John 4:5-422017-05-31T11:10:48+00:00

Biblical Commentary
(Bible study)

John 4:5-42

Check out these helpful resources
Sermons
Children’s Sermons
Hymn Lists
Biblical Commentary
Español Comentario

When Hospital Visits, Funerals and Meetings Overwhelm!

Every Sunday is a challenge–some Sundays especially so.  SermonWriter can help.

We send a weekly package of materials (Biblical Commentary, children’s sermon, sermon, and more) to give you a giant head-start on your sermon preparation.  You take it from there.

We offer four FREE SAMPLES so you can test SermonWriter.  For more information, go to https://www.sermonwriter.com/free-sample

John 4:5-42  Biblical Commentary:

JOHN 3-4. THE CONTEXT

Chapter 3 records the visit of Nicodemus to Jesus (3:1-17). There are a number of parallels between that story and this one (see below). Then we have an account of people flocking to Jesus for baptism (3:22—although 4:2 says that it was Jesus’ disciples doing the baptizing) and John the Baptist saying to his disciples, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (3:30).

The Pharisees saw that Jesus was becoming more popular than John (4:1)—a subtle hint that Pharisees and other Jewish leaders will soon turn hostile toward Jesus (see 5:18; 7:32-36, 45-52; 8:1-11, 39-59; 9:13-41, etc.). Jesus left Judea, which is the center of Jewish religious life and will become the center of opposition to Jesus, and began his journey to Galilee, where he will carry out most of his ministry (4:3).

John says that Jesus “needed (Greek: edei) to go through Samaria” (v. 4). The Greek words dei or edei suggest a divine imperative—a Godly mission.

The direct route from Judea to Galilee passes through Samaria, but Jews (who despise Samaritans) often bypass Samaria by traveling east of the Jordan. If Jesus “needed to go through Samaria,” the reason is most likely theological instead of geographic.

Jesus has a broad vision that embraces the whole world:

• He just finished telling Nicodemus, “God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son,” (3:16).

• Just before his ascension, Jesus will tell his disciples, “Go, and make disciples of all nations” (ethne) (Matthew 28:19). Ethne can be translated either “nations” or “Gentiles” and makes it clear that Jesus intends for his disciples to move beyond the Jewish people.

• He will also tell his disciples that they will be his witnesses “in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth” (Acts 1:8), re-emphasizing the worldwide nature of his concern. In John’s Gospel, Jesus begins this movement outward very early in his ministry.

JOHN 4:5-6. JESUS CAME TO A CITY OF SAMARIA

5So (Jesus) came to a city of Samaria, called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son, Joseph. 6Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being tired from his journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

“So he came to a city of Samaria, called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son, Joseph” (v. 5). Genesis 33:18-19 tells of Jacob purchasing a plot at Shechem. Joshua 24:32 tells of Joseph’s bones being interred at Shechem. Some scholars think that Sychar and Shechem might be one and the same, although that is far from certain.

The Old Testament does not mention Jacob’s well, but a well of that name at Shechem, fed by an underground spring, was more than a hundred feet deep with a shaft seven and a half feet wide (Howard, 11).

“It was about the sixth hour” (v. 6). Usually women draw water earlier or later in the day to avoid the heat. Carrying water is hard work, but their visit to the well gives them a bit of social contact. Perhaps this woman comes at noon to avoid women whose coolness would remind her of her marginality. She must be lonely.

JOHN 4:7-9. A WOMAN OF SAMARIA CAME TO DRAW WATER

7A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9The Samaritan woman therefore said to him, “How is it that you, being a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)

“Give me a drink” (v. 7b). Jesus’ request is natural in one sense. Having no bucket (v. 11), Jesus cannot draw water from the deep well.

“His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food” (v. 8). This explains why Jesus is alone when he meets the woman by the well, and it sets the stage for Jesus’ later conversation with his disciples when they return with food (vv. 27 ff.).

“How is it that you, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” (v. 9a). The woman expresses surprise that Jesus would ask “a Samaritan woman” for a drink. Both “woman” and “Samaritan” are important. In that time and place, men do not strike up conversations with women in public settings—it just isn’t done. And Jews avoid contact with Samaritans. Most Jews will not eat or drink anything that has been handled by a Samaritan lest they become ritually contaminated.

