Jesus’ Seven Discourses in John (2)

john4_13_jesusandwomanofsamaria

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 4:14)

The time Jesus spent in Jerusalem to celebrate the spring feasts (John 2:13-22) increased Jesus’ notoriety among the common people, but negatively drew the attention of the Jewish religious leaders. “When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John … He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee” (John 4:1, 3). Obviously, Jesus threatened the status quo, but now was not the time for confrontation.

Jesus took the most direct route to Galilee – directly north through Samaria. Samaritans and Jews shared a mutual animosity toward one another. The Jews considered the Samaritans illegitimate inhabitants of the land. “The term ‘Kuthim’ applied by Jews to the Samaritans had clear pejorative connotations, implying that they were interlopers brought in from Kutha in Mesopotamia and rejecting their claim of descent from the ancient Tribes of Israel.”[1] However, “The Samaritans called themselves – ‘the sons of Israel’ and ‘the keepers’ (shomrim) … The Samaritan Israelites were the faithful remnant of the Northern tribes – the keepers of the ancient faith.”[2] The hatred between the two groups was so great that Jews preferred to take the long way around when traveling north to Galilee. “Strict Jews, like the Pharisees, disliked the Samaritans so intensely that they avoided the territory as much as possible. Their route from Jerusalem to Galilee lay through the region beyond the Jordan.”[3] The route forced them to cross the River Jordan to the east bank, and take a northerly route to circumvent Samaria. Once past the northern boundary of Samaria, they would then cross back over to the west bank of the Jordan.

John indicates some sense of urgency in Jesus’ choice of this route. “And he must needs go through Samaria” (John 4:4, emphasis mine). Jesus never did anything without reason and without purpose. So, it seems that this shortcut was planned with this encounter in mind. He had a “divine appointment,” and He planned to keep it. Upon arriving at the city of Sychar, formerly known as Shechem, John provides for us a glimpse of Jesus’ humanity. “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” (John 4:6, emphasis mine). If Jesus were only God, He would not have tired, but being fully man also, He grew tired of the long walk and needed to stop and rest, but more than that, He had an appointment to keep.

John records the time of day as noon: “it was about the sixth hour,” and “There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water” (John 4:7). Many point to the noon hour as evidence that the woman was one of ill repute, and came at that hour to avoid the scorn of the “decent” ladies that came for water in the early hours. However, Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenbert suggests that may be an incorrect assumption.[4] Eyzenbert points to the fact that we often do “regular things during unusual hours,” so the fact that she came at this hour proves nothing. He also points out that the noon hour was not necessarily the hottest time of the day. Recall that Jesus departed Jerusalem immediately following the Passover. It was still early spring at this time; noon would not have been the hottest time of the day. Eyzenbert also questions how a woman of such ill repute could cause an entire village of conservative Samaritans to drop whatever they were doing to go investigate her claim. Perhaps her five former husbands all died. It happens.

Jesus’ approach was direct. “Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink: (John 4:7, emphasis mine). “That he [sic] should ask a woman for water is perhaps not so surprising, since it was women who generally drew water.”[5] There was also the fact that women at that time accepted their role as subservient to men. The request did not surprise her; it was the requester that gave her pause. “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, emphasis mine).

As usual, Jesus got right to the heart of the matter. “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). At Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus, John records “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son,” (John 3:16, emphasis mine). Of course, she did not recognize the “gift of God” sitting before her. To her, He was simply a thirsty Jew needing a drink of water with no way of getting water for Himself, much less getting water for her.

Like Nicodemus, her mind focused on earthly, material things, while Jesus spoke of otherworldly, heavenly things. “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, emphasis mine). However, Jesus’ statement was meant to draw her attention heavenward, and away from the earthly.

With her curiosity piqued, Jesus pressed ahead. “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, emphasis mine). Experientially, she could attest to the recurring need for water. After all, that was the purpose of her daily trek to the water well. But what was this perpetual source of water offering everlasting life? Still thinking in earthly terms, “The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw” (John 4:15).

Jesus accomplished His goal of capturing her attention, but He needed to narrow her focus. Rather than answer her directly, “Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither” (John 4:16). As God in the flesh, He knew this woman intimately, so her answer did not surprise Him. “The woman answered and said, I have no husband” (John 4:17). Jesus knew that.  “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 4:17b-18). Note that Jesus did not chide her for her immoral lifestyle. Unlike the woman caught in adultery to whom Jesus admonished, “go, and sin no more” (John 8:11), Jesus offered no words of reprimand to the Samaritan woman. As I suggested earlier, perhaps her first five husbands died, and the man with whom she lived was just a gracious benefactor. We do not know. Perhaps her promiscuousness is only a product of our sullied minds. At any rate, Jesus exposed a truth about her life that no stranger could have known.

The woman became uneasy and wished to change the subject. Surmising that Jesus was “a prophet,” a reasonable diversion would be change the topic to religion. “Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship” (John 4:20). Jesus, not prone to political correctness, shocked her with His response. “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, emphasis mine).

‘Ye’ (plural), Samaritans do not know what you worship” Jesus told her flatly. The Jews had the correct understanding of the Torah even though they failed in its application. By stating that “salvation is of the Jews,” Jesus did not mean that only Jews could be saved, but rather that they were the source through which salvation should come. Jesus’ genealogies recorded by Matthew and Luke (Matthew 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-38) show the O.T. lineage of the promised Messiah from the tribe of Judah (the Jews) and the kingly line of David. “Salvation is of the Jews.” Furthermore, the worship of God cannot be confined to any one place. “God is Spirit.” God is “omnipresent.” Following Jesus’ ascension into heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to indwell every believer, so that “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20), and the location is irrelevant.  Therein is the “fountain of living water” for which the woman longed.

The light started to come on. “The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things” (John 4:25). She knew of the coming Messiah, the Christ, and apparently she accepted that He was of the Jews. “Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he” (John 4:26, emphasis mine). She found for what she thirsted and believed. The news was too good to keep to herself. “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?” (John 4:28-29). John points out that she ran off without her water pot. She came to get water that quenches thirst temporarily and left with the water of everlasting life.

“Then they went out of the city, and came unto him” (John 4:30).  It is worth noting that the men responded immediately. Had the woman been of immoral character, it is doubtful they would have heeded her invitation. They came because of her witness, but then believed because they heard for themselves. “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, emphasis mine).

Oh, that our witness could bring others to the feet of Jesus that they might say, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, but because we have heard Him ourselves.”

Notes:


[1]  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samaritans, accessed January 25, 2017.

[2]  Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenbert, The Jewish Gospel of John: Discovering Jesus, King of All Israel, (Tel Aviv, Israel, Jewish Studies for Christians, 2015), 46.

[3]  Leon Morris, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Gospel According to John, Revised, (Grand Rapids, MI, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), 226.

[4]  Eyzenbert, 48-49.

[5]  Morris, 229.

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