Who Jesus Is: The Fourth Gospel (John 4:1-26)

In John 3, we met Nicodemus—a man who had it all together on the outside, but was dirty and empty on the inside. We learned through his nighttime conversation with Jesus that he was a seeker. He wanted to understand who Jesus was and so he came to Him. You’ll notice that throughout John, Jesus will explain something figuratively, which is then taken literally or misunderstood by the person. Jesus explains further, which only is more difficult to understand. But then…for those who are willing to hear, He begins to open the eyes of their heart. I pray that is true of you (and me) as we study His Word. Let’s be willing to hear what He’s saying to us as we meet a bad Samaritan.

1 Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph.Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

-          First, let’s have a brief history lesson. There was a long-standing, deep-seated hatred between the Jews and Samaritans. The Samaritans were a “mixed” race—part Jew and part Gentile. Remember back in John 3:16 when we were told that God so loved the world? That would’ve been next to impossible for a Jew to comprehend because in their mind, God was the God of the Israelites, not the world. Even the dust of the Samaritan country was disgusting to the Jews. However, it tells us in John 4:3 that Jesus had to go through Samaria. He wasn’t about to miss this divine “interruption” with a Samaritan woman by taking the shortcut.

-          It’s debated between commentators whether this Samaritan was a prostitute. She was drawing water during the hottest part of the day, which could imply she was an outcast of society and not welcomed with the other women. It’s likely, but if it’s not completely clear in scripture, let’s not get so caught up in the diagnosis of someone else’s’ heart that we miss the change in our own.

-                     Did you catch verse 6? It says that Jesus was tired. For some reason, this is comforting to me because it reminds me of Jesus’ humanity. It’s reassuring to know that Jesus got worn-out and needed some rest. He didn’t weary of the journey, but He got weary from the journey. There’s a difference there, and it’s a notable one. When we’re tired of the journey of following Christ, we know there’s something amiss. When we’re tired from the journey of following Christ, we know that we should “…be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world” (1 Peter 4:13).  Know the difference!

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

-          In that day, it was not kosher for a man to speak to a woman in public—especially if you were a rabbi. As Wiersbe puts it, “…our Lord set social customs aside because a soul’s eternal salvation was at stake.” Of course, He is Jesus and we are not—so we must guard ourselves about intermingling with the opposite gender. As we’ve learned through recent media events (whether true or untrue), while Jesus forgives our sin, this world will continuously dig it up and throw it on us. Instead, practice the wisdom of Proverbs 4:23 which says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

-          This nameless woman was quick to ensure Jesus knew how different they were. The Jews loathed the Samaritans, and the Samaritans loathed the Jews. Jesus was no fool—He understood the division and disgust between these two races. However, God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34)—He’ll talk to the moral Nicodemus and the immoral Samaritan woman, and He’ll talk with you, too!

-          Jesus was intentional about how He began His conversation with her: “Will you give me a drink?” This was simply a way to open the dialogue and turn it to the Living Water discussion. He talked with Nicodemus about re-birth and He spoke to this woman about water. Jesus knows just what we need to hear.

“Father, as I seek You more and more, may all my conversations with others shift to Jesus.”

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

-          Okay, so remember how Jesus taught Nicodemus in John 3? Similar situation here and I like what William Barclay says about it:

“Jesus makes a statement. The statement is taken in the wrong sense. Jesus remakes the statement in an even more vivid way. It is still misunderstood; and then Jesus compels the person with whom He is speaking to discover and to face the truth for herself. That was Jesus’ usual way of teaching; and it was a most effective way, for, as someone has said: ‘There are certain truths which a man cannot accept; he must discover them for himself” (William Barclay).

-          Did you catch the progression of how she is addressing Jesus? First, she said, “You are a Jew…” In verse 15 she addresses Him as “Sir.” Later, you’ll see she calls Him a prophet. This is why I named this John study Who Jesus Is. Following Christ is a progression of belief, and who He is never changes—we just see Him more closely as we advance in our walk.  

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

17 “I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

-          Jesus completely shifted the conversation. At first, there was a water discussion, but now it was getting super personal and uncomfortable. Why did Jesus go there? Why did He stab at the wound that hurt the most? It wasn’t because He was being insensitive or wanted to make her feel guilty; but, she had to confront her sin in order to fully receive His freedom. “We never really see ourselves until we see ourselves in the presence of Christ; and then we are appalled at the sight” (Barclay).

-          True Christianity begins with a sense of sin. It begins with a piercing realization that the life we are living will not do. We must recognize that we are completely inadequate and allow the Lord to compel us to change. And friends, this realization should be a daily revelation.

-          Where are you at with your sin today? Have you experienced the revelation of God and the revelation of your sin? I’m (slowly) learning to mourn my sin. Yes, I am forgiven of my sin. I understand this and am not trying to conjure up useless guilt. However, we must not become numb to our sin. Sin is destructive, especially when kept to yourself. What sin needs mourned in your life? Will you allow Him to show you its appalling nature? Don’t pass too quickly over this section; if you’re uncomfortable, then you’re right where the Samaritan woman was before her life was eternally changed. Even as believers, we must grieve our sin and see how it rots our hearts, our relationships, our witness, and inhibits our fellowship (but not our relationship) with God. As we close out with these last few verses, ponder this in your heart.

19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

-          Here you see her “title” of Jesus transitioning from sir to a prophet. She “can see” that He is special and so she goes on to show how she desires to seek Him. That may be why she’s inquiring about where she can worship Him. She knows that the Jews worship in Jerusalem, but the Samaritans adjusted history to suit themselves.

“They were taught that it was on Mount Gerizim that Abraham had been willing to sacrifice Isaac; they taught that it was there that Melchizedek had appeared to Abraham; they declared that it was on Mount Gerizim that Moses had first erected an altar and sacrificed to God when the people entered the promised land…” (Barclay).

-          Don’t miss this: They taught themselves, and when we teach ourselves and don’t rely on the absolute and inerrant Word of God to adjust our mind and heart, we go astray.

-          Jesus explains to her that “a time is coming”—and that time was close because His death and resurrection weren’t far away. We’re going to end this week’s study with a cliffhanger where Jesus fully reveals Who He is to this nameless Samaritan. “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

-          Beloved, He’s here. He’s with you in this very moment. He’s compelling you to catch sight of yourself. He’s compelling you to face your sin and to leave behind the dirty water you try to draw yourself each day to satisfy your tired soul. He’s imploring you to leave the cheap, imitation love stories and fall at His feet and call Him Lord. Amen.

P.S. Please prayerfully share this message with others, just as someone shared with you the Message.