THE LIFE OF CHRIST
In our last lesson on THE LIFE OF CHRIST, we talked a lot about Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus. We ended our study by finishing up John 3 where John the Baptist and Jesus were preaching the same message about the coming of the kingdom, and people were being water baptized in the land of Judea.
We learn a little bit more about John the Baptist in this lesson as we start in:
Luke 3:18 And with many other exhortations he preached to the people. 19 But Herod the tetrarch, being rebuked by him concerning Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done, 20 also added this, above all, that he shut John up in prison.
We learn more about this in a future lesson, but for now, we can see that Herod was going to put John in prison, and then we learn that he did lock him up.
Matthew 4:12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee. See also Mk. 1:14.
The Gospel of John gives us more information that the other accounts do not. Most of our time will be spent in in John 4.
John 4:1 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), 3 He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. 4 But He needed to go through Samaria.
The Pharisees were prevalent in Judea and were confrontational when someone was teaching something new. Since Jesus was increasing in popularity, He would eventually attract a confrontation with them. Before this happened, Jesus left Judea to continue His work in Galilee.
Verse 2 points out that Jesus did not baptize anyone Himself, but He did it through His disciples. Since Jesus was their master, anything they did by His authority could be attributed to Him. We see this many times throughout the Bible. For instance, when a king is recognized for killing 10,000 men, He didn’t kill them all by himself. Instead, his people did most of the killing, but they are under his authority so this is why it can be said that the king killed these 10,000 men. This same idea is true when a person is baptized today. Some like to call it a work of man because someone is dipping another person in the water. However, when a person is baptizing someone, they are doing it by the authority of Jesus, so it is not a work of man but a work of God (Col. 2:12).
Verse 4 says, “But He needed to go through Samaria.” Why did He need to go through Samaria? Well, we are not told for sure, but there are at least two possible reasons. First, the most direct route to Galilee from Judea was through Samaria. Otherwise, one would have to cross the Jordan River and go around Samaria, which would take a lot more time. Second, Jesus could have known the Samaritans were ready to hear His words and believe, which is exactly what happened.
We need to realize that most full-blood Jews would not step foot into Samaria because they considered them an impure race because they were part Jew and part Gentile. The rabbis of that day prohibited Judean Jews from setting foot on Samaritan territory and according to the Babylonian Talmud, if they did, they would be considered unclean. There was not much love between these two groups. To help us better understand why the full-blood Jews despised the Samaritans, let’s take a closer look at where they came from and how this all began.
The territory of Samaria was comprised of two tribes, Ephraim and part of Manasseh. After the children of Israel divided into two kingdoms, king Omri started building the city of Samaria around 880 B.C. and his son Ahab finished its construction around 874 – 853 B.C. This city became the capital of Israel. Due to Israel’s constant disobedience to God, the Assyrians captured their capital around 722 – 721 B.C. and many of the Israelites were taken away to Assyria (2 Kgs. 17:23).
Next, Assyria takes over the city of Samaria and they bring in various foreigners (2 Kgs. 17:24). Not all the Israelites were gone because some would be left to work the vineyards and the fields and others had escaped (2 Chr. 30:6). These foreigners would eventually marry these Israelites and this is where the Samaritans got their start (2 Kgs. 17:29). They were called this because they were occupying Samaria. Mixing these different nationalities was a strategy used to blend these people so they would lose their identity and be less of a threat to the Assyrians in the future.
We need to remember that it was against God’s Law to marry foreigners, but they did it anyway. Once these mixed people made their way into Samaria, God sent lions to eat some of them because they did not fear God (2 Kgs. 17:25). They wanted to appease God, so they sent for a priest to teach them about the ways of God. From that point forward, they worshipped God, but they also continued worshipping their false gods as well (2 Kgs. 17:26ff).
Later, Judah was captured by the Babylonians, and 70 years later, they began to come back to their homeland. The Samaritans offered to help Zerubbable rebuild the temple, but he refused their help. This made the Samaritans mad, so they tried to prevent the Jews from rebuilding the temple (Ezra 4:1-10). They also tried to prevent Nehemiah from rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem (Neh. 2:10 – 6:14). When Ezra commanded the Jews to divorce their pagan wives (Ezra 9 – 11), this divided the Jews from the Samaritans even more. According to Josephus, the final event that would forever separate the Jews from the Samaritans was when they built a temple on Mount Gerizim (Ant., XI, vii, 2; viii, 2 ff). They claimed this area, known as Shechem, as being the true “Bethel” (house of God) instead of Jerusalem (Nelson New Illustrated Bible Dictionary p.1120). We will see the significance of this when we examine the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman.
