Sapphire Sky

December 7, 2014

The Outcast

Filed under: encouragement, theology — Tags: — Steve Knaus @ 7:14 pm

We have just seen the conversation between Son of God and one of the great teachers of his day (John 3:1-21).  Nicodemus was a highly respected teacher and one of the Jewish rulers in the Sanhedrin.  Nicodemus thought he knew a lot about God, and yet Jesus showed him that he needed to be born from above before he could even see God’s kingdom (see here).

The next scene is a complete contrast to Nicodemus. Jesus initiates a conversation with an outcast Samaritan woman, one who would be despised by any “respectable” Jew.  Nicodemus had initiated a secret meeting with Jesus for fear of reprisal from his own countrymen.  Jesus initiates this next meeting with an immoral “foreigner” woman with no fear of reprisal.

 Jesus’ message to Nicodemus was that the spiritual world is much greater than anything we can see or hear.  Jesus further explains the spiritual world to this sinful, Samaritan woman using water.

 The Samaritan woman would not have understood the Old Testament metaphor of water’s cleansing and new life [2].  But more importantly, Jesus is bringing her to the point of understanding eternal life.  The well water is temporary, but Jesus is offering something permanent.

Jesus then brings her to the next step, which is to show her that he knows about the details of her life. He knows all about her five failed marriages and that she is not married to her current man. Note that Jesus neither excuses nor corrects her current lifestyle. What is most important is that she needs eternal life.

 The woman’s response seems strange to our minds.  She almost seems to change the subject, asking about the place of worship.  But her core Samaritan beliefs had been shaken.  The Samaritans did not believe in any other prophet after Moses except for the Messiah [3].  Therefore, she has just acknowledged that this man must be be the Messiah.  And he is a Jew.  Therefore, what else about her Samaritan beliefs were wrong?

 The Samaritans believed that the the true source of worship was on Mount Gerizim (see here).  If the rest of her Samaritan beliefs were wrong, where was the correct place to worship?  More specifically, how can you come to God?

 How do you worship God?  Jesus says it twice here: You worship God in spirit and truth.

 You worship God in spirit.  This is not a reference to the Holy Spirit but in the human spirit, the part of us that communes with God.  As we draw close to God, our worship of God comes from the inside-out.  [4]

 You worship God in truth.  It is not enough to have great emotions, or to feel close to God.  Our worship of God is rooted in the truth of knowing who he is and in studying his Word.

The woman points out that truth will come from the Messiah.  Jesus unmistakably declares that he is the Messiah.

 It is this faith in Jesus that brings her to eternal life:

 “The conviction, sudden but firm, that He Who had laid open the past to her was really a Prophet, was already faith in Him; and so the goal had been attained – not, perhaps, faith in His Messiahship, about which she might have only very vague notions, but in Him. And faith in the Christ, not in anything about Him, but in Himself, has eternal life.” – Alfred Edersheim [3]

 

Previous post: What about people who are not like you?


John 4:7-30

A woman from 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.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying 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 water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people 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 (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” They went out of the town and were coming to him.


 

A woman from 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.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)

 

The previous study (see here) had looked into the deep divisions between Samaritans and Jews.  The two groups hated and despised each other.  Jesus had violated cultural traditions simply by talking with this woman in public, let alone asking her for a drink from her water jar.

 

I often wonder why Jesus opened up the conversation by asking her for a drink.  We know that Jesus was weary from the journey (John 4:6) and he was likely to be thirsty.  But we never have any indication that Jesus actually got any drink of water from this woman.  Instead, Jesus immediately directs the conversation away from his own requests to the woman’s needs.

 

 

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

 

Jesus is using the physical world to teach the woman about the spiritual world.  Jesus had asked the woman for a drink from the well, but he uses the water from well to teach her about eternal life.  What follows is an extended conversation with the woman as she slowly comes to terms with her need for the Messiah and his gift of eternal life.

 

The woman is drawing from a well, but Jesus is offering her a running stream of water (“living water” can also be rendered as “running water”).  Jesus again uses “living water” to describe eternal life and the Holy Spirit in John 7:37-39.

 

 

The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.”

 

Jacob’s well was about 150 feet deep.

 

The woman’s response could be also understood as, “You can’t be greater than our father Jacob, can you?”.  This is a rhetorical question, expecting that this stranger could would never dream of measuring up to their ancestor.

 

Some commentators have seen the woman’s response to be sarcastic and almost bitter.  However, her words can be better read as a simple response.  Here is a woman who has been confronted with a spiritual truth that she doesn’t understand.  She is at the same well which has been dug by her ancestor Jacob (See Genesis 33:19). Jesus has just offered her something better and she wonders what could be greater than Jacob’s revered legacy.

