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(It has been difficult to split this chapter into manageable chunks – you may want to make each section longer or shorter!)


Read verses 1-14:

1 Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptising more disciples than John – 2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptised, but his disciples. 3 So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?’ 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

9 The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’ (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

10 Jesus answered her, ‘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.’

11 ‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?’

13 Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’


1 Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptising more disciples than John – 2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptised, but his disciples. 


the Pharisees had heard’. That sounds to me that the Pharisees had been told, and having just read John 3:25-26, I can guess who might have told them. John the Baptist and his teaching had largely been accepted, or at least tolerated by the Jewish religious authorities, who had to be careful because ‘the people’ accepted him as a prophet of God (Matthew 14:5).


Jesus however was different. They had heard that he had miraculous powers (Matthew 4:23-24), that he spoke with authority about the things of God and that he even claimed to have come from Heaven (John 3:11-13). But at the same time he appeared to be a law-breaker and also encouraged his disciples to do the same.


That directly went against the teaching of the Pharisees and had to be stopped. But ‘Jesus learned ’ (v1) and diplomatically withdrew.


3 So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.


I was going to move on to verse 4 but verse 2 called me back!

John the Baptist baptized people as a sign of their repentance.

So why did Jesus’ disciples baptize?

Why didn’t Jesus himself baptize?

We can answer the second question more easily. If Jesus had baptised it might well have led to a feeling of superiority amongst his followers (similar to the situation in Corinth – ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, ‘I follow Cephas’; still another, ‘I follow Christ.’  1 Corinthians 1:12)


The first question will take longer:


Baptism was not something new; it had been practiced by the Jews as a cleansing ritual, particularly for those non-Jews who wished to convert to Judaism.


John had been told to ‘Prepare the way for the Lord   .   .   .   And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.’ (Mark 1:3-4).

The phrase ‘for the forgiveness of sins’ can cause problems – but it also provides the answers.


Repentance and sacrifice had been the accepted order before The Exile. With the Jews banished from their holy land it was obvious that no more sacrifices could be made – as the Temple in Jerusalem was the only place for sacrifices that was acceptable to God (Deuteronomy 12:5-7, 1 kings 9:3).


During this period, the Jews met in local gatherings wherever they could and synagogues were developed. It was during the years that followed that the act of corporate prayer and worship in local synagogues became established as the essential part of their religion. Even when the people returned, and the Temple was restored (several times), synagogue worship continued and many people only attended the Temple for the major festivals.


It seems that over the years the need for atonement for personal sin was no longer emphasised, and it was this that John the Baptist’s preaching awakened. I’m sure that The Holy Spirit was active in convicting the people of their sin, and it was this, as much as the power of his preaching, that drew the crowds. I’m also sure what his teaching would have been: that if you truly repented, and followed this with an act of witness to that repentance (baptism), then ‘God himself will provide the Lamb’ (Genesis 22:8) and their sins would be forgiven.


It was this ‘new teaching’ that would ‘prepare the way for the Lord’ and it was for this reason that John could introduce Jesus as ‘the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29). Jesus would pick up the message of John, but now it would be much more personal.


It was the repentance that produced the forgiveness, not the baptism (Romans 3:21-24, Ephesians 2:8-9) – the thief on the cross (Luke 23:43) had no opportunity for baptism. But baptism is an important confirmation, not only to those who are baptised, but to all those who witness it. The one being baptised is making a public declaration that they have died to their old way of life and have been raised to a new kind of life. For us today, this is a life in Christ.


(If you hold other views on Baptism, you should explain them here).


John’s followers or ‘disciples’, would have all been baptised by him following their repentance. Those who then left John and followed Jesus, notably Andrew and ‘the other disciple’ (John 1:37-41) would no doubt be among those who baptised others as they became disciples of Jesus (John 4:1-2).


It became an established pattern and I assume it continued throughout Jesus’ ministry although there is no mention of this. We do however have the commission of the disciples:

Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’ (Matthew 28:19), and ‘He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned’ (Mark 15:15,16)


Let’s continue with our passage: John 4:4

4 Now he had to go through Samaria.


The Samaritans were people who lived in what had been the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Samaria, the name of that kingdom's capital, was located between Galilee in the north and Judea in the south. The Samaritans were a racially mixed society with Jewish and pagan ancestry.


Because of their imperfect adherence to Judaism and their partly pagan ancestry, the Samaritans were despised by ordinary Jews. Rather than contaminate themselves by passing through Samaritan territory, Jews who were travelling from Judea to Galilee or vice versa would cross over the river Jordan, bypass Samaria by going through Transjordan, and cross over the river again as they neared their destination. (Taken from:
http://www.catholic.com/quickquestions/who-were-the-samaritans-and-why-were-they-important )


So why do we read that Jesus ‘had to go’?

Obviously he knew what awaited him there; he had work to do.


5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 

Genesis 33:18,19 records the purchase of the land, but there is no record of digging the well, or specifically giving the land to Joseph (see also Genesis 48:22).


6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

(Skip verse 7 for a minute)

8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)


Most Jews would not stop, but press on as quickly as possible, and they would carry sufficient food and water to avoid any confrontation with Samaritans.


But Jesus knew what he was doing, and had obviously told the disciples specifically to go ‘into the town to buy food’ against their natural inclination. Jesus was teaching them that there were no ‘no go’ areas when it came to spreading the Gospel message, and that ‘ceremonial uncleanliness’ was a man-made prohibition which would get in the way of reaching ‘The World’.


Even the timing was right: Jesus expected the woman to come to the well.


7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?’ 


9 The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’ (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)


In other circumstances the request would have been quite normal, and would have expected a reply like: ‘of course’. But here the question was loaded ‘will you (Samaritan) give me (Jew) a drink?’ And her reply reflects her suspicion ‘How can you (Jew) ask me (Samaritan) for a drink?’


Jews and Samaritans preferred not to associate with each other; certainly not a man with a woman. They wouldn’t speak to one another, and they certainly wouldn’t ask for help; and drinking from a Samaritan’s cup would make a Jew ceremonially unclean.


10 Jesus answered her, ‘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.’


The phrase ‘Gift of God’ has puzzled many. It could mean Christ himself (John 3:16), The Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39), or eternal life (Romans 6:23).

What would the Samaritan woman have understood by it?

We can only guess: but it starts the transition from her giving to Jesus, to Jesus giving to her. Perhaps the next phrase helps


And who it is that asks you’ Jesus came to give himself, the Holy Spirit, and Eternal life. If she would only ask him he would happily give all this to her – and her villagers – everyone. Jesus hinted at this by referring to his gift as ‘living water.’


Later in John 7:37b-39 we read: “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." (By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.)”


11 ‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 


The expression ‘living water’ was a word used to describe moving, flowing, spring water; contrasting with water from a well or cistern which might be stagnant.

It was obvious that you had to have a rope and bucket for the well. How could this stranger provide living water? What was there about him that made her think it was a possibility? Was he a prophet – someone sent by God? Was he even greater than that?


12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?’

13 Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’


This was a lot to take in and she didn’t really understand, but she knew she wanted it. (Before I became a Christian I knew my friends had something I didn’t have – and I wanted it.  But I couldn’t have explained it.)


We will have to leave this study here, and continue next time.





John 4bJohn 3b








John 4:1-14   Baptism: John, Jesus.
                     Into Samaritan territory

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