί οὐκ ἠγάγετε αὐτόν; 46 ἀπεκρίθησαν οἱ ὑπηρέται· Οὐδέποτε οὕτως ἐλάλησεν ἄνθρωπος, ὡς οὗτος ὁ ἄνθρωπος. 47 ἀπεκρίθησαν οὖν αὐτοῖς οἱ Φαρισαῖοι· Μὴ καὶ ὑμεῖς πεπλάνησθε; 48 μή τις ἐκ τῶν ἀρχόντων ἐπίστευσεν εἰς αὐτὸν ἢ ἐκ τῶν Φαρισαίων; 49 ἀλλ’ ὁ ὄχλος οὗτος ὁ μὴ γινώσκων τὸν νόμον ἐπικατάρατοί εἰσι! 50 λέγει Νικόδημος πρὸς αὐτούς, ὁ ἐλθὼν νυκτὸς πρὸς αὐτὸν, εἷς ὢν ἐξ αὐτῶν· 51 Μὴ ὁ νόμος ἡμῶν κρίνει τὸν ἄνθρωπον, ἐὰν μὴ ἀκούσῃ παρ' αὐτοῦ πρότερον καὶ γνῷ τί ποιεῖ; 52 ἀπεκρίθησαν καὶ εἶπον αὐτῷ· Μὴ καὶ σὺ ἐκ τῆς Γαλιλαίας εἶ; ἐρεύνησον καὶ ἴδε ὅτι προφήτης ἐκ τῆς Γαλιλαίας οὐκ ἐγήγερται.
[53 Καὶ ἀπῆλθεν ἕκαστος εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτοῦ.]
1 After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He did not wish to go about in Judea because the Jews were looking for an opportunity to kill him. 2 Now the Jewish festival of Booths was near. 3 So his brothers said to him, ‘Leave here and go to Judea so that your disciples also may see the works you are doing; 4 for no one who wants to be widely known acts in secret. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.’ 5 (For not even his brothers believed in him.) 6 Jesus said to them, ‘My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify against it that its works are evil. 8 Go to the festival yourselves. I am not going to this festival, for my time has not yet fully come.’ 9 After saying this, he remained in Galilee.
10 But after his brothers had gone to the festival, then he also went, not publicly but as it were in secret. 11 The Jews were looking for him at the festival and saying, ‘Where is he?’ 12 And there was considerable complaining about him among the crowds. While some were saying, ‘He is a good man’, others were saying, ‘No, he is deceiving the crowd.’ 13 Yet no one would speak openly about him for fear of the Jews.
14 About the middle of the festival Jesus went up into the temple and began to teach. 15 The Jews were astonished at it, saying, ‘How does this man have such learning, when he has never been taught?’ 16 Then Jesus answered them, ‘My teaching is not mine but his who sent me. 17 Anyone who resolves to do the will of God will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own. 18 Those who speak on their own seek their own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and there is nothing false in him.
19 ‘Did not Moses give you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why are you looking for an opportunity to kill me?’ 20 The crowd answered, ‘You have a demon! Who is trying to kill you?’ 21 Jesus answered them, ‘I performed one work, and all of you are astonished. 22 Moses gave you circumcision (it is, of course, not from Moses, but from the patriarchs), and you circumcise a man on the sabbath. 23 If a man receives circumcision on the sabbath in order that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because I healed a man’s whole body on the sabbath? 24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgement.’
25 Now some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, ‘Is not this the man whom they are trying to kill? 26 And here he is, speaking openly, but they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Messiah? 27 Yet we know where this man is from; but when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.’ 28 Then Jesus cried out as he was teaching in the temple, ‘You know me, and you know where I am from. I have not come on my own. But the one who sent me is true, and you do not know him. 29 I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.’ 30 Then they tried to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come. 31 Yet many in the crowd believed in him and were saying, ‘When the Messiah comes, will he do more signs than this man has done?’
32 The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering such things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent temple police to arrest him. 33 Jesus then said, ‘I will be with you a little while longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. 34 You will search for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.’ 35 The Jews said to one another, ‘Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? 36 What does he mean by saying, “You will search for me and you will not find me” and, “Where I am, you cannot come”?’
37 On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, 38 and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.” ’ 39 Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
40 When they heard these words, some in the crowd said, ‘This is really the prophet.’ 41 Others said, ‘This is the Messiah.’ But some asked, ‘Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he? 42 Has not the scripture said that the Messiah is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?’ 43 So there was a division in the crowd because of him. 44 Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.
45 Then the temple police went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, ‘Why did you not arrest him?’ 46 The police answered, ‘Never has anyone spoken like this!’ 47 Then the Pharisees replied, ‘Surely you have not been deceived too, have you? 48 Has any one of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in him? 49 But this crowd, which does not know the law – they are accursed.’ 50 Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus before, and who was one of them, asked, 51 ‘Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?’ 52 They replied, ‘Surely you are not also from Galilee, are you? Search and you will see that no prophet is to arise from Galilee.’
