John 4

The Woman at the Well: Satisfaction, Worship and Service
John 4

Jesus Makes Room for John in Judea (4:1-3)

When therefore the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus makes and baptises more disciples than John v.1 Once the Pharisees learned of the proportion of the Lord’s ministry compared to John’s, they were going to use it to stir up rivalry between the disciples of the Lord and of John. John 3:22-36 is an example of the rivalry that the Pharisees’ wanted to gender, but also of how the spirit of grace in John put an end to it.
2 (however, Jesus himself did not baptise, but his disciples), v.2 

There are a number of possible reasons why the Lord did not baptise personally. First, by refraining from baptizing Himself, the Lord headed off any occasion for the Pharisees to stir up rivalry between His disciples and John's. Secondly, the disciples viewed the Lord (and baptized to Him) as the Messiah of Israel; but Jesus knew from the beginning that He must suffer and die as the Son of man (broader title). True Christian baptism would be after the ascension, and "unto" His death and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:12). This could be another reason why the Lord refrained from baptizing personally. Thirdly, and admittedly less likely, it could be that Jesus wanted to avoid a hierarchy of those who were baptized. It would be natural for those who were baptized by Jesus personally to think more highly of themselves than those baptized by Peter, for example. Baptism is about the person we are baptized to, not about the actual baptizer.

3 he left Judaea and went away again unto Galilee. v.3 Even for Jesus to stay in the vicinity of Judea would have put Him beside John as a kind of party leader in men’s eyes, similar in principle to the error of the Corinthians who coupled the name of Christ with their party leaders (1 Cor. 1:12). This would never do. So Jesus departed from Judea and went into Galilee, which is where His public ministry would properly begin.

The Woman at the Well: Christian Satisfaction and Worship (4:4-30)

A degraded Gentile woman is just the object that the Lord would use to teach grace. Jesus often taught by contrast. He reveals to her: 
  1. The greatest heavenly blessing – the indwelling Spirit of God (Eph. 1:13), which is the power to enjoy eternal life.
  2. The greatest heavenly privilege – worshipping the Father in spirit and truth.
Naturally, we would have thought that the Lord would use Nicodemus who was “the teacher” in Israel to teach the privileges of Christian worship, but instead He used this degraded Gentile woman who could not lay claim to any true worship. On the other hand, we would have thought that the Lord would use this degraded Gentile woman to teach man’s need of new birth, but instead Jesus used the most upright of the Pharisees, and thereby shows that even he needed to be born again! “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith Jehovah” (Isa. 55:8).
The Samaritans. The origin of the Samaritans is inseparably linked from the captivity of Israel, the ten northern tribes (2 Kings 17:7-41). Because the children of Israel had sinned, God cast them out of their land. They were taken captive by the king of Assyria and settled in various places, and they have not yet been restored to their land. Instead, "the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Avva, and from Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and made them dwell in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel; and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in its cities" (2 Kings 17:24). At the beginning they did not know Jehovah at all, and He sent lions among them to teach them to fear Him. God allowed the Samaritans to remain in His land as stewards of the land, not because they were better than Israel, but because He did not want the land to fall back under the curse of idolatry as it had under the reign of the Amorites. The Samaritans understood that to remain in the land required them to acknowledge Jehovah. But not knowing Jehovah, the Samaritans appealed to the king of Assyria, who sent one of the priests back to the northern part of the land to teach the Samaritans "the manner of the god of that land". The result was that they feared Jehovah in an outward way, but also served other gods. The Samaritans had a version of the Pentateuch, but they worshiped in Mount Gerizim rather than at Jerusalem. The restored captives of Judah deeply despised the Samaritans and had no relationship with them (John 4:9) because the Samaritans were not true Jews. Yet, in their religious pride, the Jews did far worst than that, and said to their Messiah, “Thou art a Samaritan!” (John 8:48). They religiously judged other men meanwhile they themselves were far worse. In doing that they were judging God! The Lord Jesus fulfilled the type of Joseph as a fruitful branch reaching over the wall of separation when He visited the town of Sychar in Samaria (John 4). Several years later Philip brought the gospel there to the cities, towns, and villages of Samaria, and the result was a tremendous harvest of souls (Acts 8).

A Thirsty Sinner and a Thirsty Savior Meet (vv.4-8)

