The Woman of Samaria – 8 Study Points

Key Scriptures:  John 4:1-42

  1. Her Character and Her Dilemma:

Her first problem was that she was a woman. Her second problem was that she was a Samaritan woman. And to complicate matters more, she was a sinner Samaritan woman.

  A. In Jesus’ day, women were not liberated, as we say. They were not allowed to worship with men. In their morning devotions, Men would include this politically incorrect prayer, “Thank God I wasn’t born a gentile, thank God I wasn’t born a slave, thank God I wasn’t born a woman.” Can you imagine that today? Women had no place in public life at all. They were not to be seen or heard, especially by holy men.

B. She was a SAMARITAN woman. She was considered a half-breed. She was a cross between the Israelites and the Assyrians. Between the Jews and the Samaritans there was an embittered hatred. Hundreds of years before, the Assyrian kingdom conquered the northern kingdom of Israel. The ancient conquerors displaced the people, sent them off into the southern kingdom of Israel and those who remained in the northern kingdom over the years intermarried with the Assyrians. They were thought to be “half-breeds.” They were a despised and hated people; full pagans as far as the purists were concerned; in the eyes of the Jews they were a people for whom God no longer had any concern. The Samaritans committed what to the Jew was an unforgivable crime. They lost their ethnic purity.

C. She was a sinner Samaritan woman. She comes to the well at high noon of day, not the time most women come. The fact that she came at high noon tells us a lot about this woman.  Most women, the respectable women of the community came in the cool of the day to draw water. She was alone. Only women of notorious character would come in the middle of the day.   But perhaps she is here at this time in order to avoid the taunts of the other women and being the brunt of the town gossip. Also please note the exchange in verses 15-18.

2. Jesus Travels to Samaria for Her: (John 4:4)

And he must needs go through Samaria. (KJV)

Now [a]He had to go through [b]Samaria. (NIV, AMP)

4 This time he had to go through Samaria. (CEV)

He came to that well for her. If you read that entire passage, you will see that the only thing Jesus did was talk to her. He changed His itinerary for her. Remember in verse 4 it said:  “But He needed to go through Samaria.” Whenever John uses the impersonal verb dei’ the necessity involves God’s will or plan: (3:7, 14, 30; 4:4, 20,24; 9:4; 10:16; 12:34; and 20:9) [1]

[1] Strong’s Concordance

dei: it is necessary

Original Word: δεῖ
Part of Speech: Verb
Transliteration: dei
Phonetic Spelling: (die)
Short Definition: it is necessary, inevitable
Definition: it is necessary, inevitable; less frequently: it is a duty, what is proper.

The usual route would be to cross the Jordan in the south and travel up the Eastern side of the river to avoid Samaria. Jesus changed His travel plans in order to go through Samaria and the only thing he did there was to meet this lady. He came for her. Went out of His way for her…

3. Jesus Asked Her For A Favor: John 4:7

Look at what it says in verse 7: “Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.”  Notice she is in the ordinary day, doing an ordinary something, and here comes Jesus seeking her out, asking her for a drink of water – a huge scandal in that day, because no man, no Jewish man, would ever ask to drink from the same cup or bucket as a Samaritan woman. His physical body had a need and he asked this sinner woman to meet the need of his physical body. His physical body was thirsty and he asked this sinner Samaritan woman to give Him a drink to relieve His thirst. He thought so much of her that when his physical body had a need he asked her to do him a favor. But when Jesus left earth and went back to heaven, He formed his physical body into a spiritual body and His spiritual body is now the Church. And just like his physical body had a need then, His spiritual body has a need now. And just like he wanted her to meet the need of His physical body then, He wants us to meet the need of His spiritual body now.  And so he says to us lend me your hands because the only hands I have are your hands. He says, lend me your feet and go into the highways and byways. Lend me your voice to live for me and to witness for me and to testify by me.  Jesus has a need and he wants you to meet that need.

4. An Engaging Conversation

Jesus has the longest conversation ever recorded in the gospel.  He talks face to face with this woman more than he talks to his   disciples as recorded, more that he talks to his family, more than he talks to his accusers. He is engaging in a conversation with the Samaritan woman. A huge scandal in that day, because no man, no Jewish man, would ever ask to drink from the same cup or bucket as a Samaritan woman.

A. 4:9 Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. This phrase could also be translated, “Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans,” referring to the legislation that forbade a Jew to eat or drink with Samaritans, who were more lax in their understanding of ritual cleanness. The surprise was not so much that Jesus would speak with a Samaritan, but that He would drink from a Samaritan vessel.

B. 4:10  the gift of God. This expression emphasizes that salvation is not earned but given (Eph. 2:8). Jesus Himself is the gift of God ( 3:16;  2:20; Eph. 5:25).  living water. In the Old Testament, living or running water was employed figuratively as a reference to divine activity (Jer. 2:13; Zech. 14:8). See also v. 14 and 7:37–39.

