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John 4:3-4 [Jesus] left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. Now he had to go through Samaria.

Samaritans were Israelites who intermarried with Assyrians and altered the Jewish religion. This made the tension between Jews and Samaritans even worse than between Jews and Gentiles. When traveling between Galilee and Jerusalem, stricter Jews often went around Samaria to avoid hostility. But Jesus had to go through Samaria because there were people there he wanted to reach.

John 4:7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, Will you give me a drink? 

In the previous chapter, Jesus spoke to Nicodemus: a man at the top of the social pyramid. He was a member of the high court and a renowned Bible teacher, but he was spiritually lost. In this chapter, Jesus speaks to a woman at the bottom of the social pyramid who was also spiritually lost. Jesus cares about lost people from every possible background.

The woman was surprised that Jesus asked her for water since he was both Jewish and male. Women were considered culturally inferior, but that didn’t bother Jesus at all. Cultural barriers were no concern to him when it came to winning souls. Souls were his first concern, and they are to be the first concern of all who follow him.

I was about twenty years old when I stopped by a convenience store and saw a young lady from church. On the way out, we encountered a homeless man, whom she began to evangelize. She told him of God’s love for sinners, and that he could live forever through faith in Jesus Christ. I was not very interested in the homeless man, but I was somewhat interested in her, so I waited patiently. When she was done, she said something I never forgot. You know, Shane, everyone has a soul

When we stop thinking of people as rich or poor, wise or foolish, godly or godless—but as eternal souls who need to be saved—then we’ll begin to see them through the eyes of Jesus Christ. 

John 4:10 If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water

Most people did not have running water back then, so they would go to the community well, let down a bucket and carry it home. The idea of a river in her own back yard would have been appealing. But Jesus was speaking of the Holy Spirit because, deep inside, she was thirsting for God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God (Psalm 42:2), wrote the Psalmist. 

It has been argued that spiritual thirst is a sign of God’s existence. We desire water, and it would be strange if the world had no water. We desire food, and it would be strange if the world had no food. We desire companions, and it would be strange if the world had no companions. For everything we desire, it seems, there is a corresponding something to meet that desire. The universal desire for God is a good indication that he exists (CS Lewis, slightly revised).

John 4:16 Go, call your husband and come back

This poor woman had the worst sexual history in town. She had gone through five husbands, and was presently living with a man to whom she was not married. As a little girl, she may have dreamed of a knight in shining armor. But her first husband did not work out that way. Neither did her second, third, fourth or fifth. By this time her options were few, so she settled for a man who would not even marry her. In a religious community, this put her on the same level as a prostitute. She was probably shunned by many, but not by Jesus Christ. He actually seems to have liked her.

And if Jesus liked sinners, while they were still sinning, how much more his own, even when we fail? Do not believe the devil’s lie that even though God loves you, he does not like you very much. If that is what you believe, then you will never feel close to God—which is what the devil wants. If Jesus did not like people with sin in their lives, he would not have a friend on earth. But he is the kind of Savior who not only loves people, but actually likes them—in spite of their sin.

John 4:20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem

The Samaritan woman did not want to talk about her sin, so she changed the subject to religion. Jesus replied, believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem (John 4:21).

Before the coming of Christ, God was to be worshipped at the temple in Jerusalem. Depending on where you lived, you might cross land and sea to get there. On the day of Pentecost there were people from Egypt, Libya, Rome, and many other places (Acts 2:9-11). But the prophet Zephaniah foresaw a time when that would change. Distant nations will bow down to him, all of them in their own lands (Zephaniah 2:11), he wrote.

Worship at the temple is no longer required because Jesus is our temple. Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days (John 2:19), he said of himself. God’s people used to go to the temple in Jerusalem to worship, but now the temple has come to us. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them (Matthew 18:20), said Jesus. 

John 4:23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.

Many of the world’s dictators have had a policy of compulsory adoration. Whenever they appear in public, people are required to praise them or be punished. God is just the opposite. He is looking for true worshippers who will worship in the Spirit and in truth. Our day is never complete until we take time to adore him, and give our hearts to him afresh.

John 4:25-26 The woman said, I know that Messiah (called Christ) is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us. Then Jesus declared, I, the one speaking to you—I am he. 

Jesus seldom revealed his messianic identity, but he revealed it here to an unlikely person. She was not a virtuous woman who deserved to meet the Messiah. She was a sinful woman, trapped in a bad relationship. Yet Jesus revealed himself more fully to her than to many others. And that is what he has done for us . . . not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace (2 Timothy 1:9), wrote Paul. When there was nothing in us but sin, Jesus revealed himself to us through the gospel. 

John 4:39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, He told me everything I ever did.

Whenever the gospel enters a community, it has the potential to reach many within it. By reaching a Samaritan woman, Jesus reached the Samaritans. He is not just concerned about Canadians, Mexicans or Palestinians. [T]his man really is the Savior of the world (John 4:42), they said. The work of the church will not be fulfilled until every group has a church that is preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Reflection and Review
How can we see people through the eyes of Jesus Christ?
Why is spiritual thirst a sign that God exists?
Why did Jesus reveal himself to a Samaritan woman?