4 And he must needs pass through Samaria. v.4 It says that Jesus “must needs go” through Samaria. The reason was not merely geographical. His love brought Him here. The direct route to Galilee lay through Samaria, but due to the racial divide, Jews were known to go out around through Perea across Jordan to bypass Samaria (see map below). The reason was love. The grace of God imposed upon Him a path that brought Him to a particular city (v.4) at a particular time (v.5). The Lord Jesus is deeply interested in individuals, and will involve Himself in the details of our lives.
5 He comes therefore to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near to the land which Jacob gave to his son Joseph. v.5 There is no coincidence to these details. Sychar, now called ‘Askar’, lies half a mile north of the well. It was a small town, the name meaning “town of the sepulcher”, and Joseph’s tomb being about one hundred yards east of it. It was adjoined to the land which Jacob gave to Joseph (Gen. 33:19; 47:22; Josh. 24:32). The Lord Jesus is about to fulfill in picture the type of Joseph as “a fruitful bough by a well; his branches shoot over the wall” (Gen. 49:22). The blood of Christ had not been shed yet, and the cross of Christ – that slayed the enmity between Jew and Gentile, that broke down the middle wall of partition – had not taken place yet. Here we have the man the fruitful Branch in grace reaching over the wall, which was not yet broken down.
6 Now a fountain of Jacob’s was there; Jesus therefore, being wearied with the way he had come, sat just as he was at the fountain. It was about the sixth hour. v.6 We find something beautiful here; Jesus was “wearied with his journey”. He was fully a man. He passed through all the circumstances we pass though. He knew what is was to be thirsty and weary. This leg of the journey was about 20 miles! The time is recorded as “the sixth hour”. If John reckons time as the Romans did, this is our 6:00 AM.1 Some might dispute this because the disciples were already gone into the city to buy food (v.8), which would have been very early. If is was according to Jewish reckoning, this would have been the Jewish sixth hour, or our 12:00 noon. In either case it was an unusual time to draw water; 6:00 AM being very early (still dark), and 12:00 PM being very late. It would suggest that the Samaritan woman came at a time when there would be few other women present. Perhaps she did so to be alone on account of her reputation.
Jesus as a humbled man. In this account, it is remarkable that Jesus is not only presented in His official character (Messiah) but as a humble man, weary and thirsty from His journey (and at the close, hungry). Jesus walked an estimated 3,125 miles during His three years of public ministry. He waited a long time, and took a verbal beating from this woman, but He never got His drink. It is Christ in this character that feeds our souls while we pass through this wilderness pathway. In John 6, the Lord presents the truth of this to the Jews, saying, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven” (John 6:51). Jesus showed that, as a man on the earth, He was the antitype of the manna that fed Israel. We can and must feed on Christ in this way, occupying ourselves with Him in His humility and perfect grace. It was Jesus in this character that occupied the mind of J.G. Bellett at the end of his life; see excerpt. This “manna” is one of the three spiritual foods we are to feed on; the passover, the manna, and the old corn of the land (read more…).
7 A woman comes out of Samaria to draw water. Jesus says to her, Give me to drink v.7 Jesus Himself made all the water in the universe, and here He was thirsty. He would never perform a miracle to satisfy His own need. He waited on the Father to satisfy His needs. Every miracle He did was for the blessing of others. Jesus was here for her salvation… “Beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings…that publisheth salvation.” (Isa. 52:7). Yet the Lord says to her, “Give me to drink”, showing that He wanted to be refreshed by fellowship with His creature.
8 (for his disciples had gone away into the city that they might buy provisions). v.8 The Lord Jesus was alone too. A lonely sinner and a lonely Saviour meet at this well. The Lord begins a work in the soul of this woman, through many oppositions, resulting on the salvation of her soul. The Lord works, not by doing an external miracle before her eyes, but simply by the Son of God speaking in Divine love. No sign is needed, and her conscience and heart are reached! The salvation of this woman and the teaching of Christ surrounding it speaks of Christianity.
Five Objections are raised by the woman in the course of the interaction. Each one of them is met by the Lord in perfect wisdom. We see the Lord working as a master with souls. The five objections:
  • 1st Objection: The Racial Divide Between Jew and Gentile (vv.9-10)… “I’m too far away from God.”
  • 2nd Objection: Doubting The Greatness of Our Lord (vv.11-14)… “God isn’t able to save me.”
  • 3rd Objection: Living Water Can’t Solve My Real-World Problems (vv.15-19)… “My problems are too big for a spiritual solution.”
  • 4th Objection: We Have Our Own System of “Worship” (vv.20-24)… “There are many religions, who’s to say your religion is right?”
  • 5th objection: Nothing but a Person Can Satisfy My Needs (vv.25-30)… “If only God would speak to me personally, then I would believe.”
The Lord graciously treats all her objections as “requests for more information”. This is a good lesson for evangelists. Often when someone speaks crassly or lashes out it is the fruit of a hurting heart. So it is wise to answer softly, yet speak to the conscience, and point them to Christ.

