John 4:1-14

Sunday Morning Bible Study

November 8, 2009


Do people see Jesus? Is the gospel preached? Does it speak to the broken hearted? Does it build up the church? Milk – Meat – Manna Preach for a decision

Why did John write his gospel?

1. He’s going to clear a few things up.

It’s been a good 20-30 years since the other gospels were written.  He’s going to fill in some of the blanks left by the other gospels.

2. He’s going to correct the Gnostic heresies.

Today, the heresy of Gnosticism has once again raised its ugly head.  Whether it’s in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code or a university classroom, people are hearing about the “secret” (and incorrect) writings of the Gnostics.

3.  He wants people to believe.

John wants his readers to understand just who Jesus is and believe in Him.
This is a great book to recommend to your friends who are looking for God.

Jesus had been in Jerusalem, where he met with a religious fellow named Nicodemus.  Nicodemus was a good man, yet Jesus told him that he needed to be “born again”.  Nicodemus needed a spiritual birth.  Nicodemus needed to learn to believe in Jesus.

(John 3:16 NKJV)  "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Last week we saw that Jesus had moved from Jerusalem into Judea perhaps near the Jordan, while John had moved from the southern Jordan up to an area of Salim. 

We saw that a bit of a controversy was being stirred up because more people were beginning to follow Jesus than were following John the Baptist.

But John didn’t see it as a problem.  He wanted people to come to Jesus.  John said,

(John 3:30 NKJV)  "He must increase, but I must decrease.

:1-3 Leaving Judea

:1 Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John

:2 (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples),

John is again filling in the blanks.

Though after the resurrection Jesus commanded His disciples to baptize (Mat. 28:19), there is no record in the other gospels of either Jesus or His disciples baptizing anybody.  The only person we see baptizing people in water before the book of Acts is John the Baptist.

(Mat 28:19-20 NKJV)  "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, {20} "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.

Here we see John clarifying his own statement that Jesus Himself did not actually baptize anybody, but it was the disciples who were baptizing.

:3 He left Judea and departed again to Galilee.

When Jesus hears that people are trying to compare His ministry to John’s, He wants no part of it.


Ministry, not numbers

It’s easy in ministry to fall into the trap of comparing yourself with other ministries.
One of the first ways that pastors measure themselves is by comparing the size of their churches to the other guy.
If your church isn’t as large as you think it should be, you can get down on yourself and begin to think that you’re a failure.
Yet here Jesus purposely pulls out of the “horserace”.  He quits the game.
Jesus’ priority was actual ministry, actually impacting lives, not being the biggest church on the block.
You see this in the life of the early church, as they learned to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Philip was an evangelist, having great success in the land of Samaria.

(Acts 8:5-6 NKJV)  Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them. {6} And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.

It was during this time of great success that God changed Philip’s direction:

(Acts 8:26 NKJV)  Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, "Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." This is desert.

God would have an appointment with one person for Philip, just like Jesus will have an appointment with a single individual.

We might just miss the boat if we begin to think that success in life or success in ministry is all about big numbers.
I think it’s probably more important that we learn to have the heart of God, that we would be willing to do the smaller, quieter thing, even if it only involves one small, seemingly insignificant person.

:4-15 Appointment in Samaria

:4 But He needed to go through Samaria.

:4 He neededdei – it is necessary, there is need of, is right and proper

In Jesus’ day, there were three main regions in the land of Israel:  Galilee in the north, Samaria in the center, and Judea in the south.

The area of Samaria was populated by a race of “half-breeds”.  They were half-Jewish.  They had a heretical, twisted form of Judaism.  And the Jews hated them for this.

In the Old Testament, the kingdom of Israel became divided into two nations, the northern kingdom being called “Israel”, and the southern kingdom being called “Judah”.

The northern kingdom was conquered by the Assyrians and carried off into captivity in 722BC.  To keep the northern area from becoming overrun with wild animals, the Assyrians brought in people from other nations, who mixed with the few remaining Jews.  A new mixed race of people resulted, the Samaritans.  They were Jewish “half-breeds”, and they developed a twisted form or Judaism, rewriting the Scriptures, even developing their own Temple on Mount Gerizim.  These people were living in the hilly central part of Israel, which became known as Samaria.

The southern kingdom of Judah was eventually conquered and carried off into captivity by the Babylonians in 586BC.  This was during the days of the prophets Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel.  After seventy years, they were allowed to come back to their homeland and rebuild the Temple.  They settled in the southern region which became known as Judea.

By the time of Jesus, the Jews in the south were beginning to send out settlers to the mostly unpopulated region in the north.  Towns began to spring up.  To keep these Jews following after God, preachers would be sent from the more sophisticated and educated city of Jerusalem to these frontier towns.  This is one of the reasons that Jesus was so unusual, being a teacher from the north.

