Study Six: A New People – A harvest who worship God in Spirit and truth
Read John 4:1-42
John continues with certain themes we came across in the previous chapters:
- in chapter 2 He changed water into wine
- in chapter three He states that man must be born of water and the Spirit
The fulfilment of Old Testament ceremonies and regulations:
- the ceremonial stone jars got a different use
- Jesus would replace the temple
- Jesus challenged the understanding of the professor of theology (Nicodemus)
Now here in John 4 we see our Lord drinking water, also declaring that He provides water wells wells up to eternal life. He also challenged the theological understanding of both the woman and his disciples that the Jewish people were God’s only chosen race who has only one place to worship, the temple.
1. Read John 4:4. It is a short verse, but a striking one. What do you think stands out in this verse?
2. Read John 4:34. In the light of this verse how do you understand the “had to” of verse 4?
Samaria had no separate political existence in Jesus’ day: it was united with Judea under the Roman procurator. The divide between the Samaria and Judaea was religious, cultural and historical.
After the exile from Babylon, those who settled in Samaria intermarried non-Jews. The Jews in Judaea looked at them as “religious bastards”. About 400 years B.C. some Samaritans build a temple in Gerazim, not too far from where Jesus met the woman at the well. There they practised a faith based only on the Five Books of Moses, believed in one God, revered Moses and saw Mt Gerazim as the mountain God appointed for the temple. (Read John 4:20) Their temple was destroyed around 200 B.C.
3. Read John 4:6. How do these verses describe the human nature of our Lord?
The first hour in John’s Gospel began at 6.00am. The sixth hour means it was about noon.
4. Reading John 1:48, 2:25, together with 4:6 what did Jesus know about her when He asked the Samaritan woman to give him some water?
5. Read John 4:27. What was the reaction of the disciples when they saw Jesus speak to a woman?
6. Read John 4:9. What was the reaction of the woman?
7. Read John 4:10. At least two key concepts we have come across in John surface again as of absolute significance. What are they?
Some commentators understand that our chapter uses two words for well: one is “spring”, and the other “well”. They then combine the two meanings in this verse to refer to the living springs which fedd the well – there were times one could actually see “life” in the water.
8. Read John 4:12. What is the irony in the question of the woman?
9. Read John 1:33, 3:5, 6:34-35, and 7:38-39 together with 4:13-14. What do you think did Jesus mean when he spoke to the woman at the well?
When the woman asked for the water (the roles are now reversed – she wanted water!) it introduced a dramatic change in the narrative. Jesus now helps her to understand what her real need was, and what the true nature of his grace were. (Once again, Jesus knew every about her – question 4). Being the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, He knew about the moral mess she found herself in.
10. Read John 4:17-18. Now we get to the real issue: was this woman good enough to be saved, or did her immoral past now catch up with her?
It is possible that the woman saw Jesus as “the” prophet, the only true expected one who would replace Moses according to the teachings of the Mt Gerazim temple teachings, but it also seems that she saw Him as a sort of fortuneteller/prophet.
11. What does the reaction of the woman in John 4:20 imply? Is is possible that she wanted to stop Jesus talking about “religious things” (we don’t’ believe the same) and further exposing her past, or is she pointing out the yawning gap between Samaritans and Jews?
12. Read John 4:22. Going back to the declaration of our Lord about the temple in Jerusalem which He would replace with his death and resurrection, what was the most important aspect about worship?
The Samaritans rejected all books of the Old Testament, and only took the books of Moses. Because of this their knowledge of God and his promises lead them to “not knowing”.
13. Read John 4:22. What is the connection between “know” and “worship? (Think about “light” and life [sees table on page 5)
“No matter how ceremonially elaborate, emotionally rousing, or sermonically eloquent, worship that is not offered from a proper understanding of who God is falls short.” (Köstenberger, A. J. (2004). John (p. 156). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.)
The new approach of Christ is radical to both Jew and Samaritan: true worship is:-
- not a matter of geographical location (worship in a church building)
- not physical posture (kneeling or standing)
- not following a particular liturgy or external rituals
- is a matter of the heart and of the Spirit. True worship knows the Father, knows the life-giving Son, and knows the Spirit who gives new birth.
14. Compare John 3:2 and John 4:25 with 4:22. What does it mean to “know”?
The question asked to John in 1:24, and who John called “the Son of Man”, is now answered – the first time, and that to a non-Jew – Jesus is the Messiah! The woman knew that He would “explain” everything: He, who is the light in darkness, would bring knowledge and understanding, and would also impart the ability to understand and receive (John 1:12).
15. Read John 4:27. What the reaction of the disciples about Jesus talking to the Samaritan woman? What would they rather not say or hear?
16. The disciples wanted Jesus to eat. He had other “food” which they did not know about. What was that? Read John 4:34
17. From the context we understand that Jesus understood that the Father sent Him to seek and save the lost, irrespective of their race or background. How does He express this mission? Read verse 35-38
18. Read verses 39-42. What in these verses reinforces what we answered in the previous question?
- Jesus made it clear that He came to make everything new by talking to a Samaritan, a women, an adulterous women, alone, asking from water scooped un-ceremonially – and revealed Himself to her as Messiah
- Christ asked for water, the woman got the “water”
- Christ is the end of the temple in Jerusalem
- The mission of Jesus was to do the will of the Father by revealing Himself to sinners from all nations