1st Objection: The Racial Divide Between Jew and Gentile (vv.9-10)

The Jews and the Samaritans. Why did the Jews have “no dealings” with the Samaritans? 2 Kings 17 tells us that, after the ten tribes were taken away by Assyria, Gentiles were transplanted into the northern kingdom. They worshipped idols, so the Lord sent lions among them to make them fear Him. The result was a hybrid worship of Jehovah and idolatry carried out in Mt. Gerazim. They worshipped the Lord out of superstition and fear. The Jews held racist hatred for them and tried to justify it with scripture.
9 The Samaritan woman therefore says to him, How dost thou, being a Jew, ask to drink of me who am a Samaritan woman? for Jews have no intercourse with Samaritans. v.9 Objection #1. “I’m too far away from God.” The Samaritan woman’s first objection reveals that the natural heart of man does not understand grace. A racial divide existed between the Jews and Samaritans. She had expected Him to totally ignore her, as Jews did generally. The Lord was that fruitful bough by a well; His branches were shooting over the wall of racial dissension to meet her needs. She could not comprehend grace.
10 Jesus answered and said to her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that says to thee, Give me to drink, thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. v.10 Reply #1. The Lord’s reply was not a direct answer to her question, but it addressed her heart. If only she knew two things: “the gift of God” – if she knew God as the giving God He is, His heart just longing to bless, and “who it is that says to thee, Give me to drink” – if she knew the glorious Person who was speaking to her in such gentle grace, then she would have asked Him to satisfy the need of her lonely, thirsty soul, and He would have given her “living water”. Living water is water that satisfies in a spiritual sense. It speaks of the enjoyment of eternal life by the Spirit of God (Rom. 8:2; Rev. 22:1).2

2nd Objection: Doubting the Greatness of Our Lord (vv.11-14) 

11 The woman says to him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: whence then hast thou the living water? 12 Art thou greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself, and his sons, and his cattle? vv.11-12 Objection #2. “God isn’t able to meet my needs.” Her first question (v.11) was more of an honest question. Her second question (v.12) was an insult. She assumed that the living water would come from the well. The Lord didn’t have rope or bucket… she couldn’t see how He could bring up the water. She then questioned the Lord’s greatness. The greatest person to her (Jacob) was one who could provide a well of physical water that could only satisfy him, his household, and his livestock. Did this travelling Man really think He was able to do more than Jacob? This was an insult, but the Lord passed over it in grace. He did not tell her how much greater than Jacob He really was, because He knew instead how to lead her along to find this out for herself.
13 Jesus answered and said to her, Every one who drinks of this water shall thirst again; v.13 Reply #2. The Lord didn’t answer either of her questions; Instead, His answer gave her what her heart really needed. Physical water, no matter how pure, may refresh for a time, but thirst will come again. God has ordered it to be this way for the creature so true satisfaction can not be had apart from God.
14 but whosoever drinks of the water which I shall give him shall never thirst for ever, but the water which I shall give him shall become in him a fountain of water, springing up into eternal life. v.14 But when one is given to drink into the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13), the refreshment never diminishes. Christ gives the Holy Ghost to the believer to be in us an always-fresh fountain of Divine enjoyment! It is by the Spirit that we enjoy eternal life, by the “communion of the Holy Spirit” (2 Cor. 13:14) that we have fellowship with the Father and the Son. It is precisely this character of life that the Lord Jesus communicated to the disciples in John 20:22 when, “he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” It is to this character of life that Jesus referred when He spoke of “life more abundantly” (John 10:10).
The springing fountain. There are seven figures of the Spirit of God used in John’s gospel. The word “well” should be translated “fountain”, and has the thought of a geyser, which springs up of its own accord with “inboard” power. The Spirit of God, in the aspect of the fountain, is the internal source of satisfaction and joy in the believer, which results in worship. The fullness of this could not be known until the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was sent down (Acts 2). We read in John 7:39 that “the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.”

3rd Objection: Living Water Can’t Solve My Real-World Problems (vv.15-19)

15 The woman says to him, Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst nor come here to draw. v.15 Objection #3. “My problems are too big for a spiritual solution.” The woman stated her third objection as a form of sarcasm. She was as much as saying, “if your living water can solve my physical thirst so I can stop making this 6:00 AM trek to the well, then I’ll take it.” She did not believe that the Lord could actually fill and satisfy her heart. She was attracted to this man, but His words were still not making a serious impression.
16 Jesus says to her, Go, call thy husband, and come here. v.16 Reply #3. This is the critical turning point. In order for her soul to be won for God, He must shine light upon her conscience. The Lord brought up the subject of her moral state, drawing her into the light. The words “Go call thy husband” were for her conscience; the words “come hither” were for her heart. He wasn’t casting her out, He wanted her company. Jesus is the manifestation of the heart of God; grace and truth, light and love. Love takes away what the light exposes.
17 The woman answered and said, I have not a husband. Jesus says to her, Thou hast well said, I have not a husband; 18 for thou hast had five husbands, and he whom now thou hast is not thy husband: this thou hast spoken truly vv.17-18 She replied with half the truth, trying to hide the full truth. It was important that not only “grace” (replies #1 & #2) but “truth” also (reply #3) should enter her ears for her to be converted. Jesus exposed the evil, fallen, depraved state of her soul. She had been through five husbands in her search for satisfaction, drawing her into lower and lower depths of sin. She was currently living common-law with a man. This made the Lord Jesus the seventh man in her life. If you have tried to find love and failed, there is a man you need to meet. There will never be an eighth man, for Jesus will fill your heart!
19 The woman says to him, Sir, I see that thou art a prophet. v.19 The Word touched her conscience, and the immediate response was to identify the Lord as a prophet. In a certain sense she was trying to deflect by putting the Lord into a category, but in another sense her conscience was touched. Prophecy in scripture has several different characteristics. Sometimes it is foretelling events, and other times it is that class of ministry which reaches the conscience. It may result in edification, exhortation, or comfort (1 Cor. 14:3). In every case, prophecy is a word from God for the time, and it brings the soul into the presence of God (1 Cor. 14:24-25). We see this character in the Lord’s reply in vv.16-18. Her heart may have been touched before v.16, but not her conscience until the Lord (who was “that Prophet”) spoke to her in this special capacity. After this, she began making real progress in her soul, because her conscience had been reached. Her objections from this point on take on a different tone. They are less scornful and insulting.
A progression is seen in this woman’s apprehension of the Person of our Lord through the chapter. She sees Him as:
  • A Jew (v.9) – initially views Him with disdain
  • A prophet (v.19) – knows He has touched her conscience
  • The Messiah (v.29) – knows Him as the object of prophecy
  • The Savior of the world (v.42) – knows Him as Savior.

