John 4:4 Now he had to go through Samaria.
Though Israel was only 120 miles from north to south, the land was divided into three territories. In the north was the province of Galilee and in the south, Judea. Between was Samaria. They used to be in the heart of the northern Jewish kingdom of Israel, but a bitter feud had long separated the Jews from the Samaritans. 700 years in fact. When the Assyrian Empire crushed Israel and took most of the population captive and deported them. To replace the exiled Jews, Assyria forcibly resettled non-Jews from other conquered lands to occupy Samaria. The few remaining Jews intermarried with the Gentile settlers. Their descendents intertwined the idolatrous worship of other gods with a confused belief of Yahweh, the God of Israel.
Samaritans rejected most of the Old Testament. They only accepted the first 5 books of Moses and rewrote even those to inject their own ideas. The most devout Jews would not set foot in Samaria if there was any way to avoid it. When they got to the edge of the land they would cross the Jordan River to take a longer route through Perea to the east. Once past Samaria they would cross back over the Jordan. Jesus did not HAVE to go through Samaria. He chose to. He had an appointment!
John 4:5-9 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
So, first of all it was unusual to draw water at noon. Not only was this the hottest time of the day, but water is needed for morning chores. It’s thought she was an outcast and avoided the other women in town. 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
So, first of all it was unusual to draw water at noon. Not only was this the hottest time of the day, but water is needed for morning chores. It’s thought she was an outcast and avoided the other women in town.
Secondly, Jesus initiates the conversation. No matter how thirsty a Rabbi was he would never ask even the most respectable, moral woman for a drink. The strictest rabbinical laws forbade a rabbi ever to greet a woman in public – not even his daughter, sister or wife!
But Jesus looked at people’s needs. He didn’t worry about himself. He is unselfish, sympathetic, understanding and graciously humble. And he knew also that one way to win a person’s confidence is to ask for a service. By asking for a drink of water, Jesus placed Himself under a kind of obligation to her.
The woman was, of course, surprised. Jews didn’t even use Samaritan’s dishes! And she was curious.
John 4:10-12 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
She thought by living water He meant moving water and moving water (like from stream) is better to drink than still water in a well. She was saying if there was moving water around Jacob wouldn’t have built a well.
But Jesus revealed Himself to her as the giver of the living water of satisfaction and herself as the needy one. There are four points that stand out about Jesus’ offer of “living” water:
It is God’s gift. (“If you knew the gift of God”)
It’s tied to Jesus’ identity (“If you knew who I am”)
It’s available to those who ask (“You would have asked for the living water”)
And Jesus gives it gladly. (“I would have given the living water”)
So far the woman has seen Jesus as just some man. She needed to see Him for who He really is – the divine Son of God. – who alone has the power to give God’s gift of living water.
When Jesus talks about the living water, He’s talking about the Holy Spirit.
John 4:13-15 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 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.”
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
People who look for earthly pleasures get tired of them and then want more. And more. They are always thirsty. But what God gives us is peace, joy, a meaning to existence and salvation. Forever!
John 4:16-18 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
When the woman responded to Jesus’ offer with true desire, He began to reveal her deepest need. Conviction of sin was the first step in granting her the living water.
She didn’t lie when she said she had no husband, but she didn’t actually confess her sin either. Jesus said “you are right, you don’t have one – you’ve had five.”
Even today if someone has been divorced 5 times we kind of look down on them. And on top of that she was living with a man who hadn’t married her. Morally she’d been sliding downhill for a long time. And Jesus used strong words, not to condemn her, but to cause her to see her sin and her true state from God’s perspective.
She assumed since he was a stranger he didn’t know anything about her. But He knew everything. And He loved her anyway. Knowing the worst He chose to come to her, to talk to her and to offer her living water. She now thinks of Him as a prophet, not just a man. Soon she’ll know Him as the Messiah.
John 4:19-24 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
So she said nothing in self-defense. If Jesus knows your sin (and He does!) it’s kind of freeing to have it out in the open and not try to deny it.
Her statement about where to worship showed she was opening up to how she should live. Basically she was asking, “How can a sinful people worship a Holy God?”
And Jesus, knowing her heart, knew how confused she must be when all she has known was a mixture of false religions and a twisted and drastically shortened version of the Old Testament. The Samaritans had adjusted history and truth to elevate themselves over the hated Jews. They also rewrote Deuteronomy to locate the first altar the Israelites erected to Mount Gerizim, instead of Mount Ebal.
Jesus replied with a prophecy. That there was a time coming when there would no longer be one place to worship. God symbolically dwelled in the temple in Jerusalem. And remember all its rich symbolism pointed forward to God’s Son. God restricted the Israelites’ sacrifices to the temple because the sacrifices there symbolized and foreshadowed Jesus’ death on the cross.
