Summary: Water is a thematic element in the Gospel of John. Jesus baptised in it, turned it to wine, used it as a metaphor of life, used it to heal, walked on it, and washed His disciples feet with water. Yet on the cross He needed water, and He got none.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
The first order of creation, even before God proclaimed, “let there be light”, there was water.
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.
Jesus was already there at the beginning. He was the Source from which water was created.
His ministry began, as John described, at His baptism-as he was dunked in the water, the Spirit of God descended like a dove (John 1) like the beginning, as the Spirit hovered over the face of the deep, we had a new beginning in Christ.
Jesus’ first miracle was a transformation of water to wine- Jesus would teach that His body was the bread, and His blood was the wine – He changed water-the basis of physical life-into wine- the basis of spiritual life (John 2).
When Jesus discussed with Nicodemus the nature of this spiritual life He told him
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” . . . no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.
So, water, the first order of creation is the basis of physical life.
It was also a picture of the spiritual life Jesus would offer. To the woman at the well Jesus proclaimed
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4)
At a pool in Jerusalem a man lame for forty years complained that he couldn’t get into the water-apparently there was a tradition that the first to get to the waters, once they were stirred up, would be healed. They thought the water was a source of healing-like many who go to water-spring-spas today. But Jesus was the true source, the only one he needed. Jesus healed him (John 5)
Jesus had a journey to make across the lake to get back to His disciples. He walked on the water. When Peter asked to join him, he, too, walked on water for a short time-as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus-then he started to notice the wind and waves, and he started to sink. We then have the shortest prayer in the Bible “Jesus, Help!” and Jesus did (John 6). On another occasion when the wind and waves where overwhelming, and the disciples thought they would die, Jesus commanded the winds and waves “be quiet. Be still” and they were (Mark 4). He was able to command those things He created.
On the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles Jesus cried out
“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. (John 7)
Jesus and His Disciples met a man born blind. Jesus spat on the ground and made mud, put the mud in the man’s eyes and told him to wash in a pool. Jesus used water and mud as His means of healing (John 9).
On the night in which Jesus was betrayed he took water-the source and symbol of physical life, and even of the Spirit, and used it to wash the Disciples feet (John 13)
Only John relates to us the stories of Nicodemus and the Woman at the Well, of the man healed at the pool, and Jesus statement at the feast of Tabernacles. Only John tells us of the healing of the man born blind, and of the washing of the disciples feet.
Only John tells us that on the cross Jesus complained, of the seven statements, His only statement of His own needs, that He was thirsty
knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”
Knowing everything had been fulfilled (Matthew records His statement “It is finished!”) Jesus said He was thirsty. One must wonder what He might have been thirsty for.
The Psalmist said he thirsted for God (Psalm 42, 63, 143). It also says something unexpected
deliver me from those who hate me, from the deep waters. Do not let the floodwaters engulf me or the depths swallow me up or the pit close its mouth over me . . . . I looked for sympathy, but there was none, for comforters, but I found none. They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst. (Psalm 69)