For the past few weeks, I have been going through our series titled On Fire which focuses on the Spirit-filled Christian life. This series has been designed to help us understand what a fully on fire believer who is walking in and experiencing the Spirit-filled life in Christ is like. So far, I have talked about how the process of the on-fire life is started through the resurrection from death to life, the crucifying of the old self and living in the new, and they who were once dead in their sins are now fully alive in Christ and last week, we talked about the necessity of transformation process, and what transformation does and does not look like.
This week we conclude, and we will see how the transformed life not only shows us how to live, but how to view and treat others with grace and compassion. Today we will look at the story of the Samaritan woman at the well (found in John 4:1 – 26) and how Jesus’ encounter with the woman shows us how Jesus dealt with issues of race, gender, morality and eternal life.
This encounter with Jesus this unnamed Samaritan woman had with Jesus rocked her world resulting in a life will that was to never be the same again. We can see how this encounter remains true for us today that when we truly meet with Jesus face to face (figuratively) we will and can never ever be the same, and we will never ever look the same at others whom God has placed in our lives.
John 4:1 - 26
Background to Samaria
Before we dive into the text, I think it is important to give some background information in regard to the land of Samaria and its inhabitants. The Samaritan history goes back to the time when Israel was divided into two kingdoms (specifically during the son of King Solomon; Rehoboam’s reign) the North and the South. The Northern Kingdom was called Israel and the Southern Kingdom was called Judah. Samaria was located in the Northern Kingdom and was the capital city. In 722 B.C. the Assyrian army defeated the Northern Kingdom and had many of its inhabitants deported from the North to the South. When the Assyrians took possession of the land Gentiles and Pagans moved into the Northern Kingdom and they intermarried with those who remained Israelites. The offspring of the interracial families were called Samaritans. They were half Israelite and half Gentile. Not only did the Assyrians intermarry but they also brought and merged their pagan religious practices. The Samaritans only observed the Pentateuch (the first five books of Moses) and they more specifically rejected anything that spoke of Jerusalem (Southern Kingdom). They disconnected from Jerusalem and did not go there to worship God in the Temple; in fact, they erected their own temple on Mount Gerizim.
Needless to say, Jews and Samaritans did not get along. The Jews saw them as second-class citizens. They were hostile towards them and when traveling Jewish people would go out of their way and travel around Samaria instead of going through it.
The Woman at the Well
All of this information is important because we will see how significant this conversation account is for us as non-Jewish believers. from the outset many think this is a conversation Jesus had with a woman but knowing the background of the hostility between Jews and Samaritans we know that much more is going on here than meets the eye.
One thing I noticed about this passage is the similarities of the encounter Jesus had earlier with Nicodemus.
Nicodemus was a Jewish male & follower of law thus he was a highly respected Jewish leader. He had everything going for him and still Jesus tells him he needs to be born again. Whereas the woman at the well, because of her status as a Samaritan woman with a shady background (five husbands and living with a man currently) she had the odds stacked against her and tells her, just like Nicodemus, she needed to be born again. What we can take from these two encounters is that Jesus is for everyone – He is for those who (seemingly) have it all together and he is for those who have been shunned or looked down upon from society.
Verses 1- 9: Once the Pharisees heard about Jesus’ popularity in Judea he decides to head north to Galilee. We are not sure what prompted him to go there but we do know that according to verse 4 “he had to pass through Samaria”. This can be interpreted two ways 1) Jesus went through Samaria out of logistical necessity (it was quicker and easier to go through than around) or 2) more probable it meant that it was God’s will or plan that he had to go.
Jesus was travelling around the noon hour and we are told that he was tired, hot and thirsty as he came upon Jacob’s well. It is traditionally believed this well is located on the land Jacob (Israel) gave to Joseph in Genesis 48:22. Interestingly it is still a functioning well/spring to this day. Since it was noon the sun was at its peak and Jesus was weary from his travels. He encounters a woman at this well and asks her for a drink. Once again, without the background information and understanding of the culture at this time we would think little of this encounter.
Water was drawn in the morning hours or the cool of the day by the women. Typically, the women came in groups so they could work together to draw the water and before it became too hot. Yet here we have a woman who comes later in the day and she alone. This tells us that she is most likely a shunned woman because she comes at the point of day when she knows no one will be around and she comes by herself. So, in this encounter Jesus is not only breaking tradition by talking to a woman and a Samaritan, but he is also talking with a shunned (immoral) woman which would make her a social outcast.