At some point, the Samaritans put away their pagan gods and they regulated their worship by the Torah. They believed the first five books of the Bible were God’s Word, but they did not recognize any of the other books in the Old Testament as being from God. The Samaritans were almost destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 527 – 565. However, two small groups still exist today in Nablus (ancient Shechem) and near Tel Aviv (Nelson New Illustrated Bible Dictionary p. 1120).
John 4:5 So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 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.
Most scholars believe that Sychar was probably the same place known as Shechem in the Old Testament. Jacob had bought this plot of land from Shechem’s father for 100 pieces of money (Gen. 33:18-20). Joseph inherited this land and eventually was buried there (Jos. 24:32). John 4 is the only chapter that talks about Jacob’s well in the New Testament. It is believed that either he or his servants dug it. He used this well, and it was still being used by these Samaritans.
J. W. McGarvey wrote:
Jacob's well is still there, about one hundred feet from Mount Gerizim, which rises high above it to the west. The well is a perfect cylinder, seven and a half feet in diameter, walled with stones of good size, smoothly dressed, and nicely fitted together, an excellent piece of masonry. Its depth was stated by the earliest modern who visited it (Maundrel) at 105 feet with fifteen feet of water. In 1839, it was found to be seventy-five feet deep with ten or twelve feet of water. All visitors of more recent date have found it dry and gradually filling up from the habit of throwing stones into it to hear the reverberation when they strike the bottom (J. W. McGarvey, The Fourfold Gospel (Cincinnati, Ohio: The Standard Publishing Company, 1914), p. 56).
Jacobs Well, today, is located in a dark crypt of a church, surrounded with icons and candles. A Byzantine Church was built over the well which was destroyed in 1187. In 1860, the Greek Orthodox Church restored the crypt, and in 1914 began the restoration of the Church. In 1960 "it was still unfinished. There were two small structures not unlike builders huts which cover two stone stairways down into the crypt. Water is drawn which is clear and drinkable (hitch.south.cx/Jacobs-well.htm).
In verse 6, John captures the humanity of Jesus because he tells us that Jesus was tired from traveling and He sat down by the well. This shows that Jesus got tired just like every other human and needed rest. This happened about the 6th hour. There is not a clear way to determine if this is referring to Jewish or Roman time. A Jewish day began at sunset, around 6 pm our time. When daylight started around 6 am, they would divide the day up in twelve parts. So, if this verse is referring to Jewish time, it was about noon our time. The Romans’ day began at midnight, and they would count the next twelve hours as morning just like we do. Starting at noon, they would start over, and our 1 pm would be called the first hour. So, if our verse is referring to Roman time, it would have been 6 pm our time.
John 4:7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give Me a drink." 8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 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. 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." 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? 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?"
While Jesus was resting at Jacob’s well, along comes a Samaritan woman. At that moment, Jesus breaks down the wall of prejudice between the Jews and Samaritans, and He also breaks the social rule of a man talking to a woman. While His disciples were gone getting some food, Jesus engages in conversation with this woman asking her to get Him a drink because He did not have a way of getting it Himself. This implies there was not a community bucket there, and every person that wanted water had to bring their own bucket with a rope long enough to reach the water.
This woman is shocked that Jesus is talking to her because she recognizes that He is a Jew, and she emphasizes that Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. Jesus responds to her saying, "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." Jesus is doing the same thing He did with Nicodemus. He is using something physical to teach her a spiritual message. The gift that Jesus speaks of is the gift of salvation that comes through Him. Living water usually refers to a running spring or running water as opposed to stagnate water. However, Jesus was not talking about physical water; He was talking about eternal life that He can offer through His words, which will lead to eternal life.
Just like Nicodemus, this woman was confused because all she could think about was physical water. This is the reason she asked Jesus how He was going to get this water since He has nothing to draw it with from this deep well. First, she refers to Jacob’s well, and then she wants to know where He might get this living water from. She knew that Jacob had to dig this well so they could have water in this area because there was not any living water or fresh springs nearby. As she continued thinking of physical water, she seems to be wondering if Jesus knew of a spring close by that Jacob did not know about, which is why she asked if He was greater than Jacob. Of course, we know that Jesus is greater than Jacob and every other human that has ever lived on the earth.
John 4:13 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." 15 The woman said to Him, "Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw."
Once again, Jesus tries to get this woman to understand that He is not talking about physical water. He does this by telling her that the physical water in Jacob’s well will quench your thirst for a while, but you will become thirsty again. However, the water Jesus is offering will cause us to never thirst again. He is referring to the lifesaving message that comes from His words that will lead us to eternal life. When we drink in the Word of God, it is for our souls, and when we allow His Word to dwell in our lives, it will spring up into everlasting life. Sometimes this idea of living water represents the receiving of the Holy Spirit (Jn. 7:37-39). Other times it is used to represent eternal life in heaven (Rev. 22:1). Again, this woman was still thinking of the physical because she wanted some of this water she could physical draw up and drink so she would not have to ever come to Jacob’s well again.
