Summary of passage: Jesus’ reputation was spreading and the Pharisees caught wind that Jesus was baptizing more people than John the Baptist although in fact it was Jesus’ disciples who were doing the actual physical act. Jesus traveled back up north to Galilee from Judea, crossing through Samaria. At a town named Sychar, Jesus stopped to rest at a well near Jacob’s well while his disciples went to town to buy food. A Samaritan woman drew water at the well and Jesus asked for a drink from her (something forbidden to do since Jews do not associate with Samaritans). Jesus tells her if she knew he were God, she would have asked him for the living water instead.
3) Part personal Question. My answer: She needed to know the gift of God, who it is who is asking for a drink, and ask Jesus to drink the gift of living water. The “when” is every day. The “how” is accepting Jesus’ sovereignty in my life and receiving the Holy Spirit as my guide–again, every day.
4a) Nicodemus knows about Jesus and who he claims to be. The Samaritan woman has never heard of him. Nicodemus approaches Jesus. Jesus approaches the Samaritan woman. Nicodemus speaks first. Jesus speaks first to the Samaritan woman. Jesus tells both truths and things they need to do. He tells Nicodemus he must be born again. He tells the Samaritan woman she needs to receive the gift of living water. The Samaritan woman realizes who Jesus is; Nicodemus does not. She tells others (testifies); Nicodemus does not. She is responsible for others’ belief; Nicodemus is not.
b) Personal Question. My answer: Speak the truth and keep it simple. Use analogies.
5a) Samaritan religion closely followed Judaism but was considered a cult. They only accepted the first 5 books of the Old Testament and insisted that Mount Gerizim, not Jerusalem, was the proper place to worship God.
According to 2 Kings 17, when God allowed the Jews to be removed from their homeland by Assyria, the king of Assyria resettled the land which was Samaria with foreigners around 721 BC. They intermarried with the remaining Jews. These people eventually did not worship the Lord so the Lord sent lions to kill them. The king of Assyria sent a Jewish priest to the people to teach them the ways of the Lord. However, each group made their own gods. They worshipped the Lord but had all sorts of people be their priests. They don’t follow the Lord’s commands or ordinances and worshipped their own idols. Hence, the Jews cut themselves off from the Samaritans because they were unbelievers.
Ezra tells us how the Samaritans tried to stop the temple from being re-built, creating more resentment from the Jews against them.
The height of this rift between the Jews and the Samaritans was in Jesus’ time. This scene is remarkable and could only have taken place by Jesus. His purpose was to show how he is for everyone and how he can bring those lost back to him. There is no prejudice in the eyes of the Lord and no bounds to His love.
b) Personal Question. My answer: Mine is not about cultural at all. I need the courage to speak to others about Jesus period.
Conclusions: I found the history behind the rift between the Jews and the Samaritans the most interesting part of this passage. I always knew they didn’t like each other, but I didn’t know the reasons behind it. Cool stuff!
End Notes: Jesus knew the time for confrontation had not yet come. Hence, he returns to Galilee.
Note Jesus did not baptize. This was a sign to all of Jesus’ status above John the Baptist. Yet, he sanctioned baptism as a sign of acceptance of him and repentance of sin.
The road from Jerusalem to Galilee lay through Samaria, but Jews often went around to avoid the Samaritans. (Cool map HERE of the route around. It’s a long way just to avoid people you don’t like.). The Samaritans were considered half-breeds if you will. When Babylon exiled the Jews, they left behind the lower classes, not wanting them to mix with the Babylonians. The Samaritans are a mix of these left-over Jewish peoples and non-Jews who immigrated to the area afterwards. This new race of people took on some aspects of the religion of the non-Jews and built their own temple to God on Mount Gerizim. The Jews burned this temple around 128 BC.
Jesus went this way because the Samaritans needed to hear him. He could have gone around but didn’t.
Sychar was ancient Shechem and was the capital of Samaria. The history of this place is astounding:
This is where Abram first came when he arrived into Canaan from Babylonia. (Genesis 12:6)
This is where God first appeared to Abram in Canaan, and renewed the promise of giving the land to him and his descendants. (Genesis 12:7)
This is where Abram built an altar and called upon the name of the Lord (Genesis 12:8)
This is where Jacob came safely when he returned with his wives and children from his sojourn with Laban. (Genesis 33:18)
This is where Jacob bought a piece of land from a Canaanite named Hamor for 100 pieces of sliver (Genesis 33:19)
This is where Jacob built an altar to the Lord, and called it El Elohe Israel (Genesis 33:20). This established the connection between Jacob and what became known as Jacob’s well there in Sychar.
Sychar (Shechem) was also the place where Dinah, the daughter of Jacob, was raped – and the sons of Jacob massacred the men of the city in retaliation. (Genesis 34)
This was the plot of ground that Jacob gave his son Joseph, land Jacob had conquered from the Amorites with his sword and bow in an unrecorded battle (Genesis 48:22)
This is where the bones of Joseph were eventually buried when they were carried up from Egypt (Joshua 24:32)
This is where Joshua made a covenant with Israel, renewing their commitment to the God of Israel and proclaiming, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24)
Jesus is tired after a long day of walking. Jesus was fully human and fully God and as fully human experienced the same things we do.
The sixth hour would have been around noon–the hottest part of the day.
The woman at the well was unusual. Mostly women came together and came during the early part of the day for water for the day. Maybe she ran out of water or had a sudden need or maybe she was an outcast. Like a pub today, the well was a gathering place, a place to exchange news and gossip. Furthermore, men would come, knowing it was a place where young women frequented. It was also a place where prostitutes hung out as well.
Rabbi never spoke to women in public, not even their own wives of daughters. Some even closed their eyes when passing a woman on the street. Furthermore, Jews never asked favors from Samaritans. Jesus was breaking all the rules–and showing us all how to live.
Also, Jews believed they would become ceremonially unclean if they used a drinking vessel handled by a Samaritan since they held the belief all Samaritans were unclean.
Jesus makes a simple request to the woman–water. He makes a simple request of us–faith.
Jesus often speaks to us similarly: “If you knew….” on a quest to draw us closer to him, to investigate more, to pray more.
In Ancient Times, living water was the name for bubbling water. However, for Jews living water is associated with God (Jeremiah 2:13; 17:13). It is fresh, flowing water not water that is sitting and stagnant.
Fun Fact: The Greek word for gift is used only this time in this Gospel here. It emphasizes God’s grace through Christ.