Setting

Jesus and His disciples have remained in Judea and baptized. Knowing what the Pharisees have heard about His baptizing ministry, Jesus leaves Judea to return to Galilee. The story of the present passage takes place while Jesus and His disciples are passing through Samaria.

Key Verse

(4:23)

Did You Know...?

1. “Through Samaria” (4:4): This was the usual route from Judea to Galilee.

2. Sychar (4:5): Several sites have been suggested, one of which is modern Askar, about 1 km (0.6 mi) north of Jacob’s well on the eastern slope of Mt. Ebal. [ref]

3. The plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph (4:5) was probably the land at Shechem which Jacob had bought from the Sons of Hamor (Gen 33:18, 19; cf. Gen 48:21, 22; Josh 24:32).

4. Jacob’s well (4:6) was measured at 41 meters (135 feet) deep. [ref]

5. The sixth hour (4:6) probably means noontime.

6. “Jews have no dealings with Samaritans” (4:9): The Jews and Samaritans were divided primarily over religious differences. While the Samaritans claimed to be descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh and keepers of the faith, the Jews viewed them as descendants of Assyrian colonists brought into the region (cf. 2 Kgs 17:24–41).5/4:303 Jews would not associate with Samaritans because Samaritans were thought to be continually unclean.1/2:44 Samaritans, likewise, did not look favorably upon Jews (cf. Lk 9:51–56).

7. “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain” (4:20): The Samaritans regarded Mt. Gerizim as sacred because they believed that many significant events in the life of the patriarchs were associated with this mountain. According to Josephus, the Samaritans built a temple in 332 B.C., but it was destroyed by John Hyrcanus and the Jews in 129 B.C. [ref]

Outline

  • Coming to Samaria
    (4:1–6)
  • Jesus’ Dialogue with the Samaritan Woman
    (4:7–26)
  • Offer of living water
    (7–15)
  • The woman’s past
    (16–19)
  • True worship
    (20–24)
  • Jesus’ self-revelation
    (25–26)
  • Jesus’ Disciples Return and the Woman Goes into the City
    (4:27–30)

Keywords/Phrases

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General Analysis

  • 1.

    How is Jesus’ human and divine nature evident in this story?

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    1. Jesus, being in the flesh, also experienced weariness like us (4:6). On the other hand, He displayed His divine knowledge when He revealed the woman’s sinful life (4:17).

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Segment Analysis

  • 4:1–6

    1.

    What prompted Jesus to leave Judea?

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    He knew that the Pharisees had heard that He made and baptized more disciples than John (4:1). Jesus’ reaction probably indicated that the time had not yet come for Him to enter into confrontation with the Pharisees (cf. Jn 2:4; 7:1–8; 12:23).

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  • 4:7-26

    2a.

    What kinds of barriers lay between Jesus and the Samaritan woman?

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    The most obvious barrier was that Jesus was a Jew and the woman a Samaritan. With the longstanding rift between the two ethnic groups, Jesus was in hostile territory (cf. Lk 9:51–53). No wonder the Samaritan woman was astonished when Jesus, a Jew, asked her for a drink. Not only so, for a man to talk with a woman while being alone could easily have raised eyebrows (cf. the disciples’ curiosity in Jn 4:27). Furthermore, people would not have looked favorably on the fact that Jesus, being a rabbi, chose to converse with a sexually immoral Gentile woman.

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  • 2b.

    Jesus broke all these barriers in order to reach out to this woman. What does this say about the Lord Jesus and about winning souls?

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    Our Lord Jesus came to this world to offer salvation for all who believe regardless of their race or social standing (Jn 3:16; 4:42). He is not confined by boundaries men establish. This is a reminder to us not to let any social expectations that run contrary to the truth of God’s word inhibit us from loving all people and making the effort to reach out to them. Breaking barriers takes courage, humility, and patience; but the love of Christ in us motivates us to face and overcome such challenges (1 Cor 9:19–23).

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  • 3a.

    Observe the progression in the dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman. How did Jesus start His conversation with the Samaritan woman?

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  • 3b.

    What was the final note on which the conversation ended?

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  • 3c.

    What can we learn from the Lord in the way we share the gospel with others?

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    Jesus’ goal was clear—He wanted the woman to know His identity as the Messiah and to put her faith in Him. But rather than declare His identity immediately, He started by asking her for a drink. We can learn from Jesus’ approach in evangelizing to people who may feel alienated from us. It is often hard to break ground when the person you want to reach holds a certain prejudice or is guarded from the start. We face many divides in preaching the gospel: religious, cultural, age, etc. But all these divides can be broken down if we have the heart to reach out and find a common ground. In the case of Jesus, He began with the subject of water and drink, something that the woman could immediately relate to. This opened the way for Him to share the message of salvation.

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  • 4a.

    What is the gift of God and the living water Jesus spoke about?

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    The word for “gift” in the New Testament, in a general sense, denotes the inner workings which God bestows upon believers freely for their salvation, ministry, or spiritual growth (Rom 5:15, 17; 2 Cor 9:15; Eph 3:7; 4:7; Heb 6:4). In Acts, the gift of God refers specifically to the promised Holy Spirit, poured out on believers with the evidence of speaking in tongues (Acts 2:38; 8:20; 10:45; 11:17). In Isaiah 44:3 and John 7:37–39, the Bible makes it explicit that the water that God gives to His people is in fact the Holy Spirit (note the similarity between Jn 7:37 and Jn 4:14). The fact that numerous references use the verb “pour out” to depict God’s granting of His Holy Spirit further suggests that the image of water is an allusion to the promised Holy Spirit (Isa 32:15; Isa 44:3; Ezek 39:29; Joel 2:28, 29; Zech 12:10; Acts 2:17, 18, 33; 10:45; Tit 3:6). In light of the above, while the gift of living water that Jesus spoke of could mean in a broad sense God’s grace of eternal life, it refers more specifically to the promised Holy Spirit whom the Lord would pour out on believers and who would fashion a new life in them.