John 4:16 Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come here." 17 The woman answered and said, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You have well said, 'I have no husband,' 18 "for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly."
Since Jesus was not able to get her to understand about the living water, He uses another approach to reach her with the truth. Jesus asked her to bring her husband, and she said she did not have one. There was a lot more to her story, but she avoided the details by simply saying she did not have a husband. Jesus complimented her on her honesty, and He revealed to her that He knew everything about her past and what was going on in her life right now. We have no way of knowing what the circumstance was of her first five marriages, but we can know that she was not married to the man she was with right now. We are not told what she was thinking, but it is safe to say that she had to be amazed. If I were in her shoes, it would have taken me some time to speak again. Notice her response:
John 4:19 The woman said to Him, "Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.
At first, she recognized Jesus as a Jew, but now she is beginning to see that He is much more than a Jew since He was able to tell her about her past life and her present relationship. Now she considers Him a prophet.
John 4:20 "Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship."
Now that Jesus has her attention, she wants Him to answer the question the Samaritans and the Judeans disagreed on for hundreds of years. Is the true place of worship at Mount Gerizim in Samaria or is it in Jerusalem? Some have suggested she may have asked this question to avoid talking about her current relationship, which is possible, but it is also possible that she wants to know if she is worshipping God where she is supposed to. I wish more people today would sincerely question if their worship to God is acceptable and would search the Scriptures to find out. One reason Mt. Gerizim was considered a special place was because it was where the blessing was read as the children of Israel entered the promise the land (Jos. 8:33; Deut. 11:29).
John 4:21 Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 "You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.
Jesus did not have any problems answering her question. In verse 22, He tells her the Samaritans do not know what they worship, but the Jews do. Then He affirms that salvation is for the Jews. The Jews were God’s chosen people. However, under the new covenant, both Jew and Gentile Christians are considered to be the seed of Abraham (Gal. 3:27-29). So, the answer to her question was that Jerusalem was the place to worship God. Not only did He answer her question, He also revealed that it would not be long until a person would not have to worship God on a specific mountain or in Jerusalem. Jesus was talking about how worship will be done under the new covenant because we can worship Him anywhere.
John 4:23 "But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."
Every Christian should take Jesus’ words to heart because He has just taught this woman and us what true worship is all about. Notice, He says, “True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.” Since there are true worshipers, this mean there are false worshippers. The Father is looking for those who are true worshipers because they are the only ones that will please Him.
What is a true worshipper? It is a person that will worship God in spirit and in truth. We worship God in spirit by engaging all our emotions and thoughts toward Him. We worship Him in truth by following the Word of God because His Word is truth (Jn. 17:17). If we worship God with just out hearts, we are not true worshipers. If we go through the motions and worship God according to His Word, but we do not engage our hearts, then we still are not true worshippers. So, both of these elements are absolutely necessary for us to be considered true worshipers.
Unfortunately, there are many in the religious world who have not taken Jesus’ words seriously because they are willing to worship Him in spirit, but they have neglected to worship Him according to His truth. The opposite was true for many of the Old Testament Jews because they were willing to obey the physical rituals, but they did not engage their hearts. Again, both elements are necessary. As Christians, we need to understand that God has given us His fully revealed Word in our Bibles, and it contains everything we need to know about worshipping Him (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3), which is why Paul told the Corinthians, “…Not to think beyond what is written (1 Cor. 4:6). This is why we are instructed not to add or take away from the Word of God (Rev. 22:18). If we go outside God’s pattern, then we are worshiping Him in vain (Mk. 7:6-7), and we will not be pleasing to the Father or the Son (2 Jn. 1:9). We should never think so highly of ourselves that we think we can devise something outside God’s Word that will please Him (Acts 17:24-25).
Verse 24 tells us that God is spirit. God is not human like us because He is invisible (Col. 1:15). Even though the Bible describes God as having a face, ears, eyes, and hands, these descriptions are given so we can relate to what is being said. Jesus makes it clear that a spirit does not have flesh and bone like we do (Lk. 24:39). This is also an excellent Scripture that refutes the Mormon doctrine that teaches God is flesh and bones.
John 4:25 The woman said to Him, "I know that Messiah is coming" (who is called Christ). "When He comes, He will tell us all things." 26 Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am He."
So, the Samaritans were also looking for the Messiah that would come and reveal the perfect law of God. Since the Samaritans only believed in the first five books of the Bible, this means the coming of Jesus is revealed in those books. Next, Jesus does something that He does not normally do because usually He allowed His miraculous works to reveal His identity. In this instance, He tells this woman point-blank that He is the Messiah. Some say that Jesus never claimed to be the Messiah, but this verse proves that He did. We can only imagine what was running through her mind when Jesus told her this. Most likely she was shocked because at first, she thought He was just a Jew. Then after He knew about her life, she thought He was a prophet, and now He says He is the Messiah.