“For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans” (v. 9b).  The rift between Jews and Samaritans has its roots in history. The Assyrians defeated Samaria and took many Samaritans into captivity. Those remaining in Samaria intermarried with non-Jewish people, compromising their ethnic identity. Somewhat later, the Babylonians defeated Judea and took many Judeans into captivity. The Judeans managed to maintain their identity while in captivity. When finally allowed to return to Judea, they rebuilt the temple. The Samaritans offered to help, but were rebuffed because of their mixed heritage. They later built their own temple on Mount Gerizim, starting a continuing controversy regarding the proper place of worship (Barclay, 140-142). John Hyrcanus destroyed the Gerizim temple in 128 B.C.

If it is surprising that a Jew would ask hospitality of a Samaritan, it is even more surprising that a man would ask hospitality of a woman. It is not considered proper for a man, especially a rabbi, to initiate public conversation with a woman—any woman.

There are a number of parallels and contrasts between this woman’s story and that of Nicodemus. One of the contrasts is that Nicodemus was a highly placed, highly respected Jewish leader, while this woman is at the opposite end of the social spectrum. Another contrast is that we know Nicodemus’ name, but this woman remains nameless. She has a key role in the longest dialogue of this Gospel, but remains nameless.

JOHN 4:10-15. IF YOU KNEW THE GIFT OF GOD

10Jesus answered 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.”

11The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. From where then have you that living water? 12Are you greater than our father, Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself, as did his children, and his livestock?”

13Jesus answered her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, 14but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never thirst again; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

15The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I don’t get thirsty, neither come all the way here to draw.”

Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman follows the same pattern as his conversation with Nicodemus in chapter 3:

1. Jesus makes a statement that can be understood on two levels, but is understood only at the lower level.

He spoke to Nicodemus of being “born anew,” and Nicodemus heard that as physical birth. He speaks to the Samaritan woman of “living water,” (v. 10) and she hears that as physical water.

2. Next Jesus amplifies his original statement and is again misunderstood.

To Nicodemus he said, “Most certainly I tell you, unless one is born of water and spirit, he can’t enter into the Kingdom of God! That which is born of the flesh is flesh. That which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (3:5-6). Nicodemus responded, “How can these things be?” To the Samaritan woman Jesus says, “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never thirst again” (v. 14). She responds, “Sir, give me this water, so that I don’t get thirsty, neither come all the way here to draw” (v. 15).

3. Finally Jesus issues a rebuke or sharp comment that leads to deeper spiritual truth.

To Nicodemus he said, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and don’t understand these things?” This leads into a deep monologue about the cross and eternal life. To the Samaritan woman he says, “Go, call your husband, and come here” (v. 16). This leads to her insight that Jesus is a prophet and to Jesus’ monologue about the nature of God and worship.

This pattern is designed to move the listener quickly to a deep spiritual truth. The pattern is repeated, at least in part, in six places in the early chapters of John:

• Nicodemus and “born anew/from above” (3:3-9)
• The Samaritan woman at the well and “living water” (4:10-15)
• The disciples and “food to eat” (4:31-38)
• The crowd and “bread of life” (6:27-40)
• The Jews and “the bread which came down out of heaven” (6:41-48)
• The Jews and “eats my flesh and drinks my blood” (6:51-60)

“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give me a drink'” (v. 10a). The well to which the woman came to draw water is Jacob’s well, a gift to her generation from the long-dead Jacob.  The gift of God is the well from which Jesus will draw living water and give that to the woman (Ridderbos, 155).

“you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water” (v. 10b). The phrase,“living water,” can mean running water, as in a stream. The woman understands it this way and takes Jesus’ comment as a slight upon Jacob, who provided well water. Her comment, “Are you greater than…Jacob” is ironic, because Jesus is indeed greater than Jacob—a fact known to the reader—but the woman assumes otherwise.

We are so accustomed to indoor plumbing that it is difficult for us to appreciate the significance of water in more primitive settings.  Many years ago, I lived part-time in a rural part of the United States where many of the people didn’t have indoor plumbing.  I personally carried a bucket to a well at the corner to get water for myself.  Of course, there were other inconveniences associated with the lack of plumbing, including outdoor privies.  I spent an additional two years in Vietnam, where I found myself once again carrying water and using privies.  Those experiences gave me an enduring appreciation for indoor plumbing.

It was far more difficult for people in Jesus’ world.  They not only lacked indoor plumbing, but their wells were shallow and far apart.  In many circumstances, water was literally a matter of life and death.

Water is a common Old Testament metaphor for the satisfaction of spiritual needs. “He leads me beside still waters” (Psalm 23:2). “As a deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants after you, God (Psalm 42:1). “With joy you will draw water out of the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3).

