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John Chapter 4

"When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,) He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee. And he must needs go through Samaria." (John 4:1-4)

It sounds like there was some concern on Jesus' part about the Pharisees' reaction to His rising popularity. There may also have been a concern over friction between His disciples and John's which the Pharisee's would likely have encouraged. John himself though (as described in chapter 3) recognized that it was appropriate that Jesus should increase in stature while he would decrease. Jesus decided to go to Galilee and had a particular reason to take the route that leads through Samaria to get there.

Because of the animosity between the Jews and Samaritans, Jewish pilgrims who lived in Galilee would normally travel to the annual feasts taking a long route through the Jordan valley instead of going the more direct route through Samaria. Jesus, however, seems to have had another motive.

"Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour. There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.)" (John 4:5-8)

The purchase of this parcel of ground was recorded in Genesis:

"And Jacob came to Shalem, a city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padanaram; and pitched his tent before the city. And he bought a parcel of a field, where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem's father, for an hundred pieces of money." (Gen 33:18-19)

Later the bones of Joseph were brought from Egypt at the Exodus and buried in this same piece of ground.

"And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver: and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph." (Josh 24:32)

Why would the woman of Samaria be coming to draw water at noon (the sixth hour), in the heat of the day when the custom was to do it in the morning or late in the day when it was cooler? It was quite possible that she was avoiding contact with others because she felt like an outcast.

That Jesus was wearied and, evidently thirsty points to His humanity. It is interesting that Jesus asked her something like "Could I please have a drink?" - It is not recorded in any gospel that Jesus ever asked anyone for anything - any physical object. He asked many questions; questions to make people think but, as Creator of the Universe, He never asked any person for anything physical.

"Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans." (John 4:9)

The Samaritans

The ten northern tribes continued down a road of apostasy until Israel was carried away into Assyrian captivity about 750 years before Jesus came:

"In the ninth year of Hoshea [the king of Israel] the king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away into Assyria, and placed them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes." (2 Kings 17:6)

It was common at that time for conquering nations to move people around. The Assyrians exiled all but the poorest of the people and brought in others to replace them. Intermarriage produced a mixed group called the Samaritans.

In ancient cultures, the gods were very much connected with the land. There were no world religions; religion was related to the land. People will fight for their land because they associate it with their Gods and, once exiled, there is not so much of a problem. The Assyrians took the Israelites captive and replaced them with people from five other countries:

"And the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Ava, and from Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel: and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof. And so it was at the beginning of their dwelling there, that they feared not the LORD: therefore the LORD sent lions among them, which slew some of them." (2 Kings 17:24-25)

These people complained that they did not know the religion of the land. The Assyrian king made a concession and sent Levites from captivity to teach the people the Israelite religion:

"Wherefore they spake to the king of Assyria, saying, The nations which thou hast removed, and placed in the cities of Samaria, know not the manner of the God of the land: therefore he hath sent lions among them, and, behold, they slay them, because they know not the manner of the God of the land. Then the king of Assyria commanded, saying, Carry thither one of the priests whom ye brought from thence; and let them go and dwell there, and let him teach them the manner of the God of the land. Then one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and dwelt in Bethel, and taught them how they should fear the LORD." (2 Kings 17:26-28)

It is interesting who paid for that evangelistic crusade. There is another good example of this:

"And Naaman said, Shall there not then, I pray thee, be given to thy servant two mules' burden of earth? for thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the LORD." (2 Kings 5:17)

After being healed through a prophet of Israel, Naaman wanted to serve the God of Israel so he requested some of the land of Israel to take back with him to worship on.

When the captives were allowed to return from Assyrian exile they mixed with the people the Assyrians had moved in earlier. The Jews (people of Judah who were not carried into Assyrian captivity) regarded their religion as impure. Further friction happened between them when the Jews returned from their captivity in Babylon and the Samaritans opposed their efforts to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem was not the capital of Israel until the time of King David. The first holy place in Israel was Shechem with Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal on either side. The Samaritans regarded Shechem as the real, original place of worship which was the basis of the Samaritan woman's question in verse 20.

The Jews regarded the Samaritans as unclean and felt that they defiled anything they touched, including water pots.

Verse 9 said "the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans" and Jesus was evidently breaking some of those rules of exclusion. He was:

  1. talking to a woman He was not related to.
  2. talking to a Samaritan.
  3. He may even have drunk from her waterpot; at least He expressed a willingness to do so.

Living Water

"Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water." (John 4:10)

"The gift of God" that Jesus spoke of was Himself:

"Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift." (2 Cor 9:15)
"He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" (Rom 8:32)
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)

In verse 10, Jesus referred to Himself as the source of living water; the source of the same living water is also referred to in the Old Testament:

"For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water." (Jer 2:13)
"O LORD, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters." (Jer 17:13)
"Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation." (Isa 12:3)
"The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?" (John 4:11-12)

Apparently, the Samaritans looked to Jacob as their father much as the Jews looked to Abraham.

"Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." (John 4:13-14)

Is Jesus saying that drinking of His water will remove forever the need to drink water? - no, "this" water is physical; His water is spiritual. He is contrasting the need to constantly drink of physical water with the satisfaction that comes to a spiritual need from partaking of the living water. Jesus connected this living water with the blessing of the Spirit:

"Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." (John 3:5)
"In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)" (John 7:37-39)

This symbolism of the libation ceremony at the Feast of Tabernacles memorialized God's provision for His people's needs in the wilderness. In that case, abundant streams provided for their need of physical water.

The Samaritan woman perhaps didn’t have a good life (suggested by the fact that she had had five husbands) and very much felt a need - that she was very much lacking something. Jesus was offering her something that was truly satisfying. But was He suggesting any prerequisite change in her life before she could receive His gift? - no, it was offered freely.

"The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw." (John 4:15)

She didn’t quite get it - perhaps she was just thinking she wouldn't have to make the trip to get water in the heat of the day. However, she had heard Him speak of "everlasting life" so there was clue.

Discussion of Worship and the Place to do it

"Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly." (John 4:16-18)

Jesus is trying to give her evidence that He has prophetic insight which could give her confidence in other things He says. This was another example of what we read in John 2:25: "he knew what was in man."

Jesus was also trying to awaken, in this woman, a conviction of her need. Five husbands and now a live-in sounds like a tumultuous life. She needed to be awakened to her need to make some changes; to replace the bitter water of her present life with the satisfying sweet or living water:

"Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?' (James 3:11)
"The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." (John 4:19-20)

She said "I perceive that thou art a prophet" because she had some evidence of it and perhaps to change the subject. In verse 20, she brought up a contentious subject. What do they say to avoid in conversations? - religion and politics This statement had both. Attempts to change the subject often point to a conviction and/or resistance to a message.

The mountain she referred to was Mt. Gerizim. There are still a few modern Samaritans today. They live in the region of Nablus (near the ancient city of Shechem and Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal) and claim descent from the original Samaritans. Their religion is related to Judaism but accepts only the books of Moses as Scripture. The city of Samaria, the capital of the district of Samaria, was a few miles north. A temple was erected there about 432 BC and destroyed in about 129 BC.

The Samaritan woman may have thought of worship as very much external - in the correct place, in the correct way at the correct time etc. There is nothing wrong with doing things "correctly" but worship done in the right spirit is more important. Jesus was trying to steer her in the right direction.

A saying I saw recently relates to this:

Rules without relationship produces rebellion.
Relationship without rules produces chaos.

A balance is needed. The Jews very much overemphasized the rules and were lacking in the relationship. They were big on Moses and the law but needed more of the love of God that Jesus came to give them.

"Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." (John 4:21-24)

"Believe me" is an emphatic way of saying that what He is going to say is in contrast to what she has formerly been told and believed. We say that or sometimes, more strongly, "believe you me."

He removed her prejudice by making it clear that He did not share the religious bias and prejudice of the Jews. Either Jews or Samaritans could become true worshippers.

Worship in spirit - from the heart as opposed to outward forms which was how they were worshipping
Worship in truth - as opposed to in falsehood, having a true concept of what God wants.

Here are some verses showing what God really wants:

"Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" (Micah 6:7-8)
"For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." (Isa 57:15)

It was or was to soon be that Jerusalem would not be the designated place for worship. "Ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father."

The English word "worship" was originally spelled "worthship" and means to acknowledge the worth or worthiness of what is worshipped. Worth (value) or worthiness is connected to character.

"The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created." (Rev 4:10-11)

In worshipping Him they said "thou are worthy."

"And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;" (Rev 5:9)

In this verse, they are saying He is worthy not because He has all power; not because He knows everything; not because He created all things, but, rather because of His self-sacrificing love - because He was slain.

"The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he." (John 4:25-26)

The Samaritans also expected the Messiah. It seems that His claim was believable enough to her that she acted on it.

Harvest

"And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her? The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? Then they went out of the city, and came unto him." (John 4:27-30)

Her leaving the waterpot suggests that she was in a hurry to bring the message to her city and that she intended to return. Perhaps it was her excitement or an obvious change in her; for whatever reason the people believed her enough to come out and meet Jesus.

"In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat. But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat? Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest." (John 4:31-35)

Jesus was not interested in eating the food His disciples brought; He had something more interesting to consume His attention. This event probably took place in about December to January as "yet four months" to the harvest would point to about April to May harvest time in that area. Here are some verses that relate to what Jesus found satisfying:

"Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed." (John 6:27)
"And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" (Luke 2:49)
"And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours." (John 4:36-38)

This may be a reference to the harvest, in this case, being ripe so soon after the sowing. It could even refer to the harvest in Samaria by Philip years later as recounted in Acts which did produce rejoicing or "great joy":

"Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city." (Acts 8:5-8))
"And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did. So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days. And many more believed because of his own word; And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world." (John 4:39-42)

The many that believed in verse 39 was an initial harvest quickly followed by another harvest of "many more" who believed (verse 41) before the two days were over. It seems that the Samaritans (without the prejudice of the Jews) likely very much enjoyed their visit with the kind, loving and gentle Jesus. That crop was well tended and produced a very quick harvest.

