John:The Book of Heartfelt Belief


Jerry A. Collins

John 4:1-42

While I was in Jamaica I bought myself one of those frosty mugs that you can put in your freezer and have icy cold drinks anytime you want to. I often pour fresh water in our refrigerator into that frosty mug and enjoy a very cold and smooth glass of ice water. It is so refreshing when I do. It satisfies my thirst like nothing else can.

There is only one way to satisfy the thirst of the soul. Jesus tells us what that is in John 4 during a conversation he has with a woman who possesses a thirsty soul. Nothing else can quite fill that kind of thirst Jesus tells us. We are going to learn a number of things that teach us about the way we can help a person quench that thirst in his or her soul by observing Christís conversation and tactics with her.


We read in vss 1-6 that Jesus left Judea and traveled north toward Galilee where he would have His longest ministry. For a year and a half He would serve in that Region. On the way he passed through Samaria and engaged a Samaritan woman in a religious discussion which results in the apparent conversions of her and much of the town of Sychar.

Samaritan culture and religion were distinct from that of Israel. After that nation had split into two countries, Jeroboam, the leader of the northern kingdom, Israel, feared that the two kingdoms might reunite. He established a counterfeit religion, with its own place of worship--Bethel (1 Kgs 12:25-33). After nearly 200 years of bad kings and repeated warnings from Gods prophets, divine judgment came at the hand of the Assyrians, who pillaged the land and scattered the middle and upper classes throughout other nations they had conquered. They replaced these dispersed Israelites with heathens from other lands they had taken captive (1 Kgs 17:23ff). These intermarried with the remaining Israelites left there and intermingled their religion with idolatry. This is the origin of the Samartians who had been living there for nearly 700 years. The Samaritans accepted only the first five books of the Law. They eventually built their own temple around 400BC on Mount Gerizim.

We learn from this incident that to be Christlike is to be conversational. But the conversation is distinct as we will see. First, it is conversation that is initiated. Jesus initiates it in vs. 7. Sometimes others may initiate spiritual conversation like Nicodemas did in 3:2 in contrast to the women here. In each case Jesus is conversational. Second, the conversation is motivational. If we are going to be effective disciple-makers, then our influence must make the kind of impact that motivates another to make decisions in his or her life that move them in the direction of Christlikeness. Third, It is informational. During this conversation a lot of information about spiritually substantive issues take place. This information includes the source of spiritual life, the issue of sin, the basis of worship, the need to do Godís will, and the responsibility to labor the spiritual harvest. The track of information is spiritually focused not physically or materially focused. Fourth, it is unpredictable. Jesus keeps throwing curve balls to her. He talks about living water she thinks literal water. He brings up her sin and she diverts it with a question about a religious conflict. She says she knows the Messiah is coming and Jesus tells her He is that One. Our conversation must enlightening, observational, stimulating and instructive not predictable! Fifth, it is socially surprising. The woman is the first one surprised by Jesus encounter with her. She says so in vs 9. Her point is that Jesus, a Jew is talking with a Samaritan and then that He a man is talking with her a woman. The disciples were also surprised and marveled at this in vs 27 since Jesus was speaking to a woman. Of course, Jesus did not abide by the sinful prejudices of others and neither should we. We, too, may find ourselves having spiritual conversational with people and in places where these people are at that religious people may say are inappropriate. Sixth, it invites personal discovery. All throughout the conversation Jesus is inviting her to discover the truth for herself. We see her move from recognizing Jesus as a surprising Jew (vs 9), to a prophet (vs 19), to the Savior (vs 39-42). There a thirsty souls all over the place. They attempt to quench that thirst through any means. Some through religion, others by accumulating wealth, pursuing pleasures, or other worldly pursuits. We can engage these people in spiritually focused conversation that we initiate, which is motivational, informational, unpredictable, socially surprising and invites personal discovery. Just like Jesus did.


There are similarities between Jesusí dealings with Nicodemus and this woman. (1) Both encounters are conversational. (2) Both times He dealt with their personal situations and (3) he spoke the truth without compromise. He taught both of them theologically and corrected their errors. There are also several differences between His relationship with the Samaritan women and the Professional Jew. (1) Jesus approached her while Nicodemus approached him. (2) He broke socially acceptable barriers as a Jew while Nicodemus risked religious barriers. (3) She was near the bottom of the social ladder and Nicodemus was near the top. She was therefore, more likely to see herself as spiritually needy. For instance,many of the songs heard sung by socially, economically or the politically oppressed are songs that long for heaven. It is these who see their spiritual need and salvation more acutely. The point is, good relationships, good for the kingdom of God, are made differently with different kinds of people. The similarity is the content, the truth of the Word of God for Nicodemus the necessity of being born again and for the woman the need for living water. Any compromise or softness there and a relationship cannot be good because it does not glorify God. Nicodemus relationship with Jesus came out of a rather hard confrontational discussion where Jesus criticized him for his lack of understanding or unwillingness to believe the truth. He should have known better. Jesus related to the woman as more physically weak, personally vulnerable, spiritually untaught and so a more personal approach was used. So we must take into consideration the differences of the people we are relating the truth of Gods Word too.


It is truth for Jew as well as Samaritan. First, that truth includes living water vs 10, 13-14. The woman misunderstood this living water and thought only of water from the well just like Nicodemus misunderstood being born again to mean physically reborn. She could not conceive of Jesus as greater than Jacob. This claim is interesting in light of the fact that the Jews claim him as the founder of their nation. Jesus is speaking of the Holy Spirit who brings salvation to a person who believes (vs 14). It is the Spirit of God who gives us life (6:63). Second, sin makes it essential that we get salvation. Jesus points out her spiritual need by exposing her adultery vs 16-18. Jesus takes the initiative in leading the woman to recognize who he is by referring to her personal life. He brings to light her evil deeds. Third, the truth includes the new work Jesus will inaugurate for worship. In response to her question about this religious controversy, Jesus says he would begin a new phase of worship in Gods economy. In the Church age, because of the work of the Holy Spirit, worship is no longer centered in temples like those on Mount Gerizim or Mount Zion. True worshippers are those who realize Jesus is the Truth of God, the only way to the father. Since everyone is a worshipper (Romans 1:25), the Father is seeking true worshippers because he wants people to live in reality not in falsehood. All truth associated with Gods kingdom including new life given by the Holy Spirit, personal sin and our bodies as Gods temple today, is to be shared with everyone.


We can do that through spiritually motivated conversation and relationships. Jesus priority was spiritual not physical or material (vs 32, 34). Both kinds of workers, the sower and the reaper, get their pay. A sower has harder time since sees no immediate result (John the Baptist). The reapers, like the disciples, have great joy in seeing thousands come to faith in Jesus (Acts 2).