Thursday, March 14, 2013

John 4 - The Samaritan Woman and Second Sign

LINK: John 4


27. Jesus talks to a woman at the well: John 4:1-26

Not wanting to engage in conflict with the Pharisees in Judah, Jesus returned to Galilee via the region that lies between the two, Samaria. Most Jews, because of their hatred of Samaritans took a longer route east of the Jordan River. The Jews hated the Samaritans because they were of "mixed blood."  It is believed that the Assyrians imported people into the region after they conquered the northern kingdom in 722 B.C. (1 Kings 17). Some of the Jews married these "importees" and took on their pagan practices. When the Jews returned after the captivity, the Samaritans wanted to have a part in rebuilding the temple, but they were flatly rejected (Ezra 4:2, 3). Thus, the bad blood between them began and continued into Jesus' time. Since they could not worship in Jerusalem, they worshiped at Mount Gerizim. 

The fact that Jesus walked through this region, initiated with a Samaritan stranger, and not only that, but a woman was incredible. He even did it in broad daylight (6 p.m.).  The Samaritan woman was even a woman of loose morals on top of all of that. He also asked for a drink out of her vessel which was considered unclean according to a Rabbinic law of A.D. 66 that declared all Samaritan women unclean. This is proof that Jesus also came to seek and save those who were on the fringes of society! It is perfectly fitting that this is the only record of this encounter in the four gospels because John wrote it to the whole world and not just the Jews. What a contrast the Samaritan woman is to the highly respected Nicodemus in John 3! 

In her questioning of Jesus, He revealed that He would give her "Living Water" that ran deeper than Jacob's well (which was one of the deepest in Palestine); water that would satisfy her soul's thirst and spring up to eternal life from within. Because He knew all people's hearts (John 2:24-25), He revealed His supernatural knowledge by telling her He knew of her husband (or lack thereof) situation. 

In order to avoid confessing and repenting of her sin, she threw up an intellectual "red herring" by asking about an age old dispute. Where do we worship?  The Samaritans worshiped at Mount Gerizim, and the Jews worshiped at the temple mount in Jerusalem.  Where was the right location for worship?

Jesus answered by declaring that a time would come where the position of worship would not matter but rather the position of the heart.  And the only way to that true worship would come through a descendant of the Jews, Jesus (Acts 4:12)! 

The woman knew of a Messiah to come, but the Samaritans rejected all parts of the Old Testament except the Pentateuch (first five books). Their concept of the Messiah came from Deuteronomy 18:15-18.  So the thought of the Messiah coming from the Davidic line would be new to her. In this challenge, Jesus declared, "I . . . am."  The NIV gets it wrong by saying "I . . . am He." The NASB correctly puts the word "He" in italics (indicating that it is not there in the original Greek). His declaration of "I . . . am" declares that He is the great I AM of the Pentateuch (Exodus 3:14). He dared to utter this holy name of God because He was God!

28. Jesus tells about the spiritual harvest: John 4:27-38

With this, she believed and left when the disciples arrived (I have read this so many times but just noticed on this reading that she was so excited that she left her water jar behind!).  She respectfully went to her village to ask literally, "This couldn't be the Messiah, could it?"  This has always intrigued me. She asked a negative question. It was a respectful way to defer the decision to those she approached instead of positively asserting herself as a woman, and a loose woman at that. She is very diplomatic and made the people in her city curious.

With this incident, Jesus made it a "teachable moment" for his disciples. He compared physical food to spiritual food and asserted that His "food . . . is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work" (4:34). This so aligns with what he said in the wilderness to Satan about man not living by bread alone (Deuteronomy 8:3)! 

He used farming terms to encourage His disciples to see all the spiritual hunger around them and to reap from the "white harvest" (4:35).

29. Many Samaritans believe in Jesus: John 4:39-42

Some commentators believe the "white harvest" reference could be to the white robes of the Samaritans coming out to see and hear Jesus for themselves. They based their belief on a direct encounter with Jesus and not just on the testimony of the Samaritan woman.

30. Jesus preaches in Galilee: John 4:43-45
Yet not in Jerusalem and Judah will the light first dawn, but in the northernmost part of the land of Israel, a region which lay in darkness and death at the time Jesus came to fulfill the ancient prophecy, and which even John the Baptist had not been able to reach by his call to repentance. 
(The Gospel According to St. Matthew - An Introduction and Commentary by R.V.G. Tasker, page 56)
This part of the gospel accounts is often called the "Great Galilean Ministry." The major cities included Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum, Nain, Cana, and Nazareth. Galilee is 60 miles long by 25 miles wide. It is mountainous with fertile valleys and an average temperature of 70 degrees. It was the most beautiful, productive and populous district of Palestine with grain and olive groves. Flora and wildlife still thrive there.  There was a mixture of races from Jew and Gentile backgrounds. 
Galilee of the Gentiles was a choice cradle for the universal Gospel. Jesus liked to mingle in the crowd. He loved human beings and here He found a dense population made up of heterogeneous elements of all types and nationalities.  
(The Christ of the Gospels, p. 115)
One interesting thing: not one prophet had ever come out of Galilee.  

After two days in Samaria, Jesus went to His "own country" of Galilee (John 4:44). Even though he was received, he was not really accepted there (John 2:24-25; 4:48).  In Galilee, he preached the message of the Kingdom. It was at hand, and they needed to repent and believe in the gospel. 

31. Jesus heals a government official's son: John 4:46-54

While in Galilee, He healed the government official's son, and this is the second sign (attesting miracle) in Cana. We do not know whether this official was a Jew or Roman. Our only clue is that Jesus rebuked him and lumped him in with the people who needed signs and wonders, and Paul later said that this is what the Jews wanted (1 Corinthians 1:22). 

The man was not going to argue with Jesus for rebuking him. He had walked 25 miles to seek help for his son. So, that shows some kind of faith, and it was rewarded because his son was healed from a distance. The result was that he and his household all believed.

REFLECTION - Quenching Our Thirst

Several years ago, I counseled a married woman who would periodically satisfy her soul's thirst through emotional and physical relationships with other women. Her husband was devastated and ready to leave the marriage, but this woman could not see what she was doing to her husband. Her thirst was so strong that all she wanted to do was satisfy it. 

God kept on telling me to pray that she would drink deeply of His Living Water and that she would be satisfied with Him alone.  So, I kept listening and praying.  Through a slow and intimate process, she saw her soul's thirst could only be satisfied by this Living Water that Jesus spoke of to the woman at the well. She turned away from her sin and found her satisfaction in Him. 

I am happy to say she has now been happily married to this same man (who was so patient) for many long years! In fact, I just went to an anniversary celebration of a milestone year. Praise be to God!

What are you thirsting for and how are you satisfying it? Talk to God about it.  

APPLICATION - Encountering Jesus at the Well

Sometimes, I like to experience the Scriptures with my five senses using the Loyola Method. I have talked about this method on three prior occasions during the 27 months of the Bible Book Club. Here is an explanation:

Loyola Method

Here is a handout about Meditation that includes this method and many others:

Meditation Tools


Lord, I love Your Word! I love the story of the woman at the well because it shows me that no matter how far we may seem from true worship, You offer a way through the blood of Jesus Christ. Thank You for Your incredible gift. Thank You that You quench our thirst with Your Living Water. May we always live for You. Hallelujah and AMEN!
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