John 4

1 Jesus became more popular than John the Baptist. The Jewish people had become enthralled by these teachers who spoke of God so differently than their religious leaders did. Jesus also performed miracles, which attracted a lot of attention.
2 Jesus probably delegated this task so that He could concentrate on instructing the people.
3 Jesus' expanding popularity would lead to conflict with the Jewish leaders, since the Sanhedrin had not sanctioned His ministry. Jesus then travels to Galilee where He performed most of His ministry. The other synoptic Gospels start telling about Jesus' ministry in Galilee.
4 Samaria, named after the capital city of the region, had once been part of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. About 722 BC, Assyria captured the region (2 Ki 17:5-6). As was their practice, they exiled a large segment of the population and then replaced them with people of other nationalities (2 Ki 17:23-24). Thus, the Samaritans, as they would be called, were "half-breeds" who were rejected by the Jews who maintained a "pure" lineage. Even before these events, the region was notorious for its blatant pagan practices.

In Jesus' day, Judah and Galilee were Jewish regions of Palestine with Samaria situated between them. Many Jews that traveled between the two regions avoided Samaria by crossing the Jordan River and making a more difficult journey on the east side. Jesus, however, was "compelled" to travel through Samaria. There was a spiritual need there that Jesus was about to meet.

5 Sychar was located a few miles southeast of the capital, Samaria. The reference to Joseph's inheritance is found in Gen 48:21-22.
6 It was about noon, and Jesus (having a human body) wanted to rest by the well while His disciples went into town to buy lunch.
7 Women typically drew water during the morning and evening, not in the heat of noon. It was also a social time for the women. This woman came by herself to draw water. The women of the town had probably rejected her because of the things she had done during her life.
9 This startled the woman. First, men rarely talked to women in public. Second, Jesus appeared to be a Jew. Both groups were prejudiced against each other because of their religious differences and political backgrounds. The Jews in particular went to great lengths to avoid contact with the Samaritans, and would consider themselves "unclean" if they drank from a Samaritan jar. Jesus' actions show that the love of God crosses ethnic, political, social, and religious backgrounds.
10 Instead of responding to her prejudiced questions, Jesus indicates that He has a "living water" that she could receive from Him if she asked. Underground rivers were sometimes referred to as living water (Song 4:15), but from Jesus' continuing description we get the idea that He is referring to a spiritual "water" rather than physical water.
11 Jesus was speaking of the Holy Spirit, but the woman thought He was talking about the water in the well.
12 The woman accuses Jesus of "ancestral blasphemy." In that region and time, a person born earlier in history was honored more than those born later. Jacob's well had satisfied many generations of people and animals. The woman thought there was no way that Jesus could produce better water than their common ancestor, Jacob, had. The woman did not yet realize that she was speaking to God, who is the real source of all water -- physical and spiritual.
13 Physical water always needs to be replaced in the body. People can only survive a few days without it.
14 People can live a lifetime without spiritual water, but they are left with an unexplainable "thirst" in their soul. Jesus' living water has implications beyond this earthly life. Without it, no one can live forever with God.

A spring was a source of water that came to the surface. One does not need a rope and bucket to attain water from a spring.

15 The woman likes the idea of never getting physically thirsty again. She, like many others, had difficulty understanding that Jesus used physical analogies to speak of spiritual matters.
16 Jesus now sets up a situation that will help the woman begin to see things spiritually.
18 Some people suggest that Jesus was able to guess this based on the idea that the woman was a social outcast who had to draw water at noon. However, the description is too detailed for a guess.
19 Jesus' reply startled her. Jesus would have had no way of knowing this except that His knowledge had come from God.
20 Although she just acknowledged that Jesus was a prophet, she decides to test him with a historical and religious statement that highlights their differences. Before the Temple was built, people worshiped in several places. However, God stated that there would be a time when He would choose a special place where all the people would gather for worship. It was to be the one and only place where sacrifices and various other religious activities (Deu 12:5-11). Solomon built the temple, and God declared that this was that place He had chosen (2 Chr 6:6-7:1). The woman conveniently forgets that during Solomon's reign, all of Israel agreed with this. However, the Northern Kingdom later rebelled and set up a pagan worship system deliberately designed to prevent "northerners" from traveling to Jerusalem to worship God (1 Ki 12:26-28).

The site of Samaritan worship was Mount Gerizim, where the blessings had been read when Israel entered the Promised Land (Deu 27:12, Josh 8:33). Though never sanctioned as such by God, the Samaritans sanctified the place themselves and considered it the only true place of worship.

21 Rather that get into a political and religious argument with the woman, Jesus points out that it is not where one worships that matters, but how. There is a foreboding in His statement that indicates that the region will one day be restored. He may be referring to the destruction that would happen in 70 AD, or perhaps Judgement Day.
22 God had chosen all of Israel to bring salvation to the world, but only the Jews had kept faith in God.
23 However, God was now shifting the emphasis of worship. People would no longer be concerned about ritual sacrifice or pilgrimages. People would see more clearly that good works are the result of salvation rather than the price for salvation. People would worship God with spiritual intimacy rather than mindlessly following rules. This is what God wanted all along, but the religious system He gave to Israel had become so important to the people that they had forgotten God, love, and mercy.
24 We can not worship God with external acts; we can only worship in our hearts. We can not worship God with lies or hypocrisy. Only the truth will do, and only God can give us the truth.
25 At least the woman believed that God would send the Messiah to teach them about the spiritual matters they did not currently understand.
26 Jesus reveals that He is the Messiah.
27 Although they were surprised to see several social customs being violated, the disciples decided not to interrupt their conversation. Perhaps they had gained some confidence that Jesus knew what He was doing, even if they did not understand it. Sometimes when we do not understand what God is doing, it is best to stand back and watch.
28 Something that Jesus said triggered her faith. She became so excited that she even left her water jar behind to go back to the city and tell others about Jesus, the Messiah.

