8 June 2019

John 7:37-39

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 ...' (v. 37)

Psalm: Psalm 142


We conclude the week’s readings with a perplexing little passage from a rather obscure and little-read part of John’s Gospel. These are the only verses from John 7 in the Revised Common Lectionary (the three-year scheme used across a range of denominations including the Methodist Church).

The whole chapter is set in the context of the seven-day Jewish festival of Booths (or Tabernacles), the chief holiday of the Jewish year, when crowds flocked to Jerusalem and temporary huts were erected for them. John uses the cycle of Jewish festivals to provide chronological markers in his narrative. The second Passover of Jesus’s ministry has passed (John 6:4) and now, six months later, we reach the Autumn festival of Booths.

The key things, from a Christian point of view, are that this marks the change from mission in provincial Galilee to the challenge to the seat of power, Jerusalem, and (particularly in our small excerpt) some highly significant declarations from Jesus about the Holy Spirit, using the image of living water. This may have been inspired by the drawing of water as part of the ceremonies of the festival.

The statement that the Spirit will not come until Jesus has been glorified is somewhat surprising given the many appearances of the Spirit in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament).

Singing the Faith 393 explores yet more aspects of the Spirit, including some feminine qualities. The term “Enemy of Apathy” has become one of the key ideas in the Iona tradition.

Psalm 142 is a classic psalm of complaint and supplication. Verse 6 sums it all up.


To Ponder:

  • How do you make sense of the statement that the Spirit is yet to come?
  • How are you preparing for tomorrow’s festival of Pentecost?

Bible notes author

The Revd Alan Bolton

The Revd Alan Bolton is a Methodist minister serving in the Connexional Team with responsibility for the Church's complaints and discipline process. He is also a musician and was a member of the group producing new music resources for Methodist worship.

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