Jesus’ reply pointed to His crucifixion, resurrection and ascension into heaven and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit now lives permanently in every believer. And as Jesus foretold, no temple exists anymore in Jerusalem.
He also bluntly told her “You Samaritans worship what you know not.” The wrong worship of the Samaritans was not a minor matter. It was manmade and put them under God’s wrath.
To worship in spirit and in truth contrasts with the worship of many Pharisees and others who attempted to apply the letter of the Law, but ignored the spirit. We are wired to worship and if we don’t worship God we’ll worship something else.
God desires us to worship Him, not only in outward conformity. He doesn’t want us going through a ritual, but worship Him by means of the Holy Spirit, so it’s true, not some made up version of who we are worshipping.
Worshipping in the spirit is focused, engaged, all in. And “in truth” is knowing the God who you are worshipping – all of His attributes.
John 4:25-26 5 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”
This is one of the I AM statements in the Bible. Since God told Moses that’s who He was - every time Jesus said it He was saying He was God.
Jesus didn’t reveal Himself openly to the ones seeking a political Messiah, but He sought this sinful confused woman out. Jesus always approaches people as individuals and His message is always the same – they can have eternal life, for free, if they choose to believe and receive Him.
John 4:27-30 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”
28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.
Where it says the disciples didn’t question why He was talking to a woman – I think they were beginning to get that Jesus refuses to fit neatly into our preconceptions of Him.
And she left her own water to run into town to tell others about Him. This seems symbolic – now that she had the living water, she didn’t need the water she came for.
She was a changed woman. She wasn’t hiding her sin anymore and wanted to tell people “look at what I was and look at what Jesus has done for me!” “Come and see Him!”
And the people poured out of the city to see Him because of her testimony.
The believing heart tells others of the satisfaction of God’s salvation.
John 4:31- 33 31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”
32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”
33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”
The disciples had gone into town to buy food for their hungry, tired master, but Jesus was so filled with joy over the saved woman He was no longer hungry. He was caught up in God’s work. How many people would come to Christ because of her testimony? Maybe He was seeing the future in His mind right then.
John 4: 34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work."
Jesus’ life aim was to do the will of His Father. That’s why He became human and came to earth. Once we become believers that becomes our purpose too. Paul embraced this. He had a hard life and he knew his future held a lot more problems. But he wrote, “I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”
He called the people he brought to Christ his “glory and joy.” The “wages” for all his suffering.
John 4:35 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.
To teach His men a spiritual truth Jesus reminded them of a common farming proverb. “It’s only 4 months until the harvest.” Farmer’s know when they plant something when it should be ready to harvest. But with God’s work we don’t. It could be immediately or it could take years. With the Samaritan woman, it happened just while the disciples were in town.
Maybe as Jesus was saying this He was watching the townsfolk stream toward Him. We need to be ready at all times.
John 4:36 – 38 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”
It is a profound privilege to share the gospel and see God give new life to people once without hope. The “wages” those who work in the fields receive are the joyful rewards of sharing the gospel. And knowing the future joy gave Jesus a deep power to endure the pain of the cross and turn it into praise.
Isaiah foretold the ministry of the Messiah when he wrote about the Suffering Servant. He was pierced for our transgressions…crushed for our iniquities. Though greatly afflicted the Servant would triumph and be rewarded. “By His knowledge my righteous servant will justify many.” This is the reward Jesus received.
With Nicodemus, Jesus sowed the seed, but the harvest would be later. With the Samaritan woman, He did both. The disciples would harvest later a lot of what Jesus was sowing now.
The next verses show the basic pattern God designed for the spread of the gospel.
John 4:39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.”
If people are to believe in Jesus Christ, someone has to tell them about Him.
Paul wrote, “How can they hear without someone preaching to them?”
The words of the sinful Samaritan woman were powerful because they came from her own experience. People can’t argue when you tell them your own experience. What happened to you, how you were changed….
She was so changed, the people had to go meet Jesus for themselves!
John 4: 40-41 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.
Samaritans! Men and women who had wanted nothing to do with the Jews are urging Jesus to stay with them! They didn’t want to just hear through someone else. They wanted Jesus! We do need witnessing and preaching, but true living faith cannot come second hand. We need to have a personal relationship with Jesus.
John 4: 42-45 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”
43 After the two days he left for Galilee. 44 (Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.) 45 When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, for they also had been there.
*Note – the first large group of people to receive salvation and openly confess Jesus as Savior were non-Jews. Is it a wonder Jesus “had” to go through Samaria?