- Religion and Philosophy
John's Gospel -a new look -number 5. Chapter 4
John's Gospel - A New Look: Number 5. 1 Chapter 4.
1. As John lays out his evidence regarding who Jesus is, he moves on to the testimony of a Samaritan woman. So far he has called on Nathaniel, "a man without guile", the people at a wedding feast and a member of the religious leadership, Nicodemus. Now he crosses a couple of social barriers as he meets and talks to the woman at the well. Jesus was never prepared to follow the Jewish traditions and he is quoted by Matthew in his Gospel (Matthew 15:3-9)as saying: "These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men."
2. In dealing with a Samaritan woman of somewhat dubious moral standing in society, he surprises his disciples and the woman by firstly speaking to a woman and then also to a Samaritan woman. The Jews and the Samaritans had no love for each other. The Samaritans were a mixed race comprising colonists and Israelites who remained behind when the ten tribes were carried into captivity. The Samaritans followed the Pentateuch but rejected the rules and traditions of the Pharisees. The Jews worshipped in Jerusalem and the Samaritans on Mount Gerizim. They did not like each other, to put it mildly, and they never spoke to each other if they could avoid it. So the woman is surprised when Jesus asks her for water. She says; "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" Here John adds the footnote; "For Jews do not associate with Samaritans."( NIV translation) Jesus replies by offering her "living water".
3. In the ensuing discussion this woman comes to realize who Jesus is and rushes into the town of Sychar to become perhaps the first evangelist, and John tells us that many in the town believed in him because of her testimony. (John 4:39)
4. The introduction of Jesus as the living water marks an important step in the revelation of who Jesus is. As John develops his Gospel he chooses several themes/word pictures; namely the Light, Living Water, Bread of life, the Vine, the good Shepherd, the gate and the way and the truth.
5. John then chooses to record the miracle of the healing of the royal official's son. Remember that John tells us "that Jesus did many other signs that are not recorded in this book" (20:31) and so we can believe that these signs, seven in all, were carefully selected. This then is the second of the signs John records.
6. It is clear that John is showing that at this stage Jesus is dealing with a cross section of the population and is no respecter of persons. It is interesting how he deals with this royal official who puts his faith in Jesus when he, the official, is in the valley of despair because his son is dying. As we look at the people who are testifying as to who Jesus is, we see that they not only come from different geographic regions but also from different classes in society and have different needs. Jesus shows his great ability to meet each person at their point of need and then carefully brings them to an understanding of who he is and what they need to do when they realize this.
7. The contrast between some of these people and how Jesus deals with each one as an individual who needs to come to a faith relationship with the Saviour, is indeed amazing. Compare the Samaritan woman and Nicodemus. He is a man and she is a woman. He is a religious leader and she is a struggling woman. He is educated and probably rich. She is just a common person and most likely poor. He is a Pharisee and teacher of Israel from Jerusalem . She is a Samaritan outcast, battling with several marriage failures and from a small town. He speaks to Jesus with respect. She has a rather feisty debate with Jesus. They differ radically in so many different ways and Jesus shows insight into their human side and different needs as he guides them to believe. This bears careful consideration as to how we need to treat people when we take the Gospel into the world today. Jesus gave his disciples the instruction to; ` "go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and in the name of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,...." (Matthew 28:19) To both Nicodemus and the woman at the well he has introduced the new universal Gospel that invites all people everywhere to be "born again" and to receive the "gift of living water".