104- Gospel of John Chapter 4
Jesus was mostly met with cold disbelief in Jerusalem where He had started His public ministry. Already Jesus was facing opposition from the Jewish leaders. Through He was popular with the people, still He found Himself in argument with the Jewish leaders. Jesus applied Himself more to teaching and gave the duties of baptizing to His disciples, which teaches us that the benefits of the sacraments depends not on the one who administers them but on the believer who receives them. Because the Pharisees we becoming upset that Jesus was baptizing more than John the Baptist, Jesus left Judea and traveled north to Galilee.
When traveling from Jerusalem to Galilee most Jews would travel around Samaria. The most direct route is through Samaria and this is the route that Jesus and His disciples took. To go around would double the distance and time but to go through Samaria would only be a three day journey. The Jewish people hated the Samaritans and the feeling of the Samaritans was likewise. Yet both groups shared the same ancestors, they worshiped the same God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
In 931 BC the Kingdom of Solomon was divided after his death. The southern Kingdom of David continued to rule in Jerusalem and was called the Kingdom of Judea. To the north was the northern Kingdom of Israel and during the reign of King Omri he created and new capitol called Samaria, which he purchased for two talents of silver. (1Kings 16:24) About 724 BC Israel’s enemies the Assyrians overpowered the Kingdom of Israel and took many of the Jews away and planted many of their citizens in their place. The Israelites who remained in Samaria intermarried with the foreigners and began to worship their false Gods. The Jewish Law did not allow for this and the Jews of the southern Kingdom of Judea no longer recognized the Samaritans as Jewish and hated them. Yet Jesus chooses to travel through Samaria on His way to Galilee.
Jesus is God manifested in the flesh, fully God and fully man therefore suffering the same weaknesses of man. When He and the disciples arrived in Samaria Jesus needed to rest and chose to do so at the well of Jacob. (Genesis 33:18-19) Jesus sent His disciples into the town and while he was resting at the well a Samaritan women came to draw water. Jesus started a conversation with this woman which was surprising for two reasons. The first being that she was a Samaritan woman of whom the Jews would have nothing to do with and the second that she was a woman, which the religious leaders of the day would not have done. Strict Jewish teachers would not speak to woman in public and Pharisee’s would even close their eyes when seeing a woman in the public areas. The woman was very surprised by Jesus asking her for a drink from the well. The woman had access to something that Jesus needed and Jesus had something that she needed the gift of eternal life.
The conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well is an encouraging dialog for anyone who is seeking for light on their spiritual walk. It is a demonstration of how faith may in steps be enlarged and strengthened. At first the woman looked upon Jesus as nothing more than a weary traveler, a Jew. Then she saw him as a prophet and finally she realized Jesus was the Messiah, whom the townspeople call “the Savior of the world.” Also it is a dialog for those who wish to learn a method of approach to the many souls who are in need of the Messiah whom God has sent to save that which is lost. Jesus’ discourse is an illustration of how to address those attitudes of heart and mind which we must appeal to if we are to bring searching souls into fellowship with Jesus Christ. A plan from our Lord to bring the lost into the enjoyment of the life promised to those who believe in Him.
First Jesus asking for a drink of water from the well appeals to her sympathy. This places Jesus on her level which is where we are to meet people. When we want to start a conversation with people we need to be where they are at, not coming from above them or below them. We must place ourselves on common ground with them and join them in a similar interest.
Second Jesus makes a claim appealing to curiosity. Jesus then said that if she knew the gift of God, that is the Spirit of God, then she would have living water and never thirst again. At first the woman did not grasp the spiritual meaning of Jesus’ statement. We can also ask a question generating interest that would lead them to a desirable point of conclusion in God’s offer of free salvation. It is amazing how many people are living what they believe to be a Christian life but do not know what it is to be born again. They do not have the power of the Spirit of Truth living within their lives.
Third Jesus makes a promise appealing to conscious need, “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst.” One good question would be what do they believe is the way to get to Heaven. It will be surprising to you how many people do not know. In response to a wrong answer to the path to heaven we could respond with John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” People need to know and people need to have the opportunity to know. Jesus came to save that which is lost as followers of Jesus that is our mission also.
Jesus then turns her attention to her conscious need by telling her to, “Go, call thy husband, and come hither.” We can never find satisfaction and peace until we make right the wrongs of our past. The woman is then led to make a confession that she has no husband, which was a half truth about her life condition. Jesus then reveals to her that He knows she has had five husbands. In the Jewish culture it was unacceptable for a woman to have more than three husbands and yet Jesus reveals to her that the man she is now living with is not a husband to her. This full discloser of her activity amazes her so much that she calls Jesus a prophet.
