The Gospel of John #7

Spiritual Fulfillment the Samaritan Woman Longed For

John 4:13-14

Good morning, everyone. 

We will start chapter 4 of the Gospel of John today.  Last time, we looked at the conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus in the first half of chapter three.

Today, we will take a look at the conversation between a Samaritan woman and Jesus.  Without further ado, let’s take a look at today’s passage.  First, please look at 4:1-4.  I will read. 

1 Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— 2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3 So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. 4 Now he had to go through Samaria.

Jesus and his disciples had been spreading the gospel in Judea.  Because Jesus’ growing popularity in that region, the Pharisees were becoming irritated and alarmed.  So then, they eyed John the Baptist’s group.  Ever since Jesus started his full-scale ministry, John the Baptist had been cutting back on his own activities.  The Pharisees tried a tactic of asking the disciples following each group, which group was the more popular, had more momentum, in order to create a conflict between the groups so that they would wipe each other up.  Jesus being aware of that, left Judea himself, heading for Galilee.  Please look at the map. 

This is Judea, Galilee, and the positions of the places in the passage today. 

Towards the bottom is Judea, and Jerusalem.  And this time, Jesus and his disciples were heading north towards Galilee.  Jesus was passing through Samaria by the route shown very roughly by the red arrow.  Looking at the map, it goes pretty straight northward, and is surely the shortest route, but it was a route normally not taken by Jews.  Many Jews would rather go around Samaria on purpose, going the route shown in yellow that was a roundabout way through the valley of the River Jordan. 

The reason for that was, the Jews hated and despised the Samaritans.  The Samaritans were a people of mixed race between Jews and foreigners.  For Jews who hated mixed races, a race of people born to foreigners was a disgrace to the Jewish tradition, and they would not talk to them, and even refrained from passing through the region. 

 Verse 4 says, “He had to go through Samaria.”  At first glance, it could mean, “they had no choice but to go through Samaria” because they were in a hurry.  However, I think Jesus intentionally chose this route.  It could also be showing Jesus’ firm determination of “having a reason for which he had to go through Samaria.”  It will be apparent in looking at the passage further. 

 When Jesus came to Jacob’s well that was near the town of Sychar, he felt tired and thirsty, and took a break there.

Now, let’s look at the dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman.  I will read verse 6.

6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

It says noon in the English translation, but in the Japanese translation, it says “the sixth hour”, and there are various interpretations as to what time it indicates among Bible scholars.  The theory that it indicates a hot time during the day seems dominant. 

During such a time, the Samaritan woman came to the well to draw water.  Many people would come early morning when it was still cool.  That she came to the well at such an hour is indicative of her choosing a time when no one else would.  Looking at the following passage, we can see that she had had a hard live, and she must be avoiding talking to people.  The towns people also avoided her, and despised her, too.  It would seem that every time she felt the stare of those people, or heard them gossiping about her, she felt disgusted, frustrated, and came to be distrustful of people. 

So, she came to the well when no one would be there, but there was a strange man sitting there.  And he was a Jew.  I think she would have come to the well very nervously.  I will read verse 7 to the first part of verse 9.

7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?”

Though Jesus was thirsty, he had been sitting still there.  The disciples who went shopping probably had taken the buckets necessary to draw water, too.  On the other hand, the Samaritan woman who didn’t even want to see anyone, was called out to by a strange Jewish man who is almost never seen in Samaria.  Her words testify to the wariness of her firmly barricaded heart.  Jesus was of course tired and thirsty from his long travel, but was aware of her wariness towards all people, and that her spirit was thirsting from the problem she has been holding and worrying about.  So, with the intention of relieving her tense heart, approached her with the topic of water saying, “Will you share the water with me?” 

Jesus tired to reach out further to her heart.  I will read verse 10. 

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.”

While answering her question, Jesus said things that perked her interest.  The person who requested water in the first place says he will give her “living water.”  How would a person who didn’t even have the means to draw water give her “living water”?  What was “living water”?  Who in the world is this person?  She was drawn more and more to Jesus.

In verse 12, the woman says, “our father Jacob.”  The Samaritans believed the first give Books of the Old Testament Bible, only the five Books of Moses, as the Bible.  And prided themselves in Jacob who is in the Book of Genesis to be their ancestor, and living in the land where he gave them this well.  So, she returned a question to Jesus who was asking her strange questions. 

Jesus’ answer to that is in verses 13 to 14.  I will read. 

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.”

Jesus said those who drink the “living water” he gives will never thirst thereafter.

The Samaritan woman could not understand who this Jew was, or what the “living water” was.  However, it seems that she thought he could at least free her from the hard labor of getting water.  For her, getting water was more than just hard labor, but a problem that weighed heavily on her heart of being seen by others and having to bear negative feelings.  If she could be free of such problems, she thought, please make it so.

