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Bible: What Does John 4 Teach Us About Evangelism and Saving Faith?

Updated on September 8, 2016



Jesus and the Samaritan Woman


The Woman at the Well

To avoid unnecessary confrontations with the Pharisees, who have heard that He is gathering more disciples than the Baptizer through His ministry, Jesus returns to Galilee from Judea (vv. 1-3).

Instead of traveling around Samaria—the normal route for Samaritan-hating Jews—He walks through the region until He arrives (by divine appointment) near Jacob’s well in Sychar (vv. 4-6a).

There He sits down to rest at noon-time (v. 6b).

Not much time elapses before a Samaritan woman comes to draw water, and Jesus “asks” her for a drink (v. 7).

[Perhaps a Western understanding of politeness does not apply here, but Jesus’ words read more like a command than a request.]

The text suggests that He usually delegated everyday tasks (e.g., “grocery shopping,” drawing water) to His disciples (v. 8).

Astonished by His request, she inquires how Jesus, a Jew, would dare “ask” her, a Samaritan and a woman, for a drink (v. 9).

The Lord again wastes no time with chit-chat, but immediately directs her attention toward two realities unknown to her—the gift of God and the identity of her present Acquaintance.

He tells her that if she had known both of these realities, she would have received “living water” from Him [v. 10].

The woman’s response reveals, however, that her mind remains on the physical plane, for she thinks that living water is just a special kind of refreshment hidden somewhere.

She does wonder, however, if Jesus is greater than Jacob, since she perceives that He apparently knows where “living water” exists-- but Jacob did not (vv. 11-12).

Christ now draws a comparison between normal water that quenches physical thirst for a short time, and His “water” that quenches spiritual thirst forever.

It does not become a “Fountain of Youth,” but a fountain of “water” that continues to gush forth God’s everlasting kind of life into individuals (vv. 13-14).

[Perhaps Jesus’ “water” points to the life of the Holy Spirit, since John links the Latter with water elsewhere in his gospel. Cf. 7:37-39).]

Now it appears that the Samaritan woman is beginning to understand that Jesus is talking about matters of the spirit, though her last statement—“nor come here to draw”—suggests that she is still thinking about literal water.

Number of Husbands

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"Call Your Husband"

Once Christ achieves this level of positive response with her, He takes the relationship deeper by commanding her to call her husband (v. 16).

[Jesus knows she has no husband. He merely wished to reveal facts about her intimate relationships with six men—facts that a stranger would not know—in order to prove to her that He is, at the very least, a prophet.]

Is the Samaritan’s reply—“I have no husband” (v. 17a)—an attempt to evade the issue of her immorality (the fact that she is cohabiting with her sixth “husband”), or is she just plainly stating a fact?

Is she a woman who has had five husbands and is now cohabiting with a sixth?

When Jesus tells her what He knows about her life, the Samaritan acknowledges His connection with God, the Omniscient One (vv. 17b-19).



Mount Gerizim


The Right "Place" to Worship

However, now she does evade the issue, turning the conversation into a religious disagreement about the proper place to worship (Mount Gerizim or Jerusalem) [v. 20].

Having established His spiritual authority, the Lord does not bother to bring back the question about her sexual relationships, but answers (with considerable substance) the point of contention that is on the woman’s heart (vv. 21-24).

First, Jesus asserts that where one worships will become unimportant (v. 21).

Second, He states that the Jews know God, their object of worship, for God had chosen them to take the message of salvation to the world; the Samaritans, on the other hand, do not know the true God (v. 22).

Third, Christ explains what is important in worship: true spirituality; God the Spirit seeks believers who will worship Him “in spirit and truth” (vv. 23-24).

[“In spirit and truth” indicates that believers’ acknowledgment of God’s worth (worship) must originate from that part of them God created to communicate with Him: their regenerated spirit.

The LORD will not accept mere material sacrifices if people offer them from an empty heart; they must originate from a true spiritual relationship existing between the individual and God.