Some may think that the woman now finds the conversation to personal and tries to change the topic by asking Jesus about the true place to worship God. Mount Gerizim is a Holy mountain to the Samaritans. The Samaritans worshiped God at Mount Gerizim in northern Israel in Ephraim near Shechem. It is here at Mount Gerizim that the blessings were read to the Israelites upon entering Canaan. The Samaritans built a temple at the summit of Mount Gerizim which was considered a sacred place where they worshipped. But she, in the presence of a prophet triggers a religious instinct that may have been dormant but is never dead. Worshipping God perhaps for her has never been more than a matter of ceremony and has never brought satisfaction in its practice. Now she is asking Jesus for the proper place to worship. Is it Mount Gerizim, as the Samaritans believe, or is it Jerusalem as the Jews believe?
Jesus now makes a revelation which gives her hope. Jesus tells the woman that the problem is not the place of worship but that she has never worshiped at all. Jesus states that God is a Spirit and true worship is not a question of place but a question of faith and love. Worshiping God is a matter of doing so in a spiritual reality and is found in a true knowledge of God and having a fellowship with Him as a loving Father. Jesus reveals that the time has come that the place of worship is not only in a Temple or on a High Mountain that worship now is with the Spirit of Truth. The Samaritan woman at the well knows that there needs to be a mediator between God and man. There needs to be a high priest to intercede for man before God. She states this by her knowledge that the scriptures speak of a coming Messiah. It is then that Jesus makes His supreme statement to her, “I that speak unto thee am He.”
Worshiping God in the Spirit of Truth means that God knows our true intentions when we worship Him. Some may worship God for what they may get while others may worship God as a duty. God wants us to worship Him because of whom He is. The Holy Spirit helps us to do that so we need to ask for the Holy Spirit’s help in worshipping God with true intention.
The disciples returned from the town and had brought food. They we amazed that Jesus was talking to a woman and a Samaritan woman as well. But they did not question Jesus on this as they had become accustomed that Jesus did things not according to Jewish customs but according to the will of God. They knew that Jesus had the power of God with Him.
With every statement that Jesus had made to this woman she has made a reply but this time she stops what she is doing, leaving her water pot and quickly went to the town and told the people there all the things that had happened to her at the well. Her actions are more of a testimony than any words she could have spoken. When she arrived in town she said to her neighbors, “Come, see a man, who told me all things that I ever did: can this be the Christ?” We cannot know how much faith she had but on this day the woman’s interest in Jesus was so great that she left her water port and quickly went to share her experience with the people in town. By this response we are safe to conclude that her faith was vital and real. She set off in haste and her mission was successful and many of the town’s people we attracted to her testimony and came out to the well to meet the Messiah.
The disciples were concerned that Jesus was hungry as well. They offered Him food to eat but He replied that He had food. This they wondered as to where He had food as none of them had given Him any of their food. The food that Jesus was referring to was the spiritual food that only He can give. In this Jesus declares the deeper satisfaction lies in revealing the spiritual truths of His spiritual food to fainting souls just as He had done with the Samaritan woman.
Jesus referred to a proverb, “four months must pass before the harvest.” Jesus meant that once the seed was sown time must pass before the harvest. The seed must have time to grown in the soil. Sometimes we sow the seed but we do not see the result of the seed we have sown. The seed needs to grow first and it may need to be watered by others before is grows. Other times we may be the ones who water the seed and then other times we may be the one who harvest the seed. As followers of Jesus we are a team performing different task in working for the harvest, some sow, some water, and some harvest. Our reward comes from doing the work of His Kingdom in saving the lost souls of this world.
The Samaritans are coming forth from the town because of the testimony of the Samaritan women they have heard. Jesus intimates that opportunities for our testimony are always at hand. He declares to His disciples, “lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.” We all must be busy spreading the good news of Jesus, even though many will reject Him; many will receive Him, not only the Jews but people of all nations. All must have the opportunity, all must be confronted with the truth, and all must make their decision about the Messiah. We must remember, as we tell people about Jesus, that we are sowing the seeds of His Word and if any receive Him it is for His glory and not our own. We don’t know who planted the seed, which watered the seed, and it is God Himself that nurtures the soul that grows the seed for His glory.
It is striking the difference in reception Jesus’ received in Samaria as to what the reception was in Jerusalem. Yet the people in Jerusalem received Him with cold unbelief there and throughout Judea. In Samaria Jesus spent only two days there and preformed no signs or miracles. Jesus was in the midst of people who considered the Jews as their enemies and yet they welcomed Him as the “Savior of the World.”
In verse 44 Jesus quotes a proverb that a “Prophet has no honor in his own country.” Jesus and His disciples had returned to Galilee where Jesus had grown up. Prior to now for the past thirty years Jesus had lived in Galilee but the people there had not recognized Him as a prophet, they had no idea of His divine mission. They who knew Him before knew Him as the son of Joseph the carpenter. A common man and his son Jesus, was a common son. News of Jesus’ behavior in Jerusalem had traveled fast and the people of Galilee had heard of the things He had done in Jerusalem and Judea. During His time at Passover He had become the center of interest. Many in Jerusalem had declared themselves ready to receive Him as their Messiah. The Jews had for hundreds of years been looking for the arrival of the Messiah, a political leader and worker of great signs. Now the people of Galilee believed Him because of His reputation from the trip to Jerusalem. But their faith in Jesus was only incipient. Incipient faith can develop into perfect trust but on the other hand it might also grow into doubt and hate. Even so many flocked to see Jesus upon His return because He had caused an interest in the people.
