COMMENTARY ON JOHN 4

The Book of John is unique among the Gospel accounts. You may read it when you are yet in shallow waters near the shore, and you will find Jesus there. You may read it and find yourself totally immersed in deep truths about God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Sometimes I will go deep, and if it is too much, don’t worry! Stay in the shallow waters for a bit. He will take you deeper, as you get to know Him!

Chapter 4 gives us a glimpse of what Jesus will do in human hearts, if we ask Him. And we see the power of giving testimony vs. Jesus actual words, and a miraculous healing. Jesus’ influence goes far beyond all we can ask or think (Ephesians 3:20)!

Verses 1-2 — Jesus knew the Pharisees would persecute Him for making and baptizing even more disciples than John the Baptist. He was an even bigger threat to their religious power structure. And note that Jesus’ disciples baptized, but He did not. Why? His is not water baptism, but baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Verses 3-6 — Jesus began a long journey into Galilee, and passed through Samaria (36 miles from Jerusalem). He came to Sychar, a large city in Samaria. Jacob’s well was there. The reference may be to Genesis 26:22ff, and the well Jacob named “Rehoboth,” (broad place). Jesus is about to show many people the broad place (place of liberty) that is the kingdom of God.

He was weary from the long journey, and sat alone by the well, at noon. The disciples had gone into the city to purchase food (see verse 8).

Verses 7-8 A woman came to draw water at an unusual time of day; normally, water is drawn at sunset. In a few verses, we’ll find out why she came at noon. Jesus simply said, “Give Me a drink.”

Verses 9-10 — The Samaritan woman pointed out that Jews don’t talk with Samaritans. So why did Jesus speak to her? The people of Samaria worshiped God and other gods (see 2Kings 17:24-41), so they were shunned by the Israelites. But Jesus said that if she knew  1) the gift of God and 2) who it was that said, ‘Give me a drink,’ she would have asked Him and He would have given her living water.

It sounds like a riddle, but it isn’t. He is the gift of God to the world (John 3:16). And so He had much more to offer her than she could offer to Him. She could quench His natural thirst with water from the cistern, but His living water is the Holy Spirit (see John 7:37-39), a never-ending fountain of God’s eternal life and power!

Verses 11-12 — She wondered how He could give her water. When she asked, she was thinking of natural water. She likely had a jug with her, and a rope to lower it down into the well (Greek phrear, a hole in the ground, a cistern). He was empty-handed, so how could He give her this living water? Was He greater than “our father,” Jacob (indicating she was a descendant of Abraham), who gave them this well?

Verses 13-15 — Jesus told her that everyone who drinks of the natural water from Jacob’s well will thirst again. It is just natural water.

But His living water is not natural water. And whoever drinks of the water He will give (through the baptism of the Holy Spirit), will never thirst again. How do I know it is the baptism of the Holy Spirit He is speaking of, and not the first step, which is salvation through faith in Christ? Because John identifies this living water as the Holy Spirit WHO WAS NOT YET GIVEN BECAUSE JESUS WAS NOT YET GLORIFIED (restored to His original position at the right hand of God the Father). That living water was given in Acts 2, baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire.

When you are filled with God, He is an unending source. The water He will give will become “like a well of water springing up to eternal life.” Eternal life is the water in His fountain! [NOTE: My translation, the NASB, says “well,” but the original Greek is “fountain.”] Cisterns will run dry. His fountain springs up, gushes, and leaps! What gushes forth? Eternal life! It is the rushing, flood-stage rivers of eternal life flowing from our innermost beings, as in John 7:38, when we are filled with the Holy Spirit. It flows out to others, and yet we never run dry!

The woman then asked Jesus for His water, but she was still thinking in the natural. She didn’t want to have to come all the way to the cistern to draw water. He said if she drank His water, she’d never thirst again. So she wanted His water.

Verses 16-19 — Now we find out why the woman came alone to draw water at noon rather than sunset, like the others in Sychar. Jesus changed the subject on her, to drive home the fact that He wasn’t talking about natural things. He  told her to call her husband, knowing full well that she has had five husbands, and the man she now had was not her husband.