There is also an Old Testament story where Moses brought large quantities of running water (living water) from a rock by striking the rock with his staff, in obedience to God’s command (Numbers 20:8-11). In that wilderness setting, that water was God’s provision for his people—so that they could drink and live instead of perishing in the desert. In other words, that living water was God’s provision for the people’s salvation.

The phrase,“living water,” comes from the Old Testament:

• “For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the spring of living waters, and cut them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water ” (Jeremiah 2:13)

• “Yahweh, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you shall be disappointed. Those who depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken Yahweh, the spring of living waters.” (Jeremiah 17:13).

Jesus’ use of “living water” is paralleled by his later reference to “the bread of life” (John 6:35) and “living bread” (John 6:51).

In chapter 6, Jesus will feed the five thousand (6:1-15), and will then talk about the bread from heaven—a metaphor very much like “living water.” He will say, “Don’t work for the food which perishes, but for the food which remains to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you” (6:27).

“The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. From where then have you that living water? Are you greater than our father, Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself, as did his children, and his livestock?” (vv. 11-12). The woman’s question clearly expects a “No” answer. Samaritans as well as Jews hold the ancient patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in high esteem. This woman cannot imagine that anyone would have the gall to claim to be superior to Jacob. Her question is designed to force Jesus to acknowledge his inferiority to Jacob—and thereby to acknowledge the inferiority of his “living water” to the water from Jacob’s well.

“Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never thirst again; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life” (vv. 13-14). Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit (1:33). He “gives the Spirit without measure” (3:34). “It is the Spirit who gives life” (6:63). The Spirit will teach the disciples everything (14:26), and will guide them into all truth (16:13). It is this Spirit, given by Jesus, that becomes a spring of water gushing up to eternal life—a spiritual life force dwelling within us, nourishing and renewing us from within.

“Sir, give me this water, so that I don’t get thirsty, neither come all the way here to draw” (v. 15). The woman misses the point completely, asking only for the equivalent of a faucet in her kitchen. Still, she proves more responsive than Nicodemus, whose last words to Jesus were a protest. She does not understand what Jesus has to offer, but wants it nevertheless.

JOHN 4:16-26. SIR, I PERCEIVE THAT YOU ARE A PROPHET

16Jesus said to her,“Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17The woman answered, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You said well, ‘I have no husband,’ 18for you have had five husbands; and he whom you now have is not your husband. This you have said truly.”19The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you (Greek: humeis—”you” plural) Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21Jesus said to her,“Woman, believe me, the hour comes, when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, will you worship (Greek: prokunesete—you [plural] will worship)the Father. 22You worship that which you don’t know. We worship that which we know; for salvation is from the Jews. 23But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such to be his worshipers. 24God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah comes,” (he who is called Christ). “When he has come, he will declare to us all things.” 26Jesus said to her, “I am he, (Greek: ego eimi) the one who speaks to you.”

“Go, call your husband and come here” (v. 16). As Jesus knows, this question will draw attention to this woman’s sordid life. We might prefer to avoid exposing such a sensitive part of a person’s life, but Jesus has no such scruples. He cannot help this woman without confronting her at the deepest level, so he does not hesitate to do so.

“I have no husband” (v. 17a). We do not know the details of this woman’s relationships. Is she divorced or widowed? Involved in out-of-wedlock relationships?

“You said well, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and he whom you have now is not your husband” (vv. 17b-18). This woman is clearly outside the bounds of propriety—a marginal person.  First, she is a woman.  Second, she is a Samaritan.  Third, she is unmarried and living serially with at least five men (Sloyan, 54). Her marginality is the point. It is to such as this that Jesus gives living water. She is at the opposite pole from Nicodemus, whose moral credentials and social standing were impeccable.

Rabbis typically permit a woman only two marriages—three in some cases—so this woman has surely not had five legitimate husbands. The man with whom she is living currently is not her husband, so it would seem that most or all of this woman’s male companions have been paramours rather than husbands.

“Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet” (v. 19). The woman moves the conversation abruptly to another subject. Surely a part of her motive is to steer Jesus away from an embarrassing subject, but her question is also worthy of a prophet. Samaritans and Jews are divided at a number of points, but the controversy regarding Jerusalem and Gerizim is at the center. Once this woman recognizes Jesus as a prophet, such a question would come naturally to mind. When introduced to authority figures (pastors, physicians, etc.) people often respond, “I was just wondering….”

“Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” (v. 20).  Samaritans accepted on the Pentateuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy) to be authoritative scripture.  They believed that Mount Gerazim was the place where God called Abraham to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22:2).  They established their temple there in the fourth century B.C.  Although their temple had been desecrated (2 Maccabees 6:2) and wrecked, it remained the center of worship for the Samaritan community (Myers, 412).

“Woman, believe me, the hour comes, when you neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, will you worship (prokunesete—you [plural] will worship—meaning “you Samaritans will worship”) the Father” (v. 21). God is not constrained by geography, so the conflict between Mt. Gerizim and Jerusalem is irrelevant. “The hour comes, and now is” (v. 23). Both Jews and Samaritans await the Messiah, although their understanding of Messiah differs. The moment for which they have waited is now here.

“You worship that which you don’t know. We worship that which we know” (v. 22). Because they had maintained their separation from the Jewish communities to their north and south, the Samaritans’ knowledge of God and proper worship was deficient.  Furthermore, their rejection of all scripture other than the Pentateuch seriously limited their understanding of God and God’s will.

“for salvation is from the Jews” (v. 22).  While Jesus suffered at the hands of the Jewish religious leaders, his mission was first to the Jews. To the Canaanite woman, he said, “I wasn’t sent to anyone but the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24).

“But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such to be his worshipers” (v. 23). Jesus’ followers will not be tied to a temple on Mount Zion (Jerusalem) or on Mount Gerizim. They will be scattered throughout the earth, and will worship a God who is everywhere.

“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (v. 24). As spirit, God is not constrained by geography. In earlier times, Israel thought of God as dwelling in the tabernacle—specifically in the Holy of Holies. In Jesus’ day, they think of God as dwelling in the Jerusalem temple. However, God is spirit, and is thus able to go wherever God chooses—to be present everywhere. We catch something of the mystery and power of that in Jesus’ earlier comment to Nicodemus about the Spirit:  The wind (pneuma—”spirit” or “wind”) blows where it wants to, and you hear its sound, but don’t know where it comes from and where it is going. So is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (3:8).

“‘I know that Messiah comes’ (he who is called Christ)” (v. 25a). Messiah and Christ (Hebrew and Greek words respectively) mean “anointed” or “the anointed one.”  The Samaritans speak of Taheb instead of Messiah. This woman, however, uses the Jewish term in deference to Jesus. The narrator adds “who is called Christ” to clarify the meaning of Messiah to Greek readers.

“When he comes, he will declare to us all things” (v. 25b). Jesus has said, “You worship that which you don’t know” (v. 22). This woman believes that the Messiah will “declare to us all things,” by which she apparently means that the Messiah will inform them—will make all things clear.

“I am he (ego eimi), the one who speaks to you” (v. 26). This is the most open that Jesus has been about his identity so far. Jesus reveals himself completely to this woman who is characterized by her marginality (woman, Samaritan, wife of five men). Throughout the Gospels, Jesus is the friend of marginal people—sinners, the blind, and the lame. The religious elite are his enemies.

This is the first of Jesus’ “I am” (ego eimi) sayings in this Gospel. He will also say:

“I am the bread of life” (6:35).
“I am the living bread” (6:51).
“I am the light of the world” (8:12; 9:5).
“Before Abraham came into existence, I AM” (8:58).
“I am the sheep’s door” (10:7).
“I am the door” (10:9).
“I am the good shepherd” (10:11).
“I am the resurrection and the life” (11:25).
“I am the way, the truth, and the life” (14:6).
“I am the true vine” (15:1).
“I am he” (18:5).

English translations often translate this “I am he” or “I who speak to you am he,” but there is no “he” in the Greek.  Ego eimi, “I am,” brings to mind God’s self-identification to Moses. God said, “I am who I am”—and “You shall tell the children of Israel this: ‘I AM has sent me to you'” (Exodus 3:14). With his ego eimi statements, Jesus uses God’s name for himself, a fact that English translations obscure.

JOHN 4:27-30: COME, SEE A MAN WHO TOLD ME EVERYTHING

27At this, his disciples came. They marveled that he was speaking with a woman; yet no one said, “What are you looking for?” or, “Why do you speak with her?” 28So the woman left her water pot, and went away into the city, and said to the people, 29“Come, see a man who told me everything that I did. Can this be the Christ?” 30They went out of the city, and were coming to him.