[53 Then each of them went home.]
Succoth, the Festival of the Booths, or the Tabernacles, was one of the great Jewish festivals when Jews from outside Jerusalem went up to the Holy City. The Hebrew word Succoth means “booths.” This is an autumn harvest festival that also reminds Jews of the 40 years of wandering in the desert after the Exodus (Leviticus 23: 39-43; Deuteronomy 16: 13-15). The festival begins five days after Yom Kippur on the 14th day of the month of Tishrei: “On the fifteenth day of this seventh month, and lasting seven days, there shall be the festival of booths [or tabernacles] to the Lord for seven days” (Leviticus 23: 34).
Succoth is one of the three pilgrim festivals – the others being Pesach (Passover) and Shavuot (Pentecost). On Monday morning, Bishop Richard Clarke was reminding us of the riches and beauties to be found in the heritage we have received from the great Hebrew festivals and traditions. Already in this Gospel, Christ as the new Moses has replaced the Sabbath ordinance (John 5: 1-47); Christ as the Bread of Life replaces the manna and the Passover (John 6: 1-71); now Christ as the Living Water and the Light of the World, replaces the water and light ceremonies of Succoth (John 7), and promises that Holy Spirit will come at Pentecost (John 7: 39; 20: 22).
The week-long feast of Succoth, with an added eighth day, was celebrated in September or October at the autumn harvest. It was time to pray for early rain in the coming winter.
In Biblical times, the Jewish people would make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate Succoth by offering a portion of their autumn harvest to the Temple.
During this feast, the people lived in huts or booths while they were in Jerusalem to recall the sojourn of their ancestors in the desert.
During this feast, in a ritual symbolisation of the need for rain, there was daily procession from the Pool of Siloam to the Temple, bringing water as a libation as a reminder of the water from the rock in the desert (Numbers 20: 2-13), and as a symbol of hope for the coming Messianic deliverance (Isaiah 12: 3) – two themes that are important for understanding what Jesus has to say later during this Festival.
And during this feast, the Court of the Women in the Temple was lit up by immense torches.
In modern Judaism, the holiday is celebrated by the building of a Sukkah in the synagogue, and often in Jewish homes. The Sukkah, made of greenery and harvest produce, is laid over a frame through which the sky can be seen. It represents harvest fruits and the frail huts the people lived in during their 40 years of wandering in the desert.
A Sukkah made of greenery and harvest produce, representing harvest fruits and the frail huts lived in during 40 years of wandering in the desert
Kiddish is made in the Sukkah, and some Jews with Sukkahs in their homes will eat and even sleep in them for the duration of the festival.
Two more symbols are associated with Succoth – the Lulav and the etrog. Lulav is a Hebrew word meaning “palm branch,” and specifically refers to a three-sectioned structure composed of a single palm branch in the centre, two willow branches on the left and three myrtle branches on the right. It is about a metre in length. Etrog, the Hebrew for “citron,” refers to the special lemon-like fruit used in conjunction with the lulav on the festival of Succoth.
Waving the lulav and etrog in all directions symbolises the fact that God is everywhere
The lulav and the etrog are collectively known as the four species. Waving the lulav and etrog in all directions symbolises the fact that God is everywhere. The four species they are made of are also seen to represent four different parts of the body joined together in serving God: the willow is the mouth – uttering a prayer; the etrog the heart – the centre of wisdom and understanding; the palm branch is the spine – symbolising an upright character; the myrtle the eyes – our window on the world.
Going up to Jerusalem for the Feast (verses 1 to 13)
As Succoth feast approached, questions were being asked as to whether Christ would join the people going up to Jerusalem, despite the increasing dangers he faced there.
His brothers (verse 3) show no faith in Jesus, nor did they believe in him (verse 5). They now want him to leave Galilee to work miracles in Judea so that people will see what he is doing, and he will gain fame.
John 7: 10 ... Jesus is going to make his way to Jerusalem in his own good time (Photograph: Patrick Comerford
Jesus is not persuaded. He tells them his hour has not yet come, some thing he has said earlier to his mother during the Wedding at Cana (see John 2: 4). The inevitable consequence of going up to Jerusalem will, eventually, be his crucifixion, and Jesus is not going to be hurried along the road to this – he is going to go there in his own good time. And so he tells his brothers to go on up to Jerusalem themselves.
But this play on words – about “going up” to Jerusalem – which is often missed by the readers, must have been missed too by the brothers of Jesus. So they go on up to Jerusalem (verse 10), hardly expecting that he is going to make his own way there too, even though the people of Judea are expecting him and look out for him there (verse 11).
Compare the secret journey Jesus then makes to Jerusalem with the public one he makes later (see John 12: 12-15).
