Jesus Talks With a Samaritan Woman (4:1-26)
1-3 Just as the Pharisees had taken a close interest in John the Baptist, so they now began to watch Jesus. They were not happy that these men were so popular with the people. If everyone followed after John and Jesus, the Pharisees would lose their own power and influence over the people (see Mark 3:6 and comment).
Therefore, in order to avoid a conflict with the Pharisees, Jesus left Judea and returned to Galilee. He did not want to stir up the anger of the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders at that time. He had much teaching and preaching to do. His time to suffer and die at their hands had not yet come.
4-5 To reach Galilee, Jesus had to go through the district of Samaria, which lay between Judea and Galilee. Jesus stopped near a plot of land that Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, had given to his son Joseph34 (Genesis 33:19: 48:22).
Jesus later told His disciples not to go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans (see Matthew 10:5 and comment). But this time on His way to Galilee He stopped in a Samaritan village for two days and brought the people of that village great blessing (verses 40-41).
6 Jacob was especially revered by the Samaritans. He had discovered a well at that place, and thus it was called Jacob’s well.
Jesus was tired. He was a man such as we are. At the sixth hour, that is, noon, He reached the well and sat down on the edge of it.
7 Then a woman came to the well, and Jesus asked her to give Him a drink. His purpose was to satisfy her spiritual need, but He began by asking her to satisfy His physical need. Many Christians have found that when they themselves are in some physical need, others are usually more willing to listen to their spiritual witness.
8-9 Jesus’ request to the Samaritan woman for a drink was unusual for two reasons. First, a Jewish man, especially a teacher, never talked alone with any woman if he could help it. Second, this woman was a Samaritan. The Jews and the Samaritans hated each other. Many years earlier the Samaritans had been ordinary Jews. Then they were conquered by the Assyrians. The Assyrians brought many foreigners into Samaria to settle there, and the Samaritans had intermarried with them and had begun to worship their gods (2 Kings 17:22-33). Thus the Samaritans became half-Jews. Although in Jesus’ time they had begun again to worship the one true God, they still refused to worship at the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. They had built their own temple on the top of a nearby mountain in Samaria (see verse 20), but the Jews had later burned it down. Thus there was great hostility between the two nations. This is why John says in verse 9: Jews do not associate with Samaritans.
10 Jesus did not want to talk about the differences between Jews and Samaritans. He wanted to tell the woman about the gift of God, that is, the gift of new life that He could give her, which Jesus called living water. We can also understand the gift of God to mean Christ Himself.
In Jesus’ time, any water that flowed was called “living water.” It was considered the best water to use to purif y one’s hands and drinking cups. But here Jesus gives the term “living water” a much deeper meaning. “Living water” is new spiritual life, which comes from the Holy Spirit (John 3:5). It not only flows into a person; it also flows out of him (John 7:38-39). The Holy Spirit is a spring of water that never dries up35 (verse 14).
If the woman had known who Jesus was, she would instead have asked Him for water! Only Jesus can give the gift of living water (Revelation 21:6).
11-12 Like others (John 2:20; 3:4), the woman did not understand Jesus’ spiritual meaning. She thought He was talking about ordinary drinking water. “Can you give us better water than our ancestor Jacob did, who made this well?”
13-14 Then Jesus explained to the woman that the water He could give was different from ordinary water. Those who drink Jesus’ water never thirst again. Jesus’ water continuously “wells up” in a person. It continuously gives life, eternal life.
Jesus did not mean that, once a person believes in Him, that person will no longer thirst for spiritual things. We must conti-nously hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matthew 5:6). We must hunger for God’s fellowship, His blessings, His grace. But when we do so, we are immediately filled. We never remain thirsty. As much as we thirst for God’s grace, He fills us. His living water never runs dry.
15 The woman still misunderstood what kind of water Jesus was talking about. She thought, “If I drink His water, I’ll never need to come and get more water from this well. I’ll never have to drink again.”
16 Jesus knew the woman’s deep spiritual need. He knew that she was living in sin with a man who was not her legal husband. She had not understood about His spiritual water. Therefore, He changed the subject, and confronted her with her sin. “Go, call your husband,” He said to her. In saying this, His purpose was to awaken her consciousness of her sin.
17-18 The woman didn’t want to talk about her husband or her previous husbands. So she lied. “I have no husband,” she said. She meant: “I am not living with any man.”
But even though the woman had tried to deceive Jesus, her answer, in fact, was in one way true. She was living with a man who was not her legal husband. According to the Jewish law, if a woman’s first husband was still living, any other man she lived with was not considered to be her husband. In other words, this Samaritan woman was living in adultery (Mark 10:12).
We can never deceive God. Because Jesus had God’s knowledge, He knew all about this woman. She could not deceive Him.