 

 

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

 

Jesus explains further: the living water that he is offering is permanent and brings eternal life.

 

Jesus uses water again in John 7:37-39. In John 7, Jesus shows further that the living water is life with the Holy Spirit. This once again connects with Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus about the Holy Spirit in John 3.

 

 

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

 

Some commentators again see the woman’s response here as a sarcastic but we have no indication that she is being hostile at this point. Other commentators see this as her moment of understanding, but this is not consistent with her comments later on.  A better understanding here is that the woman is slow to understand what Jesus is talking about. Just like Nicodemus, she cannot understand spiritual life until she is born again.

 

 

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”

 

Jesus takes a very sudden turn in the conversation. This is no longer an abstract conversation but is now very personal to the woman. Jesus has never met this woman before that day, yet he knows about her life. He knows about all five of her failed marriages. He also knows that she is living with a man who is not her husband.

 

The Samaritans did not hold to the same levels of moral purity as the Jews, yet this woman would be scandalous even for them.

 

Why did Jesus ask for her husband if he knew the truth?  Some commentators believe that Jesus may not have known her marital state when he first asked (but he knew it when she replied). We do know that the Holy Spirit revealed to Jesus the details about the woman’s life at some point. It is most likely that Jesus asked for her husband in order to bring out that he already knew about her immoral lifestyle.

 

 

The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”

 

At first glance, this looks like the woman is trying to change the subject.  But this question is much deeper than what it looks like on the surface.  Something changed in the woman when Jesus exposed her past and she realized that he was a prophet.

 

The Samaritans did not believe in any other prophets besides Moses [3].  Therefore, he must be the Messiah.  More than that, since this prophet is a Jew, it indicates that the Samaritans were wrong about the Jews.  But the most fundamental difference between the Samaritans and the Jews was their place of worship.  The Samaritans believed that the true place of worship was on Mount Gerizim, not in Jerusalem.  If she was wrong about the prophet, then was she also wrong about the place of worship?

 

 

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

 

The Jewish temple would soon be destroyed by the Romans.  The Samaritan temple was already destroyed.  It is not about location.

 

The Jews were not necessarily correct in all of their beliefs, but the Messiah would come from the Jews.  Jesus does not pander to the Samaritan beliefs, but points out that they don’t know how to worship.

 

Jesus says it twice here: You worship God in spirit and truth.  In spirit: your worship overflows from your relationship with God.  In truth: your worship is based on your knowledge of God and his Word.

 

 

The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.”  Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

 

The woman acknowledges that the truth will come from the Messiah.

 

This is one of the few places where Jesus says directly that he is the Messiah. He could not speak as clearly to the Jews because of their misunderstanding and political aims.

 

“It was then that, according to the need of that untutored woman, He told her plainly what in Judea, and even by His disciples, would have been carnally misinterpreted and misapplied: that He was the Messiah.” – Alfred Edersheim [3]

 

 

Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?”

 

The disciples would be surprised that Jesus was talking with a woman.  Yet they were wise enough to keep silent.  Note God’s providence at work here.  The disciples came back at exactly the correct time: early enough to witness the conversation but late enough to not interrupt the conversation.  [5]

 

 

So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” They went out of the town and were coming to him.

 

The final act of the woman is to go into the town and tell the others about Jesus.  The fact that she left her water jar likely indicates that she intended to return.

 


[1] John MacArthur, MacArthur Study Bible Notes, John 4

 

[2] Water is a common metaphor in the Old Testament and is used to show the cleansing and transformation that is brought by the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 1:16-18, Isaiah 12:3-4, Isaiah 44:3, Ezekiel 36:25-27) [1]. The Samaritans only believed the books of Moses so they would not be acquainted with the books of prophecy.

 

[3] Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Section III, “The Ascent”, Chapters viii.

 

[4] Stephen Davey, “Discovering the Missing Jewel”, http://media.colonial.org/node/578

 

[5] John MacArthur, “Messiah, the Living Water, Part 3”, John 4:27-42, http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/43-22/messiah-the-living-water-part-3

2 Comments »

  1. […] Previous post: The Outcast […]

    Pingback by What will it take to believe? | Sapphire Sky — January 4, 2015 @ 3:41 pm

  2. […] and drink!” Jesus has used water as a metaphor for spiritual life with the Samaritan woman (See here). But this passage gives more information: here we know that Jesus is talking about the Holy […]

    Pingback by If Anyone is Thirsty | Sapphire Sky — March 22, 2015 @ 5:33 pm


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