John 4:1-54

Submitted by admin on Thu, 2022-10-27 12:26.

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Whereas Jesus’ disciples and not he himself did baptizing, the news reached the Pharisees that he was making and baptizing more disciples than John. Learning about this development, Jesus left Judea and returned to Galilee. According to Matthew 4:12 and Mark 1:14, Jesus’ departure coincided with John’s arrest and imprisonment for having exposed the wrongness of Herod Antipas’s incestuous relationship with Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. (Mark 6:17, 18) This suggests that the apparent jealousy of the Pharisees and John’s imprisonment created an environment hostile to Jesus. As his time for laying down his life had not yet come, he may have left for Galilee, where the potential personal dangers would not have been as great. (4:1-3)

On their way to Galilee, Jesus and his disciples traveled the more direct route through Samaria. Arriving at a well the patriarch Jacob had dug centuries earlier and which was in a field that came to be the legal possession of Joseph, Jesus, tired from the journey, seated himself there while his disciples went into the nearby city of Sychar to buy food. It was about the sixth hour or noon (according to Jewish reckoning). (4:4-6, 8)

In view of her reputation, a certain Samaritan woman may have chosen to walk to the well to draw water during the heat of the day when others usually would not be there. When she arrived, Jesus asked her to give him a drink. Surprised that a Jew would ask a Samaritan for a drink (as Jews did not associate with Samaritans), she said, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” Endeavoring to shift her focus to what he could provide for her, Jesus replied, “If you had known the gift of God and the one who said to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The Samaritan woman, however, did not understand what Jesus meant but continued to focus on literal water, telling him that he had no means for drawing water from the deep well. “Where, then,” she asked, “can you get this living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob who gave us the well and who himself and his sons and his flocks drank from it?” (4:7-12)

Drawing a distinction between the water from the well and the “water” he could provide, Jesus said, “Everyone drinking from this water will get thirsty again. The one, however, drinking from the water I shall give him will never thirst, but the water I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” To partake of the living water, the individual must turn in faith or unqualified trust to Jesus as the promised Messiah or Christ and as the unique Son of God. Thereafter what Jesus, as the source of the living water, imparts becomes within the person a well of never-failing water that bubbles up, granting eternal life to the individual. This life is a newness of life as a person having an enduring approved relationship with the Father and his beloved Son. With her mind still fixed on water, the woman did not comprehend Jesus’ words. “Sir, give me this water,” she said, “that I may not thirst and may not have to come here to draw [water].” (4:13-15)

If the Scriptural account basically contains the entire conversation, Jesus did not explain how his words related to him and how, through him, all that was essential for eternal life could be obtained. He used another approach to direct her attention beyond her mundane concerns, asking her to call her husband. Acknowledging the correctness of her response about not having a husband, Jesus continued, “You have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband.” His reply made her realize that he was no ordinary man. He was a prophet. This prompted her to bring up a matter that had seemingly lain dormant in her mind. “Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain [Gerizim], but you [Jews] say that in Jerusalem is the place where one must worship.” Her implied question was, Which view is correct? (4:16-20)

Jesus then revealed that the time was at hand when geographical locations would cease to have any bearing on worship. “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You [Samaritans] worship what you do not know. We [Jews] worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is [here], when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for also such ones the Father seeks to worship him. God [is] spirit, and those worshiping him must worship in spirit and truth.” (4:21-24)

With Jesus’ arrival as the promised Messiah, the “hour” or time had come for a change in the arrangement for worship. No longer would worship be associated with a specific location like Mount Gerizim or the temple in Jerusalem. Because the Samaritans were only acquainted with the Pentateuch and did not have the complete revelation about God available in the writings of the Hebrew prophets, they were worshiping one whom they did not fully know. The Jews, on the other hand, were in possession of all the “holy writings.” From among them, the Messiah was promised to come. Therefore, as Jesus said, “Salvation is from the Jews.” (4:21, 22)

Worship “in spirit” is not dependent on a particular location or any other external factors. Regardless of the time or circumstances, true worshipers are in possession of a worshipful attitude. Theirs is worship of a spiritual kind. The approach to the Father is with profound reverence and humility. Worship “in truth” harmonizes with the complete revelation the Father has provided respecting himself. The full disclosure became available through his Son, who is the “truth.” Jesus flawlessly mirrored his Father. Therefore, seeing the Son was just like seeing God. The Father is seeking those whose worship is not governed by externals. He is “spirit” and therefore not to be linked in any way to the realm of the physical. Worship that is acceptable to him must be “in spirit and truth,” reflecting who he is (based on the complete revelation he has provided). Being “in truth,” such worship would also be genuine and not a mere expression of the lips or a ritualistic routine. (4:23, 24; compare 1 John 3:18.)