What had developed in Jesus’ time were two regions where Jewish people lived and practiced orthodox Judaism – in the southern area of Judea, and the northern area of Galilee.  In the middle were the hated, heretical Samaritans.

Back to our story…

Jesus and His disciples had been somewhere in the southern area of Judea.

Now because of the controversy about John, Jesus is going back to Galilee.  It seems like Samaria is the simplest way to go, right?  Wrong.

Samaria is in the hills.  It’s much harder travelling through the hills.
More importantly, Samaritans lived in Samaria.  Good Jewish boys and girls don’t go through Samaria, they go around it.
If you were a Jewish person travelling from Judea to Samaria, you would usually take one of two routes.
You either travelled north along the coastal plain on the road known as “Via Maris”, or you travelled up the Jordan River valley.

When Jesus “needed” to go through Samaria, it’s not because that was the natural route to take.  There had to be another reason.

He had an appointment to keep.  He had to meet a woman by a well.


God’s appointments

You may think that you’re the last person God would ever want to make an appointment with.
You may feel like you are so far from God that He probably doesn’t even know you exist.
I’ve got news for you.
You are not here by accident today.
It’s possible that many of us here don’t know who you are, what you’re like, or how you’ve lived your life.

But God does. And He has something to say to you today.

:5 So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.

:5 Sychar – from the Hebrew word shekar meaning “strong drink”.  The town’s name meant “drunken”.

We believe this was a small village near the site of ancient Shechem, where Jacob had purchased a piece of ground from the locals (Gen. 33:19).

(Gen 33:19 NKJV)  And he bought the parcel of land, where he had pitched his tent, from the children of Hamor, Shechem's father, for one hundred pieces of money.
Shechem is also the place where Joseph would be buried (Josh. 24:32), this plot of land would be part of the tribe of Joseph.
(Josh 24:32 NKJV)  The bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel had brought up out of Egypt, they buried at Shechem, in the plot of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for one hundred pieces of silver, and which had become an inheritance of the children of Joseph.

This was a small village located near the ancient city of Shechem.  Today the place is known as Iskar.  There is also an ancient well there known as Bir Ya’qub (Jacob’s well).  Samaritans, Muslims, Christians and Jews all agree that this is the place where Jesus met the Samaritan woman.

The well bottom has varied in depth through the centuries, from 240 feet in A.D. 670 to 67 feet in A.D. 1881.  The well was “deep” (John 4:11) in Jesus’ day.

This is from the website of Edward Fudge, talking about his trip to Israel in 1999, when he went into Palestinian territory to Jacob's Well, known as Bir Ya'qub.  The authenticity of the well is undisputed. Samaritans, Muslims, Christians and Jews all agree that this is the place where Jesus met the Samaritan woman.  It’s located 15 or 20 feet below ground level in a vaulted room, floored with stone mosaics and decorated in Greek Orthodox style.

The well bottom has varied in depth through the centuries, from 240 feet in A.D. 670 to 67 feet in A.D. 1881. It was "very deep" in Jesus' day (John 4:11). A guide feeds out what he says are 125 feet of rope before the bucket touches water, then begins the arduous task of raising the bucket back to the surface.

:6 Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

:6 wellpege – fountain, spring; a well fed by a spring

:6 being weariedkopiao – to grow weary, tired, exhausted

The awesome God-in-human-flesh guy was tired.

The Gnostics would have a problem with this.  If Jesus was just a spirit that floated everywhere, how could He be tired?

:6 sixth hour – Could be either noon (Jewish time) or 6:00pm (Roman time)

If John is tracking this in Jewish time (not unusual for people in Asia Minor), then this is noon.

If John is using Roman time, then it is 6:00 p.m., the usual time to go and draw water.


He understands

Sometimes we can fall into the trap of thinking that when we’re serving the Lord, we need to serve until we drop dead.
Look at Jesus.  He got weary.  He stopped to rest.  He stopped to drink.
Have you ever been through a tremendous difficulty, tried to share it with another person, only to realize that they don’t have a clue what you’ve been through?
Some people really don’t understand.
But sometimes you find a person who has been through something just like you’ve been, and what a relief to find someone who has compassion on you.
Jesus understands us.  He’s been through it.
(Heb 4:15 NKJV)  For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
He got thirsty.  He even got tired.
The Painting of the Storm
Joseph Mallord Turner, English painter, invited Charles Kingsley to his studio to see a picture of a storm at sea.  In rapt admiration, Kingsley exclaimed, “It’s wonderful!  It’s so realistic!  How did you do it?”  The artist replied, “I went to the coast of Holland and engaged a fisherman to take me out to sea in the next storm. Entering his boat as a storm was brewing, I asked him to bind me to the mast.  Then he steered his boat into the teeth of the storm.  “The storm raged with such fury that at times I longed to be in the bottom of the boat where the waves would blow over me.  I could not, however.  I was bound to the mast.  Not only did I see the storm in its raging fury, I felt it! It blew into me, as it were, until I became a part of it.  After this terrible ordeal, I returned to my studio and painted the picture.”

