“Soar Like Eagles” The Gospel of John #5 – “Using Scripture To Avoid Truth” John 4:1-41

02 Feb

christ_and_samaritan_woman_henryk_siemiradzki“The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, {2} although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. {3} When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

This chapter is filled with many “nuggets” of information about our Lord:

 – we see the humanity of Jesus (“tired”)

 – we see the Deity of Jesus

 – we see the universality of the gospel

 – we see spontaneous evangelism

 – we see true worship defined

Beginning with His cleansing of the temple at Jerusalem (John 2:13-22), including a considerable public ministry in the environs of Jerusalem and ending with the Lord’s departure into Galilee, a period of approximately 8-9 months have transpired.

Jesus made the move from Judea to Galilee. He is likely avoiding an imminent confrontation with the Pharisees. Jesus’ popularity is swelling (John 3:26). The crowds are growing, even more than they had for John. This irritated the competitive, jealous spirits of the Pharisees (cf. Mt 27:18).

Meanwhile, Jesus is practicing immersion. This is obviously not Christian baptism since Jesus has neither died nor risen again (cf. Rom 6:1-6). It is simply the continuation of John’s baptism for remission of sins (Mk 1:4) as the entrance into the kingdom (Jn 3:5). But for now, it marks those who are willing to become like children (Lk 18:16-17) and be born again (Jn 3:5).

In a typical parenthetical comment (cf. Jn 3:24; 4:8,9b), we learn that Jesus delegates the baptismal act to his disciples (Jn 4:2).

It was not yet time for our Lord to take on the Pharisees. That time would come soon enough. To let the situation cool a bit, Jesus left Judea and returned north to Galilee, no doubt relieving the fears of the Pharisees. They must have felt that Jesus could cause them little trouble there.

{4} Now he had to go through Samaria. {5} So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. {6} Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour.”

The name Samaritans originally was identified with the Israelites of the Northern Kingdom (2 Kings 17:29). When the Assyrians conquered Israel and exiled 27,290 Israelites, a “remnant of Israel” remained in the land. Assyrian captives from distant places also settled there (2 Kings 17:24).

This led to the intermarriage of some though not all, Jews with Gentiles and to widespread worship of foreign gods. By the time the Jews returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple and the walls of Jerusalem, Ezra and Nehemiah refused to let the Samaritans share in the experience (Ezra 4:1-3; Neh. 4:7). The old antagonism between Israel to the north and Judah to the south intensified the quarrel.

The Jewish inhabitants of Samaria identified Mount Gerizim as the chosen place of God and the only center of worship, calling it the “navel of the earth” because of a tradition that Adam sacrificed there. Their scriptures were limited to the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible.

      The Samaritans professed to believe in the God of Israel and awaited the coming of Messiah (see John 4:25). They accepted only the first five books of the Law, but rejected the rest of the Old Testament Scriptures. Wherever they found it necessary to justify their religion and their place of worship, they modified the Law. The relationship between the Jews and the Samaritans was definitely strained.

Notice Jesus’s tact and persistence—and her growth.

– He began on the ground of her kindness…she saw Jesus as a Jew (vs. 7-9).

“When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” {8} (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) {9} The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)”

Three things about this woman seem to put her at a distinct disadvantage. First, she is a Samaritan. Second, she is guilty of sexual immorality, and third, she is a woman. We have already commented about the way the Jews felt toward the Samaritans.

The Pharisees had a very simple system for being holy—they simply kept their (physical) distance from sinners. They thought sin was contagious, and that one could catch it by merely being close to sinners.

The “woman at the well” is a woman whose sins are apparent, but she has not sinned alone. In those days, husbands divorced their wives, but wives did not divorce their husbands. If this woman was married and divorced five times, then five men divorced her.

“A woman could not divorce her husband in Jewish law. But under certain circumstances she could approach the court which would, if it thought fit, compel the husband to divorce her (see for example, Mishnah, Ket. 7:9, 10). Or she might pay him or render services to induce him to divorce her (Git. 7:5, 6). In theory there was no limit to the number of marriages that might be contracted after valid divorces, but the Rabbis regarded two, or at the most three marriages as the maximum for a woman (SBk, II, p. 437).” Morris, p. 264, fn. 43.

