Scriptures

Jesus Talks With A Samaritan Woman

Introduction

‘Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.’ John 4:1-3

In John 4-6 Jesus is identified as the living bread and as the water of life that men must access if they are going to be right with God. The whole purpose of the Book of John is to prove that Jesus is God in the flesh.

‘Truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name’. John 20:30-31

Chapters 4-6 support this theme by showing that Jesus is the only way that people can have spiritual sustenance. By looking at the signs Jesus performed in these chapters, we can rest assured that Jesus is God in the flesh, and that He is the only way we can serve God and please Him through obedience to His will.

Samaria

Samaria was an area of land stretching from just north of Jerusalem to a line from Caesarea in the west to the Jordan in the east. It ran from the Mediterranean to the Jordan, sandwiched between Judea in the south and Galilee in the north. It follows similar lines to the old Northern Kingdom.

The Samaritans

The Samaritans were the inhabitants of Samaria and they were people of mixed origin, due to the mingling of the remnant left behind when Samaria, the Northern tribes, fell into the hands of the Assyrians in 722 BC, 2 Kings 17:56.

Assyria resettled the land with pagans from other nations, who brought their gods with them. As far as the southern tribes of the Babylonian captivity were concerned, they had become tainted with the idolatry of the nation they were captives to, and therefore were unclean, 2 Kings 17:28-41.

The religion that the pagan settlers brought meant that those who were left began to be syncretic in their faith, they became a mixture of Judaism and paganism. They built their own temple on Mount Gerizim in 400 BC, which was destroyed by a Jewish army led by Hyrcanius in 128 BC, but they still held to the Pentateuch as their scriptures,

When the Jews, the Southern tribes, were returning after the Babylonian exile, the Samaritans did their best to interfere with the rebuilding of the temple, Ezra 4:1-3. The Jews and the Samaritans therefore developed a long-term hate-based relationship. The Jews referred to the as cursed dogs, flea ridden and filthy.

By the time, Jesus came along, this relationship was so bad that many Jews passing from Judea to Galilee would prefer to travel east of the Jordan, thus avoiding Samaria and any chance of bumping into a Samaritan, this trip was the long way around. However, such was the distaste of the Jews for the Samaritans, they thought the trip well worthwhile.

The rift was widened by the erection of a rival temple on Mount Gerizim. In the Rabbinical literature, specific prohibitions exclude virtually all contact between the two parties. When the Jews wanted to be offensive to Jesus they called him ‘a Samaritan’ in John 8:48.

Jesus on the contrary made a Samaritan the hero of one of His parables, and this encounter with the Samaritan woman was one of the most significant incidents in His earthly ministry.

With this in mind, the true picture can be painted of John 4 and the complete consequences can be understood. The full impact of the parable of the good Samaritan can also be felt and properly understood.

It’s also significant that this event occurs after the meeting with Nicodemus. Jesus speaks to a devout Jew, steeped in the Law and tradition, and then speaks to a Samaritan woman and tells them both the same message and treats them both in the same way.

In the last two verses of chapter three we saw the authority given to Jesus and His absolute power to save those who believe in Him and reject all others.

Here in John 4, marks the end of Jesus’ short Judean ministry and the journey to Galilee to avoid further confrontation with the Pharisees at this time and to begin His Galilean ministry. The Pharisees have heard that Jesus was making and baptising more disciples than John, Matthew 4:12 which implies an intensive ministry John 3:22.

This clause in verse two is included to put down any rumour or argument regarding Jesus and the relevance of being baptised by Him.

The title ‘Lord’ is rarely used synonymously with Jesus, so it is strange to see John, the author, use it here, but it could be a reflection of high esteem.

The Pharisees had just about been able to put up with John and his teaching, but they may have seen Jesus as just too much, Jesus was unwilling to have a premature confrontation with them. He is prepared to die at a particular time and place for a particular people, so he leaves the area.

The word, ‘left’ or ‘abandoned’ is a military term and means withdrawal, which tells us that confrontation doesn’t always achieve God’s purpose.

‘Now he had to go through Samaria. So, he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.’ John 4:4-6

Notice the phrase, ‘Had to go’ which tells us that the necessity was in His mission not referring to the geography.

He was motivated by love, He had to be about His Fathers business, Luke 2:49, He knew that there were people who would listen to Him in this place and we should never judge by outward appearances.

There were three normal trade routes, along the Sea coast, through Perea, that is alongside the Jordan or the direct north through Samaria. The Samaritan route was only three miles whereas the others were six miles, but if you took the short route you would be seen as ceremonially unclean.