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  • 4b.

    Explain the spiritual effect that results from drinking the living water.

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    Jesus told the woman that whoever drinks of the water that He shall give him will never thirst. The water that He shall give the believer will become in him a fountain of water springing up into eternal life (Jn 4:14). Jesus, being by the Spring of Jacob and weary from the journey (Jn 4:6), used physical water and bodily thirst as metaphors to convey spiritual truths. To be thirsty in a spiritual sense means to be empty and weary in our soul as a result of being alienated from God’s life (cf. Ps 23:1–3; Isa 55:1–2). The Holy Spirit is the living water that quenches our spiritual thirst. He invigorates our souls with joyful hope and satisfies us with God’s love (Rom 5:1–5). As the Lord said, the Holy Spirit is a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. Having given us a new life, He continues to renew us and sanctify us. All of this is God’s saving work in us until the day we receive final redemption (2 Thess 2:13; Tit 3:5).

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  • 4c.

    What do we need to do to receive this living water?

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    We need to ask the Lord Jesus for the living water (Jn 4:10; Lk 11:13). Asking presupposes knowing the Lord (Jn 4:10) and having faith in Him (Rom 10:14).

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  • 5.

    Why did Jesus reveal the woman’s personal life?

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    Jesus’ goal in conversing with the Samaritan woman was to lead her to believe that He is the Messiah. Revealing her private life was part of the process of reaching this goal. When the woman realized that Jesus possessed divine knowledge, she concluded that He was a prophet (Jn 4:19; cf. 29). Although she had not yet reached complete knowledge of the Lord, she had gone much further than when she first thought of Jesus as an ordinary Jew. While it is not explicit, it is possible that the Lord also wanted the woman to come to terms with her sins as she began to recognize who He really is. True faith in the Lord requires leaving darkness and coming to the light (Jn 3:19–21). By revealing her sins, the Lord was in fact setting her free (cf. Jn 8:31, 32).

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  • 6a.

    Concluding that Jesus was a prophet, the Samaritan woman shifted the subject to the religious differences between Samaritans and Jews. What distinction did Jesus draw in verse 22?

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    Jesus pointed out that the Samaritans worshiped what they did not know, but the Jews worshiped what they knew. This does not mean that the Jews were more diligent in seeking the knowledge of God. The Lord explained, “For salvation is of the Jews.” The Jews knew what they worshiped because God had revealed Himself to them (Deut 4:7, 8) and had foreordained that the Messiah should come from this race (Deut 18:15). This is why Jesus was born as a Jew (Gal 4:4; Rom 9:4, 5) and preached salvation first to the Jews (cf. Mt 10:5, 6; 15:24; Rom 1:16).

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  • 6b.

    In response to the woman’s comment, what did Jesus teach about the place of worship?

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    The time has come in which the distinction in the location of worship is no longer relevant. Since God is Spirit, He seeks true worshippers who worship in Spirit and truth.

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  • 6c.

    What does it mean to worship God the Father in Spirit and truth?

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    God is Spirit. Worshipping God the Father in Spirit and truth means to come to God not just with outward formality, but through communion with and submission to His Spirit and truth. This new and living way of worship is possible only through the saving work of the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Heb 10:19–22). He is the One who can bring us into the Spirit and truth, enabling us to have access to the Father (Eph 2:18). He baptizes us with the Holy Spirit (Mt 3:11; Mk 1:8; Lk 3:16; Jn 1:33; 1 Cor 12:13), gives us a new life in the Spirit (Jn 3:5; Tit 3:5), pours out the Holy Spirit to dwell in us so that we may be “in the Spirit” (Acts 2:33; Rom 8:9), and quenches our souls with the Spirit (Jn 4:13, 14; 7:37–39). In Him we can also find the truth (Jn 1:17; Eph 4:21), for He Himself is the truth (Jn 14:6), and He recreates us to become righteous and holy in truth (Eph 4:24). Consequently, we can be a genuine worshipper from the heart, living a life that is truly pleasing to the Father (Rom 2:29; 12:1, 2).

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  • 6d.

    How do you worship the Father in your daily life?

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  • 7.

    How does the discussion on true worship relate to Jesus’ final revelation that He is the Christ?

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    Jesus made the Samaritan woman face squarely the fact that He was the Christ that the Samaritans had been waiting for. This was the perfect climactic ending to the discussion on true worship because the One who enables worship in Spirit and truth was already here now—a fact that Jesus indicated earlier with the words “the hour is coming, and now is” (4:21, 23). The woman as well as everyone who reads of Jesus’ words must make a personal decision to believe in Jesus in order to enter the realm of spiritual worship.

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  • 4:27–30

    8.

    Observe the woman’s actions upon learning that Jesus was the Christ. What lessons can we learn from this?

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    The woman left the water pot, the very reason she had come to the well in the first place. She was filled with joy and excitement, as if she had found some treasure. No longer caring about how others might view her, she rushed back to the city to witness about Jesus. When a person has found Christ, all former pursuits, cares, and ambitions are no longer nearly as important (cf. Mt 13:44, 45; Php 3:7, 8). Have we stopped witnessing about the Lord Jesus because we have lost sight of the incomparable riches of knowing Him?

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