4th Objection: We Have Our Own System of “Worship” (vv.20-24)

20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain, and ye say that in Jerusalem is the place where one must worship. v.20 Objection #4. “There are many religions, who’s to say your religion is right?” She next tried to change the subject! Whenever the conscience is pricked about sin, the natural response is to backpedal. She was really saying, “you have your religion and I have mine, and who is to say which one is right?” How often when speaking with sinners will they interrupt to ask “what church do you go to?” It is a way of undercutting the spoken word, by making the voice of God just one of many “voices” in this world. The Samaritans had their own system of worship. They worshiped in “this mountain”, referring to mount Gerizim. The Jews worshiped in Jerusalem. Even the way she said “ye say” was calculated to cast religion as a matter of relative opinion, not of absolute fact.
vv.21-24 Four great differences between Judaistic and Christian worship: 
  1. A change in the place of worship (v.21a)
  2. A change in the relationship with the Person they worshiped (v.21b)
  3. A change in the character of worship (vv.22-23a)
  4. A change in the attitude of the worshipper (v.23b)
21 Jesus says to her, Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when ye shall neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem worship the Father. v.21 Reply #4. The Lord’s response was beautiful. If it were me, I might have pushed back against her changing the subject. But the Lord knew He had gone far enough (see the evident repentance in v.29). Instead, the Lord spoke to her of true worship, and gave four characteristics which we too must “believe” if we are to worship rightly today. The first two changes:
  1. A change in the place of worship (v.21a). In Christianity, worship is no longer at a geographical place. Both the Jews and the Samaritans worshipped in physical places, and the Christian’s place of worship is not a building or a congregation, but the very presence of God, the heavenly sanctuary (Hebrews 8-10), “within the veil”. We come into His presence by simple faith. This is where we worship. God had been looking forward to this “hour” of Christian worship since the beginning of time! (See note on the various “hours” in John’s Gospel). This would put the Jewish-Samaritan dispute to rest.
    Within the holiest of all,
    Cleansed by His precious blood,
    Before the throne we prostrate fall,
    And worship Thee, O God.
  2. A change in the relationship with the Person they worshiped (v.21b). Jews and even Samaritans worshipped Jehovah. Now it would be God as Father… the character of God coming forth to His children in love and grace. In Christ, we have been made to share all the relationships that Christ has, including knowing God as our Father.
22 Ye worship ye know not what; we worship what we know, for salvation is of the Jews. 23a But the hour is coming and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; vv.22-23a The third change:
  1. A change in the character of worship (vv.22-23a). The Samaritans’ worship was unintelligent. They had some mixture of idolatry and worshiping Jehovah. But the Jews at least knew they worshipped a moral lawgiver, although this was still a very limited revelation of God. Salvation was “of the Jews”, in that the Messiah was promised to them (Luke 2:30). The “hour” of Christian worship was coming soon (see note on the various “hours” in John’s Gospel), and “now is” in the sense that Jesus was then declaring the Father’s name. The new character of worship would be “in spirit” (spiritual) and “in truth” (according to the revelation of God). Jews worshipped with their hands (not in spirit) but they did have truth, although it was limited. The Samaritans had neither. 
23b for also the Father seeks such as his worshippers. v.23b The fourth change:
  1. A change in the attitude of the worshipper (v.23b). True worshippers are sought by the Father. We cannot worship from a framework of human efforts. We must bow before sovereign grace. There is a longing in the Father’s heart for intelligent, spiritual worship. He wants His creatures to refresh His heart with thoughts of His Son. The Son is seeking sinners, and the Father is seeking worshipers. Seeking is always connected with grace.
24 God is a spirit; and they who worship him must worship him in spirit and truth. v.24 Why is true worship “in spirit”? It is not capital “S”, as in the Spirit of God; although we do worship by the Holy Spirit (Phil. 3:3). True worship is not generated through the body or the soul (emotions) but rather in the spirit; i.e. the part of our being which is God-conscious. It is in contrast to fleshly worship. God wants to hear the overflow of our hearts! If the heart is not engaged, it isn’t true worship. True worship comes from God and goes to God. That which is physical or strictly emotional is of human design and not true worship. However, true worship will affect the soul and produce emotion. Depending on the composure of the individual, the emotion may even affect the body; e.g. tears. This is natural and to be expected; however, we should never forget that the emotion produced is not worship. The Word of God is able to discern what is spiritual and what is soulish; i.e. “the dividing asunder of soul and spirit” (Hebrews 4:12). 
What is worship? This is hard to answer definitively, but perhaps the Lord’s discourse in John 4 helps. Jesus wanted “a drink” from this woman. In a similar way, God wants something from His creature to refresh His heart… this is worship. The character of worship is in spirit and in truth. Worship is the overflowing of the human spirit that refreshes the heart of God. What could refresh His heart more than to hear our opinion of His Son? “And ye shall tell my father of all my glory in Egypt, and of all that ye have seen” (Gen. 45:13). And yet all of God’s thoughts about His Son are fully formed in His Word; therefore our worship is “in truth”.