Normally the Jews would travel North along the East side to avoid Samaria, but it seems Jesus knew what was ahead and as usual He breaks down traditional barriers, the Jews were supposed to have no dealings with the Samaritans.

The city of Sychar

There are two possible sites today, both near Mount Gerizim. The land and the well mentioned were given by Jacob to his son Joseph, it isn’t mentioned elsewhere in Scripture. Samaritan tradition said that this was dug and used by Jacob and to this day there is a well there which is 135ft deep. The Old Testament mentions ‘The field’ but not the well, Genesis 33:19 / Genesis 48:21-22.

The word, ‘tired’ or ‘weary’, means like a wet rag rung out/drained, which speaks of the humanity of Jesus, Luke 5:5. The same expression is used, toiled all night.

‘The sixth hour’ or ‘noon’ would mean either midday, in which case it would be very hot, or early evening. Usually the women came in a group to help each other either in the cool of the morning or the evening. Possibly she came at this time, and by herself, because she was seen as an immoral woman and therefore an outcast.

‘When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?’ (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) 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.) 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.’ ‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 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?’ Jesus answered, ‘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.’ 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.’ He told her, ‘Go, call your husband and come back.’ ‘I have no husband,’ she replied. Jesus said to her, ‘You are right when you say you have no husband. 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.’ ‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.’ ‘Woman,’ Jesus replied, ‘believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 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. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.’ The woman said, ‘I know that Messiah’ (called Christ) ‘is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.’ Then Jesus declared, ‘I, the one speaking to you—I am he.’ John 4:7-26

Jesus doesn’t allow the fact that she is a woman or that she is an outcast of her society to prevent Him from speaking to her, for He isn’t bound by the normal racist/sexist social barriers, to Him the woman is important because she is a soul in need of salvation.

This was quite unheard of in that society, Jewish men wouldn’t speak to an unknown woman, and Jews of either sex wouldn’t speak to Samaritans. They would not even travel in Samaria if it could be at all avoided. They certainly would not want to share eating or drinking utensils with one another, yet here was Jesus asking to share from a Samaritan bucket.

Jesus speaking to her sees the collapse of ideas of sexism and particularly racism that had been common for generations and this influence is extended to us today. Jesus gives us an example to follow on how to break down barriers.

Jesus saw this woman as one who needed spiritual guidance and her sex or race didn’t prevent Him from giving guidance to her. We perhaps would not class her as a good contact but we often judge by human criteria, Jesus judges the heart of the person.

In either case, it is quite conceivable that the disciples had gone for food and shows that despite being Jews they didn’t allow their dislike to stop them from getting food from a Samaritan town when they were hungry.

Usually travellers would carry some rope and a folded skin bucket to enable them to draw water from wells that had no equipment, the disciples had probably taken the bucket with them.

In John 4:9 we the woman’s surprise at this unexpected intrusion, is reflected in her reply,

‘YOU’ are a JEW, I am a SAMARITAN WOMAN. How can YOU ask ME for a drink?’

This isn’t just talking about the lack of trade between the two groups of people, but He is asking to share her drinking vessel, the idea of eating from a common plate. The disciples had many ideas to re-think in their day just as we have in ours. But note, she doesn’t ignore Him but enters into conversation with him, thus showing her lack of racial prejudice, she asks Him for an explanation.

The gift of God Jesus speaks of in John 7:38-39 and here is seen to be the Spirit and the living water is a reference to life in the Spirit, but also a connection with the law, divine activity giving life to men, Jeremiah 2:13 / Ezra 47:9. Jesus has now got her full attention. Some see here that the gift is referring to eternal life as in John 4:14.

The woman totally misunderstands Jesus, she challenges Him on physical grounds, ‘the well is deep’, not even comprehending the possibility of a spiritual element being included as well.

I guess, respect for the past prevents her from seeing the opportunity of the future. In response, Jesus launches into a discourse explaining all the joy and sparkle of a good, full spiritual life, the nearer we are to God, the higher the bubbling becomes.

She asks Jesus in John 4:12,

‘are you greater than Jacob’,

the answer that follows implies, yes. So, Jesus uses the situation and bring on the subject of the Gospel.

‘Whoever drinks from Jacob’s well will thirst again.’

Yes, we have eternal life, Jesus and Christianity become increasingly important to us and our joy increases correspondingly. We have life and we have it in abundance, enjoy it, live it, share it, man doesn’t control the spring, it’s from God, never ending abundance for all simply to take.

John 4:15 tells again the woman doesn’t understand, but it sounds good and she responds with a somewhat cheeky answer, note,

‘sir, ‘kurios’ give me this water’.

