With Dale Ratzlaff
Therefore when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were), He left Judea and went away again into Galilee. And He had to pass through Samaria. So He came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph; and Jacob’s well was there. So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 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.” She said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water? “You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?” Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw” (Jn. 4:1-15).
This incident of Jesus and the woman of Samaria meeting at Jacob’s well is a long passage and should be studied at one time. However, it is too long for one of our lessons here. Therefore, we will study just the first fifteen verses. You would be well served to read through verse 42 to get the whole context.
In the last study of John, we noted that the Baptist and Jesus had parallel ministries. People were leaving John the Baptist and going to Jesus. Here we find that when the Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining more disciples than John, He left Judea and went into Galilee. That the Apostle John recorded this seemly insignificant verse is noteworthy. The Pharisees were beginning to be threatened by Jesus’ growing popularity.
John now moves to the story of Jesus meeting with the Woman of Samaria. The shortest route from where Jesus had been baptizing in Judea to Galilee was through Samaria. However, the Jews had such hatred for the Samaritans they often took the longer route and went around Samaria. Our text says, “Jesus had to pass through Samaria”. Was this necessary because it was the most convenient route, or was this a divine directive. I hold to the latter. A little background on the Samaritans would be helpful.
The Samaritans occupied the country formerly belonging to the tribe of Ephraim and the half-tribe of Manasseh. The capital of the country was Samaria, formerly a large and splendid city. When the ten tribes were carried away into captivity to Assyria, the king of Assyria sent people from Cutha, Ava, Hamath, and Sepharvaim to inhabit Samaria (2 Kings 17:24; Ezra 4:2-11). These foreigners intermarried with the Israelite population that was still in and around Samaria. These “Samaritans” at first worshipped the idols of their own nations, but being troubled with lions, they supposed it was because they had not honored the God of that territory. A Jewish priest was therefore sent to them from Assyria to instruct them in the Jewish religion. They were instructed from the books of Moses, but still retained many of their idolatrous customs. The Samaritans embraced a religion that was a mixture of Judaism and idolatry (2 Kings 17:26-28). Because the Israelite inhabitants of Samaria had intermarried with the foreigners and adopted their idolatrous religion, Samaritans were generally considered “half-breeds” and were universally despised by the Jews ( https://www.gotquestions.org/Samaritans.html).
Sychar (now Askar) is about one-third mile form Jacob’s well. The well is about 105 ft. deep and seven and one-half feet wide with good water. It is about 100 yards from Joseph’s tomb.
So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.
That Jesus was “wearied from His journey” is not an insignificant statement. Throughout the Gospel of John two themes run together like two lanes on a highway: the real, full humanity of Jesus, as indicated here, and the real, full divinity of Jesus, as indicated in many references in this Gospel. “The sixth hour” would have been around 12:00 noon, Jewish time.
There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.
That this woman was coming to draw water alone in the middle of the day was unusual for the custom of the day. Women usually came to draw water near the end of the day and came in groups. The timing of this event coupled with the fact that she was alone implies that she was considered a social outcast even by her own people.
The text says that “His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.” Some have speculated that perhaps the disciple John had stayed with Jesus and therefore heard the conversation. John does not mention himself in his writings so this idea is a possibility.
The fact that Jesus asked this Samaritan woman for a drink is highly significant. Jewish men were to have nothing to do with any Samaritan, much less a woman of Samaria, and here Jesus is asking to drink from the container of this sinful, half-breed woman. We should also note the larger context. What John is doing is showing the wideness in God’s mercy. In the last chapter we read that “whoever believes” has eternal life. In John 3 we have the incident of Jesus meeting Nicodemus, “The teacher in Israel”. Despite his learning and assumed law-keeping, Jesus told Nicodemus in no uncertain terms that unless he was born again—from above—he could not enter or even see the kingdom of heaven. Now, on the other end of the moral spectrum, we have Jesus interacting with the sinful, despised and rejected woman of Samaria. The bounds of “whoever” are wide indeed!