5th objection: Nothing but a Person Can Satisfy My Needs (vv.25-30)

25 The woman says to him, I know that Messias is coming, who is called Christ; when “he” comes he will tell us all things. v.25 Objection #5. “If only God would speak to me personally, then I would believe.” The Samaritan woman knew that the Messiah was coming, and that He was the One who could settle every question as to God. She wasn’t looking to a religion anymore. She was willing to admit that there is something wrong with her ecclesiastical system. It was to this point that the Pharisees came, but went no further. They thought they had hit the nail on the head when they had exposed the insufficiencies of Samaritan worship. The woman is now occupied with a man, not a system. But she did not understand that Jesus was that man. She thought the Messiah’s coming was yet future. There are some people who object to Christianity because they believe it is not direct enough. The truth is, it couldn’t be more direct than it is! The fullness of the Godhead has come down to man in the Person of the Son; the Word made flesh. What more can man want?
26 Jesus says to her, I who speak to thee am hev.26 Reply #5. The only thing left to do was to connect the dots! This thirsty Man who had attracted her heart and touched her conscience was Himself the Christ! The final piece of the puzzle slid into place… her heart was full!
27 And upon this came his disciples, and wondered that he spoke with a woman; yet no one said, What seekest thou? or, Why speakest thou with her? v.27 The disciples returned and couldn’t understand why the Lord was speaking to this degraded woman. The fruitful bough was reaching over the wall, and their Jewish minds could not process it. “He came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Still, they knew enough not to voice their consternation. We might wonder why the Lord would tell the disciples to go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and not to Gentiles or Samaritans in Matt. 10:5. The answer might be the context of John’s gospel. In John’s gospel the rejection of Christ by the nation of Israel is assumed from the beginning, and so the Lord is seen going out to the Gentiles in a wider sphere of grace. It is not in Judea or Galilee but in Samaria where Jesus says “behold the fields… already white to harvest” (v.35). In the synoptic gospels it isn’t until the end that the Lord tells the disciples to go into all nations (Matt. 28:19).
28 The woman then left her waterpot and went away into the city, and says to the men, v.28 The expositor J.N. Darby said, “she left her waterpot and went away with a well”. The waterpot is a symbol of daily toil; those monotonous activities that persons in bondage take up, never to find satisfaction in them. Finally, through Christ she is able to leave those things behind, because she has someone, a Person, who can satisfy her thirsty soul, and who has the power to put within her a fountain of living waters.
29 Come, see a man who told me all things I had ever done: is not he the Christ? v.29 She didn’t say “come see a new religion!” but “come see a man!” Christianity is really not a religion, but a relationship with a Person. Notice that she spoke of things “that ever I did“; i.e. past tense. After conversion, she looked at all those things as a past life; “and such were some of you…” (1 Cor. 6:11). The Lord’s grace toward her did not cause the Samaritan woman to present a twisted view of His Person. He had exposed her condition, but then filled her heart. This kind of testimony has power (v.30)!
30 They went out of the city and came to him. v.30 The testimony had a great effect. This woman was so attracted to the Person of Christ as the object of her heart that others were interested in seeking Him as well. In the words of the Shulamite; “Draw me [singular], we [plural] will run after thee” (Song. 1:4). Attraction to Christ is infectious.

