After the northern Kingdom, with its capital, Samaria, fell to the Assyrians, many Jews were deported to Assyria and foreigners were sent to Israel to keep the peace and to govern it. The subsequent intermarriages that took place between the Jews left behind and the new foreigners resulted in a mixed race, impure in the eyes of the Jews living in the Southern Kingdom of Judah. These people came to be know as Samaritans and were despised by ‘pure Jews’ who believed that there ancestors had betrayed their people and their nation. Jews did everything they did to avoid travelling through Jerusalem, and yet here is Jesus making such a journey. The well that they stop at was to be found on the property originally owned by Jacob (see Gen. 33:18-19) and twice each day, morning and evening, women would come here to draw water. It is here that this discourse takes place.
Read John 4:1-42
Looking at verses 1-9, what are some of the things that strike us about these verses?
- It is Jesus who initiates the conversation – how significant is that?
- This woman was a Samaritan, known to be living in sin and it was a public place.
- No self respecting Jew would even think of speaking to such a woman.
- Yet Jesus did – so what does this tell us?
The Gospel is for everyone – irrespective of race, gender or background – and we must likewise be prepared to approach others in the way that Jesus did here.
Looking at verses 10-15, what can we take from these verses?
- These verses focus very much on the subject of the ‘living water’ – why is that?
- In the Old Testament, many verses speak of people thirsting after God as we might thirst for water. (See Psalm 42:1, Isaiah 55:1, Jeremiah 2:13)
- Also in the Old Testament, God is called the fountain of life (See Psalm 36:9) and the fountain of living waters (See Jeremiah 17:13).
- Here Jesus is clearly claiming to be God’s chosen one – The Messiah.
- He is also talking about spiritual needs as opposed to physical needs. But did the woman realise this – or did she mistakenly think that if she received the water Jesus was offering, she would not need to return to the well each day.
- Was she only interested in Jesus because she thought He could make her life easier?
Is this a mistake that some still make today?
Looking at verses 16-26, what are the main points in these verses?
- When the woman realises that Jesus knows about here personally, she quickly changes the subject, afraid to allow Jesus in. Is this something that we do now and again?
- She did raise a valid point about worship, but it was merely a smokescreen to avoid her own personal issues. How often do we hide behind religion to avoid coming too close to Jesus?
- We see in verse 25 that she knows something of the Messiah, but did she yet believe that Jesus could be Him?
How many people today know something of Jesus, but don’t know Him? Is there any possibility that we ourselves might be included in that number?
What do we make of verses 27-39?
- The disciples are not as willing as Jesus to be seen talking to such a woman.
- When she goes to her village, she has the beginnings of a faith in who Jesus is – and note that she at once evangelises – telling others of the man she met who might be the Christ.
- Because of her witness, others go to see Jesus for themselves – and they believe.
When did we last evangelise to others in this kind of way?
There is so much to learn from this passage, not only in the discourse between Jesus and the woman, but also in the behaviour of the Disciples. And perhaps we need to ask ourselves, how might we have reacted had we witnessed this for ourselves?