There is yet another point with noting. That Jesus asked this woman for a drink has implications for those of us wishing to build relationships with people who may not be included in our circle friends. For example, I have a neighbor who did not appear to be that friendly. One day I asked him for his advice about a project I was working on. He willingly gave his advice and thereafter we became good friends. The very act of asking someone for something that they have and that you need unconsciously builds self-esteem in that person being asked and opens the door for communication.
Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 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.”
Jesus is the Master Communicator. Here we have the A B Cs of the art of selling and witnessing—attention, interest, and need. By asking this Samaritan woman for a drink he got her attention and actually gave her a measure of self-worth. Next, Jesus said, “If you knew the gift of God”. Who would not want to know what this “gift” was? He had her interest. Then Jesus heightened her interest, by saying in essence, “If you only knew who I am, you would ask me.” Immediately she begins to ask herself, “Who is this tired Jew?” Then, when she hears about the gift of “living water”, she begins to sense her need.
She said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water? You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?
Little by little the words of Jesus enlightened her mind to see the possibilities. She does not dismiss Jesus’ words outright. She remains engaged by asking questions for clarification. She wants answers to the source of this “living water” and to who Jesus is.
The Samaritans were expecting a Messiah, even though their Scripture was limited to the books of Moses since they rejected the prophets and later books of the Old Testament. Their prophetic text was from Deuteronomy 18.
I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him (Deut. 18:18-19).
By this woman’s asking if Jesus is greater than Jacob who gave them the well, she may have had this teaching in mind. Could this be the Prophet, the Messiah?
Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
Throughout the Gospels, and especially in John, Jesus uses words with double meanings—a literal meaning and a spiritual or symbolic meaning. In chapter four of John alone we find seven instances of these double meanings. There are two peoples, two waters, two mountains, two foods, two ways to worship, two harvests, two workers and one gospel.
Let us take the statement of Jesus word by word.
There is no exclusion. Whosoever includes “everyone”.
“Drinks” is aorist subjunctive indicating a one drink at a point in time. The drink indicates accepting faith, trust in the message of the gospel.
Of the water…
“Water” is a symbol for eternal life.
that I will give him…
Eternal life is a gift. We don’t deserve it; we cannot earn it; we can only receive it.
shall never thirst…
“Never thirst” is a double negative in Greek indicating a strong negative. The one who drinks will never, no never thirst again. Here we have the underpinnings of the simple gospel proclaimed in John. When we accept the truth of who Jesus is (the eternal Word, the Messiah, the Savior of the world, the I AM) and believe and accept (drink) the gift of eternal life. We will never, no never, need another drink. One drink is enough. We never thirst again. That “living water” will become in us a well of water springing up to eternal life. The terminology here speaks of the work of the Spirit in us after our faith is expressed. It is the Holy Spirit that provides the power and guidance in the Christin life. It assures our heart that we are indeed in the family of God. Paul put this same truth in these words.
For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God (Rom. 8:15-16).
The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw”.
The woman now asked for this living water. She does not yet understand its true essence, but she is ready—almost—to receive It.
- In our interactions with others, look for “divine appointments” where God may want to use us in the spread of the gospel.
- By asking someone to help us it often increases their self-worth and opens up the door for further communication.
- In our witnessing to others concerning the gospel we would do well to follow the example of Jesus at Jacob’s well, utilizing the principles of attention, interest, and desire.
- As in the case of Nicodemus who needed only to be born-again (regenerated by the Spirit) once, in the same way one only needs to drink (receive by faith the gift of salvation) of the living water once.
- The Holy Spirit will provide the power and guidance for the remainder of the Christian life.
Father, thank you that your grace is wide enough for everyone to drink of your living water—eternal life. You even receive those who are social outcasts, who have an incomplete or wrong theology, and are living in sin. Lord, thank you that the water of life you gave me at my new birth will give me the power to live for you and will guide my life until I see you face to face.
In Jesus name.