A Few Thoughts on John 4

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Definition

Have you ever read or listened to a Bible passage and saw something new – even though you have read it many times before? Well that happened to me yesterday. Two things that I hadn’t really thought about before struck me in John 4. The first is that Jesus used baptism as part of His initiation ceremony for those becoming His disciples. In fact it says that His disciples were doing the baptising on His behalf, and that they were baptising and making more disciples than John the Baptist.

The second is the Samaritan woman’s response to Jesus, verse 15. I always recognised the first part, ‘Please sir, give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again…’ It is the second phrase that really struck me, ‘and I won’t have to come here to get water.’ She was ashamed of the fact that she had to go alone to draw water for her needs, and could not go with the other women in the village. She reasoned that if this Jewish rabbi could give her his water – then she could hide away without needing to go out and face her shame.

It is surprising how God speaks through such obscure phrases or verses.   

Bible Passage

John 4:1-30, NLT, ‘Jesus knew the Pharisees had heard that He was baptizing and making more disciples than John 2(though Jesus Himself didn’t baptize them—His disciples did). 3So he left Judea and returned to Galilee.

4He had to go through Samaria on the way. 5Eventually He came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. 7Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” 8He was alone at the time because His disciples had gone into the village to buy some food. 9The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans.

She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?” 10Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask Me, and I would give you living water.” 11“But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? 12And besides, do you think You’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can You offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?”

13Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. 14But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” 15“Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.” 16“Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her. 17“I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied.

Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband — 18for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!” 19“Sir,” the woman said, “You must be a prophet. 20So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?” 21Jesus replied, “Believe Me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem.

22You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about Him, for salvation comes through the Jews. 23But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship Him that way. 24For God is Spirit, so those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

25The woman said, “I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When He comes, He will explain everything to us.” 26Then Jesus told her, “I Am the Messiah!”

27Just then His disciples came back. They were shocked to find Him talking to a woman, but none of them had the nerve to ask, “What do You want with her?” or “Why are You talking to her?” 28The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, 29“Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could He possibly be the Messiah?” 30So the people came streaming from the village to see Him.’

Thoughts…

The Bible is such an amazing book. It is God’s word. The most powerful words in this blog are the Scriptural ones above. Do you believe that the Bible is that powerful? I know most of us will say, ‘yes.’ But do we really believe that these are God’s words to us. Written and framed by human authors under the inspiration and guidance of God’s Spirit?

I think that one of the greatest needs of our time is for Christians to regularly read or listen to the Bible day by day. Many are living in a place of spiritual poverty because they are not consuming God’s word. Yes, I use the word, ‘consume’ deliberately. We need believers to commit themselves to consuming the Bible. The divine author of the Bible is able to take the sacred text and transform our lives thereby.

Jesus is in the first year of His public ministry. He has just spent some time baptising in the same region as John the Baptist, in the Judean countryside. This is likely to have been a baptism of repentance similar to John’s. Jesus always delegated water baptism to His disciples and ministers – He is superior in that He baptises with the Spirit.

His ministry is having a real impact; to such an extent that John the Baptist’s disciples are complaining that Jesus is now baptising and making many more disciples than John. In John 4:1-3, Jesus’ ministry is so publically successful that He is also drawing the attention of the Pharisees. So, at this point He leaves this successful ministry in Judea to head back to Galilee.

As He journeys back, in the heat of the middle of the day, He encounters a Samaritan woman at a famous well outside Sychar. He had sent His disciples away and was alone. For many days He had been surrounded by crowds, and by His disciples. He wanted some space. He had been ministering to multitudes – now He ministers to one, shame-filled woman. The Messiah stages it so they are alone, and ultimately the woman becomes His disciple – she makes disciples of her community by bringing them to meet and listen to Jesus.

Reflection

It struck me that baptism was an important element of Jesus’ early ministry. I don’t know why, but I never thought of it that way before. I think I have thought something like this: He spoke, people believed and then followed Him. However, His own baptism was important to Him, so why should He not think that a baptism of repentance was an important initiation ceremony for His followers – a foundational element of His own ministry?

