John 4:3-14 Devotional Commentary

John 4:3-14

Toiling in Samaria? Devotional Commentary for November 4-10

John 4:3–14 (NASB)

This is the Word of God. May the Spirit of Truth give us Wisdom and Insight to receive what has been conveyed through His Word by His Inspiration.

4:3-6
3He left Judea and went away again into Galilee.
4He had to pass through Samaria.
5So He came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph;
6And Jacob's well was there. So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

Following Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus and His Disciples made their way to Galilee through Samaria after a brief period of ministry along the Jordan River in Judea. Most Jews refuse to go through Samaria because they regarded the Samaritans impure. But Jesus did not judge them. He and His Disciples went through Samaria on their way to Galilee. They did not have to do that. But they did, because there was a divine appointment to fulfill God's greater Purpose as we shall learn soon.

Jesus' journey to Galilee took Him through Sychar, a small town in Samaria near the ancient city of Shechem. There in the small town of Sychar, Jesus and His Disciples took a brief repose from their arduous journey. It was about noon and they were probably physically exhausted. They took a rest stop at the site of an ancient landmark in Samaria known as Jacob's Well. The well was on a parcel of ground bequeathed to Joseph and his descendants by Jacob. It was designated "Jacob's Well" by the Samaritans. The well had been the source of water for generations of Samaritans.

There, by the well in the middle of Samaria, a one-of-a-kind and unparalleled conversation took place between Jesus and a woman of no significance, between a Jew and a Samaritan woman, between Jesus Christ the Son of God and a despised sinner, between the Judge and the guilty, between the Redeemer and a sinner. Here is how the conversation began:

4:7-14
7There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give Me a drink."
8For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.
9Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?" (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)
10Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water."
11She said to Him, "Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water?
12"You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?"
13Jesus answered and said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again;
14but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life."

On this particular day, Jesus was at Jacob's Well resting from His wearisome journey. When a Samaritan woman approached the well to draw water, Jesus did the unthinkable. He spoke to her. He started to talk to her: a real conversation, a person-to-person dialogue. Jesus was unhindered by the prejudices of ungodly social customs and religious practices. He transcended ignorance and bigotry and reached out to her.

Jesus was at this well by Himself with this woman. His Disciples had gone to a nearby city to buy food, while their Master rested by the well. The only two people present for this conversation were a Jewish man and a Samaritan woman; an unlikely pair, in an unlikely setting, at an unlikely place.

Being fully aware of the hostile relationship between Jews and Samaritans, the woman was shocked and surprised by Jesus' Words and His willingness to receive a drink from her. Indeed, she was astonished that Jesus would acknowledge her at all. In her world, a Jewish man would rather die of thirst than asking anything of a Samaritan woman. She responded with a question of her own wondering: How is it that He would defy His own culture and talk to her? The conversation continued, nevertheless.

Jesus, true to His own True Self and being committed to God's greater Purpose for which He came to the world of sinners, redirected the conversation from His own need of drinking water to the woman's need of the Living Water: a new life in Christ through the Living Water which leads to eternal life. Like the conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus and the Samaritan woman were talking on two entirely different levels of cognizance and spiritual reality. The woman did not know Who Jesus is and did not understand what He was offering her. But Jesus knew who she was and what she needed.

She saw a Jewish man weary from a journey sitting at a well with no means to get water. She observed a practical problem requiring a practical solution. Perhaps she was even more confused by Jesus' behavior and the statement He made. None of it made sense to her. She wondered about Him. How could this man draw water that is beyond His reach? What other type of water could there be in the absence of any other source besides this deep well?

"You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You?" She said. No one could equal their great father Jacob. He gave them this well. He refreshed himself, his family, and his cattle from the water drawn out of this same well. But what could this man do, she mused.

Even though the woman was mistaken about Him, Jesus did not turn His attention away from her. He began to show her the Way to what she needed. Jesus knew that her perception of heavenly things was profoundly influenced by all the earthly facts she knew. To her, everything revolved around Jacob's legacy and the life-sustaining well he bequeathed to them.