You could say that Mr. Turner “got it” when it came to storms.

Jesus “gets it” when it comes to life.

This means that we have someone to turn to when we encounter life’s storms.  We have someone we can go to when we get tired.
(Heb 4:16 NKJV)  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

He knows how to helps us.  He understands.

:7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give Me a drink."

:7 A woman of Samaria – if this woman had wanted to set up an appointment with this Jewish Rabbi through His events coordinator, she would have had two strikes against her.

She was a woman.

She was a Samaritan.

:7 drawantleo – to draw out of a ship’s bilge-water, to bale or pump out; to draw water; from antlos (the hold of a ship)

:8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.

:8 to buyagorazo – to be in the market place; to do business there, buy or sell

The guys went off to the grocery store or the mall food court for lunch.

This is why Jesus was left alone to talk to the woman and ask for a drink.  The guys were out getting burgers… It was probably good that all the event coordinators weren’t around when she showed up.

:9 Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?" For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.

:9 have … dealings withsugchraomai (“with” + “to use”) – to use with anyone, use jointly; to associate with, to have dealings with

The woman can tell that Jesus is Jewish because of how He was dressed.  Most likely it was the outer robe with the blue tassels on the hem that gave it away.

There was a long history of racial prejudice between the Jews and Samaritans.  The last thing she expected was for this Jewish man to talk to her. Let alone ask for a drink.

It would be similar to going back to the 1950s in the deep South, and a white man asking a black woman for a drink of water.  Simply unheard of.


Honesty opens doors

Some people have this idea that Christians consider themselves “too good” to talk to non-Christians.
People in the gay and lesbian community are convinced that all Christians hate them.
Jesus not only talks to her, but He asks her to help Him. 
He doesn’t come to her as the awesome, powerful, almighty God who has need of nothing (which He kind of is).
He comes to her in His weakness.  He is the one who needs help from her.
Sometimes we Christians are afraid of admitting weakness.
I get worried sometimes that if you realized that I’m a sinner like you are, that you might take it as an excuse to sin more.
Sometimes we think that it’s important to let the non-believer only see God’s strength and power.
So we don’t show weakness.  We are afraid of showing frailty.
Honesty is really the better policy.
There was an article in the OC Register back in February about our neighbors up the street at Eastside Christian Church.  They have a new pastor, Gene Appel.  The church has been growing by leaps and bounds since Gene came.
Gene was most recently one of the teaching pastors at the huge Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago.
Part of Gene’s history has to do with his early success with a church he pastored in Las Vegas.  He was there from 1985 to 2003.  He started when the church had 400 people, and it grew until they needed a new building.  The article says,

The 1989 dedication ceremony stands out as a mountaintop experience in Appel’s life. The church leaders praised him. The parish thanked him. He drove home a happy man. And that’s when his wife said she was leaving him – for another man. He tried to resign, but the church wouldn’t let him.  In fact, the more he opened up about his life experiences, the more people responded. Openness became his hallmark…  “There’s a transparency,” says Eastside parishioner Kim Timms, 44, of Fullerton, “The way he tells you about himself and his vulnerabilities says, ‘I’ve been there. I’ve struggled too.’” Appel openly talks about his divorce; his remarriage; being judgmental; getting angry; and sometimes acting in ways we don’t expect from our pastors.  “I don’t think people expect perfection of their faith leaders,” he says. “They expect honesty from their faith leaders.”

We may want to hide our faults from others, but the truth is, truth is the key to growing up.  Paul encourages the Ephesians to no longer be children who are tossed about by every new thing …
(Eph 4:15 NKJV)  but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head; Christ;

Sometimes speaking the truth has to do with speaking the truth about who God is and what He’s like.

Sometimes speaking the truth is learning to admit that I am not perfect, that I have areas that I need to grow in.

:10 Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water."

:10 giftdorea – a gift; a hint at grace

:10 living water – There were two types of water Jesus’ day.


There was water that was collected in underground reservoirs called cisterns.  Some parts of Israel are a desert.  The only way to survive was to build large cisterns and channel the water into them during the rare rainstorms.
In Qumran, it rains very, very rarely.  Yet a community of hundreds was able to survive because they had a system of channels and cisterns.
The area of the Garden Tomb, to the north of the old city of Jerusalem, was able to have a vineyard because of a large cistern cut into the bedrock.