Service to the Father’s Will & It’s Connection with Satisfaction (4:31-38)

Using Physical examples to illustrate spiritual truth. The Lord often did this. He was the greatest teacher the world has ever heard, and He didn’t shy away from object lessons:
  • Physical wine (ch.2) – spiritual and lasting joy
  • Physical wind (ch.3) – the Spirit of God
  • Physical water (ch.4, 7) – spiritual satisfaction and refreshment
  • Physical food (ch.4) – His own satisfaction
  • Physical harvest (ch.4) – a harvest of souls
  • Physical handicap (ch.5) – man’s total depravity
  • Physical bread (ch.6) – Christ as food for our souls
  • Physical light (ch.8) – Christ as the Light of the world
  • Physical blindness (ch.9) – man’s spiritual blindness
  • Physical door (ch.10) – Christ as a spiritual door
  • Physical shepherd (ch.10) – a spiritual shepherd
  • Physical wheat (ch.12) – Christ’s death & resurrection
  • Physical washing (ch.13) – moral cleansing
  • Physical vine (ch.15) – Christ as the true vine (energy)

The Example of Christ’s Service (vv.31-34)

¶ 31 But meanwhile the disciples asked him saying, Rabbi, eat. v.31 We see a contrast between what the disciples were doing and what the woman was doing. She went into the city to tell the citizens “come see a man!”, but the disciples were frowning on the Lord’s interaction with her and totally occupied with physical food. The Lord rebukes them in v.32.
32 But he said to them, I have food to eat which ye do not know. v.32 The Lord would have them take their minds off the physical and the temporal, and see the spiritual and eternal sphere that Jesus walked in. He had “meat” or satisfaction in something that they were completely oblivious to. This is generally true of the life of Christ inside each believer.
33 The disciples therefore said to one another, Has any one brought him anything to eat? v.33 Even though they were disciples of the Lord and had walked with Him, they had no concept of this kind of food.
34 Jesus says to them, My food is that I should do the will of him that has sent me, and that I should finish his work. v.34 What really satisfied the Lord and gave Him joy was to do the Fathers will, and in this case the Father’s will was for Him to speak to the woman at the well.
The Lord’s “meat” or satisfaction. The Lord gives us the key to His joy. He loved to do the Father’s will. From this chapter on to the cross He mentions it over and over, until finally He says, “it is finished.” See John 4:34, John 5:30, John 6:38, John 17:4, and John 19:30. In Heb. 12:2 the cross is linked to “the joy lying before him”… the joy of fulfilling the expression of His devotion to the Father by going down into the dust of death in perfect obedience and submission.

Exhortations for Christian Service (vv.35-38)

35 Do not ye say, that there are yet four months and the harvest comes? Behold, I say to you, Lift up your eyes and behold the fields, for they are already white to harvest. v.35 The time for service is now. In a natural harvest there is always cycle… a slow time, and later a busy time when the harvest is ready. This is not true in spiritual things. The full millennial harvest of Gentiles may be “four months” away, but the fields are already white for Christian evangelists! Note: it may be that the Lord was pointing to the Samaritans, coming across the fields in their white garments to meet Him (v.40). The Lord used the occasion to exhort His disciples to be diligent in service. The time for service is now. It is not in Judea but in Samaria, a city of the Gentiles.
36a He that reaps receives wages and gathers fruit unto life eternal, v.36a There is a coming day of reward. The coming day of reward is set before us as “wages” (2 John 8), which will be distributed at the “bema” seat. These rewards are spoken of now as encouragements for our service. The expression “fruit unto life eternal” denotes more souls brought into fellowship with God (1 Thess. 2:19, 20).
36b that both he that sows and he that reaps may rejoice together. v.36b There is a certain kinship between all involved in the harvest. The “sowers” were the Old Testament prophets who awakened in souls the expectation of the Lord’s coming (e.g. v.25). The “reapers” are the New Testament evangelists who present Christ as Savior (vv.26, 42). They have a common joy in the salvation of others.
37 For in this is verified the true saying, It is one who sows and another who reaps. 38 I have sent you to reap that on which ye have not laboured; others have laboured, and ye have entered into their labours. vv.37-38 Reapers in the harvest need to have a humble attitude. The twelve apostles needed to understand that they couldn’t take credit for the harvest, because it was a joint effort between Old and New Testament servants. As Isaac Newton said in 1676; “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”. This knowledge will keep the Christian servant humble in spirit.
Why are we “reapers” instead of “sowers”? In Matt. 13 the Lord speaks of sowing the good seed, but generally speaking, the Christian evangelist is “reaping” or being used to finalize a work in a soul that was begun earlier; by the sovereign action of God in new birth, “sowing”. In this case is was the Old Testament prophets who sowed, because the Word written by them was used to quicken their readers, and it was the New Testament evangelists who reaped! We see in Acts (especially acts 8) a tremendous reaping among the Samaritans by Philip the evangelists and then through Peter and John. There was great joy in the city of Samaria (although this was not the same city as Sychar, Acts 8:8).