John 4:27 And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, "What do You seek?" or, "Why are You talking with her?"
While Jesus was revealing His identity to this woman, His disciples were making their way back from getting food. They see Jesus talking to this woman and they are surprised because it was unheard of for a man to talk to women in a public place, not to mention a Samaritan. His disciples wanted to question Him, but they did not. Apparently, their approach interrupted Jesus’ conversation with her as suggested by the next verse, or she was so overwhelmed by whom Jesus said He was that she felt like leaving.
John 4:28 The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, 29 "Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?" 30 Then they went out of the city and came to Him.
We can see how distracted she became from her conversation with Jesus. Her original mission was to get some water, but she met Jesus instead, which caused her to forget about the water, and she even left her water pot behind. She now had a new mission. She went around her city telling everyone what Jesus did, and she did her best to get everyone to come and see Him. She does not tell the people that He is the Christ, but she defiantly thinks it is possible that He is. Her diligence paid off because the people began to come out of the city to go see Jesus.
Her enthusiasm about Christ and how she told others about Him should be the same enthusiasm that all Christians should have. After all, we know who Jesus is, what He did for us, and the promises that come through Him. We should always be ready to share this news with those around us and get them to come see Jesus as their Savior.
John 4:31 In the meantime His disciples urged Him, saying, "Rabbi, eat." 32 But He said to them, "I have food to eat of which you do not know." 33 Therefore the disciples said to one another, "Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?" 34 Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.
Jesus’ disciples knew He needed to eat some food to regain His strength. We know He was tired because that is the reason He stayed at the well in the first place. However, Jesus tells them that He has food that they do not know about. His response confuses them because they think He is talking about physical food, but He puts their confusion to rest by telling them that His food is to do the will of the Father. In other words, His strength comes from doing the work that God has asked Him to do. Even though Jesus was hungry for physical food, He was even hungrier to do the will of God. Jesus motives are based on putting God and His Word first just as we are supposed to do (Mt. 6:33). I also like what Job said, “I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth More than my necessary food” (Job 23:12). So, when Jesus saw these people coming to Him, His physical hunger went away as He focused in on the task at hand.
John 4:35 "Do you not say, 'There are still four months and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! 36 "And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. 37 "For in this the saying is true: 'One sows and another reaps.' 38 "I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors."
The harvest time starts around April and continues through May, and four months before that would be either December or January. Jesus may be suggesting that this event was occurring during one of these months. It is believed that most of the common people wore plain white clothing because they could not afford the dyes. These people were coming out of the city and walking across the field toward Jesus. Imagine these people walking across the field in their white clothes as we read Jesus words again, “Lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” Jesus is teaching His disciples that the harvest of souls is always ready to be harvested year-round.
Next, Jesus teaches His disciples about the importance of sowing and reaping. For example, Jesus had sowed the seed in this woman’s heart, and she took that seed and sowed it in the city. Because of Jesus’ work and the work of this woman, the disciples would now have the opportunity to reap what they had not sown, but both the sower and the reaper can rejoice together because both of them worked together to bring the lost to God.
We can see an example of this in a Gospel Meeting. Before the visiting preacher arrives, the members of that congregation have gone out and setup Bible studies and invited people to come hear the preacher. They have sowed the seed. When they come to the meeting and hear the truth, they may choose to be saved. When this happens, the preacher has reaped what he did not labor for, but we can all rejoice together knowing that a soul has been won to Christ.
Sowing and reaping are both important, and we should not feel bad if someone else reaps what we have sown. Besides, we would have nothing to sow or reap if it was not for God (1 Cor. 3:5-9).
John 4:39 And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, "He told me all that I ever did." 40 So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of His own word. 42 Then they said to the woman, "Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world."
This woman is a great example of what a Christian can do in the way of evangelism. She did not know much about Jesus or His teachings, but she told the people what she knew and that was enough to cause some of them to believe. So, do not think that a person has to have a vast knowledge of God’s Word to lead someone to Christ because he does not. A person just needs to tell people what he knows about Jesus and this will be enough to lead people to Christ.
The Samaritans were so interested in Jesus that they begged Him to stay longer and He did. For two more days, He taught them and many of them believed that He was the Christ based on His teachings and not just by what the woman had said. These people had opened their hearts to Jesus and accepted Him for who He was, which had to be refreshing after the way some of the Jews of Judea had treated Him earlier.
This brings us to end of our lesson, I hope you will join us next time as we continue to dig into the life of Christ and learn as much as we can about His work and the people He encountered. Along the way, I also hope you make as much application as you can to your own lives and that you will grow in knowledge and grow spiritually.