The Use of Water and Spirit in John’s Gospel

You may not have noticed it before… but there’s a water theme in the book of John. In each of the first 7 chapters of John’s gospel… there are significant events and/or conversations involving water. In each of these, Jesus is shown to not only have control over the water, but also offer a better alternative than the world offers. And John helps tie these water episodes directly to the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

The events of this chapter happen during a feast in Jerusalem. We are not sure which of the seven feasts it was. To be sure, Jerusalem was full of people. It was a good time for Jesus to do some teaching…

We are told about a pool that is by the sheep gate. It’s a pool that had a tradition of healing that went along with it. It’s this pool that plays into the “Water” motif in John… John highlights water throughout his gospel. John is a masterful story-teller and he is weaving together Old Testament pictures of God into his gospel of Jesus. 

Water is something we all understand. We interact with it on a daily basis. It is critical for our physical life. Jesus equates water, the most basic of elements in the seen realm, to describe the Holy Spirit in the unseen realm. Something we can’t see, but that is as basic to our spiritual existence. Jesus is saying that the Holy Spirit is as crucial to our spiritual survival as waster is to our physical survival. One of the benefits of studying an entire book is the ability to see the themes and structure the author has used. 

The “Water Theme” in the first seven chapters of John…

  • John 1:24-34 – John baptized with water but Jesus with the HS.
  • John 2:6 – Jesus turns purification water to wine. Ceremonial water used for washing inferior to Jesus’ wine which cleanses within.
  • John 3:5 – Jesus controls the water & wind that cause a new birth from above.
  • John 4:10 – Jesus offers Living Water to the woman at the well. Well water can’t quench thirst like the Holy Spirit. 
  • John 5:7-8 – Jesus heals better than the water in the pool of Bethesda. Pool water can’t heal like the ministry of the Holy Spirit. 
  • John 6:15-21 – Jesus walks on the water. 
  • John 7:37-39 – Living water offered to those at the feast of tabernacles. 

In each of the first seven books of John’s gospel… there are significant events/conversations involving water where Jesus is shown to have control over the water and also offer a better water… the Holy Spirit, one that rules the spiritual realm.

When we dive into the gospel of John… we are supposed to recognize the critical importance the Holy Spirit plays in the spiritual life of the believer. We should also recognize that when the text mentions water… we are to be expecting something about the Holy Spirit’s ministry to be revealed.