4:1-2 Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John  (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples),
- I mentioned before that I think Jesus was probably not doing the baptizing Himself because people might have been prone to claim they had a “better” baptism if they were baptized by Him instead of another disciple/apostle.
- I get into this a little bit below, but we are forced right away to ask ourselves “why” did Jesus find it necessary to leave Judea? At first glance it might be easy to assume He was simply being reactionary to the Pharisees. That He wanted to leave because of them. Why? Was it a reaction, or was it an action planned out ahead of time with the Pharisees’ new knowledge simply acting as the catalyst for the unfolding of divine providence? I think the latter is a better explanation. There are several reasons as to why He may have left that we’ll explore below, but right now we must settle it in our minds that He didn’t leave simply out of reaction to the whims and actions of men. Jesus was in complete control of His life. All things had been given into His hands (3:35).
4:3-4 he left Judea and departed again for Galilee.  And he had to pass through Samaria.
- The way from Judea up to Galilee would have made it geographically necessary/expedient for Jesus to pass this way, but as the ESV study notes indicate, there might be a double meaning in the wording: “the words may also indicate that Jesus’ itinerary was subject to the sovereign and providential plan of God (“had to” translates Gk. dei, “to be necessary,” which always indicates divine necessity or requirement elsewhere in John: 3:7, 14, 30; 9:4; 10:16; 12:34; 20:9). Through Samaria was the usual route taken by travelers from Judea to Galilee, though strict Jews, in order to avoid defilement, could bypass Samaria by opting for a longer route that involved crossing the Jordan and traveling on the east side.”
- The Assyrians had resettled Samaria after the northern kingdom of Israel had fallen (2 Kings 17:6-8 ESV). These Samarians were odious to the people of Israel and the history obviously went as deep as the hatred they held for them.
- D.A. Carson gives more background: After the Assyrians captured Samaria [the capital of the Northern kingdom of Israel] in 722–21 BC, they deported all the Israelites of substance and settled the land with foreigners, who intermarried with the surviving Israelites and adhered to some form of their ancient religion (2 Kings 17–18). After the exile [of the Southern kingdom in Babylon], Jews, returning to their homeland… viewed the Samaritans not only as the children of political rebels but as racial half- breeds whose religion was tainted by various unacceptable elements…. About 400 BC the Samarians erected a rival temple on Mount Gerizim. (D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, 216)
- Now, to address the “had to” comment here, I thought it would be easy enough to explain it away geographically, but I don’t think that’s entirely what is going on here. John Piper says he can think of at least four reasons for Jesus “having to” go through Samaria. The best explanation matches up with Boice’s thinking as well. Piper says this: Jesus may have felt a divine impulse to go to Galilee by way of Samaria because God planned a divine appointment there. Do the words “had to” in verse 4 only mean it was geographically shorter? Verse 4: “And he had to pass through Samaria.” It was possible to go to Galilee in a roundabout way, which some Jews did because they thought the Samaritans were unclean. But John said that Jesus “ had to pass through Samaria.” Because he had an appointment to keep?
4:5-6 So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.  Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.
- A few contextual notes here might be helpful. First, the Jewish day started at 6am, so the “sixth hour” would have been about noon. Also, according to the ESV study notes, the well was located “at a juncture of major ancient roads and near the traditional sacred site of Joseph’s tomb.”
- The fact that Jesus was so wearied from His journey really serves as a reminder to us of His humanity. He got tired as we get tired. He thirsted as we thirst. When I think about the fact that He is in heaven right now hearing my prayers and understands fully what it means to feel as I feel, that is a very comforting fact for me to rest upon. We have a God who knows us not simply because He made us, but because He experienced life as we experience it. Astounding.
- One thing that James Boice challenges us with is to ask whether or not we have ever “become hot or uncomfortable trying to communicate the gospel to others.” It’s a probing question that we all need to ask ourselves.
