Gospel: John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15 [7:37-39a]
Epistle: Acts 2:1-21
Lesson: Ezekiel 37:1-14
Psalm: Psalm 139:1-12 (13-16) [104:25-34]
CLB Commentary on the Gospel Text by Dr. Richard Erickson
(originally published in 2012)
As with any and every other pericope from John’s Gospel, and as we’ve noticed in some other of these comments on texts from John, this short text also forms one integral part of a complete Gospel narrative, a narrative for which the author’s goal is clearly stated at the end: “These signs are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name” (20:31). All parts of the story, including these words Jesus utters at the Festival of Booths, must be read in terms of this goal statement.
The “signs” John refers to (20:30–31) begin with the wedding at Cana (2:11). Altogether John narrates only seven signs, or perhaps eight, that Jesus did (among many others; 20:30). This pericope for Pentecost Sunday comes between the sign of Jesus’ multiplying the bread, in his role as the Bread of Life in chapter 6. The next major sign is the raising of Lazarus in chapter 11.
The pericope comes at the climax of Jesus’ visit to the Festival of Booths (late September, not quite a “Pentecost” text, but as 7:39 points out, it looks forward to Pentecost). Actually, building on the allusion to manna in chapter 6, this speech picks up once more on the Exodus narrative by echoing the story in Numbers 20 about the water from the rock (see also 1 Cor 10:4). In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is portrayed as the new Moses (Matthew 5–7; 17; 28); here he is the rock that satisfies thirst in the desert. But it’s Jesus’ words in 7:37-38 that carry the weight of the text.
Echoed in v. 37 is Isaiah 12, with its sequence: (a) the Lord is my salvation; (b) draw from the wells of salvation; (c) make known the Lord’s deeds to the nations. Likewise echoed is what Jesus had said back in John 6:35, “whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” Those he calls to here in 7:37, those who are still thirsty, are perhaps then the ones who rejected him in 6:66, and others like them: those who do not believe. He continues to call them.
But he calls for a reason: that they will drink from “the wells of salvation” and “make known the Lord’s deeds to the nations.” Israel has abandoned their calling and Jesus is sent to call them back to it, in order that they will carry out the task they were “elected” to do: to bless the nations—the Gentiles—on God’s behalf. The power to perform that great task is bestowed at Pentecost (7:39) in the giving of the Spirit.