This woman was “put away” five times. Think of how she must feel about herself. And the man she is now living with is not her husband. She isn’t even married this time, but just living with (or sleeping with) a man, perhaps another woman’s husband. This woman has been passed around by some of the male population of Sychar. Jesus’ words not only call the woman’s attention to her sins; they call our attention to the sins of the men of that city.

The Rabbinic precept ran:  “Let no one talk with a woman in the street, no, not with his own wife.”  The Rabbis so despised women and so thought them incapable of receiving any real teaching that they said:  “Better that the words of the law should be burned than deliver to women.” 

They had a saying:  “Each time that a man prolongs converse with a woman he causes evil to himself, and desists from the law, and in the end inherits Gehinnom.” 

One of their sayings ran: ‘A man shall not be alone with a woman in an inn, not even with his sister or his daughter, on account of what men may think. A man shall not talk with a woman in the street, not even with his own wife, and especially not with another woman, on account of what men may say.’” Morris, p. 274, citing SBk, II, p. 438.

Here is Jesus taking the barriers down. The disciples seem to embrace this view. They cannot fathom why Jesus would be “wasting His time” talking to a woman.

There were several different kinds of Pharisees. One of the groups was called the “bruised and bleeding” Pharisees because they closed their eyes when they saw a woman approaching and would then walk into walls, houses, etc., and hurting themselves. They were bruised and bleeding because they were always running into things to avoid seeing a woman in public!

– Jesus took no offense..and appealed to her curiosity (vs. 10-12).

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” {11} “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? {12} Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?”

Like all good personal workers, Jesus refused to get involved with needless discussion. She was doing what many people do when truth comes into the picture…she was using “scripture (her beliefs, etc.) to avoid truth.” Her reference in verses 11-12 showed that the wall was broken down and she was ready for serious conversation.

 The Samaritans claimed descent from Jacob through Joseph and the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh.

Jesus appealed to her desire for physical satisfaction…she saw Jesus as greater than Jacob (vs. 13-15)

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, {14} but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” {15} The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

She did not realize Jesus was speaking of spiritual things. To her, His promise was a gratification of common human laziness. She made the mistake great crowds made later in John 6:26: she sought Jesus for the physical good she could get from Him, not the signs.

– Jesus appealed to her ambition (vs. 16).

“He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

If she wanted badly enough what He had to offer, she would be willing to exert herself to obtain it. It would require a walk of a mile in the hot sun with only the word of a stranger to make it worthwhile. But the command had a double edge for it cut sharply at her heart: she must disclose some of her personal life. Her reply: “I’m not ready for that, least of all an investigation by a Jew.”

Why would Jesus now ask her to go call her husband? Is Jesus calling her to submit to her husband’s spiritual leadership? Is he calling her to repent of her sinfulness? Is he allowing the reader to understand his love for the sinful? Is he seizing the opportunity to demonstrate his omniscience?

It is not so surprising that she has had five husbands. Divorce was especially common among the Romans of the day who generally kept a wife at home and a mistress for social events. Even the Jews, following the liberal teachings of Hillel, divorced their wives with alarming regularity. Hillel even permitted divorce “if she burnt his dinner while cooking.” The Samaritan ethic of marriage was likely somewhere in between that of the Romans and that of the Jews.

– Jesus appealed to her moral sense…she recognized him as a prophet (vs. 17-20).

“I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. {18} The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” {19} “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. {20} Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

Jesus turned her life inside out before her very eyes! It shocked her and put her on the defensive. It’s been accurately observed that “like many others whose moral position is challenged, she took refuge in arguing impersonally about religion. She used “religion” to avoid truth!”

Jesus, by His power to search her heart and reveal her past sins, has revealed her sin and made her desirous of righteousness and also manifested, to some extent, His omniscient and divine nature, and thus provided the way to righteousness.

Her response in verse 20 had to do with a long-standing fight between the Jews and the Samaritans. This was a “hot-button” for her people.

According to the Jews, Jerusalem was the only God-ordained place of worship (Deut 12:5-11; 1 Kgs 9:3; 2 Chr 3:1). According to the Samaritans it was Gerizim. The Samaritans taught that Adam was created from the dust of Mount Gerizim, that the flood never covered it, that the ark came to rest there, and that Jacob wrestled with the angel there. They also felt that Abraham offered Isaac on Gerizim.

Because he was a Jew, she assumed that Jesus would “fight” that Mount Moriah in Jerusalem was the acceptable place; she sought to involve him in this age-long controversy.