19 The woman was amazed by Jesus’ knowledge of her past life. She at once realized that He was some kind of prophet.
The Samaritans believed only in the first five books of the Old Testament. The only prophet they recognized, therefore, was the prophet that Moses spoke about in the book of Deuteronomy. Moses said that God would raise up a prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15), and the Samaritans thought that this prophet would be the Messiah.
Thus when the woman called Jesus a “prophet,” she, in fact, was suggesting that He might be the Messiah Himself (see verse 25).
20 But again the woman tried to change the subject. She knew the Jews believed that God must be worshipped in Jerusalem according to 2 Chronicles 6:6; 7:12 and Psalm 78:68. But since these passages were not in the first five books of the Old Testament, the Samaritans did not accept them. The Samaritans worshiped only on Mount Gerizim in Samaria, where “our fathers”—that is, Abraham and Jacob—worshipped (Genesis 12:7; 33:20; Deuteronomy 11:29).
Since Jesus was a prophet, the woman supposed that He could tell her who was right, the Samaritans or the Jews.
21 Jesus told the woman that the time was coming when men would worship neither in Jerusalem nor on Mount Gerizim. In forty years Jerusalem would be destroyed by the Romans. Men would then realize that God does not live in a temple made with hands (Acts 7:48-49; 17:24). Neither does He live only on one mountain top. God can be worshiped anywhere, because God is spirit (verse 24).
22 The Samaritans did not know what they worshipped (Acts 17:23). They did not have a full knowledge of God, because they rejected most of the Old Testament. But the Jews had a much greater understanding of God, because they believed in the complete Old Testament Scriptures. Not only that, but SALVATION—that is, the means of obtaining salvation—was from the Jews. Jesus’ meaning was this: The means of obtaining salvation was the Messiah, the Christ—and Christ was a Jew.
23 “Even now,” said Jesus, “the time has come when men can worship the true God, who is spirit.” Those who are true worshippers understand that God is spirit (verse 24). God cannot be worshipped outwardly, or by special rituals in special places. God can only be worshiped in spirit and truth. This means that man must worship God with his spirit.36 And he must worship God in truth, that is, truly, sincerely, from his heart and spirit.
God seeks men who will worship Him spiritually from their hearts. Men worship stones and idols in one way. But God must be worshipped in another way. He must be worshipped in spirit and truth.
24 God is spirit. God’s essential nature is spirit. He is a life-giving spirit. God is not stone; He is not flesh; He is not earth; He is not air. He is spirit. Therefore, He must be worshipped spiritually. Only with our spirits can we truly worship God.
25 The woman couldn’t understand the spiritual things Jesus was telling her. She said that when the Messiah37 came, He would explain everything. Perhaps she wondered if Jesus Himself was the Messiah.
26 “I … am he,” Jesus said to the woman. “I myself am the Messiah.”
Jesus did not of ten reveal to Jews that He was the Messiah, because they would try to make Him a king (see Mark 5:43; 8:30 and comments). But among the Samaritans, He did not try to hide His identity.
Jesus Talks With His Disciples (4:27-42)
27 The disciples had earlier gone to town to buy food (verse 8). They were surprised to see Jesus talking with a woman. In the Jews’ eyes, it wasn’t proper for a Rabbi (teacher) to converse with a woman. But they were embarrassed to ask Jesus why He was talking with her.
28-30 The woman now began to think that Jesus was the Messiah. His knowledge of her own life had amazed her. Even though Jesus had only spoken about her five “husbands,” she knew that He could have told her everything that she had ever done.
The woman could not keep these things to herself. She went and told the people of her town. Christ had made Himself known to her. Now she went to make Him known to others. The blessings we receive are to be shared. If we put a light under a bushel, it will go out (Matthew 5:15).
31-33 After the woman had gone to call the people of her town to see Christ, the disciples suggested that Jesus eat some of the food they had purchased in the town. But He told them that He had food they didn’t know about. They did not understand that He was talking about spiritual food (see Matthew 4:4).
34 Jesus’ food was to do God’s will. Jesus desired to do God’s will as much as a hungry man desires to eat. Jesus received satisfaction from obeying God. As He obeyed God, He received spiritual strength and nourishment. So it is with everyone who obeys God.
God had sent Jesus to save the world, to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). To do that, Jesus had to die (see Mark 10:45 and comment). Jesus not only had to do God’s will each moment, but He had to finish His work. He could not be fully satisfied until He had finished it. Jesus finished God’s work when He died on the cross.
35 When a farmer sows, he must wait a few months for the harvest. But the disciples of Christ are not like farmers. Those who sow spiritual seed do not have to wait four months to reap. They can at once begin to call men into God’s kingdom.