Jesus asks her for some water and the woman is surprised because here, a Jewish male, is asking her for a drink of water. He has no utensils to draw water or to drink out of so he would have to use her cup. According to Jews Samaritans were ceremonially unclean and a Jew who used a Samaritan’s cup would also be considered unclean as well. This is what the writer, John, meant when he wrote that Jews and Samaritans use nothing in common.
Verse 10 - 18: She apparently has no idea or reason to know that she is speaking to the Messiah. She was surprised that this tired Jewish traveler was talking to her but as Jesus said had she known who she was talking to she would not only be getting him water, but she would be asking him for the living water.
Living water is literally translated as flowing water or moving water. In the Bible water is symbolic for cleansing, refreshing and is also symbolic for the Holy Spirit. So, it is believed that here Jesus is speaking to this woman in spiritual terms. D.A. Carson writes, “(Living Water is) the satisfying eternal life mediated by the Spirit that only Jesus, the Messiah and Savior of the world can provide.” As Jesus talks about this water the woman thinks he is speaking of some unknown water source (she believes Jesus is speaking literally) so she asks Jesus how he plans on giving her this water since he has no utensils. She, like Nicodemus, doesn’t understand Jesus is speaking in a spiritual sense.
Vs 13: Jesus takes the opportunity to further explain what he is talking about. He tells her that the physical water that we drink is a temporary thirst quencher and never TRULY satisfies (much like worldly possessions). We can drink all the water we want (even to the point of getting sick) but eventually we will get thirsty again. The living water he speaks of, which is not a liquid, is the everlasting life of God that is given through the Holy Spirit who satisfies and quenches our spiritual thirst. In our search for satisfaction and contentment in life we may seek to find fulfillment in physical things (cars, homes, electronics, substances, relationships, food, drink etc.) and we can never truly be satisfied by them. Satisfaction comes only when we have drunk of the living water of Jesus Christ. Not only does the water of life satisfy but it will spring up or gush up like an artesian well of eternal life and life here on earth through the Holy Spirit (the abundant life).
The woman hears Jesus’ description of this water and she now desires this water and asks the obvious question, “how can I get this living water?”. Jesus responds prophetically in regard to her life and the immoral life she is living which cuts to her heart and convicts her of her immorality. Jesus lovingly confronts her of her sinful lifestyle and tells her what she must do.
This shows us that when we desire to drink the living water of Jesus, we too will also have to confront or face our sins. Sure, it is easy to come to Jesus and drink of the living water, the hard part is realizing and coming to grips with our sins and handing them over to God.
Verse 19 - 26: This revelation certainly convinced the woman that Jesus was indeed an inspired man. In fact, her words could be translated as “I can see you are the prophet” (the one like Moses who will come).
Vs 20: The woman changes the subject (maybe to avoid the discussion about her immoral life choices) and starts talking theology (location of worshiping God). This is common when talking to someone about God or Jesus and when you start hitting home in your discussion about the need for a savior the person you are speaking to changes the subject (i.e., well how can a loving God…)
Jesus responds, “The hour is coming…and is here…” He says there is a day, and that day is here when God is no longer to be worshiped in the Temple only but will be worshiped in Spirit and in truth. Worship of God is not confined to a building, God can be worshiped anywhere. Through the Holy Spirit God is present everywhere and can be worshiped anywhere. He is omnipresent and can be worshiped at home, school, work, on the road, at church etc. God is not confined to a building, but he will be in hearts (this will be his dwelling place).
As we conclude today, I see many truths that we can take home with us. In this encounter Jesus the Samaritan woman at the well’s life changed forever and it can change our as well. Here is why…
If you continue reading the account of the Samaritan woman you will see that she goes back to her village and told everyone she met the Messiah. Upon hearing her testimony many came to see for themselves this Messiah and we are told that many believed because of her testimony. This unlikely encounter shows us what happens when God shows up and does the unexpected. When God encounters the on fire believer, he/she responds by sharing their encounter with others. This is what Jesus calls us to do. There is a world out there that is hopeless and in darkness and we have the light and hope the world is longing for. and we are called ro share it.
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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