Sunday School Lesson for September 29, 2002
Jesus and the Gift of Living Water (4:7-15)
In the preceding verses we learn that Jesus had come to the city of “Sychar,” in the region known as “Samaria.” Traveling through this region was the shortest distance between Jerusalem and Cana, Jesus’ destination. It was here that a traveler would find “Jacob’s well,” the shaft of which was over 100 feet deep. At about six in the evening Jesus encountered “a Samaritan woman” who came to the well to “draw water.” Upon seeing her Jesus made one simple request, “Will you give me a drink?” This request apparently came after the woman had already drawn her supply of water for the day. John adds the note in verse 8 that Jesus’ disciples were not available to help Him because they had “gone into the town to buy food.”
The request of Jesus utterly stunned the woman since there was traditionally a great deal of animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans (of a political, ethnic, and religious nature). She clearly recognized that Jesus was Jewish, most likely due to His accent, and expressed her bewilderment that He would be willing not only to talk to her in public, but to drink water from her pitcher. Again, note John’s explanatory comment in verse 9 that “Jews do not associate with Samaritans.” Certainly, this feeling was mutual. No Jewish man in his right mind would even think of doing what Jesus did. Yet, breaking all the socially acceptable rules, Jesus continued His encounter with the woman by raising an interesting point about “living water.” Note in verse 10 the things He proposes in His statement to her:
Now the woman confronts Jesus with her own series of questions and comments. First, she observes that He is unable to give the water of which He speaks since He does not possess the necessary means to extract it from the deep well. That is, He has no rope and bucket to use to draw the water from the bottom of the shaft. This leads to her question, “where can you get this living water?” Then, she comments that Jesus could certainly be no greater than her patriarch “Jacob,” the man through whom the Samaritans traced their ancestry. William Hendriksen observes that though this question does anticipate a negative answer from Jesus, it reveals that, “she is beginning to ponder the greatness of this stranger. Thus, she is being made receptive for the Gospel” (John, TNTC, 162). It is obvious by these statements that the woman is taking the words of Jesus very literally and still fails to see their spiritual significance.
Now the Lord begins to speak to her more directly concerning the “water” which He gives to those who are spiritually thirsty. Note how he dramatically contrasts the physical water found in Jacob’s well with the living water that He richly supplies (See Hendriksen, 163):
In response to these words of Jesus, the woman asked Him to provide this water for her. Yet, based upon her comments she obviously still believed that He was referring to physical water. Her desire was never to be “thirsty” again, “have to keep coming here to draw water.”
Jesus and Conviction of Sin (4:16-18)
At this point Jesus made a demand upon the woman that, at least on the surface, seems out of place—“Go, call your husband, and come back.” The connection between the woman’s request and the command of Jesus is that she was not yet truly thirsty for the kind of water the Savior offered her. Jesus uses a tactic that will awaken her thirst for reconciliation with God, forgiveness of her sins, and eternal life. Thus, “the mention of her husband is the best means of reminding this woman of her immoral life. The Lord is now addressing himself to her conscience” (Hendriksen, 164).
In verse 17a, the woman replied that she, in fact, had “no husband.” This simple reply serves as an attempt to hide the real truth from Jesus and others who might inquire. Yet, in verse 18 Jesus confronts her with the fact that while she presently has no husband, she has had “five husbands,” and now lives with a man who “is not [her] husband.”
Jesus and the Knowledge and Worship of God (4:19-26)
With this, the woman stated that Jesus must be a “prophet” since He obviously knew so much about her private life. Notice that, to her credit, she does not deny that what Christ has said regarding her immoral life is true. However, she quickly turns the discussion in the direction of the proper place for worship, either “this mountain” (Gerizim), or in “Jerusalem.” We should probably view this question as reflective of a legitimate concern in the heart of this woman—one that has been pricked by her encounter with Jesus.
Jesus answers the woman’s question by means of a series of statements regarding the nature of authentic worship:
The woman now expresses her limited knowledge of the Scriptures (Deut. 18:15,18), which promised that the “Messiah” or “Christ” would one day come. In response, Jesus fully disclosed His identity with the statement, “I who speak to you am He.”
Note the wonderful results that John records in verses 39-43—“many of the Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony.”
One: Consider Christ’s breaking of barriers to preach the gospel—What does this indicate to us?
Two: Observe Christ’s method and strategy of presenting the truths of the gospel to this woman—What can we learn about our own witnessing encounters?
Three: How do the woman’s questions, comments, and statements help us to better understand the mentality of the lost men and women that we know?
Four: What biblical principles of worship naturally develop from this passage?
Five: How does this passage impact or affect your personal worship of God?