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David Guzik's Commentaries
on the Bible

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John 4 - A Samaritan Woman and a Nobleman Meet Jesus

A. The Samaritan woman.

1. (1-4) Jesus travels from Judea to Galilee, passing though Samaria.

Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples), He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. But He needed to go through Samaria.

a. When the Lord knew . . . He left Judea: The time was not yet right for a confrontation in Jerusalem, so Jesus returned to Galilee.

b. He needed to go through Samaria: Although the road through Samaria was the shortest route to Galilee, pious Jews avoided it. They avoided it because there was a deep distrust and dislike between Jews and Samaritans.

i. When the southern kingdom of Judah was conquered by the Babylonians, they took almost every captive, exiling them to the Babylonian Empire. All they left behind were the lowest classes of society, because they didn't want "that type" in Babylonia. These that were left behind intermarried with other peoples who slowly came into the region, and the Samaritans emerged as an ethnic and religious group.

ii. Because the Samaritans had a historical connection to the people of Israel, their faith was a combination of law and ritual from the Law of Moses, and various superstitions. Most Jews in Jesus' time despised the Samaritans, even more than Gentiles - because they were, religiously speaking, "half-breeds" who had a eclectic, mongrel faith.

iii. Why must Jesus go through Samaria? Because there were people there who needed to hear Him.

2. (5-9) Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at a well.

So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman of 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. Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?" For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.

a. Being wearied from His journey: John records Jesus' weariness. He genuinely submitted to our human limitations.

b. It was about the sixth hour: This woman came for water at an unusual hour and alone. Typically, women came for water earlier in the day and in groups. Perhaps there was a sudden need, or perhaps she was a social outcast.

c. Jesus said to her: By tradition, a rabbi would not speak with a woman in public, even his own wife. It was also very unusual for a Jewish person of that time to ask a favor or accept a drink from a Samaritan's cup. Jesus' request genuinely surprised the woman.

d. How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me: Immediately, the woman was impressed by the friendliness of Jesus. This was probably the first time she had ever heard a a kind greeting from a Jewish man.

3. (10-15) Jesus interests the woman in living water.

Jesus 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." The woman said to Him, "Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?" Jesus answered and said to her, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life." The woman said to Him, "Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw."

a. If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, "Give Me a drink": Jesus draws the woman into conversation, making her curious about the things of God (the gift of God), about who Jesus is (who it is who says to you), and about what He can give her (He would have given you living water).

b. Living water: In ancient times, they called spring water living water because it seemed "alive" as it bubbled up from the ground. At first glance, it might seem that Jesus tells this woman about a nearby active spring. But Jesus makes a play on words with the phrase "living water," because He means the spiritual water that quenches our spiritual thirst and gives life.

c. Are you greater than our father Jacob: It is hard to tell if the woman asks a sincere question, or if she is a cynical critic. All depends on the tone of her voice; but she does come to belief at the end.

4. (16-26) Jesus directs her from her sinful life to true worship.

Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come here." The woman answered and said, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You have well said, 'I have no husband,' for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly." The woman said to Him, "Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship." Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." The woman said to Him, "I know that Messiah is coming" (who is called Christ). "When He comes, He will tell us all things." Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am He."

a. You have had five husbands: Jesus used supernatural knowledge in ministering to this woman. We should all be guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit when we share with others.

b. And the one whom you now have is not your husband: Why did Jesus bring up such an embarrassing issue? Because the issue of her sinful life must be confronted. This woman had to decide what she loved more: her sin or the Messiah?

c. Our fathers worshipped on this mountain: In bringing this issue up, it seems that the woman is evading the issue with her reply. It is possible that this was a genuine source of confusion and a stumbling block to her, but it is more likely that this simply was an evasion.

i. If she offered an argument here, Jesus didn't take the bait. Jesus was more interested in winning a soul than in winning an argument.

d. You worship what you do not know: The Samaritans believed that Moses commissioned an altar on Mount Gerazim, the mountain of blessing - this was their justification of they system of worship on that mountain. But like all faith that try to combine elements of different religions, they worship what they do not know.

e. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth: Jesus establishes the basis for true worship: it is not of places and trappings, but in spirit and in truth.

i. To worship in spirit means you are concerned with the spiritual realities, not outward sacrifices, cleansings and trappings.

ii. To worship in truth means you worship according to the whole council of God's word, especially in light of the New Testament revelation.

f. I who speak to you am He: Though this woman was a sinner, Jesus revealed Himself to her. Jesus reveals Himself to sinners.

5. (27-38) The woman tells her neighbors; Jesus teaches His disciples.

And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, "What do You seek?" or, "Why are You talking with her?" The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, "Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?" Then they went out of the city and came to Him. In the meantime His disciples urged Him, saying, "Rabbi, eat." But He said to them, "I have food to eat of which you do not know." Therefore the disciples said to one another, "Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?" Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. Do you not say, 'There are still four months and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this the saying is true: 'One sows and another reaps.' I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors."

a. My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me: Jesus was right. There is nothing more satisfying than doing the work of God.

b. Lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! The disciples can now reap a harvest immediately, and they reap it from seeds they didn't sow.

i. Jesus sowed the seeds, and they had the opportunity to reap. Many times, this is how the work of God happens - one sows, and another reaps (1 Corinthians 3:6-8).