The woman was amazed that Jesus, a Jewish rabbi, spoke to her. In fact, He even asked her to serve Him, ‘Please give Me a drink.’ Jewish rabbis spoke disparagingly of Samaritans and many refused to even step on Samaritan soil. Yet, this rabbi even asked a Samaritan woman to serve Him. Jesus told her that if she realised the gift of salvation that God has for – she would ask for much more than water (verse 10).

He also turns the tables and says that He is willing to serve her, verse 14, ‘those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.’ He, the rabbi, is now willing to draw water to quench the woman’s thirst. She wants the rabbi’s water. Perhaps for the first time in years she felt a man was treating her with respect and willing to give to her instead of taking off her what all the other men had wanted.

Her reply in verse 15, ‘and I won’t have to come here to get water’ is heart wrenching. You and I would say something like, ‘that’s alright dear, it’s all going to be different from now,’ and moved from ministry to human sympathy. Our limited compassion could have prevented the woman receiving the true gift Jesus offers – His salvation. Jesus’ compassion meant that He stepped in with a Word of Knowledge, of insight showing that He knew the extent of the sin in the woman’s life. ‘Go and get your husband’ (verse 16). Her soul is stripped bare and she can only answer, I imagine in an almost inaudible whisper, ‘I don’t have a husband.’

Although full of shame – she is an honest woman who is willing to own her sin. The compassionate Jesus is not finished – He reveals the full extent of her shame, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband — 18for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!”

She knows that she is dealing with no ordinary man, ‘You must be a prophet.’ Then she asks the burning question that her encounter with Jesus had brought to mind. What would I have done when confronted with the truth about my life. What would you have done? Would we have asked a question of Jesus at this point or slinked away in shame?

She asks about true worship and draws from Jesus the greatest statement on worship in the Bible. ‘The Father is actively searching for true worshippers who will worship Him in spirit and truth’ (verse 23).

Truth

The Lord Jesus is wonderful – what a Saviour.

  • Someone once said that you can only win when you are in the game. It is as we fill our lives with God’s word that He reveals His living word and truth to us. If I don’t regularly read or listen to the Bible – my soul will be impoverished. Fill your life with His word and your spirit and soul will be enriched.
  • Early on in His ministry – Jesus placed great emphasis on water baptism. He was baptised, His call to repentance and discipleship included water baptism, and later He commanded His church to baptise His disciples in the full Gospel baptism.
  • In verse 26, Jesus pays the woman the respect of revealing His true identity to her, ‘I AM the Messiah.’ The only other time He will do this explicitly is at His own trial just prior to the Cross. This Samaritan woman’s conversation with Jesus drew from Him two great statements i. about the nature of true worship; ii. His explicit confirmation that He is the Messiah she was looking for. She was a woman of substance.
  • ‘She left her water pot.’ The reason she came was forgotten – she had met the Messiah. She now left her earthly water to go and share the heavenly water she had just drank from.
  • She went unencumbered to tell her people, the same people who treated her with contempt, about her discovery. It is like the four lepers in 2 Kings 7 who go to tell the great news of God’s deliverance. This woman was set free from her shame, became a disciple, and an evangelist for Christ.
  • She loved her people too much to hold their contempt of her against them, but went shared her good news with them.

Prayer

Father, Your word is so rich and full of wonderful truth. Grant each of us a great love for Your word, and the compulsion to consume it each and every day. Thank You for the example of baptism found in John 4. We pray that our church, and the churches of all who read this, will have the joy of baptising and making many disciples.

Lord Jesus, You still redeem sinners engaging with them as they are and leading them to Your light and salvation. Thank You for the example of this woman. You still save sinners, and cleanse those filled with shame turning them into true worshippers and disciple makers. Save, cleanse, heal and make whole many in our nation turning them from sinners to disciple makers. Amen
God Bless
Leslie