People must carry on that relationship out of a true knowledge of God; otherwise, they would be just like the Samaritans, worshiping what they do not know.]

The Samaritan woman, probably tingling inside with excitement and fear, mentions the Messiah’s coming, thinking (but not knowing for certain) that she may be talking with Him (v. 25).

Jesus clearly announces to her that He is that Messiah (v. 26).

Ready to Be Reaped

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The Message Spreads

With the appointment over and the woman in the process of leaving, the disciples return from grocery shopping and, from a short distance away, “marvel” among themselves that Jesus had been talking to her (v. 27).

[They marveled that Jesus would talk with a Samaritan woman.

Yet did they not just come from Sychar where they had to negotiate with Samaritan merchants?

So, the question that they wisely did not advance concerned the incongruous nature of the Messiah, a Jewish man, talking with a woman without her husband being present.

The disciples did not think Jesus’ behavior untoward, just counter-cultural; He, after all, has the perfect right to do what He knows to be right, they probably thought.]

In a state of excited distraction, the woman runs to Sychar without her water pot and tells the men about Jesus, “a Man who told me all things that I ever did.”

Her question does not indicate uncertainty as to His identity; on the contrary, it asserts her belief that Jesus is the Messiah (vv. 28-29).

[The woman is apparently well known to the men of Sychar.]

Nevertheless, she apparently retains some credibility, for the men do not disregard her testimony; instead, they make the short trip to where Jesus (but really only His disciples) is now having lunch (vv. 30-31).

While His men busy themselves eating their meal, Jesus occupies His mind with doing God’s will and finishing His Father’s work; that is His “food” of which they are yet ignorant (vv. 32-34).

[As with the Samaritan woman, the disciples betray an almost exclusive connection with earthly, physical reality; Jesus, on the other hand, maintains a spiritual mindset, giving barely a thought to mundane affairs such as eating.]

Directing His disciples’ attention to the fields where people wearing white garments are walking toward them, Christ compares the greenness of the physical crop of wheat four months before harvest time to the “whiteness” of the souls who are ready to be "reaped."

Reaping a harvest of souls remains His primary concern and focus (v. 35).

Jesus furnishes the principle of the division of labor in evangelism, which pictures both sowers and reapers doing their part and rejoicing together when the harvest is in (vv. 36-38).

[The Apostle Paul picks up on this principle in his first epistle to the Corinthians (See 3:6-8).]

God uses the woman’s testimony to cause many Sycharites to entrust their lives to Jesus (v. 39); consequently, these townspeople invite the Lord to stay for awhile.

During that two-day visit, others testify to the woman that His message (and not her testimony) has convinced them that He is the world’s Savior (vv. 40-42).



Jesus and the Nobleman

From Sychar, Jesus travels back to Galilee where, as a prophet, He normally received no honor; however, on this occasion the text records that “the Galileans received Him,” for they had seen His works at the Passover (vv. 43-45; cf. 2:13, 23).

In Cana, Christ encounters a nobleman who wants Him to heal his son who lies mortally ill in Capernaum (vv. 46-47).

Jesus laments the people’s need to see miracles in order to believe in Him; the nobleman exemplifies this weakness of faith by pleading that He come to Capernaum before his son dies (vv. 48-49).

Knowing that the nobleman had genuine faith, Christ nevertheless tests him, telling him that his son lives; surely enough, the nobleman believes this word and begins his journey home (vv. 50-51a).

While on the road, the nobleman’s servants, coming down to inform him that his son had returned to good health, meet him.

After further inquiry into when his son recovered, the father determines that the healing had occurred at the same time Jesus said, “Your son lives” (vv. 51b-53a).

Consequently, the nobleman truly believes, and everyone else in his household follows suit (v. 53b).

[Here is an example of two kinds of faith: one is a belief in Jesus’ power to heal (v. 50b), and the other a belief in Jesus’ deity leading to personal salvation (v. 53b).]

The apostle John designates the healing of the nobleman’s son “the second sign” (v. 54).

© 2014 glynch1


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