“Two Days” in Samaria: The Period of Gentile Blessing (4:39-42)

Four Things That Characterize the Present Period (vv.39-42) 

¶ 39 But many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him because of the word of the woman who bore witness, He told me all things that I had ever done. v.39 Point #1: An understanding of God’s grace not sacrificing His holiness. This evangelical work which began through personal testimonies, and largely it still continues that way today. The Lord can use one insignificant sinner to work a great blessing. It began also with an understanding of grace that was not at the expense of God’s holiness. The woman wanted others to be attracted to One who had exposed her own wickedness.
40 When therefore the Samaritans came to him they asked him to abide with them, and he abode there two days. v.40 The period would last “two days”, as adequate witness to God’s grace. These “two days” represent the two thousand years in which God did “visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name” (Acts 15:14). Two days are often used to picture the Church period (Luke 10:35), which in terms of “one day is as a thousand years” (2 Pet. 3:8), speaks of roughly two-thousand years.
41 And more a great deal believed on account of his word; 42a and they said to the woman, It is no longer on account of thy saying that we believe, for we have heard him ourselves, vv.41-42a The work would grow rapidly through the spread of the Word. What was used for the conversion of many was “his own word”. Nothing is mentioned about miracles; it was what Jesus said that brought about the salvation of a great multitude. This is what characterizes the Christian dispensation; many saved through the spread of the Word. The charismatic movement is not an improvement on this!
42b and we know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world. v.42b The believers know Him not only as Messiah but as Savior. What we have pictured is a time when Jesus is known, not only as the Messiah, but as the Savior of the world, because the gospel has gone out full and free to Jew and Gentile alike. A Jew would never say this. They would only see the Messiah as the one who would “save his people”, but the saved Gentiles have in some ways a deeper understanding of grace, and see that He is “the savior of the world”.
Map of the Region

A Third Day in Cana – the Restoration of Israel (4:43-54)

A dispensational outline. John 4 presents a dispensational outline that follows a common pattern seen throughout the Word of God. This patters reminds us of God’s ways in grace with men on the earth. 
  1. Rejected in Jerusalem (John 2:13-25). A picture of the Lord’s rejection by Israel at His first coming. 
  2. Two days in Samaria (vv.39-42). A picture of the Church period. There is no miracle or signs given, just the Word of God working in power. The result is tremendous blessing and a vast harvest of Gentile souls. 
  3. A third day in Galilee (vv.43-54). A picture of God taking up with a faithful remnant of the Jews in a coming day. The nobleman (the remnant) has faith, while the nation refuses to believe without signs and wonders (v.48). The Lord rewards his faith with a miracle (the healing of his son) which is a picture of the restoration of Israel as a nation in the Millennium.

The Lord Returns to Galilee (vv.43-46a)

The beginning of Christ’s public ministry. Compare Matt. 4:12-17; Mark 1:14-16; Luke 4:14-16. Although not mentioned here, just previous to this event, John the Baptist was imprisoned and the Lord Jesus was taken into the wilderness for the 40 days of temptation. Afterward, the Lord returned through Samaria (John 4:1-42) and now He comes into Galilee in the full power of the Spirit of God. This event really marks the beginning of our Lord’s public ministry.
¶ 43 But after the two days he went forth thence and went away into Galilee, v.43 This departure of the Lord into Galilee is a picture of Jehovah resuming His work with Israel and taking up with a remnant. Hosea 6:1-2 says, “After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.” The Church period is often pictured as “two days” (Luke 10:35), which in terms of “one day is as a thousand years” (2 Pet. 3:8), is an apt picture of these two-thousand years.
44 for Jesus himself bore witness that a prophet has no honour in his own country. v.44 The Lord was rejected by the proper Jews (Jerusalem, His own country) and retreats for a time to Galilee, which represents the poor of the flock, a remnant company. “A prophet has no honor in his own country” because of familiarity. The people in a prophet’s own country have seen him grow up, and it is hard for them to accept that God might be working through such a person. Sometimes we get tired of hearing a prophet in our own country because we see their failures… but the Lord had no failures! Often men of God are valued by the saints abroad, but not valued at home.
45 When therefore he came into Galilee, the Galileans received him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem during the feast, for they also went to the feast. v.45 Though Jesus was rejected by the Judeans in the south, “the Galileans received him”, which is a picture of the Jewish remnant receiving the Lord in a future day. That is something Israel is unwilling to do today. Receiving Christ is the critical hinge-point of blessing. This is a general reception, but individual faith was still necessary (v.50).
¶ 46a He came therefore again to Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. v.46a The Lord returns to the very place in which He did His first miracle; the marriage of Cana, which held out the promise, pledge, and earnest of Israel’s future joy. In a similar way the Lord will resume His dealings with Israel on the very same moral “ground” in which He displayed His power in the days of David and Solomon.
Capernaum. Capernaum was the Lord’s hometown for the years of His public ministry. He was raised in Nazareth, but when He turned thirty years of age he moved to Capernaum, which was 20 miles to the north in the borders of Zebulon and Naphtali to fulfill scripture (Matt. 4:13). Capernaum, Cana, and Nazareth were cities of the region of Galilee. In Matt. 11, we read that that Lord had done many “mighty works” in Capernaum. The following miracle was one of those works.