C. 4:11 Like the Jews and Nicodemus before her, the Samaritan woman misunderstands the key terms Jesus uses (v. 15; 2:19–21; 3:3–10).

5. A Tantalizing Invitation. And Gift. A Truly Irresistible Offering.              

4:13-15 will be thirsty again”. Jesus contrasts temporary with eternal satisfaction, teaching that all earthly pleasures, even if legitimate, are fading. 4:14 “I will give” expresses the divine origin of the blessing: “welling up” is its great abundance; “eternal life” is its endless duration.

Jesus offers her living water and she replies that he doesn’t even have a bucket to get well water, let alone living water.  It is two different conversations going on at two different levels. But somehow the spirit moves within this brilliant woman, that she understands enough to say, “Sir, give me this living water.” “Living water” has a double meaning in the Gospel of John. It can mean “flowing,” as opposed to “cistern,” or it can also mean something that gives life.   The Samaritan woman thought Jesus was talking about flowing water (river or stream). But Living water = SALVATION from sin’s bondage and condemnation.

6. Be Careful What You Ask For 4:16-18

“Go, call your husband, and come here.”   Watch this … the woman says “Sir, give me this water.” And when she said so, Jesus does an interesting thing doesn’t he? He is probing. He is pushing. In the middle of offering water that will sustain everlasting life, Jesus tells the woman: Go call your husband and then come back.

He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”  When Jesus says, Go call your Husband, the woman tries to play it off … by answering “I have no husband” Jesus says “You’ve got that right”. Five times, Jesus says, and living with a man who is not her husband. Jesus holds up a mirror and allows us to see ourselves for who we are. He allows us to deal with our projections, our failures and our insecure core. And in doing so…He calls us to live out of an authentic core and to worship with authenticity and humility. Now watch this…. Don’t miss this point!   Why would Jesus say to her go call your husband after expressing an interest in her life and expressing a desire that she receive everlasting life?  You see her husband was that area of compromise in her life. That husband represented that sin relationship in which she had become comfortable.  It represented that situation that she was no longer struggling to get out of. It represented that relationship that she had rationalized … the one that she figured one more won’t hurt…. And Jesus says that before you can receive the anointing of this water that I have you must realize the sin in your life. The only way to prepare the soil of the heart for the seed is to plow it up with conviction. That was why Jesus told her to go and get her husband: He forced her to admit her sin. There can be no conversion without conviction.

7. Vs 19–26 – DEFLECTION AND THE WAY TO TRUE WORSHIP

Ouch!  Busted. However, instead of listening to Jesus, the woman tried to get Him on a “detour” by   discussing the differences between the Jewish and the Samaritan religions. It is much more comfortable to discuss religion than to face one’s sins!  (vv. 17-18). Impressed at his prophetic knowledge, she raised the main question that divided Jews and Samaritans, whether Jerusalem or Mount Gerazim was the right place to worship God. The woman compares Samaritan worship with Jewish worship. Jesus reveals that true worshippers worship God, who is Spirit, in spirit and truth through the work of God the Holy Spirit. He also reveals Himself as the Messiah. (vv. 19-20 ). Once again Jesus deepened the discussion (vv. 21-24 ). If it were simply a matter of deciding between Jewish and Samaritan worship, the Jewish way is right. But even that is being superseded by a spiritual manner of worship in which God and humanity find their true union in Jesus, who is the Truth (cf. 14:6). After this, there was only one thing left to say: Jesus is the Christ. The woman guessed it (v. 25), and Jesus acknowledged it (v. 26 ).

8. The Disciples Rejoin Jesus – Everyday Evangelism and The Witnesses God Uses

 4:27 marveled (surprised). The disciples’ attitude reflects both the contempt of the Jews for the Samaritans and the male chauvinism that regarded giving instruction to a woman as a waste of time. 4:30 They went out. The witness of the woman was more effective than the visit of the twelve apostles. 4:37 One sows and another reaps. Jesus makes it clear that His disciples have a responsibility distinct from His own. They will harvest what Jesus sowed. The saying may deliberately anticipate (12:23,24 ). 4:42 the Savior of the world. They recognized that Jesus was more than a prophet ( vv. 19,  29,  39 ); He is the Savior (1 John 4:14).

God uses witnesses who are excited about Jesus, have a harvest perspective, and invite others to come to Him.

 

NOTES & SOURCES:

  1. Women of the Bible; 52 Bible Studies for Individuals and Groups; Jean E. Syswerda

2. The Reformation Study Bible

3. Excerpts from the Sermon “What Happens When You Meet Jesus” – Rev. Alfonso Woods

4. Warren Wiersbe BE Bible Study Series

5. BibleGateway.com

 

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