Sir was a mark of respect but she’s still thinking in the physical realm of what a relief not having to come down here every day.

And so, Jesus reaches into the heart of this woman’s needs, she lives an immoral life style. He tells her to call her husband, knowing that she has none. The word, ‘aner’ can mean husband or man depending on the context. Notice how Jesus used the same approach with Nicodemus, the first statement is misunderstood so tries again more vividly.

Next Jesus tries to awaken her conscience, she must then confess her standards, John 4:17. Perhaps this immorality was why she was at the well at this time instead of coming down with the other women of the village in the cool of the morning or in the evening. Jesus seems abrupt in asking this question, and her answer is very honest, she could easily have lied.

And so, Jesus as ever gets straight to the point, the five husbands could’ve been the result of a tragic row of deaths. She must either have been very polygamous or a multiple divorce situation, the discussion has little point. She is now living with a man in an unmarried situation. This was always indefensible, and the Rabbis of the day didn’t allow more than three marriages.

In John 4:19 we see that the woman is now very attentive and so, she attempts to change the subject to one of religious worship, a theological question, and Jesus allows her to do this gracefully.

Note, this was a reaction to Jesus attack on her morals, He is getting to close, she is to acknowledge Him as a prophet and then change the subject to take the spotlight of herself.

This is common with people today when you highlight their lives in the light of the Gospel they respond with, ‘what about the suffering in the world’ etc. We need to remind them, ‘they are either part of the problem of part of the cure’.

She declares Him a prophet, as the Samaritans didn’t accept any prophet after Moses, she must have had in mind THE PROPHET, the Messiah, which both the Jews and the Samaritans were waiting for.

What is the true worship?

Our fathers, ancestors she was claiming descendants from Abraham and Jacob, both of whom erected altars in this area, Genesis 12:7 / Genesis 33:20. The Samaritans believed that the mountain Gerizim was sacred because Abraham offered Isaac at the foot of Mount Gerizim on Mount Moriah and they worshipped there. The ruins of their temple were there, and this was where they held their Passover annually.

She says, ‘you say’, the Jews of course didn’t agree, believing that Mount Zion, where the temple was, was the sacred place. As we see in John 4:21, her question is soon to be irrelevant, the time will come when men will not worship in any particular place, but rather worship will be acceptable wherever men and woman have their hearts and minds attuned to the obedience of God’s will.

Jews today have a problem, the Old Testament law demands sacrifices for forgiveness, then without sacrifices they cannot be acceptable to God, how do they view Jesus?

The word, ‘worship’, ‘proskiuneo’ means to make obeisance to, to do reverence to, refers exclusively to that which is given to God not man. False worship means misguided, misled,

‘you worship that which you know nothing about’.

The Samaritans didn’t accept the writings of the Prophets or Psalms, or historical books, theirs was a false worship.

‘Salvation is from the Jews’

Jesus is referring to Himself here, the bloodline of Jesus is simple proof that salvation is from the Jews and it is found in Jesus, the only true, law-abiding Jew. Luke 1:67-69 / Acts 13:26-27.

‘True’, ‘alethenos’, means genuine, John 1:9 / John 6:32. The woman’s concern was for a place of worship, Jesus says that true worship isn’t dependant on physical location.

‘In Spirit’ means the real thing is dependent on the attitude and condition and intention of the heart. ‘And in Truth’ means in harmony with the revealed will of God. 1 Kings 8:27 / Isaiah 66:1-2 / Micah 6:6-8 / Acts 17:24-25. This is Gods will not man’s idea.

In John 4:24 we find the emphasis has moved from the formal type of temple worship to the new type,

‘His worshippers must now worship in spirit and in truth’.

We have to not only have the right attitude but the right information, worship must be from our hearts and our understanding. Some are all spirit and not truth, others are all truth but no spirit. This is what we as individual worshippers today need to continually strive for. The nature of God, ‘God is Spirit’ means He is not a physical being, this is consistent with His omnipresence.

And so, the woman stops trying to evade the truth and almost nudges Jesus, into declaring his Messiahship, which He does in verse 26. ‘Messiah’, ‘Christos’ means anointed one this Hebrew term only found here and in John 1:41.

The Samaritans were looking for the Messiah, which was a common term used ‘Taheb’, He who returns, or restores that which is pleasing to God.

Jesus says in John 4:26,

‘I WHO SPEAK AM HE’,

this is the first time in John where Jesus indicates His divinity by using the ‘I AM’ phrase that was later to anger the Jews, ‘I AM EGO EIMI’, John 8:37 / Matthew 26:63-66, if not then blasphemy.