6. (39-42) Many Samaritans believe on the Savior of the world.

And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, "He told me all that I ever did." So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His own word. Then they said to the woman, "Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world."

a. He told me all that I ever did: The woman was amazed not only that Jesus knew the facts of her life, but that He loved her knowing the facts of her life. We sometimes fear that if someone knew all that I ever did, they could not love us - but Jesus loved this woman.

b. We know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world: The people of this Samaritan village came to faith in Jesus as the Christ. John's implied question to the reader is, "So what do you think of Jesus?"

B. Healing of the nobleman's son: the second sign.

1. (43-48) Jesus comes to Galilee and is greeted by a request.

Now after the two days He departed from there and went to Galilee. For Jesus Himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country. So when He came to Galilee, the Galileans received Him, having seen all the things He did in Jerusalem at the feast; for they also had gone to the feast. So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Then Jesus said to him, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe."

a. A prophet has no honor in his own country: Galilee was Jesus' country - where He grew up. Because these people felt so familiar with Jesus, they did not honor Him the way they should have. In this we recognize that they really were not familiar with Jesus; if they were, they would have honored Him all the more.

i. There is such a thing as a false familiarity with Jesus; a dangerous feeling that we know all about Him. Such a dangerous feeling leads to a lack of honor towards Jesus.

b. Having seen all the things He did in Jerusalem at the feast: It was customary for the Jews in Galilee to go to Jerusalem for the feasts (fulfilling Exodus 23:14-17). This particular time they remembered all that Jesus had done in Jerusalem.

i. What did Jesus do that they remembered? His turning of the merchant's tables in the outer courts of the temple (John 2:13-27). Jesus predicted His own miraculous resurrection (John 2:18-22). Also, Jesus performed many other unspecified signs during this time in Jerusalem (John 2:23-25).

c. Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will be now means believe: Jesus rebukes those who depend on signs and wonders before they will believe. It might seem that Jesus was harsh towards this man who wanted his son healed, but He encountered many in Galilee who were only interested in His miracles - He therefore questions this man accordingly.

i. Signs and wonders can lead a person towards belief in God, and can validate a heavenly messenger - but they can also have no effect on a person, and Satan can also use lying signs and wonders (2 Thessalonians 2:9).

ii. Signs and wonders from God are obviously good things, but they should not form the foundation of our faith. We should not depend on them to "prove" God to us. In themselves, signs and wonders cannot change the heart; Israel saw incredible signs at Mount Sinai and even heard the very voice of God (Exodus 19:16-20:1), yet a short time later they worshipped a gold calf (Exodus 32:1-6).

2. (49-54) Jesus heals the nobleman's son.

The nobleman said to Him, "Sir, come down before my child dies!" Jesus said to him, "Go your way; your son lives." So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way. And as he was now going down, his servants met him and told him, saying, "Your son lives!" Then he inquired of them the hour when he got better. And they said to him, "Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him." So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, "Your son lives." And he himself believed, and his whole household. This again is the second sign Jesus did when He had come out of Judea into Galilee.

a. Sir, come down before my child dies! The nobleman's plea comes from deep need, but did he ask in light of what Jesus said in John 4:48? It is as if He perfectly understood what Jesus just said was not meant to discourage signs and wonders in themselves, but to discourage a carnal dependence on them.

i. He was a nobleman, a man of high standing and stature. How little all his standing and stature seemed to be when he was at his point of need. Sometimes Jesus brings us low so we will come to Him with this kind of deep need, and find that the ground is all level at the cross.

b. Go your way; your son lives: Jesus severely tested this man's faith, forcing him to believe in Jesus' word alone. But the man took Jesus at His word and departed (NIV). All Jesus gave him to trust in was His word, but real faith is simply that - taking Jesus at His word. What difference would it make in our lives if we really believed what Jesus says?

c. Your son lives: Why didn't Jesus use any dramatic effects in this healing? Many long to see dramatic effects in God's work; and sometimes God provides them. But to real faith, they are not necessary.

i. Many times, dramatic effects in healing spur weak and ignorant faith; a mature faith does not need them.

d. And he himself believed, and his whole household: The miraculous power of Jesus developed greater faith.

i. And he himself believed: Didn't this man believe before? Of course he did, but now his faith is deepened by his personal experience of God's power. His previous faith and God's work led to more faith. We can take God's past blessing as a promise of future blessing.

ii. It is essential that we believe God if we want to see His work done. There are definitely some people who are not healed or blessed simply because they lack faith.

e. And his whole household: The whole group was touched by this nobleman's faith and God's power working through it. It is wonderful that these Jews from the region of Galilee believe; but they would not unless Jesus performed signs, and they were slow to believe even then.

i. These Jewish Galileans pale in comparison to the despised Samaritans who believed on Jesus without a sign - they believed at His word (John 4:39-42).

ii. This is the second sign. All of them are given that we might believe (John 20:30-31), and it isn't hard to see how this miracle specifically builds our faith.

Copyright Statement
David Guzik's Commentaries on the Bible are reproduced by permission of David Guzik, Siegen, Germany. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Guzik, David. "Commentary on John 4". "David Guzik's Commentaries
on the Bible". <>. 1997-2003.  


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