Jesus skillfully dealt with both the controversial issue and the deeper personal need concealed behind it ( was a sensitive issue, and He spoke only the truth).

  – Jesus appealed to her religious sense…she recognized him as the Christ (vs. 21-25).

  “Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. {22} You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. {23} Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. {24} God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” {25} The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

Jesus begins with a tremendous statement: “Salvation is from the Jews.” He made no concession to her position, and He was blunt. But He also very quickly made the matter not of time or space, but of the heart.

God is spirit, and not confined to things or places. And here reply showed a measure of sincerity in her heart. They revealed both hope and ignorance.

Both Jews and Samaritans erred in thinking that worship was a specific deed done with the body at a certain locale rather than a heart bent on knowing and loving God. Jesus now introduces a new relationship with God (Jer 31:31-34; Heb 8:8-12), where the Spirit of God and the spirit of man commingle (1 Cor 2:10-14; 6:19).

“God is Spirit.”  Theology flows from the lips of Jesus in simple chunks that children can get a hold of but that theologians cannot fathom. Such is this little nugget of truth. It answers so many questions about the nature of God and yet leads us to just as many more.

She doesn’t know how to respond to Jesus. He has her pinned. So she just blows it off saying, “Well, the Messiah will make it all clear to us.” So Jesus said: “Lady, I am the Messiah.” It would be another two years before Jesus is this clear again about his identity (Mt 16:16-18). He knows the Samaritans are not going to force him to be a political Messiah (cf. Jn 6:15). Furthermore, since he is only going to be there for two days he is able to be a bit more forward. The Samaritans did, indeed, have a high Messianic expectation (Acts 8:9; Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 18. 85), as is evidenced by their response.

 – Jesus appealed to her faith (vs. 26).

“Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.”

Hearing His words created faith in her heart.

Jesus wasted no words: He revealed Himself more openly to her than He had even to Nicodemus. In this one instance Jesus had overcome the woman’s indifference, materialism, selfishness, moral turpitude, and religious prejudice, ignorance, and indefiniteness.

   “Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” {28} Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, {29} “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” “ They came out of the town and made their way toward him.”

These verses reveal to us the consciousness Jesus had of His mission and verse 30 implies that the people from the town were not skeptical but were looking for the Deliverer. Her leaving the water pots indicated her excitement and plans to come back.

 Note the lessons, or steps here:

– The experience to face herself and see herself as she really was. It was similar to Peter when he caught the many fish in Luke 5:8: “When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”

– She staggered at Christ’s ability to see into her heart. He is like the surgeon who sees the evil and diseased, and takes it away.

‘Her first instinct? To share her discovery? “First to find, then find, then to tell” are two great steps of the Christian life.

    “Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.” {32} But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” {33} Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?” {34} “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work”

   The disciples also got involved with the physical, rather than the spiritual. They couldn’t figure out why Jesus was not hungry and thirsty.

It is his great desire that we should be as he was.

(i)  To do the will of God is the only way to peace.  There can be no peace when we are at variance with the king of the universe.

(ii)  To do the will of God is the only way to happiness.  There can be no happiness when we set our human ignorance against the divine wisdom of God.

(iii)  To do the will of God is the only way to power.  When we go our own way, we have nothing to call on but our own power, and therefore collapse is inevitable.  When we go God’s way, we go in his power, and therefore victory is secure.

“Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. {36} Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. {37} Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. {38} I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” {39} Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” {40} So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. {41} And because of his words many more became believers.”

John 4:39-42: “Many of the Samaritans from that city believed on him, because of the woman’s story, for she testified:  “He told me all things that I have done.”  So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay amongst them, and he stayed there two days.  And many more believed when they heard his word, and they said to the woman:  “No longer do we believe because of your talk.  We ourselves have listened to him, and we know that this is really the Saviour of the World.”

God cannot deliver his message to those who have never heard it unless there is someone to deliver it.

      A song: “He has no hands but our hands To do his work today: He has no feet but our feet To lead men in his way: He has no voice but our voice To tell men how he died: He has no help but our help To lead them to his side.”

It is our precious privilege and our terrible responsibility to bring men to Christ.  The introduction cannot be made unless there is a man to make it.

We often wonder how we can begin a conversation on spiritual things when we find someone ‘who thinks of spiritual things.’ We have the beginning point: “Look what he has done for me and to me.” 


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Posted by on February 2, 2017 in Gospel of John


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