‘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?’ Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?’ They came out of the town and made their way toward him. Meanwhile his disciples urged him, ‘Rabbi, eat something.’ But he said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you know nothing about.’ Then his disciples said to each other, ‘Could someone have brought him food?’ ‘My food,’ said Jesus, ‘is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 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. 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. Thus, the saying ‘One sows, and another reaps’ is true. 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 labour.’ Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I ever did.’ So, when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. 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 Saviour of the world.’ John 4:27-42

It can be seen from the surprise of the disciples how strange it was for a Jew to talk to a Samaritan. However, they do not challenge Him or her on this matter. They have almost come to expect the unexpected from Jesus.

The woman has been truly impressed and convinced about Jesus and the things He has said, so much so that she leaves her water jar and goes into town where she is probably looked on as an outcast, and bravely tells them about Jesus, note she speaks to the men.

Look at the effect that Jesus had on this woman, she had come to draw water. She leaves her water jar, why?

She possibly forgot it, or it would hinder her in hurrying to the city. Maybe she left it for Jesus to have a drink or she left it as a guarantee that she would return. Whatever reason the result is that she goes and tells others about Jesus. People telling other about Jesus should be a natural result of contact.

It is possible as with many immoral people, that her sin was simply an attempt to fill the need in her life that only God can fill. Many immoral people have a deep sense of religion. Sin is often a vain attempt to find satisfaction/fulfilment in actions, situations or a relationship because of the void in one’s life which is a result of our need for God.

She has been transformed she shares what she has found causing the towns people to leave what they are doing and come and see this wonderful man. She is seriously considering the possibility that this man is the Christ. Theme of John’s Gospel is

‘come and see a man’.

Jesus wasn’t just a child of His age, He was Deity.

In John 4:30 we see that the people begin to go to see Jesus, but the disciples were begging Him to eat. In the meantime, Jesus tells the disciples a story similar to that which He told the woman, this time He relates food to the completing task laid out before Him by the Father.

John 4:34 gives an idea of the importance of the Atoning work of the Father. He stresses it as one would stress the need for food for physical life. He needs to do the task as much as we need food to eat. Jesus’ obedience to the Father was total and perfect but the disciples still do not understand.

A similarity is drawn between farming and the Gospel which was common because it was something all the people could relate to, it made understanding easier.

‘Lift up your eyes’

tells us that probably the disciples were looking down the road towards Sychar and they could see the hordes of people coming down the road with the sun glinting off their white robes like the reflection of the sun on a corn field.

Jesus is speaking of the Heavenly harvest of souls not the physical grain crop. If this had been left to a committee of men, they would say yes, they are needy, but they are not ready. The Seed had been sown by Jesus in the mind of the woman and now He and His disciples would reap the harvest together. They stayed two days, here Jesus is laying the ground work for that which Philip is to proclaim later in Acts 8.

The ‘harvest is now’, today is the day of salvation, a call is made for workers to get to the task of harvesting the souls of people in whom the seed had previously been planted.

Today you can see some people being the sowers of seed, some tenders as growth to understanding appears, and others the harvest takers, those who complete the task.

Should we wait until these Samaritans live as we do before we tell them the Gospel? Should we wait until their religion is the same, their morals are the same? Should we wait till they are just like us before we tell them about Jesus?

No tell them now, the changes can come later. It will take time, as they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day, but we cannot wait forever to get started.

John 4:39-42 tells us the Samaritan woman is a herald of the Gospel. People hear what she has to say and believe which indicates how Jesus can use all people, not just a ‘good’ select group. Believe because of the woman’s testimony, means, witness, ‘marturia’.

The Samaritans quickly accept the Gospel of the Messiah’s coming and the need for repentance. Jesus stays and preaches, resulting in many converts. No mention is made of any miracles, it seems the people accepted the message without the need for any further confirmation.

Here the woman exaggerates how much Jesus has told her, but she must have been very enthusiastic to get such a good response. She had little knowledge of the Gospel, but seemed to display much love. It is important when the Gospel is spread that the result is belief in Jesus, not in the preacher who preached a good sermon. Faith in Christ, not in man.

As a result of their own meeting Jesus many more believe, they had now heard for themselves.

‘The Saviour of the world’,

they would be familiar with this title because it was also applied to the Caesars, Augustine, Julius, Claudius, Vespasian, Titus, Trajan, and others. This is accurate reporting on John’s behalf. John 19:35 / John 20:30-31 / John 21:24.

Jesus has turned a conversation about water, into a soul winning opportunity, with the result a harvest of souls.

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"And teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Matthew 28:20

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