In this way, the weariness of the Samaritan woman was thawed, and seeing that he had her interest, Jesus suddenly changes the topic.  I will read verse 16 and the first half of verse 17.

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” 17 “I have no husband,” she replied.

Even with the sudden change of topic, she answered Jesus’ question.  We can see that her heart has already started to open towards Jesus. 

However, she was very agitated by this question out of the blue.  Her answer in verse 17 was not a lie, but was not the truth.  Jesus himself points that out in the latter part of verse 17.  This was the very real problem she had, and was the cause of her spiritual thirst.  To the sudden question that pierced the problem she had wanted to hide, she was unsettled.  It says that she had had five husbands.  We do not know if she was widowed or was divorced unreasonably by the husband.  However, she had repeatedly married and separated, and at the present, was living with a man whom she was not legally married to.  She may have felt bitter because of loneliness or feeling her life to be unfortunate.  There must have also been verbal slander and discrimination by the people around her.  Every time she got married, she must have had hope of her life and heart being satisfied this time.  However, such hopes were all betrayed, and she had been hurt deeply. 

She herself knew that living together with a person whom she was not married to was Biblically and religiously a sin.  However, she had been living in evasion. 

Please look at verses 19 and 20.  Her perception of Jesus right in front of her who pointed out her sin that he could not have known.  On the other hand, it could be that she was trying to change the topic. 

“This mountain” is Mount Gerizim that was on the map.  The Samaritans traditionally worshiped God on this mountain. 

To that, Jesus, without criticizing the woman, continued explaining it carefully. 

A little off the topic, but this reminds us of the conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus that we looked at last time in our Gospel of John series.  Nicodemus recognized his sin and came to Jesus of his own accord.  However, to Nicodemus who could not readily understand what Jesus was telling him, Jesus repeated his explanation carefully so that Nicodemus could deepen his understanding.

 On the other hand, though this Samaritan woman recognized the sin, but had blamed it on her circumstances, and was not ready to admit to it.  At such a time, Jesus initiated contact.  It seems that she did not tell the truth to Jesus’ question, and is trying to avoid the core of the problem, but Jesus carefully repeats his explanation so that she could face the problem and lead her to solving it.  We can see from that that Jesus always stays by us and patiently leads us.  Let’s get back to the Bible. 

We’ll look at Jesus’ answer to the Samaritan woman.  I will read verses 21 to 24.

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.”

After calling out to her in a polite way saying, “Woman,” Jesus said, “believe me.”  Though only a part of the Old Testament Bible, the Samaritans, too, read the Bible, and believed in the coming of the Messiah.  However, they did not know it would be from the Jews.

Jesus encourages the woman to believe in the savior who brings forgiveness of sins.  Jesus told her, to those who believe in the savior, a spring that fulfills the heart not with material things, will well up, and that is the answer to “the water welling up to eternal life.” 

Also, if one believes the savior, in time, people will not have to be limited in the way of worship or place of worship, like the Mount Gerizim or Jerusalem, but will be able to worship God at any time through the savior, and that time is now, Jesus said.  That is, to worship God is to know the truth by the work of the Holy Spirit, and that means, one has to accept the atonement for sins and forgiveness by the savior.  In order to do that, Jesus told the Samaritan woman, “believe in me.”  Jesus told her that God is seeking people who will worship wholeheartedly, filled with joy, grace and thanksgiving for salvation, through the savior. 

Here at last, her thought turned to the memory she had of her savior.  And at last turned her heart and thought maybe the Jew in front of her eyes is that savior.  Her utterance in verse 25 I think was to confirm that with Jesus.  And Jesus’ answer was, as is in verses 26, “I am he.” 

Please imagine what was going though her mind at that moment.  She must have felt excitement and respect that shook her hands and feet, and joy that bubbled up from the bottom of her heart. 

Please look at verses 28 and 29.  She, who had lived hiding away from the eyes of other people, began running towards the town to let people know about Jesus of her own accord.  The truth that Jesus showed changed her heart drastically.  She had come to draw water, but the truth that Jesus gave her, the living water welling up to eternal life became a spring in her with joy and excitement.  

I have spent too much time on the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman.  I wanted to look at verse 30 on, too, but because of time, I would have to omit it. 

After that, with the testimony of the Samaritan woman, the towns people came to Jesus, and many were led to salvation. 

Also, Jesus taught his disciples about evangelizing.  About evangelizing, Pastor Kajiyama just delivered a sermon on it on August 30th.  Please review it by listening to the message through the Internet or CD. 

Now, what can we apply to our lives through the message today? 

The first is the Jesus will solve the problems that we have. 

The Samaritan woman that we looked at today had a great problem in her life.  To such a woman, Jesus said, you have a problem to solve, believe me. 

