John: Lesson 4: Jesus’ Early Ministry: John the Baptizer and the Samaritan Woman (John 3:22-4:26)

Recap and Intro

We now explore the fourth sequential section, revealing Jesus as the Fulfillment of the Old Covenant.

  1. Jesus provided new wine, implying He surpasses the best Judaism can provide (John 2:10).
  2. He showed Himself as the Temple’s fulfillment and what took place there (John 2:29-21).
  3. He revealed He, who came from heaven, fulfilled the water-and-spirit imagery in the Old Testament, most vividly mentioned in Ezekiel 36:24-25:

I will also sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean.  I will cleanse you from all your impurities and all your idols.  I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you.

This “new heart” is the belief He gives through “water and Spirit” so one looks to Him, who is the Fulfillment of the snake on the pole and lives (Numbers 21:4-9, John3:15-16).

Now, Jesus shows He surpasses John the Baptizer and the baptism of purification he represents.

 

John the Baptizer exalts the Messiah

Read John 3:22-24

John 4:2: “Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples.”  Jesus didn’t perform the physical act of baptism, but the singular verb (He baptized) connects those baptisms to Him.  So, He is still named as the author of the baptisms His disciples carried out though He did not perform the actual baptisms.

  • After understanding what John’s baptisms signified and to whom they pointed, why were Jesus’ disciples baptizing?

 

In chapter 4, John does not attempt to separate Jesus from the act of baptism but to show the similarity of purpose for those who were baptizing.

  • Was this the same baptism that Jesus would later mandate His Apostles to do (John 7:39)?

 

Read John 3:25-30

Excursus: “Jesus is baptizing and all are going to him”

Life is often viewed as a “zero-sum game,” where quantities exist in finite and limited amounts.  So, if one person gets more of something, another gets less.

For those living in agrarian societies, this makes sense.  For only so much arable land exists, which is already distributed.  So, it one farmer gets more land, another gets less.  Moreover, the same is true of other measurable quantities, including water, food, wealth, and respect and fame.  Thus, any advantage achieved by one person is understood to be a loss to someone else.

So, John’s disciples identify what is taking place with Jesus as something bad, for His success is meaning their failure.  To this earth-laden worldview, both Johns will respond from the earthly perspective (John the Baptizer) toward the eternal (the Apostle John) (John 3:30,35) and Jesus from the eternal to the earthly (John 4:14).

 

 

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  • How does John set his disciples straight about their concerns?

 

  • What does John understand his purpose to be?

 

The Apostle John’s Commentary

Read John 3:31-36

“from above” (vs. 31): Greek, anothen.  John uses the same word Jesus did about being born from above to Nicodemus (John 3:2).

  • How does this section point to the baptism and belief Jesus earlier spoke about with Nicodemus?

 

  • How does John show the connectedness between belief and one’s actions? (vs. 36)

 

  • What would the Apostle John say to someone who says he “believes in Jesus” but his life consistently shows the opposite (vs. 36)?

 

Faith and faithfulness are two sides of a coin.  So the opposite of faith is not just unbelief, but unfaithfulness, which is disobedience.

 

Excursus: The Samaritans

A high level of hatred and distrust existed between the Jews and Samaritans.  Why?  In 722 BC, the Assyrians captured the Northern Kingdom of Israel, exiled most of its population, who lost their identity living among other peoples.  The Assyrians brought in five foreign groups to resettle the land area of the Northern Kingdom (2 Kings 17:24), each group bringing their gods (2 Kings 17:29-34).  Over time, they intermarried and became the Samaritans.

From those mixtures of peoples evolved the Samaritan religion, adapting in particular Jewish teachings with those of the Babylonians.  The Samaritans later oppose the efforts of Ezra and Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile of the Southern Kingdom (Ezra 4:1-4; Nehemiah 2:19, 4:1-5), building a rival temple on Mount Gerizim.

By the early first century, two centuries of strife and conflict had entrenched the hatred between the two peoples.  Both sides had committed violence and war crimes against the other.

Most of the times, people from one group strove to avoid the other.  When unavoidable, the expected response was a repudiation of the other group.

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Jesus and the Samaritan Woman

Through this event, John continues reinforcing the link between the Spirit and water.  In chapter 3, we learned about Nicodemus, a well-educated, Jewish man who visited Jesus at night.  In chapter 4, John will introduce us to an uneducated Samaritan woman who visits with Jesus at noon.  Both needed Jesus, showing no is exempt of his need for Jesus with no time being the wrong time for Him.