“At this, his disciples came. They marveled that he was speaking with a woman” (v. 27). The disciples, who earlier went to the city looking for food, (v. 8) return. They are astonished that Jesus would be speaking to a strange woman in a public place, but they keep their concern to themselves. Perhaps they are afraid that Jesus will impale them on their own questions! Perhaps they are afraid that Jesus will not have a satisfactory explanation for his unusual conduct!

So the woman left her water pot, and went away into the city” (v. 28a). The water jar is valuable, but would slow her down. She has a compelling message that she must share with the townspeople. She can retrieve her jar later—but she has more important concerns right now.

“and said to the people” (v. 28b). This woman, living on the fringes of society, would normally avoid a public role wherever possible. She would certainly not be accustomed to addressing crowds. However, her excitement in discovering Jesus trumps her usual reticence, enabling her to speak with authority and enthusiasm.

“Come, see a man who told me everything that I did! Can this be the Christ?” (v. 29). Jesus’ knowledge of her secrets has authenticated his messiahship as clearly as would any healing miracle. This marginalized woman’s enthusiastic response stands in dramatic contrast to Nicodemus’ hesitance (3:9), the crowd’s demand for proof (6:25-34) and the Pharisees’ refusal to acknowledge the hand of God in the healing of a blind man (9:24-34) (O’Day, 569).

“They went out of the city and were coming to him” (v. 30). The woman’s witness is effective. Her fellow citizens have surely distanced themselves from this woman in the past, because of her reputation.  However, in this case they listen, probably because (1) her public enthusiasm is so unlike the downcast person they have known and (2) it is obvious that something wonderful has happened to her at the hands of the man at the well.  We all enjoy stories of genuine conversion from bad to good, whether religiously-oriented or not.

JOHN 4:31-38. I HAVE FOOD TO EAT

31In the meanwhile, the disciples urged him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32But he said to them, I have food to eat that you don’t know about.  33The disciples therefore said one to another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” 34Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work. 35Don’t you say, ‘There are yet four months until the harvest?’ Behold, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and look at the fields, that they are white for harvest already. 36He who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit to eternal life; that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. 37For in this the saying is true, ‘One sows, and another reaps.’ 38I sent you to reap that for which you haven’t labored. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

“Rabbi, eat” (v. 31). The disciples had gone to procure food (v. 8) and were astonished to find Jesus talking with this woman upon their return (v. 27). Not knowing how to address their discomfort (v. 27), they revert to a safe subject—food. They have succeeded in procuring food, and now they want Jesus to eat it.

Jesus says, “I have food to eat that you don’t know about” (v. 32). When the disciples misunderstand, he explains:“My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (4:34). Those who feel a compelling call can appreciate Jesus’ meaning. Our work is food for the soul, just as bread is food for the body. We do “not live by bread only, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of Yahweh (Deuteronomy 8:3).

That which sustains Jesus is not earthly bread but his heaven-sent mission.

“The disciples therefore said one to another, Has anyone brought him something to eat?” (v. 33). Once again we have the familiar pattern of statement, misunderstanding, and spiritual point. Jesus is talking on a spiritual level, but the disciples assume that he is talking about physical food. This misunderstanding about food parallels the earlier misunderstanding about “living water” (v. 10).

Jesus uses two proverbial statements. The first, “There are yet four months until the harvest” (v. 35), highlights the wait between planting and harvest. Now, however, there is no need of waiting, because “the fields are white for harvest already” (v. 35). The townspeople (the ones who are coming to see Jesus because of the woman’s witness) are the field ready for harvest.

The second proverb, “One sows and another reaps” (v. 37), is derived from Micah 6:15, “You will sow, but won’t reap.” In its original context, it was a warning that the people would not reap the blessings for which they had worked. In Jesus’ hands, it takes on a positive character. The disciples will reap a harvest that they did not sow, and they will sow a harvest that others will reap.

This is an important lesson for the church today, with its emphasis on numbers and growth. The work of ministry is not like that of a Wall Street arbitrager, who might double his investment on a single trade. Instead, it is like that of a gardener. Patience, vision and faith are required. We might never see the fruits of our spiritual work, but the Spirit is at work behind the scenes. We can be sure that the Spirit will honor our faithful service—that our work will result in a bountiful harvest.