At this point, the woman acknowledged that she knew Messiah was coming and that he would make everything known. In keeping with her expectation about the Messiah, Jesus identified himself openly to her in a way that he did not among his own people. “I am [the Messiah], the one speaking to you.” (4:25, 26)

In the then-existing culture, men did not freely converse with women in the manner that Jesus did. So, when the disciples returned from having purchased food, they wondered why he was speaking with a woman, but no one could bring himself to ask what she wanted or why Jesus was speaking to her. (4:27)

Indicating that she planned to return, the woman left her water jar and headed back to the city. As Jesus had revealed that he knew intimate details about her life, she invited men of the city to see the man who had told her “all” that she had done and expressed the thought that he could be the Messiah. Based on her words, the men departed from the city to meet Jesus. (4:28-30)

During the intervening time, the disciples asked Jesus to eat. He, though, told them, “I have food to eat of which you have no knowledge.” This perplexed the disciples, causing them to wonder whether someone else had brought him something to eat. Clarifying his statement, Jesus continued, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, ‘Yet [éti, missing in a number of ancient manuscripts] four months it is, and [then] comes the harvest’? Look! I say to you, raise your eyes and behold the fields, that they are white, [ready] for [the] harvest. Already the reaper is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may rejoice together. For in this, the saying is true, ‘One is the sower, and another the reaper.’ I sent you to harvest [that] on which you had not labored. Others labored, and you have entered into their labor,” benefiting from the preparatory work others had performed. (4:31-38)

For Jesus, doing his Father’s will brought refreshment comparable to partaking of nourishment. The reference to “four months” until the harvest may have been a proverbial saying, indicating that from sowing until harvesting was a period of four months. As a proverbial saying, the reference would provide no clue as to the time of the year Jesus and his disciples were in Samaria. (4:32, 34, 35)

Jesus’ words, however, did not focus on a literal harvest of grain. The fields ripe for harvesting denoted the people who would be ready to respond to the message about him that his disciples would proclaim. This could mean that the Greek word héde for “already” could refer to the fields that were then ripe for harvesting. The inclusion of kaí (“and”) in fifth century Codex Alexandrinus and a number of other manuscripts after héde does support this significance. If, however, héde is understood to start the sentence that is completed in verse 36, this would mean that the reaper was already receiving wages. These wages would be the results the disciples had when laboring with Jesus in the harvest. The Samaritans who were making their way to see Jesus illustrated the bountiful harvest of people that lay ahead. Those who accepted Jesus as the Son of God would come into possession of eternal life (a life distinguished by an enduring relationship with him and his Father). As “fruit” of the harvest, people would be gathered for eternal life. (4:35)

The time would come when both those who shared in the preparatory work and those who participated in the harvest could rejoice together. The Hebrew prophets had labored while subjected to abuse and bitter opposition, and their words survived in written form, giving rise to hope respecting the coming of the Messiah. The last of the prophets who had faithfully labored until his arrest and imprisonment was John the Baptist. Even the testimony of the Samaritan woman about her conversation with Jesus served as preparatory sowing. Jesus’ disciples would benefit from all the sowing that had been done in the past, finding joy in gathering “fruit for eternal life.” (4:35-38)

In view of what the woman had told them, many Samaritans came to believe in Jesus. Her basic message about him was, “He told me everything I did.” The Samaritans asked Jesus to stay with them, and he accepted their invitation, remaining with them for two days. Based on their personal experience with Jesus, many more came to believe. They then told the woman that their conviction was not based on just what she had said, adding, “We know that he is truly the Savior of the world.” (4:39-42)

The faith many Samaritans showed is remarkable. They did not see Jesus perform a single miraculous sign but believed in him because of what they first heard he said to the woman and, later, what they heard from him personally. (4:41, 42)

Whether Jesus’ disciples remained with him two extra days in Samaria is not specifically stated in the biblical account. At some point during the course of their travel northward, however, they began to head to their own homes.

After the two days in Samaria, Jesus departed for Galilee. Whereas the Samaritans had invited him to stay, he could testify that in his own country (or among his own people) a prophet has no honor. (4:43, 44)

At the seven-day festival following the Passover, the Galileans present for the observance had witnessed Jesus’ activity in Jerusalem, including his miraculous signs and his cleansing the temple of commercial activity. Based on what they had seen, they welcomed him. (4:45)

Arriving in Cana, where he had earlier turned water into wine, he met a royal official from Capernaum, where Peter and Andrew and seemingly also James and John resided. This official’s son was seriously ill. Upon learning that Jesus had come from Judea, this man set out to meet him, requesting that he come to Capernaum to heal his boy who was then close to death. (4:46, 47)

Jesus responded, “Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” According to the Greek text, the verbs are second-person plural verbs, not the singular (“you see” and “you believe”). This suggests that Jesus’ words were designed to test the genuineness of the royal official’s faith. Was the man like the many others who personally wanted to see signs and wonders before they would put faith in Jesus? (4:48)

This official’s next words reflected the desperate plea of a father for his son and the belief that Jesus alone could cure him. “Sir [or, Lord], come down before my boy dies.” Instead of accompanying the father back to Capernaum, Jesus told him to return, assuring him, “Your son lives.” He believed what Jesus told him and departed. The measure of faith he had then manifested was strengthened during the trip back to Capernaum. While he was on his way, his slaves met him, telling him that his son was alive and well. In response to his inquiry about when his son’s health improved, the slaves said, “Yesterday, in the seventh hour [about 1:00 p.m., according to Jewish reckoning], the fever left him.” This was the very time Jesus had said to him, “Your son lives.” Therefore, he “believed” (evidently in Jesus and with greater conviction than he had upon first heading back to Capernaum) and so did his entire household. (4:49-53)

This was the “second sign” Jesus performed in Galilee, and the first one since his return from Judea. How many miracles Jesus did earlier in Judea is not disclosed in the biblical accounts. Like the other miracles, the “second sign” served to identify Jesus as the Son of God. It demonstrated the greatness of the divine power operating through him, as he did not have to be present personally for the cure to occur. (4:54)