The Gospel of John chapter 4 verses 1 to 26 allows me to eavesdrop on a very intimate conversation between our Lord Jesus, and a sinful Samaritan woman. In these few verses Jesus permits us to see the perfect model for conversation evangelism, His omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence. These verses also show how everything works together for the Lords perfect purpose.
Verses 1 to 4 tells us of the journey Jesus and His disciples had to take from Judea to Galilee. The Pharisees learned of Jesus’ success, and that He was baptizing more disciples than John the Baptist. He might have left Judea in order to foil the Pharisees plot to kill Him, or cause divisions between His disciple and John the Baptist’s disciples as such in verses 22 to 26. Jesus and His disciples made their way to Galilee. Usually Jews wouldn’t go through Samaria, even though it’s easier (because of their disdain for the Samaritans), instead they would travel the long way across the Jordan River, through Perea, and into the north side of Galilee.
Verse 4 says that Jesus had to pass through Samaria. The Words “had to” is the Greek word dew, which means necessary. The custom was for Jews to go around Samaria. It was necessary, though, for Jesus to go through Samaria, because He knew there was a woman in need of salvation. He and His disciples came to a little village called Sychar. In Sychar on a plot of land Jacob gave his son Joseph is where we find the epic conversation between redeemer and the redeemed.
Verses 6 to 10 starts with our Lord catering to his humanity. “; so Jesus, wearied as He was from His journey”, shows us the paradox in Jesus. He is fully human, and fully divine, all at the same time. This mystery doesn’t take any power away from Jesus, and we cannot fully comprehend it at this present time. Jesus sat beside the well to rest at about 6:00pm in Roman time (noon in Jewish time). Jesus sees the Samaritan woman coming to draw water at this time, at which He asks her for a drink out of the well.
The Samaritan woman breaks the cultural ice by asking Jesus why He (a Jew) is asking her (a Samaritan) for a drink (Jews disliked the Samaritans very much. Samaritans were considered half-breed Jews)? Jesus is now engaging in perfect conversational evangelism. The answer Jesus gives the woman is very peculiar in the way he turns her question to his question into a statement about Him. He basically told her that if she had known Jesus was God, she would’ve ask Him for a blessing, and He would’ve given her living water(Salvation).
With the incorrect notion that Jesus was speaking of literal living water, she asks Jesus where He would plan to get the living water without any tools to draw water with. My interpretation of verse 12 is that she felt a little offended by Jesus, a Jew, saying that He can offer her something better than what the patriarch Jacob has already offered her. In verses 13 to 14 Jesus explains the difference between the literal water of Jacob’s well and the living water which He offers. Day after day this woman came out to draw water from this well, so she surely understood when Jesus said “Everyone who drinks of this water thirst again” (water from Jacob’s well). She understood Jesus because it was true. Jesus says something that will now spark her interest in verse 14. The water that he gives absolutely quenches thirst, and lasts beyond this earthly life. The application here is that only Jesus can satisfy a person’s heart. Only Jesus can satisfy our longings, and our thirsts. The words Jesus spoke in verse 14 caused the Samaritan woman to demand this living water, so that she doesn’t have to draw water anymore.
Jesus suddenly changes direction in the conversation. Jesus tells her to go get her husband and bring him. Jesus, being all-knowing, already knows that she’s not married, and is currently living with a man. The Samaritan woman doesn’t lie, but she doesn’t tell the whole truth either. She tells Jesus she has no husband, and Jesus quickly jumps on her respond by saying she’s right, but not exactly. Jesus tells her how many times she’s been marries, and that she’s currently committing adultery with a man.
Why would Jesus do such a thing? Is he trying to make her feel bad, or is there another, more beneficial purpose for the statements? I believe Jesus is leading her to salvation. A person can’t be saved if they don’t believe they need to be saved. A person has to admit they are sinful and genuinely repent of their sins.
If she didn’t know before, she sure knew now, the person she was speaking with is no ordinary Jew. She refers to Jesus as a prophet, and she seems uncomfortable with Jesus knowing her sins. She tries to divert His attention by changing the subject. Verse 20 portrays the Samaritan woman speaking of a mountain, which is most likely Mt.Gerizim, on which their ancestors worshiped God on. Then she stereotypes Jesus (because He’s a Jew) in saying “but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship”. Jesus never said this, and the next verse we’ll read his response. Jesus didn’t brush her comment off. Jesus used her comment to infuse in her some truth.
Jesus tells the Samaritan woman that there’s going to come a time, when it wouldn’t matter where you worship, whether at the temple in Jerusalem, or on Mt. Gerizim. Verse 22 might seem as very mean spirited, and harsh, but it’s true. The way the Samaritans worshiped wasn’t prescribed by God as a matter of fact they were like universalists, they feared God and worshiped foreign gods in the same breath. You can cross reference this in 2 Kings 17:28-34. He also mentioned that Jews know who they are to worship, and that salvation comes from the Jews. William Macdonald says this about the verse
“In saying “salvation is of the Jews,” the Lord was teaching that the Jewish people were appointed by God to be His messengers, and it was to them that the Scriptures had been given. Also, it was through the Jewish nation that the Messiah was given. He was born of a Jewish mother.”
The last four verses deal with Worship and Jesus himself. By saying “But a time is coming and is now here”, introduces a new idea. A verse ago Jesus was schooling this young lady on right and wrong places of worship. But now he’s introducing a time, which has come at that very moment, where people don’t have to worship specifically at a temple, or at a prescribed place. The Jews were all about outward expressions of worship, instead of having an inward expression of worship which is in the spirit. Then you had people like the Samaritans who had falsified ways of worshiping God. This is why Jesus said that true worshipers will worship God in spirit and in truth. The saying is a sharp rebuke of the Samaritan and the Jew alike.
By this time the Samaritan woman was being touched by the Holy Spirit, and she made a statement that would seal her fate. She said that she knows that the messiah is coming, and that when He does come, he’s going to teach them all things (probably regarding worship, since this was the topic of discussion). Jesus said, probably with a slight grin, “I who speak to you am He”. This is not just a declaration to being the promised Messiah. The word “He” isn’t found in the original text. When the Bible says “I who speak to you am He”, Jesus literally said “I who speak to you Am”. This isn’t your run of the mill declaration to be the promised Messiah; it’s a definitive declaration to be God himself.
We all have something in common with the Samaritan woman. We all want to WORK for our salvation(work hard to be a better person), when God clearly saves us for FREE. We are all sinners, and need Jesus to come and reveal himself to us, all while we discover how sinful we really are. God is awesome.