JOHN 4:39-42. MANY SAMARITANS BELIEVED IN HIM

39From that city many of the Samaritans believed in him because of the word of the woman, who testified, “He told me everything that I did.” 40So when the Samaritans came to him, they begged him to stay with them. He stayed there two days. 41Many more believed because of his word. 42They said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of your speaking; for we have heard for ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”

The woman testifies, “He told me everything that I did” (v. 39), and the villagers respond enthusiastically, coming to see Jesus. We can learn something here about effective witness:

The woman is far from an ideal candidate to be an evangelist. Not only is her character questionable, but also her understanding is far from complete. Nevertheless, she bears the incomplete word that she has received, and it is enough.  (Craddock, 167).

The woman sticks to what she knows by personal experience. She tells the people what Jesus has done for her. Personal testimony is powerful, inspiring us to join in the experience.

While telling her story, the woman lifts up Jesus. Personal testimony is suspect in some places, because it can be used to manipulate emotions rather than to reveal Christ. Rather than rejecting all testimony, however, we should consider the focus. Legitimate testimony glorifies Jesus rather than the person making the testimony.

Even though her testimony focused on Jesus, “her marginal status…is transformed because of her deep commitment as a disciple to Jesus” (Padzan, 505). The townspeople listen and respond to her. She who has been an embarrassment and barely visible performs an important ministry to the community.

“He stayed there two days” (v. 40). It is as unthinkable that a Jewish rabbi would choose to dwell among Samaritans as it is that Jesus would choose a Samaritan to be the hero of one of his most important parables (Luke 10:25-37).

“Now we believe, not because of your speaking; for we have heard for ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world” (v. 42). This constitutes the strongest statement of Jesus messianic status so far in this Gospel (O’Day, 570). The enthusiastic faith of these Samaritans, marginal people all, contrasts dramatically with the opposition of the Jewish leaders, who should be welcoming the Messiah.

SCRIPTURE QUOTATIONS are from the World English Bible (WEB), a public domain (no copyright) modern English translation of the Holy Bible. The World English Bible is based on the American Standard Version (ASV) of the Bible, the Biblia Hebraica Stutgartensa Old Testament, and the Greek Majority Text New Testament. The ASV, which is also in the public domain due to expired copyrights, was a very good translation, but included many archaic words (hast, shineth, etc.), which the WEB has updated.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Barclay, William, The Daily Study Bible, “The Gospel of John,” Vol. 1 (Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press, 1955)

Bergent, Dianne and Fragomeni, Richard, Preaching the New Lectionary, Year A (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2001)

Borchert, Gerald L., New American Commentary: John 1-11, Vol. 25A (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1996)

Brown, Raymond, The Anchor Bible: The Gospel According to John I-XII (Garden City: Doubleday, 1966)

Brueggemann, Walter; Cousar, Charles B.; Gaventa, Beverly R. and Newsome, James D., Texts for Preaching: A Lectionary Commentary Based on the NRSV—Year A (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995)

Bruner, Frederick Dale, The Gospel of John: A Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2012)

Carson, D. A., The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1991)

Craddock, Fred R.; Hayes, John H.; Holladay, Carl R.; and Tucker, Gene M., Preaching Through the Christian Year A (Valley Forge: Trinity Press International, 1992)

Gossip, Arthur John and Howard, Wilbert F., The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 8 (Nashville: Abingdon, 1952)

Hendriksen, William, New Testament Commentary: John (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953)

Keener, Craig S., The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Volume I (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2003)

Kingsbury, Jack Dean and Pennington, Chester, Proclamation 2: Lent, Series A (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980)

Kostenberger, Andreas J., Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: John (GrandRapids: Baker Academic, 2004)

Kruse, Colin G., Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: John, Vol. 4 (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2003)

Lincoln, Andrew T., Black’s New Testament Commentary: The Gospel According to John (London: Continuum, 2005)

Myers, Allen C. (ed.), The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1987)

O’Day, Gail R., The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume IX (Nashville: Abingdon, 1995)

Padzan, Mary Margaret, in Van Harn, Roger (ed.), The Lectionary Commentary: Theological Exegesis for Sunday’s Text. The Third Readings: The Gospels (GrandRapids: Eerdmans, 2001)

Ridderbos, Herman (translated by John Vriend), The Gospel of John: A Theological Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997)

Sloyan, Gerald, “John,” Interpretation (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1988)

Smith, D. Moody, Jr., Abingdon New Testament Commentaries: John (Nashville: Abingdon, 1999)

www.sermonwriter.com

We welcome your feedback! [email protected]

Copyright 2008, 2010, Richard Niell Donovan