Jesus’ work was reaping. It was the disciples’ work too (see Mark 1:17). Perhaps, even as Jesus talked, the people from the Samaritan woman’s town were coming toward Him. They were the harvest! The seed had been sown in the mind of the woman, and now already the harvest had come!
Jesus’ main meaning was this. Harvest time is a busy time. It is also a short time. If the crop is not quickly harvested, it will be lost. Therefore, Christ’s disciples must work quickly and diligently. The task of harvesting is urgent (see Matthew 9:37-38 and comment).
36 For the disciples of Christ, sowing and reaping go together. The disciple sows the word (see Mark 4:14). But he also reaps; that is, he calls people to believe and to enter God’s kingdom. The Samaritans were coming toward them. Christ had sown; now He was about to reap. He was already drawing his wages.
The reaper will receive a wage, a reward. We each will be rewarded according to our work (Matthew 16:27). But not only will the reaper be benefited; others also will benefit from his work. The souls he “harvests” will receive eternal life. Thus the work of the reaper lasts for eternity.
37 Among farmers, usually the one who sows reaps his own crop. But with spiritual sowing and reaping, usually one man sows and another man reaps. Since spiritual sowing and reaping go on together, the sower and reaper will be glad together (verse 36).
38 Then Jesus reminded His disciples that others had worked before them, especially John the Baptist and his followers. These earlier workers had prepared the ground and planted the seed. They had done the hard work, but had not seen the harvest. Now Jesus and His disciples were about to reap the benefits of their labor.
Jesus here gives a principle that is true in all Christian work. We must not try to take credit for the success of any spiritual work. Usually someone else has gone ahead of us and prepared the ground. But that is not all. It is God alone who makes the seed grow. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow (1 Corinthians 3:6-7).
39-41 Here we can see how a small work of Christ led to a great work. Jesus began by teaching one woman. He ended by teaching an entire town. Let none of us despise a small work; it will of ten lead to a greater one.
The Samaritan woman’s testimony caused many of the townspeople to believe. See how much fruit resulted from the testimony of an ordinary sinful woman! In the same way, our own testimony concerning what Christ has done in our life is very effective. Therefore, let us not be hesitant to share our testimony with others.
42 However, even though men and women may believe in Christ through the testimony of others—such as parents, preachers, and friends—their faith becomes strong only when they themselves have met Christ. We can witness to others, but they must themselves invite Christ into their lives. It’s not enough to learn about Christ with our minds; we must meet Jesus with our spirits if we are to have true faith.
This is what happened to the people of that Samaritan town. When they heard Christ’s words for themselves, their hearts and spirits were opened, and they then knew that He was the Messiah, the Savior of the world (see 1 John 4:14). He was the Savior not only of the Jews, but of the Samaritans also.
Jesus Heals the official’s Son (4:43-54)
43-44 From Samaria, Jesus then went to Galilee, which was where he had been brought up (Luke 2:39-40). He knew that a prophet has no honor in his own country (see Mark 6:4 and comment). He went to Galilee knowing that He would be rejected (Mark 6:1-6; Luke 4:28-30).
45 At first, however, the Galileans welcomed Jesus. Many of them had gone to Jerusalem for the Passover festival, and had seen the miraculous signs Jesus had done there (John 2:23). But most of them didn’t really believe that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ (see John 2:23-24 and comment).
46-47 In Cana, a royal official asked Jesus to heal his son. This incident is similar to the healing described in Matthew 8:5-13; but the healing described here is a different event.
48 Jesus knew that the official did not have true faith. He had come to Jesus only because he had heard about the miracles Jesus had performed. Jesus told him and those standing around, “You only believe when you see a miracle. That’s not real faith” (see John 2:18 and comment).
However, belief in miracles is of ten a first step to real faith. Christ did not reject people who believed in His miracles. His miracles were signs that He was indeed the Messiah (see John 14:11 and comment).
49-50 Jesus then healed the official’s son right then and there. The healing was instant and complete. Jesus didn’t even go to the village where the child was. Jesus was in Cana and the child was in Capernaum, sixteen miles away (see Matthew 8:13).
The father believed Jesus’ word and started for home. He believed without having seen any sign or miracle. He had accepted the rebuke Jesus gave him in verse 48.
51-53 On the journey home, the official learned that his son had been healed at the exact hour that Jesus had said, “Your son will live” (verse 50). As a result, the official and his family placed complete faith in Christ; that is, they became Christians. The miracle had produced true faith.
The sickness of the child had in the end brought great blessing upon his parent’s house. To those who love and believe God, God will bring good out of all their afflictions (see Romans 8:28 and comment).
54 This was the second miracle Jesus did in Galilee. The first miracle was turning the water into wine (John 2:11). Both times Jesus had just returned from a trip to Judea, where He had done other miracles which John has not recorded (see John 2:23: 4:45).