Nicodemus and the Samaritan Woman were Opposites

The stories of Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman are both illustrations of John 3:16. Comparing them adds meaning to the use of "whosoever" in that verse:

Nicodemus the Pharisee (John 3) The Samaritan Woman (John 4)
man woman
Jew Samaritan
rich poor - carrying own water
came at midnight came at noon
educated - the teacher of Israel illiterate - women were not educated
respected despised - water at noon, avoiding others
pious adulterous - 5 husbands; living with another
great name, mentioned often in the Talmud anonymous
from Jerusalem, the holy city from Sychar which means drunkenness
slow to understand Jesus very quick to understand Jesus

That Jesus accepted and did not condemn either Nicodemus or the Samaritan woman, who were polar opposites in so many ways, implies that He would accept anyone across the scale of the various factors in which they varied so much.

So we can expect that "whosoever" would make no distinction in terms of race, religion, social status, nationality, gender (even as recently expanded), popularity, intelligence etc. He will accept us just as we are but will then work with us to make positive changes.

Into Galilee

"Now after two days he departed thence, and went into Galilee. For Jesus himself testified, that a prophet hath no honour in his own country. Then when he was come into Galilee, the Galilaeans received him, having seen all the things that he did at Jerusalem at the feast: for they also went unto the feast." (John 4:43-45)

The wording of that passage seems difficult. See if this is easier:

"At the end of the two days, Jesus went on to Galilee. He himself had said that a prophet is not honored in his own hometown. Yet the Galileans welcomed him, for they had been in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration and had seen everything he did there." (John 4:43-45, New Living Translation)

So Jesus said that He would not be honored. John reported that the Galileans "welcomed Him" or "received Him" in the KJV. Is that a contradiction?

We need to consider whether welcoming Him or receiving Him necessarily implies honoring. Why did they receive Him? Because they saw "the things" - the miracles He had done. This reminds us of an earlier account:

"Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. 24 But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, 25 And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man." (John 2:23-25)

Remember, this was the case with Nicodemus as well:

"The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him." (John 3:2)

All of these accounts, the Galileans, the people in John 2 and Nicodemus were exhibiting only the superficial level of faith referred to in our study of John 3.

They were expressing a "belief" or interest on the basis of His miracles but they did not perceive His real mission or identity. A glorious temple covered with gold is of no honor to God based only on its beauty, especially if God is not understood. Faith based on miracles only is no honor.

The Nobleman's Son

"So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death." (John 4:46-47)

Jesus travelled back to Cana where He attended the wedding earlier. Capernaum was where He and His family stay for a time after the wedding so it is possible that this nobleman knew Jesus from there. The nobleman (literally "king's man") was probably Jewish and an official in the court of Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee.

He travelled from Capernaum to Cana a distance of 16 miles and rise of about 2,000 feet in elevation. So asking Jesus to "come down" (verses 47and 51) corresponds geographically and is an important detail. We'll see later that his son was healed about one o'clock in the afternoon, so he likely took about 7 hours to travel - about right for that distance on foot. He found Jesus and made his request.

"Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe. The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die. Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way." (John 4:48-50)

Why did Jesus respond as He did? He was showing that He knew what the man was thinking. This is the third of three stories illustrating that "... he knew what was in man." (John 2:25) Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman and the nobleman (each only in John) all illustrate John 2:25 and John 3:16. In John, (who does not use parables) the stories are like acted parables or living illustrations from actual events that John chose to include to illustrate spiritual truths.

John's gospel very much emphasizes Jesus' divinity and this is another way it does that. So Jesus understood that the nobleman did not yet believe - he had not yet seen miracle and was his faith conditional on the granting of his request.

There seemed to be a great need among people generally to see signs and wonders. Jesus mentioned this:

"Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:" (Matt 12:38-39)

Genuine trust is not based on miracles and signs but on who Jesus is and His mission; basically, on His character. There is good reason for this. A controversy started in heaven itself (Rev 12:7) that was over the character of God. It was not over His power - everyone in heaven knew God had power.

The nobleman was looking for a miracle rather than expressing genuine faith. Jesus showed that he knew what was in the man's heart. The man realized his opportunity might be disappearing and he then pleaded based on his need not his faith. Jesus' response to his need was simply "Go thy way; thy son liveth."

The nobleman then believed. It is interesting that what he received that made Him believe when he didn't moments before was Jesus' word:

"So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Rom 10:17)

Of course, the nobleman heard the word of God; directly from God in the person of Jesus. He expressed his faith by going on his way. And we will see that even more in the account of his trip home.

"And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth. Then enquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house. This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judaea into Galilee." (John 4:51-54)
Notice that he was on his way home the next day; he didn’t rush back even though he could have made it the same day. It took seven hours to get there going uphill so he could have made it back the same day travelling downhill. He would surely have travelled the same day if Jesus had been going with him - he was in a hurry - "ere he dies." But he took his time showing his confidence (or faith) that he had his request.   Go to John Chapter 5


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The Greek has multiple words for forgiveness? God forgives (charizomai) whether we ask or not. Receiving forgiveness (apheimi) is by our choice.
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