She said, “I have no husband.” He then told her what had transpired in her life, though this was the first time they had met. And she understood that He was from God and called Him a prophet. There was no other way for Him to know her history. It was because of her history, because she was an adulteress, that she was shunned by the people of her city and forced to go out to the well at noon, the hottest part of the day.

Verse 20 — The woman told Jesus that her ancestors worshiped on the mountain where Sychar was located. God was worshiped in Samaria, at one time. But then many gods were worshiped there, and the Lord sent Northern Israel into exile in Assyria, except for a small remnant. She called into question worship of God on the mountain versus God in Jerusalem. The Jews said God could only be worshiped in Jerusalem, because the Temple was there, signifying God’s presence, in the Holy of Holies.

Verses 21-22 — Jesus responded by saying, “Believe Me.” If you will believe Him today, He will show you that the time is not only coming, but is now here (see Verse 23), when you are able to worship God the Father regardless of where you are geographically, be it the Temple, a church, or a dungeon (see Acts 16:25). This is the first time “the Father” is used in John 4. There is the Father, and then there is Jesus.

In Samaria’s worship of God, they omitted the historical books of the Old Testament (Tenakh), as well as the Prophets and the Psalms. They did not know the full Word of God, so they did not know God.

But “we” worship what we know, He said. The Jews worshiped the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and did not omit any of the Tenakh.

And He said salvation comes from the Jews. What did He mean? The Messiah (the Christ) was prophesied to be a Jew, born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). Isaiah prophesies, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given,” followed by many Messianic titles (Isaiah 9:6-7). So from a Jewish mother and the Holy Spirit comes Jesus Christ the Jew, the seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15), the Savior of both Jew and Gentile (non-Jew), the gift of God to whoever will repent and believe in Him.

Verses 23-24 — Referring back to Verse 21, Jesus said an hour NOW IS when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. They will not just go through the motions and say the right words (lip service). They will be filled with the Holy Spirit, and will truly worship Him, because God the Holy Spirit is in them, leading them into true worship. No more rote rites or mouthing words, but the Spirit, large and in charge, connecting us to the Father and the Son 24/7!!! Halleujah!!!

God the Father is spirit — He is not human — and those who worship Him MUST worship Him in this way, and in truth — truly worship, not just outward acts and not just knowing “Christian-ese.”  It is essential to be filled with the Holy Spirit, after salvation, in order to worship God as He commands.

Verses 25-26 — The woman began to make the connection. First, she identified Him as a  prophet, but then she remembered that Messiah was coming. He would know everything, too, just like this Jesus.

And Jesus said, “I who speak to you am.” He is saying I am the I AM, I am God the Son, the always existent One. I am the One who spoke My name to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14). I am God, and was with God before I was sent here. I am the Messiah.

Verse 27 — The disciples returned with food, and found Jesus talking with a woman, and a Samaritan at that! Just the two of them, alone! Oh, the shame! Yet no one questioned Him.

Verse 28-30 — The woman now realized that this Jesus was the Messiah, and left her waterpot (that would be like you leaving your wallet or smart phone) and went into the city. She testified that Jesus told her everything about herself, and asked, “Is this the Christ?”  They went out of the city and came to Him.

Verse 31-34 — The disciples were like I used to be. They were focused on food, on bringing Jesus food, on the questions in their minds about Jesus talking with the Samaritan woman. “Rabbi, eat,” they said.

So He told them that they didn’t know what nourishes Him and satisfies Him. They wondered if someone already brought Him food.

So Jesus made it very clear that what nourishes and satisfies Him is to do the will of God the Father and accomplish the Father’s work. What is God’s will and God’s work? Speaking to the woman, revealing that He is the Messiah, and her testimony causing the whole city to come to see Him and be saved!

Verse 35-37 — Jesus corrects His disciples’ focus. Lift up your eyes and look on the fields! The saying in Israel and among the disciples themselves was, “Four months and then the harvest.” He said, “That’s what YOU say!” That was the natural harvest. But God’s harvest is here and now and continual. The fields are white (the color of the heads of grain)! Lift up your eyes and look!

