Gospel of John Sunday School | Week 12


Notes on John 4:1-42

While the presence of racism and discrimination in the first century, and all times prior or since, is by no means an excuse for its practice today, John’s inclusion of this interaction provides the gospel-centered solution. Faith has been granted irrespective of ethnicity, class, gender, etc. from the very beginning. The Levitical law made provision for the alien and stranger that lived and worshiped among Israel. The righteous line of the Messiah included foreigners such as Rahab and Ruth. Now, the Messiah was fraternizing with Samaritans - those from “the other side of the tracks.” But of course, that is a picture of the kingdom of God (Gal 3:28, Rev 7:9).


Much can be said of Jesus speaking with a Samaritan woman in broad daylight. This particular person, however, was immoral, broken, damaged – a sinner. You know; like us (1Cor 6:9-11). The gracious condescension of God should remind us of our own wretchedness, while at the same time convict us of our attitude towards evangelism. Prior to the unconditional election of God, all are dead in sin (Eph 2:1). Salvation requires an act of God: replacing our hard, spiritually depraved hearts (Ezek 36:26). This woman’s sin was not too much for God to overcome. As we’ll see, He actually transforms it into something for His glory.


The pinnacle of human pride in religion is thinking that we are “it.” The Jews often thought that their temple, with all of its trappings, was the ultimate divine experience. The Samaritans, cast out from Jerusalem, set up the same thing on Mount Gerazim. Plenty of denominations and churches in the generations since have claimed exclusivity on grounds other than Biblical doctrine. Jesus crushes these sinful ideas when he says that “an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father… true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.” This is obviously a foreshadowing of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). Additionally, it is a reminder that the earthly temple was always meant to be a picture of a heavenly reality: the brilliant glory of God among His righteous and worshipping people (Ezek 40-48, Rev 21-22). As King, God is expanding His kingdom irrespective to borders, buildings, and bloodlines.


Does your heart line up with the heart of God? I know that my heart is prone to the same kinds of pride that are on display in this passage. How can meditating on the grace of God in your life and His sovereign plan for this world stir us to humility and action?


The woman’s zeal for the Christ caused her to testify in her sin, in her station, and in a public manner. The shame of any one of the three would be a faux pas in that culture. Her actions emphasize that Jesus’ message was transformative and authentic. Her witness must have been perceived that way, as a crowd left the city and went up to see Him.


If you ever feel like you’re being spiritually deaf or blind to what God is trying to tell you, remember this: you’ve got good company in the disciples. In a very purposeful way, John records their being concerned with physical food over Jesus’ concern for spiritual things. Jesus helps them figure this out right around the time that the crowds are rebuked for the same issue (chapter 6). Additionally, His words in verse 34 hearken back to Deuteronomy 8:3, where Israel is told that manna should be seen as secondary to the Law.


This passage is one of many in scripture that uses agriculture as an illustration of God’s sovereignty in salvation alongside His employment of means (e.g. us!). God had ordained an entire history leading up to the disciples being some of the first to see people respond to the Messiah. Their work will yield eternal rewards for themselves, but also for the kingdom of God.


While we can certainly glean much from the testimony of the Samaritan woman and the “density” of the disciples, we must first and foremost remember that we are called to labor and harvest.


We might feel like we’re laboring tirelessly without ever seeing the slightest harvest, but that may very well be our calling. The reward is God’s, and being a part of that should be reward enough.


On the flip side, if we are “harvesters,” we must remember that the yield belongs to the Lord. He’s the one who regenerates hearts, and some of us are blessed enough to see that happen (1 Cor 3:6-7).



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