Jesus reminded her that the life-sustaining water she draws from the well every day, must be continuously replenished every day. It is a necessary toilsome routine imposed upon her by the demands of the cycle of earthly life. But if she knew Who Jesus is, she would have received the gift of God from Him. He would have given her the Living Water which leads to eternal life.

Jesus was now unveiling an eternal truth to an outcast trapped in chains of spiritual ignorance and prejudice. He no longer spoke of the earthly well around which they were holding this life-changing conversation. Jesus spoke of the Living Water which provided eternal life. He came to rescue her dying soul from the shackles of sin and condemnation. Contrary to the water in Jacob’s Well, the Living Water comes from God in Jesus Christ.

This life-giving Water is not like anything found in the normal course of human experience. Indeed, once a person had dipped into this special Well of Living Water, one would never be spiritually thirsty again. It is a life-giving Water because it is the Living Water.

Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman was similar to His earlier conversation with Nicodemus, in some aspects. Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born again to see and enter the Kingdom of God. He told the woman about the Living Water that leads to everlasting life in heaven. Nicodemus was a Pharisee and she was an outcast. He was educated, and a member of the Sanhedrin. But she was a woman of no significance despised by the Jews. The same Savior spoke to these two lost sinners about the same truth of salvation. One heard, he must be born again and receive eternal life. The other heard, she must receive the Living Water leading to eternal life. The same Truth, the same Salvation, the same Lord, but two lost sinners. One Truth. One Way. One Life.

Notes/Applications

We should not be surprised that Jesus was willing and able to go through Samaria contrary to Jewish misgivings toward the Samaritans. There is neither fear of the Jews nor hatred of the Samaritans in Him. He is God, the Son of God, the Lamb of God Who came to answer the Law and to accomplish righteousness on behalf of us, the transgressors.

He is gracious, loving, and merciful. He did not come to judge those who are already condemned because of sin. He came to seek and save the lost. He went directly to a town in Samaria where a woman lived lost in sin. He came to the well where He knew she would come and initiated a life-changing conversation even though she was neither ready nor expectant.

What Jesus did for Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman was the same. Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews, a respected member of the community. He was held in high esteem by his peers. He was a profoundly religious man. He was committed to keeping God's Law as delivered by Moses and the Prophets. He knew the Scriptures, because he was a theologian. Without a doubt, Nicodemus was at the pinnacle of Jewish society.

In contrast, the Samaritan woman was the object of Jewish scorn and disdain. She was not accepted as genuine Jewess even though she had Jewish blood in her. She was uneducated and poor. As we shall learn later in the chapter, she lived a life that was socially and morally corrupt.

But both Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman were sinners. They were equally ignorant. They knew neither about the second birth nor the Living Water. Nothing they did or knew could earn them what Jesus offered them. They were both confused by what they heard from Jesus' mouth. But His Words were like a refreshing rain on a parched soul.

The Samaritan woman would soon learn that Jesus is greater than Jacob. He is not only greater than Jacob, but he is indeed Jacob's God, Master, and Father. Before Jacob was, indeed before Abraham was, Jesus is. Likewise, Jesus is greater than the most cherished icon we treasure in our hearts. As He did with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman, He comes to where we are individually, and gently probes where we need His touch. With Nicodemus, it was his elite yet restless and confused mind. With the Samaritan woman, it was a toilsome routine to keep life together. Perhaps it might be different for each one of us. But the answer is always Jesus Christ, by Whose shed Blood we receive salvation.

We all needed the Lord, but we did not know it. Because He knew, He came to where we were. Everyone needs the Lord: People of low estate, people of lofty intellect, people of every walk, people of the world. We all need the Lord. In Him, there is a new birth. From Him flows the Living Water. As it was for the Samaritan woman, so it is for us. It's the sixth hour: on our way to a familiar well to draw water for life. But Jesus is waiting with His inexhaustible Well filled with the Living Water.

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John 4:3-14
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