However, this meeting is odd.  First, women went to draw water for cooking, so they usually did so in the morning or evening.  Midday is the “wrong” time for females to be at a well for domestic purposes.  The woman, moreover, appears not to be in the company of other women, which was the normal custom of the day.

The most likely scenario for this woman coming at an unusual time, alone, and the public nature of the well at midday, suggest the other women from the village have shunned her.  And so she comes alone when the other women are attending to their other tasks.  Jesus will unveil this through an innocuous question later in their conversation.

Though not the strangest in the least for us, what is the most shocking is Jesus and the woman talking alone in public.  For when the disciples return from the village, they react with astonishment.  “They marveled that he was talking to a woman” (4:27).

Read John 4:1-6

  • Why did Jesus leave Judea and travel toward Galilee (vs. 1)? What does this show is starting to take place against Jesus?

 

  • Jesus “had to pass through Samaria.” What does this reveal about Him and His purpose?

 

Jesus’ Living Water (4:7-15)

Double Entredres in John: More than the other Gospels, John brought out Jesus’ use of words with two meanings.  Some examples so far are pneuma, which can mean “wind” and “spirit,” and anothen, which can mean “above” or “again.”  Here, Jesus speaks of “living water,” which can also refer to flowing water, such as from a spring or river.

Read John 4:7-15

  • What does Jesus call this “living water” and what is its source? (vs. 10)

 

  • How does this water imagery point to how Jesus gives “eternal life”?

 

  • What type of water does the woman think Jesus is referring to? Is she right or wrong?

 

  • The early Church preferred to baptize in moving (living) water (Didache 7:1-3). How does that early practice testify to Jesus’ words in this passage?

 

The woman misunderstands Jesus and thinks He means some type of accessible, flowing water, not water filled with life which can then bestow life.  In this conversation, Jesus unveils what He came to do as the Messiah.  No longer will the ethnic barriers between Jews and others matter when it comes to the “living water” He gives.  Jesus unmasks by commanding (He used an imperative verb) her to get Him a drink of water.  Jew and Gentile won’t matter in the New Covenant; hence, the imperative, command word from Jesus: “give.”

As the Messiah, Jesus isn’t simply the One whom we should serve.  No, for He becomes the serving figure who offers “living water” to the woman (4:15).  Thus, true worship of Jesus involves receiving what He comes to give.

 

Jesus’ True Worship (4:16-26)

Read John 4:16-19

Like Jesus spoke to Nicodemus about being born by water and Spirit, Jesus began a conversation about water with a Samaritan woman, soon bringing in the Spirit.  Nicodemus didn’t understand the real “sign,” being born from above by water and Spirit.  Neither did the woman get the “sign” about living water.  So, Jesus shifts the conversation.

  • What sign does the woman recognize, which brings her to realize Jesus is a prophet?

 

 

The woman continues her conversation with Jesus.

Read John 4:20-24

  • The Samaritan woman focuses on the differences between the Jews and the Samaritans. Instead, where does Jesus direct her focus?

 

  • What is Jesus saying about Himself when He told her, “The hour is now here when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth”?

 

To enter God’s kingdom, Jesus told Nicodemus that one must be “born of water and Spirit” (3:5), which is to receive the heavenly life through the Spirit in baptism.  Jesus, as the incarnate Word, calls Himself “the truth” (14:6), who “came into the world, to testify to the truth” (18:37).  To worship in Spirit and truth means to worship God as revealed to us in Jesus, who is the Truth, and made spiritually alive by the Holy Spirit.

“Spirit and truth” does not mean this worship is only internal or lacking the physical.  No, because Jesus earlier told Nicodemus a person must be born from “by water and Spirit” (3:5).  In Chapter 6, Jesus will again bring in the physical concerning worship and one’s salvation.  (But that’s a future lesson!)

Read John 4:25-26

  • What is the Samaritan woman waiting for?

 

In response to the woman speaking about the Messiah, Jesus responds, “I AM, the One speaking to you.”  For the woman, this is a declaration of Jesus’ messiahship.  This is the first in a series of seven absolute “I am” (ego eimi) sayings in the Gospel of John: 4:26; 6:20; 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19; 18:5, with the seventh repeated twice (18:6, 8) as an emphatic climax.

The number of “I am” statements in John’s Gospel matches the number of times in the Old Testament where God identifies Himself as the great “I AM.”  In Hebrew, this is ani hu; in the Greek Septuagint, ego eimi: Deuteronomy 32:39; and Isaiah 41:4; 43:10, 13; 46:4; 48:12; 52:6.

These series of “I AM” statements in John identify Jesus as God.

 

Link to the next Lesson.

 

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