John 4:1-15

Read John 4:1-15

Jesus was apparently concerned about the Pharisees knowing he was baptizing more than John. (John was decreasing so Jesus would increase — from John 3:30) John notes that it was Jesus’ disciples were baptizing rather than Jesus himself. The reason is not clear, but it could be that he was trying to avoid creating tension between the believers similar to what was going on in 1 Corinthians 1:11-17 or if he was letting the disciples do it in a manner to show the procession of disciple making that he commands them to do in Matthew 28:19-20.

In any case, Jesus left Judea. John says he “had” to pass through Samaria. “εδει” in the original Greek indicates that it was necessary for that he go through Samaria. The Samaritans lived in a region sandwiched between Galilee to the north and Judea to the south, and devout Jews wanting to travel between Galilee and Jerusalem had to either pass through Samaria or go around it. Many probably opted for the latter, but it appears Jesus did not have a choice, perhaps because he had foreknowledge as to what would happen in Sychar or a command from God to go through Samaria. Jesus came to Sychar was a town located near Jacob’s well. The well itself is not mentioned in the Old Testament, but was probably a notable landmark and perhaps on the land Jacob bought in Genesis 33:19.

It was an odd time of day for anyone to come out and draw water (around noon) as most people did this chore in the morning, but this particular woman did, probably because she was of a questionable reputation, even for a Samaritan. Samaritans origins date back to when the Jews came out of captivity to resettle the land their ancestors had settled. These Jews had intermarried with other peoples, something that was forbidden for Jews to do because they might be tempted to worship other gods (Deuteronomy 7:1-4). For this reason, Jews who did not intermarry with other peoples disdained those who did. For a Jewish man of high regard (a “rabbi” John 3:2) to be talking to a Samaritan woman of low regard (John 4:16-18) is an odd juxtaposition, needless to say, and the woman recognizes this when Jesus asks here for a drink.

But what the woman does not realize is who Jesus is. Jesus says that if she did, she’d be asking him for a drink instead. She obviously was still thinking that Jesus was talking about literal water. She says the well is deep, he has nothing to draw with, and apparently has no water because he asked her for a drink. She asks him if he was greater than Jacob too and talks about Jacob, his sons, and livestock drinking from the well. She was perhaps inquiring about another spring in area that had not been uncovered by Jacob. Jesus is still speaking on spiritual matters when he says the one who drinks his living water will never thirst again and have “spring of water welling up to eternal life”. It is apparent that the woman still does not understand when she insists the water from Jesus so she would not be thirst have to go about the laborious task of drawing water day in and day out. (For the next few days, this will be explored further as the conversation progresses further as Jesus helps her realize who he is and a whole village turns to him.)

Up against the background of the John 3:1-21, Jesus is talking to the highest of the high, Nicodemus, to the lowest of the low, the nameless woman at the well. It is apparent that Jesus does not consider where one has come from or one’s background – he makes eternal life available to everyone who believes (John 3:16, John 3:36). The difficulty here and for Nicodemus both was seeing who Jesus was. Jesus made the gospel available to persons of all statuses and we should do the same. Paul says that whoever is in Christ are the children of Abraham and children of God, no matter if they are Greek of Jew, slave or free, male or female (Galatians 3:26-29). Our job is to be obedient to the Great Commission and make disciples of every nation (Matthew 28:19-20) no matter who they are or where they live.

Lord, help me to not be a respecter of person, and share with everyone no matter who they are or where they come from!