4:7 A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”  (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.)  The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)
- James Boice has a beautiful insight into the contrasts between the story we find here with the Samaritan woman and the one we find earlier with Nicodemus. He talks about how they are exact opposites in so many ways, and yet the points of the stories are the same. “If Nicodemus is an example of the truth that no one can rise so high as to be above salvation, the woman is an example of the truth that none can sink too low.”
- Piper explains the relationship here by saying, “So we have ethnic, racial, and religious issues here that made Jews feel disdain for Samaritans. They were ceremonially unclean. They were racially impure. They were religiously heretical. And therefore they were avoided. Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. But more literally it says, Jews don’t “use together” with Samaritans. You can’t be asking me to use the same bucket. That isn’t done.”
4:10-11 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”  The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?
- It really jumps out to me what Jesus says here about “if you knew who it is that is saying to you…” If indeed! How many others made the mistake of missing whom this man was!
- She seemed to have taken Jesus’ words literally to the point of misunderstanding His point about the kind of water to which He was referring. Boice points out that Nicodemus also missed the spiritual reference when Jesus told him he had to be “born again.” Just like Nicodemus, she’s having difficulty discerning the spiritual things because she’s not spiritual herself (1 Cor. 2:14).
- Boice explains what the woman would have been thinking perhaps, “In Jewish speech the phrase, ‘living water’ meant water that as flowing, like water in a river or stream, as opposed to water that was stagnant, as in a cistern or well. Living water was considered to be better. Therefore, when Jesus said that he could give her ‘living water’ the woman quite naturally thought of a stream. She wanted to know where Jesus had found it. From the tone of her remarks it is evident that she even thought his claim a bit blasphemous, for it was a claim to have done something greater than her ancestor Jacob had been able to do (dig the well).”
There are many Old Testament passages that a spiritual person of the day might have thought of as they listened to Jesus’ words, but this woman was not spiritual as I mention above.
- Jeremiah 2:13 says, “for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”
- Revelation 7:17 says, “For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
- Isaiah 12:3 says, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”
4:12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.”
- Are you greater? Yes, Christ is greater, though, once again, He doesn’t answer the woman’s question directly. He doesn’t give answers to silly questions, but instead answers the question of her heart instead of the mumbling of her mouth.
- As Boice said in his commentary, “Jesus was claiming to be the One who alone can satisfy human longing…You may try to fill your life with the things of this world…but though these will satisfy for a time, they will not do so permanently. I have often said that they are like a Chinese dinner. They will fill you up well, but two or three hours later you will be hunger again. Only Jesus Christ is able to satisfy you fully.”
4:13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again,  but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
- Here the fact that He was making an analogy is made plane to the woman. There are some parallels here between the principle of satisfaction and the joy we saw John the Baptist express at the end of chapter three. Christ gives us life that will satisfy us eternally. What He gives us matches His divine nature. He is eternal, the great gifts He gives are eternal. Boice says, “The woman had come to a well. Jesus has invited her to a spring.”
- Kostenberger cites Beale and paraphrases that, “Jesus inaugurated the age of God’s abundance. Jesus’ offer of living water signals the reversal of the curse and the barrenness that are characteristic of the old fallen world.” I love this thought because it expresses the anticipation of Jesus’ arrival on the scene, and the meaning of His breaking into human history to provide a way of life that is more than just legalistic shadows and laws. It is substance, and complete fulfillment. It is living and eternal water; it is eternal life.
4:15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
- The woman here now responds how we ought to all respond! GIVE ME THE WATER! Why? So she wouldn’t have to “come here and draw water.” And because, importantly, she probably felt a need for something (the “God-sized” hole in her life as some have termed it) to fulfill her. She wasn’t being fulfilled in anything else.
- Boice is right to cite Augustine’s famous opening to his ‘Confessions’ which says, “thou hast made us for thyself and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in thee.”
How to we teach this to our children? Example: Today we learned about how the love and compassion of Christ extends to the least of all men and women. We talked about how Jesus showed His love by deliberately choosing to talk to the lowest, dirtiest, and most sinful people. Just like us, these people were sinful and without hope until Jesus changed all that. Jesus takes our hopeless condition and gives us “living water” which is eternal life.