After being in Jerusalem for the last couple chapters, Jesus decides it is time to head back into Galilee. His travels take him through Samaria where he meets a woman and changes her life. There is a lot that we can pull out of this chapter, and I am only going to cover a small amount of it. So pick up a Bible and join me this week.
In order to understand some of the cultural stuff happening in this opening section of the chapter, we have to know a little bit about Samaria. After the death of King Solomon, around 922 BC, the kingdom of Israel split into two divided nations, Israel to the north and Judea to the south. In the seventh century BC, Israel was completely destroyed by the Assyrians. It is often referred that this is when the 10 northern tribes became “lost.” This simply means that the tribe Assyria conquered assimilated and intermarried with their new conquers. This area is what is known during Jesus’ day as Samaria. The Samaritans are the descendants of the northern kingdom integrating with the Assyrians. So they are constantly looked down upon by the Judeans because they considered themselves to be “pure.” This is why in verse 9 the Samaritan woman is surprised that Jesus is speaking with her.
“From that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, ‘He told me all the things that I have done.’”
— John 4:39, NASB
Jesus tells the woman at the well that if she had asked, he could give her “living water” (John 4:10). This is not water that is able to breath, speak, eat, and enjoy a life. Rather, Jesus means that he could give here a way to have life and have it abundantly. He tells 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” (John 4:13-14, NASB). Paul mirrors this same idea when he writes “Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins” (Ephesians 2:1, NLT). Before Christ, we are dead because of sin. We are parched in a “dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1, NASB). Jesus offers the woman a drink that will allow her to never thirst again, and that drink is salvation through him.
“The Jews looked upon a serpent to be feed from serpents; and we look upon the death of Christ to be delivered from death.”
The interaction between Jesus and the woman continues. She asks him about the appropriate location for worship. Jesus’ response is “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24, NASB) meaning that location does not matter. The important piece of worship is that your heart is focused on God, and know Him accurately. This can very easily go off on a whole separate topic that requires another post or two, but the point that I believe Jesus is making is that worship happens because we know God accurately (today we would say according to His Word) and we worship that truth. We can get too caught up in trying to experience God, that God’s revelation no longer matters to how we understand Him. I do not think that this is “in spirit and truth,” and we need to carefully guard the object of our worship as God and not an idol.
I could go on for quite some in this chapter; there is quite a bit there. I do not want these study posts to get too crazy, as I do want you to get into the Word. If you have not been doing so, please read your Bible along with these weekly posts. I obviously prefer the New American Standard Bible, as I refer to it the most, but you can use whatever version you feel most comfortable with. Don’t have your own Bible? There are plenty of online resources you can use to read God’s Word. The couple I highly recommend are YouVersion and Bible Gateway. Both of these resources allow you to select your version, and even allow for parallel readings from other versions. If you have any questions, you can always post a comment or ask over at the Questions, Comments and Concerns page.