Jesus is telling us the same thing.  Jesus always has the solution to our problems.  even with the problems we see no way out of, or the problems we are evading, he sees through to the core, and is wishing to give us the solution.  We need to listen to what God is saying to us more. 

In order to do so, devotion is a necessity.  We should not be satisfied with just reading the Bible or reading a devotional book.  It is important to write down clearly what God is telling us from the passage of the day, telling us what to change, what problems or sins we should turn our eyes towards, and its application, and to put that into action.  Embarrassingly for me, many a times I would have forgotten the application of my morning devotion by lunchtime of the same day.  There are even days when I have not only forgotten the application, but even the content, or where the Scripture passage was.  It is something I myself need to repent the most.  I think we need to recall the application and think it over multiple times during the day.  Doing so, God will make us aware of the problem we really need to solve now.  When we are made aware of a problem, then, we should pray for its solution.  Let’s trust Jesus to solve that problem. 

The second thing we can learn from today’s passage is to look back on our attitude towards worship if we are worshipping in the Spirit and in truth. 

Jesus teaches us to believe in him, and that we must worship God in the Spirit and in truth. 

At times do we not participate in worship service with our hearts still turned towards work or our own problems rather than focusing on the praise songs or the sermon?  For example, thinking, today’s songs aren’t to my taste, but singing along vaguely, or being concerned about emails or work during the sermon?  About the sermon, I myself need to make more of an effort to make it more interesting . . . .  Or, you find yourself opening the Bible only during worship service.  Also, there are times that for some reason or another, we cannot attend worship services.  That cannot be helped.   However, without realizing it, have the days not increased that we do not listen to the sermon on the Internet or with CDs when we cannot attend, or no longer feel guilty about not attending services? 

Such attitude is clearly not the will of God.  To worship in the Spirit and in truth means to focus our minds on God.  Why did God save one such as I?  Or when we turn our minds firmly to think on how God has solved problems for us, thanksgiving to God, joy, and love wells up like a spring from the bottom of our hearts.  Is that not what worshipping in the Spirit and in truth means?  Of course, that does not mean to become high to the rhythm of the praise songs and groove.  We are expected to worship with the attitude of thanksgiving and joy for God that wells up from the bottom of our hearts, wishing to know God deeper. 

Praise songs are music, so in reality, tastes would differ.  It is a fact that there are times that it is hard for us to sing songs that are fast.  However, when we feel that way, please think about if your mind is focused on God’s grace or not.  And when you cannot expel work or worries from your mind, please pray that God will give you the heart to entrust them to God and be able to worship God.  That would be to reexamine if your worship is in the Spirit and in truth. 

Today, we learned from the dialogue between the Samaritan woman and Jesus.  Jesus has the solution to problems.  Even when we feel we cannot focus on worship, he can give us the heart to look up to God.  More than anything, the reason we worship God is because of Jesus’ sacrifice.  Let’s have our trust in God strengthened more by turning our hearts to Jesus, and worshiping God.  Let’s pray. 

God in heaven, you are greater than any big problem we may have.  Also, you lead us and show us the solution to problems that even we ourselves have not yet realized.  May we be able to learn further from your Words.  And help us to trust you further.  Let’s pray in our own words. 

(individual prayer)

God, please help us so that we can always offer you worship in the Spirit and in truth.  Please lead us that we may bow before you with thanksgiving and joy for you, and love, and so that we may focus our hearts on your grace.  Let’s pray to God in our own words. 

(individual prayer)

There must be people who heart about Jesus Christ for the first time today.  Jesus not only points our our problems but wishes to solve them. 

He actually came to this world in order to solve the great problem that we humans could do nothing about. 

The serious problem that we humans have, that is sin before God.  Lying, taking things out on others, envy, those are all sins before God.  There is serious punishment for sins.  That is, after we die, we must receive suffering that is incomparable to what is experienced in this world forever, the Bible teaches. 

Jesus is God himself.  He had not a single sin.  However, to solve the problem of sins that we have, in our place, died on the cross.  Jesus told us, “Believe in me.”  That means, to believe that Jesus is the savior from the punishment for our sins.  Even to the people who heard it for the first time today, Jesus is saying, believe me.  Just by believing Jesus, sins will be forgiven, and the problem of punishment for sins will be solved.

Now, I will pray a prayer to believe Jesus Christ.  Those of you who wish to believe Jesus, please pray with me.  Those of you worshipping through the Internet, too, please pray with us.  I will pray in short segments.  You do not have to pray out loud.  Please pray after me in your hearts.  Let’s pray.

“Heavenly God  /  Before you  /  I realize I, too, have sins.  /  The reason Jesus Christ went on the corss  /  was in place of the punishment for my sins   /  I thank you.  /  I believe today   /  that Jesus Christ is my savior.  /  Amen”