An official, a nobleman, traveled from Capernaum to seek Jesus because his son was ill and near the point of death. Jesus had returned to Cana and the trip from Capernaum was about twenty miles. Probably this official worked for Herod Antipas, who was the ruler of Galilee. Herod ruled on behalf of the Roman government. The people were probably surprised to see a high official of the Roman government travel so far to see Jesus. Usually officials would send for people they wanted to see rather than go to them. But his son was dying and he was willing to do anything to save him. And hearing of Jesus he believed that Jesus could cure his son.
The Nobleman came to Jesus and humbled himself before Him. We see this in verse forty nine as he addresses Jesus as “sir”. The Nobleman had authority over Jesus but he submitted to Jesus because he realized that Jesus had a different kind of authority.
In verses forty seven and forty eight the Nobleman implored Jesus to come with him to Capernaum to heal his son. A crowd must have gathered because Jesus’ response was, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.” The word you is in the plural in this sentence and therefore Jesus must have been speaking for the benefit of every one there. Or perhaps Jesus wanted to see if the Nobleman’s faith was sincere. The Nobleman could have become angry with Jesus as he was a person of authority, or he could have left meaning his faith was not sincere. The Nobleman did remain and persisted for Jesus to come with him and cure his son. Jesus did not go with him but instead told him to go that his son lives. The Nobleman’s faith was secure because he trusted Jesus and went back to his home in Capernaum immediately. This is real faith to believe in a miracle even before we see it happen. Jesus hears every time we pray and we must believe that He will answer our prayers. Time and distance is not an obstacle for our Lord as He was before the beginning and will always be. “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)
In the discourse between Jesus and the Nobleman illustrates the gradual development of belief. Just as we saw the stages of the development of faith with the woman from Samaria we also can see the same stage with the Nobleman.
First the Nobleman’s faith regards Jesus as only a worker of miracles. He came to Jesus out of a need to have his son cured and believed that Jesus could heal him. The Nobleman desires Jesus to come with him to Capernaum to heal his son. Instead Jesus not only rebuked the Nobleman but the crowd that had gathered there also. It was a general rebuke of the attitude of the Galileans towards Jesus. It was an imperfect faith because the Galileans had come to see a miracle rather than to believe in the one who could work the miracle. Of this imperfect faith the Nobleman was an example and Jesus’ intention was to show the need for a higher faith. Jesus was much more than one who could perform wonders He wanted men to know and trust and commit themselves to Him. Jesus appealed to the hope in his belief that Jesus could help his son. By the testimony of others about Jesus and what He was doing the Nobleman came to seek Jesus. The Nobleman displayed a little faith by traveling so far to bring the love of Jesus into his life for the benefit of his son.
Second Jesus commanding the Nobleman to return home without Him was done to increase his faith. By Jesus telling him to go home his son lives the Nobleman had to accept the words of Jesus were true. If he had remained and argued with Jesus then it would have displayed a lack of faith. The Nobleman believed Jesus and left to return home as Jesus had told him believing that his son would live. The Nobleman’s faith rose to meet the challenge that Jesus had issued him. The Nobleman came to Jesus on reports that He had strong power but now had left not only on the reports of Jesus but resting confidently on the Word of Jesus. Jesus is the Word of God made flesh and if we are to follow Him then we must obey Him. By sharing the commandments of Jesus the ones that obey Him in faith are the ones who truly believe. (1John 3:22)
The third stage is reached when the Nobleman meets his rejoicing servants and learns that not only had his son improved but had been cured. The Nobleman remembered the hour that Jesus had said his son lives and it was at the same hour his servants said his son had begun to improve. Now the Nobleman is ready to completely trust in Jesus and to openly confess his belief. By the Nobleman’s testimony of Jesus and what He had done the Nobleman brought his whole household into absolute trust and devotion in Jesus. When one experiences Jesus the first thing that a person should do is testify to others what Jesus has done in their life. Faith comes from hearing the Word of God. It is by our belief and confession of Jesus as our Lord and Master that a person is saved. (Romans 10:8-9 Romans 10:17)
The chapter closes with John reminding us that this is the second sign that Jesus preformed in Cana. Both these miracles happened at the opposite ends of the emotional borders. The first at the marriage feast a house filled with gladness. The other a house filled with anxiety and pain in the shadow of death. Both signs give testimony to the divine person of Jesus. Both signs deepen the faith and illustrate the joy and blessedness of trusting in Jesus. The first sign brought a joyous close the private career of our Lord before He began His public ministry in Jerusalem. The second sign ends the opening scenes of his public ministry. The coming days will bring suspicion, hatred, and opposition. Along the way there will be those like the Nobleman of Capernaum who trust Him and love Him, and that to in the city which He had chosen as home for a time had found honor for Him.
1Kings 16:24, Genesis 33:18-19, Ephesians 3:20-21, 1John 3:22, Romans 10:8-9, Romans 10:17