Living Water

This is flowing water.  Clean water.  Water that bubbles up out of the ground.
There are a couple of streams, one river, and a fairly large body of fresh water in the Sea of Galilee.
There are also different artesian springs where water comes bubbling up out of the ground.
There is a spring and waterfall at Ein Gedi (“spring of the young goats”), along the Dead Sea.  The kibbutz located there bottles and sells the water.
There is another spring where Gideon tested his men to pick out his 300.
The largest spring is up in the north in Dan.  It is one of the three main sources of water that flow into the Jordan (“down from Dan”) River.
What’s interesting is that this well of Jacob is actually a spring deep in the earth.

If I gave you two bottles of water to drink from, one with water from a cistern and the other from a spring, which would you want to drink from?

:11 The woman said to Him, "Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water?

:11 wellphrear – a well; used of a cistern. She uses a different word than the one that John used (John 4:6)

Remember that the well could be more than 100 feet deep.  She is wondering where Jesus is going to get that water.

:12 "Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?"

Actually, He is a little bit greater than Jacob…

:13 Jesus answered and said to her, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again,

:14 "but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."

:13 thirstdipsao – to suffer thirst, suffer from thirst

:13 will thirst again



Pay attention here, or you can get confused.
Jesus is NOT talking about ordinary thirst for water.  He is talking about a deeper thirst, an inner thirst.
If Jesus were talking about ordinary physical thirst, we wouldn’t need to keep water stocked in the back for thirsty people.  I wouldn’t need to have my bottle of water up front with me.
Jesus is talking about the deepest thirst man has, the thirst for eternal life, the thirst for God.
Some have described it as a hole inside every person. 
Pascal said there was a “God shaped vaccum” inside every person.
We try all sorts of things to fill that emptiness inside.

Some try physical things – it might be simple physical pleasures like eating a special gourmet meal.  It might be sensual pleasures like sex.  Others will venture into drugs or alcohol, all trying to fill that void inside.

Not all these things are bad.  But they’re not the right thing to fill the hole.

Some try spiritual things – venturing into Eastern mysticism, occult practices, or even joining a church.

Some try to fill that emptiness by doing good things – joining the Peace Corps or volunteering at a homeless shelter.

Some try to fill the vacuum with education – constantly learning, getting another degree.

Others try to fill the hole by attaining greatness – getting a place in the Guinness Book of World Records, becoming the boss of a Fortune 500 company, becoming President of the United States.

Jesus said that if we drink from this well, we will thirst again.

None of these things will fill that emptiness that only God can fill.

:14 "but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."

:14 will never thirst – there are two negatives here plus the word “eternal”.  You could translate this phrase literally, “by no means shall thirst unto eternity”.  You could also say, “will never, ever, ever thirst

Does this mean that a Christian will no longer have desires for other things?  Does this mean that a Christian no longer has a thirst for water?  For food?  For sex?

We will still have to struggle with those kinds of thirsts while we are in these flawed, earthly bodies.
But it’s the ultimate thirst, that God-shaped-hole that is filled by Jesus.

:14 fountainpege – fountain, spring; a well fed by a spring

:14 springing uphallomai – to leap; to spring up, gush up

(Acts 3:8 NKJV)  So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them; walking, leaping, and praising God.


Finding real fulfillment

Perhaps you’ve been finding that all those things you are trying to cram into that hole in your heart aren’t filling it.
It’s time to open your heart to the One who satisfies.  Jesus said,
(John 7:37-38 NKJV)  …"If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. {38} "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."
If you recognize the hole in your life, you are eligible.
God wants you to come to the One who has the answer.  Come to Jesus.
It’s time to start believing in Him.
Malcolm Muggeridge, famous journalist who found Jesus:
I may, I suppose, regard myself, or pass for being, a relatively successful man. People occasionally stare at me in the streets—that’s fame. I can fairly easily earn enough to qualify for admission to the higher slopes of the Internal Revenue—that’s success. Furnished with money and little fame even the elderly, if they care to, may partake of trendy diversions—that’s pleasure. It might happen once in a while that something I said or wrote was sufficiently heeded for me to persuade myself that it represented a serious impact on our time—that’s fulfillment. Yet I say to you and I beg you to believe me. Multiply these tiny triumphs by a million, add them all together, and they are nothing less than nothing; a positive impediment measured against one draught of that living water Christ offers to the spiritually thirsty, irrespective of who or what they are.

-- Malcolm Muggeridge, Jesus Rediscovered, p. 61.