Already those who reap God’s harvest are being paid and are gathering fruit for life eternal. Salvation is already happening!

If we look and see and act, we will find that the one who sows the gospel seed and the one who reaps (leads a person to salvation) are able to rejoice together. The sowing and reaping can happen one after the other, with no waiting! One will sow, and another will reap. It is an immediate harvest. The seed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is powerful! It is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16)!

Already! There is an urgency in Jesus’ words! Don’t be lazy. Your pay awaits! The fields are ready! Get out there! Lift up your eyes! Look!

Matthew 9:38 adds that they should beseech (beg) the Lord of the harvest (Jesus Christ) to send out workers into His harvest. The word “send out” means “eject, thrust out!” Urgency!

He said He sent His disciples to reap that which you haven’t worked for. I am the Sower (Matthew 13:3), I have done the work, and you get to reap what I sow. You have entered into My labor.

I have personally experienced His words in this verse. Those who have come to salvation through an encounter with me were prepared in advance by Him. I had very little to do with it — all I had to do was be there. Their hearts were already prepared, sometimes through words the Lord spoke through me, and sometimes entirely apart form me. Therefore, I cannot boast, except in Jesus Christ. Amen!

Verses 39-42 — The first action of the residents of Sychar was to respond to the woman’s testimony about Jesus being the Messiah. They went out to Him. He stayed there two days. And when they heard His words, they no longer needed to rely on the woman’s testimony. They knew Jesus Christ was the One, the Savior of the world. My NAS Bible stops there, I don’t know why they omitted the additional two words in the original Greek — “the Christ.” Those are essential words. No Bible translation is perfect, but the NASB is generally pretty accurate compared with the original texts. They certainly missed this one, though.

Verses 43-45 — Jesus completed His journey to Galilee. He knew and stated in other Gospel accounts that a prophet has no honor in His own country (where He was brought up). Everyone knew Him as the carpenter, the son of Mary and Joseph (Mark 6:3).

So Galilee’s residents welcomed Him, because they had been at the Feast of Passover in Jerusalem (John 2:13) and had seen what He had done — cleansing the Temple, and the miracles that are in the other Gospel accounts.

Verses 46-47 — Jesus went to Cana, where He had done the sign (attesting miracle) of changing water to wine. A royal official approached him. His son was at Capernaum, sick, at the point of death. He begged Jesus to come and heal him.

Verses 48-54 — Jesus replied that the Jews won’t believe He is who He says He is, unless they see signs. They had no faith in His words and His exhortations to repent and believe. They were accepted by them only because of the signs He did. It is still true today. So sad! We won’t bow at His words, but we are wowed by His wonders.

The royal official persisted, even with the rebuke of Jesus. He said, “Sir (not Lord or Rabbi), come!” Heal my child before he dies!

So Jesus said, “Go, your Son lives.” Jesus did not have to be physically present in order to heal and deliver. Time and space do not inhibit God’s ability to act. He can do it from anywhere! I was not healed of the incurable disease MS in a church, but in my living room, in the middle of the night —  just the Lord Jesus Christ and me.

And the man believed Jesus’ words — when Jesus commands, it must be so. So he turned toward home, but his slaves met him and told him his son was living. When did it happen? Exactly at the hour Jesus said, Your Son lives. And the royal official and his whole household believed in Jesus Christ.

This was a second sign. At the end of the Book of John, he tells us that Jesus did so many more signs and wonders that there aren’t enough books in the world to record them all (John 21:25). But the Holy Spirit directed John to use a specific set of miracles in his gospel. Why? John 20:30-31 tells us these have been written so you would believe Jesus is the Christ and would have life as God has it, eternal life.

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Author: Susan Wynn, servant of Jesus Christ

Healed by Jesus Christ of MS in 2001, in the middle of the night! Proclaiming His gospel, His healing, His heart. Author of From Death To Life--A True Story of Healing, Hope and Being Set Free. Our ministry: My Father's Place, a ministry without walls, proclaiming Jesus Christ to the world.

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