The men she spoke with were most likely the city judges and rulers. In those days, public business was typically done at the city gates.

29 The woman probably felt that Jesus was the Messiah, but that the city leaders would be able to make a better judgement. Even if this is not the case, the arrival of the Messiah was important enough for a rejected woman to notify the city.
30 Out of curiosity and longing for the Messiah, the men of the town went to see Jesus.
31 While the woman was spreading the news of Jesus in the town, the disciples wanted Jesus to eat some of the food they had just brought from the town.
34 Jesus, of course, was speaking spiritually. For Him, to do the work of God was better nourishment for the spirit than physical food for the body was. If more Christians today were as concerned with spiritual matters as they are about physical matters, we would be much more effective at spreading the Good News.
35 The cliche Jesus mentions refers to putting off a task until a "better" time. Jesus explains that it is always a good time to tell people the Good News. He might have said this as the people of the city were beginning to come out in groups to see Jesus.
37 The mission of spreading the Good News is a partnership between God and Christians. God initiated the process with prophecies and the appearance of Jesus. God has also allowed us to have the Bible as a primary reference, and external evidence to supplement the Text. Christians must be willing to follow Jesus' example and God's leading. God helps us have courage to speak in our hostile world, and will sometimes give us the words we need. When a Christian helps another come to Christ, it is a real joy. It does not affect eternal salvation, except that it is an additional "reward" to know that someone else will be saved from the tragedy of sin.
38 When a farmer plants a field he must first clear the land and prepare it to receive seeds. God is the one who prepares hearts. In addition, the vague knowledge that most non-Christians have of the Bible prepares their hearts. The Christian is assigned the relatively simple task of explaining the Good News in a clear way and encouraging people to turn to Jesus.
39 The twelve disciples had been in town buying food, but did not have any spiritual encounters with the people there. Ironically, a single woman with a bad reputation openly told the people that Jesus was the Messiah, and several believed because of her testimony.

It is clear that social and historical prejudice significantly hinder the spread of the Good News. We must not forget that God loves every person and wants us all to know Him. We must not withhold the Good News from others simply because we do not like their "type." In fact, we must get to the point where we see all people as the same type, and all in desperate need of God.

40 We can contrast the attitude of the "apostate" Samaritans with the self-righteousness of the Jewish leaders. Sometimes we feel that the Christian witness is more likely to succeed among people who are already considered "good." However, those who feel they are "good enough" are less likely to repent than those who know for sure that they are sinners. Before one can accept Jesus as Savior, one must recognize that he needs to be saved from something.
41 As Jesus continued to speak, more of them believed. We can encourage others to "listen to Jesus" by reading the Bible.

Note that the only recorded miracle was of Jesus' foreknowledge of the woman's past. The Samaritans believed based almost entirely on Jesus' words. In contrast, the Jewish leaders said they would not believe Jesus until he produced miracles that were even more spectacular than the ones He was already performing. As we witness, we should not be intimidated by those who demand that God work miracles through us. He may choose to do so, but the record of the Bible seems to prove that those who insist on miracles will not believe, even if the miracles are produced. Our mission is to spread the Good News primarily by word and deed, not by flashy miracles.

42 People are saved by Jesus, not by a Christian's testimony. If someone you witness to comes to Jesus, it will first be based on your testimony. However, it is important that the person progress to the point where his faith is in Jesus, not in your testimony.
44 Jesus may have returned to Nazareth briefly where He announced Him ministry, but was then rejected by His hometown (Luke 4:16-30). When someone becomes famous, especially if he is held up as a role model, those who grew up with him might resent it. Such people might feel that the person's background disqualifies him for his current notoriety. In Jesus' case, He had lived a perfect life, but it was obscure, and His family had not been otherwise noteworthy. He now returned as a prominent spiritual leader. The message He gave at that time did not sit well, and the town even attempted to kill their new famous son.
45 Jesus was accepted in Galilee where the people were fascinated by the miracles He had performed during the Passover feast in Jerusalem.
48 These words are harsh, but Jesus is criticizing the focus of their faith. The Samaritans believed Jesus' words, but the Jews were basing their faith on Him miracles. Jesus should not have to perform miracles to get us to believe, but He does here with the knowledge that at least some will get beyond miracle faith to true belief in Him.
49 The nobleman was focused on his child and saw Jesus as his only hope. He either did not hear or understand Jesus' rebuke.
50 Jesus was not too busy to help, but He sends the man away to test his faith. The man took Jesus at His word and believed that his son would be healed.
51 To his great joy, the man found that his son had indeed been healed.
53 The man's enquiry into the time proved that it was not coincidence. The man's faith in Jesus had proven to be true.
54 This second sign showed that Jesus not only had the power to heal the sick, but that His power was not restricted to His physical presence.