The Nobleman’s Faith in the Invisible Word of God (vv.46b-50)

46b And there was a certain courtier in Capernaum whose son was sick. v.46b A nobleman is a person of distinction in society. This man had a serious problem; his son was sick. Sickness had invaded his world. His noble birth was of no help. In a similar way, the national privileges of the Jews are in no way sufficient to meet the dangers the Jewish remnant will face in a future day. 
47 He, having heard that Jesus had come out of Judaea into Galilee, went to him and asked him that he would come down and heal his son, for he was about to die. v.47 The nobleman sent from Capernaum to Cana to ask the Lord to come. This was a distance of about 15 miles. The nobleman comes to Jesus in great need. He doesn’t ask to buy healing, or to offer his devotion in exchange. This will be the expression of the faithful remnant in their time of great need.
48 Jesus therefore said to him, Unless ye see signs and wonders ye will not believe. v.48 The Lord now speaks to the nobleman, but more broadly to the nation of Israel; “except ye see signs…” is plural, similar to John 3:7. The condition of the nation was one of faithlessness. The Word of God wasn’t enough for them. The nobleman is an exception to the rule, as the remnant will be in a coming day. For example, Mark 15:32, “Let the Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and may believe.” Compare this with John 20:29, which says “blessed they who have not seen and have believed.”
49 The courtier says to him, Sir, come down ere my child die. v.49 The nobleman did have faith, but his faith was of a Jewish character; faint, and not as high a caliber as the Gentile centurion who begged the Lord not to come down to his house (Matt. 8:5-13).
50 Jesus says to him, Go, thy son lives. And the man believed the word which Jesus said to him, and went his way. v.50 This man believed the invisible word of Jesus. He couldn’t see the fever leave his son, but he believed anyway. This is precisely the opposite of the nation of Israel who insisted on seeing before believing. Even before we read the end of the story, instantly we know there will be blessing, because God always honors faith.

Faith rewarded by the visible restoration of his son (vv.51-54)

51 But already, as he was going down, his servants met him and brought him word saying, Thy child lives. v.51 God knew what it was to send His Son to die… He knew the father’s heart. So God ordered the servants to tell they boy’s father the good news before he even reached home! The Lord understands that we are human.
52 He inquired therefore from them the hour at which he got better. And they said to him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. v.52 John reckons time as the Romans did… this is either our 7:00 AM or 7:00 PM. The father’s thought was that “he began to amend” (a gradual process), but the servants say that at a specific time “the fever left him” (a sudden turning point). So it is with faith, and so it will be with Israel. A nation shall be born in one day.
53 The father therefore knew that it was in that hour in which Jesus said to him, Thy son lives; and he believed, himself and his whole house. v.53 By comparing the time of healing and the moment of faith, the nobleman learns that blessing is dispensed according to faith! It now says that “himself believed, and his whole house.” His whole house would include family members and servants, perhaps a picture of the nation at large (ten tribes included)! Only the two tribes will be in the land during the tribulation, but when the ten tribes return they too will believe.
54 This second sign again did Jesus, being come out of Judaea into Galilee. v.54 The Spirit of God connects this miracle (restoration of the Israel in connection with the faith of the remnant) with His first miracle in Cana (the establishing the fullness of Millennial joy in Israel).
  1. then are we to understand the sixth hour in John 19:14, and John 4:6, etc.? Clearly in the same way throughout his Gospel, which looks on Jewish things as closed. Hence in John 1:39 the tenth hour would mean from the same hour of the morning as we count. In John 4:6 it was the usual time for women to draw water, as the seventh hour (52) would be the same time as with us of the preceding evening or possibly morning. So in John 18:28 it was early morn when the mockery of our Lord’s trial went on; and no reason forbids Pilate’s judging at our 6 a.m. (John 19:14). The actual crucifixion began, after all mockeries and preparations were done (including perhaps the trial of the two robbers) at the 3rd Jewish hour, as Mark (Mark 15:25) alone specifies, i.e. our 9 o’clock a.m. of Friday; the supernatural darkness at the 6th Jewish hour, at our 12 or noon; and the Lord died at the 9th Jewish hour and time, or our 3 p.m. Pliny (H. Nat. ii. 77), Plut. (Quaest. Rom. 84), A. Gell. (Noct. Att. iii. 2), Censor (dde Die Nat. xxiii.), and Macrob. (Saturn i. 3) clearly prove that the Romans computed the civil day as we do from midnight, and as John did. So Dr. Townson argues for a similar reckoning in Asia Minor. Revelation 1:10 shows a kindred departure from Jewish phraseology. – Kelly, W. Bible Treasury Volume N4, p. 110. July 1902.
  2. Next, what this gift of God was is revealed, that is, the present enjoyment, by the power of the Holy Ghost, of eternal life in heaven. Darby, J.N. On the Gospel of John. Collected Writings, Vol. 33.