At the middle of the Feast (verses 14-36)
The feast is already half over when Jesus makes a dramatic appearance in the Temple and begins to teach (verse 14). His dramatic appearance is a cause of astonishment. His knowledge of Scripture amazes the biblically and theologically educated scholars who are present – compare this with the story of the young Jesus lost in the Temple, in conversation with the scholars (Luke 2: 46-47).
He teaches without deference to any other authority, but reminds those who question him, as he did on that occasion in Saint Luke’s Gospel, that he is in the Temple about his Father’s business.
He also reminds them (verse 19) of the last time he was in Temple, a year and a half earlier, when they tried to kill him because he healed on the Sabbath – note the move from a pool to the Temple, which is part of the ritual of Succoth.
If it was permissible to circumcise on the Sabbath – an action involving only part of the body – why was it not permissible to heal the whole body on the Sabbath, he asks.
Once again, those are listening to Jesus are divided among themselves. He is not the sort of Messiah they expected; the Messiah was expected to remain hidden when he arrived, and unknown until Elijah revealed him to the world. Some question his credentials because he comes from Galilee, others are convinced by his signs.
The Chief Priests and the Pharisees send the Temple guards to arrest Jesus. This is an interesting coalition, for the chief priests were Sadducees, and they and the Pharisees did not share the same beliefs in life after death, the same views of the law, or give the same place to worship in the synagogue.
Meanwhile, Jesus continues in his discussion until they arrive later in this chapter (see verse 45). As he continues, he warns those who are listening that have only a short time within which to accept him.
Four days later, the Temple guards who been sent to arrest Jesus arrive where he has been teaching (verse 45). They sneer and wonder whether he ought not head off into the Diaspora, and teach the Greeks. Ironically, whether this means Hellenised Jews, or Greek-speaking gentiles, these are precisely the people who are rejected by Jewish Christians, creating the conflicts in the Johannine community in the area around Ephesus.
The last day of Succoth: Living Water (verses 37 to 52)
‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water”.’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)
Throughout the Feast of Succoth, the pilgrim crowds in Jerusalem have been watching the daily water ritual, and joined in the prayers for rain. Ands so, there is a dramatic impact when Jesus makes his declaration here about Living Water.
Drawing on Raymond Brown’s insights, we might read verses 37 to 38 with this poetic versification, which is possible with the RSV translation, but much more difficult to see in the NRSV translation:
If anyone thirst, let him come to me;
And let him drink who believes in me;
‘From within him there shall flow
rivers of living water.’
But this statement also recalls passages in the Psalms (Psalm 78: 15-16; 105: 41) and from Isaiah (Isaiah 12: 3; 48: 21). As Moses struck the rock in the desert to bring forth water during the Exodus, so Christ, the rock of the new Israel, gives living water. That water is the Spirit, which is to be given at Pentecost or in Baptism, after Christ has died, Christ has risen, and Christ has ascended o the Father.
These images are drawn together in the New Testament reading for last Sunday, the Third Sunday in Lent, where the Apostle Paul reminds us how the people in wilderness drank from the Rock, and tells us that ‘the rock was Christ’ (I Corinthians 10: 4-5). Already in this Gospel, we have seen how Christ has promised the Samaritan woman at the well the gift of living water (John 4: 10 ff). Perhaps there is an echo of this too in the later account in this Gospel that when the soldiers came to the cross and found that Jesus was dead, instead of breaking his legs one of them pierced his side with a spear, and at once water came out (John 19: 33-34).
Those who listen are divided. Some say he is the prophet-like-Moses (verse 40). Others say he is the Messiah (verse 41). Still others say he could not be the Messiah because he was born in Galilee (verses 41-42).
This Gospel never mentions the birth of Christ in Bethlehem. The reader is expected to know this. But is there a slight play of irony and humour here? The reader knows something that those who are murmuring do not know.
Some those present want to arrest Jesus. The Temple guards who have been sent by the Pharisees to arrest him (see verse 32) now arrive, but return to the chief priests and the Pharisees without the prisoner they have been sent for (verse 45). They too have been convinced by the words of Christ.
Who speaks up for Jesus?
We have another appearance by Nicodemus (see John 3: 1-21), who will appear again at the Crucifixion, when he and Joseph of Arimathea take the body of Christ for burial (John 19: 39-42).
Nicodemus, who was once so timid that he was afraid to be seen with Jesus in daylight, now has the courage to speak up for him, and eventually will come to say Amen to the Body of Christ.
Where are the unexpected places you find Jesus?
It is mockingly suggested that Jesus should go away and teach the Greeks – whether this is Hellenised Jews or Greek-speaking Gentiles. How do you think people in your parish would react to you spending time reaching out to people beyond the traditional boundaries of the parish or even the Church of Ireland itself?
Where do you draw from when you need refreshing spiritual sources?
Next: John 7: 53 to 8: 11, A woman caught in adultery.
Canon Patrick Comerford is Director of Spiritual Formation, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This essay is based on notes prepared for a Bible study in a tutorial group of B.Th. and M.Th. students on 10 March 2010.