John: Lesson 5: Jesus Points the People to His Word (John 4:27-4:54)

Recap and Intro

Like Nicodemus, the woman did not get the “greater” sign (living water).  She did, however, recognize Jesus came from God by the “lesser” signs He gave her: Her lifestyle of multiple marriages and living with men outside of marriage.  The disciples now return from the village, who went there to buy food.


Jesus Teaching His Disciples at the Well (4:27-38)

Read John 4:27-30

  • If we remember from last week, why would the disciples marvel that Jesus “was talking with a woman”? Discuss the implications of this relating to our salvation.


  • How does the woman react to Jesus’ words?


Read John 4:31-34

Deuteronomy 8:3: Moses telling the people of Israel:

“[The Lord] humbled you by letting you go hungry; then he gave you manna to eat, which you and your fathers had not known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”

  • What is Jesus trying to teach His disciples by Him not eating as a teaching object?


  • What task is Jesus referring to through the word, “food”? (vs. 34)


“My food is … and: Vs. 34: In Greek, “and” doesn’t function to denote two separate items as much as it does in English (A cat and a dog).  The Greek kai (“and”) can act as a “joiner” (“love and marriage,” where you “don’t have one without the other”) or to clarify something further.  Here, the “and” clarifies the first statement.  “To do the will of him who sent [Jesus, His Father]” is “to accomplish his work.”

  • Consider the implications of Jesus saying this after talking to a Samaritan woman? (Remember John earlier saying Jesus “had to pass through Samaria”?)

Read John 4:35-38

Amos 9:13:

“Look!  The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when the one who plows will overtake the one who reaps and the one who crushes grapes will overtake the one who sows the seed.  New wine will drip from the mountains, flowing down from the hills.”

“Do you not say”: Here, Jesus takes a common saying of His day to contrast the point He will teach His disciples.  “It’s still four months till harvest,” is equivalent to our “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” meaning “Be patient; it takes time for things to happen.”

  • What is Jesus referring to “the fields are white for harvest”?


  • Who are the reapers”?


“For here” at the start of vs. 37: Greek, en touto, “In this.”  The “this” is vs. 38, “I sent you to reap…” summarized beforehand in vs. 37.

  • How can they reap what they did not labor for?


  • Who is doing the labor for them (Note the plural “others” and the earlier “lift up your eyes”)?


The Samaritan Woman Returns with Others in Tow (4:39-42)

Read John 4:39-42

  • What is now different with many of the Samaritans? Why?


Excursus: Why the People Believed

The ESV translates John 4:39 as, “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.”  John wrote the people believed “because of the word [noun] of the woman testifying [verb].”

The ESV leaves out “word” and merges it into the word, “testimony” (martureo, witness, testify, bear witness), changing testifying (a verb) into testimony (a noun).  Here’s why this matters.  The people did not believe because of the “woman’s testimony”; no, they believed because of “the word,” to which she testified.  Though she testified to Jesus, it wasn’t her “testimony” in itself that caused the people to believe, but “the word,” which was intertwined within her testimony.

What John writes testifies [pun intended!] to what Jesus just said.  The people believed (here, the “reaper”) but she didn’t labor, that is, be the cause.  For her testimony didn’t cause them to believe but the word (the cause for believing, the “sower”) within her testimony enabling the people to believe.  What was the word?  “He [Jesus] told me …”




  • Verse 41 tells us why others believed in the town when Jesus was staying with them. Is it something different or is it the same thing that causes them to believe?


  • How does the people’s comment in vs. 42 reinforce what Jesus earlier said, “you [will] reap that for which you did not labor”?


Jesus Teaches a Galilean Official (4:43-54)

Focusing on the Wrong Signs

Read John 4:43-44

  • Where is Jesus continuing to travel? (John 4:2)


  • Though the people welcomed Jesus (vs. 44), what context is John giving us about how Jesus was earlier treated in His home area? (vs. 43)


“For they too had gone to the Feast”: John wrote earlier about the people at the Passover feast.  “Now when [Jesus] was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing.”  We now know many Galileans were there and also saw the signs.  Of this, John wrote: “many believed [pisteuo] … when they saw the signs …. But Jesus … did not entrust [pisteuo] himself to them” (John 2:24).

Read John 4:46-48

  • John mentions at Cana, Jesus “had made the water wine.” Does he write this because the hearers of his Gospel will have forgotten or because this fact is important in how the people there saw Jesus?


  • Who approaches Jesus and why?


  • What context did, and does, John earlier give us to understand Jesus’ seemingly “out of the blue” comment to this man who came to see Him?


  • What does this say about the “signs” people are using to gauge Jesus as the Messiah?


The Sick Son

Read John 4:49-50

  • What did Jesus do to point the official from the wrong signs people were focusing on to the greater one, which seemed like no “sign” at all?


  • Earlier the Samaritans believed because of the Word. Here, the man does as well.  What is the point being made here?


Read John 4:51-54

  • What does the man learn about when his son was healed?


  • How does this affirm the power of the Word?


  • What then should we learn from the lesson of this “second sign.” In other words, which was the lesser sign and which was the greater?


“sign”: Though Jesus did perform a miracle, John only mentions “sign,” something which makes something else known.  The purpose for the “sign” of healing (not miracle) is to point to the power of the Word.  That’s the point Jesus made and what John reinforces by only using the word “sign” when he earlier mentioned “signs and wonders.”


Excursus: “Signs and Wonders” 

“Signs” is from the Greek, semeion, which is a sign or something distinguishing to make something else known.

“Wonders” is from the Greek, teras, which is a miracle someone performs.

In the Old Testament, we find God using the “signs and wonders” Gentiles used to assess if someone was divine ins some way to teach them His greater truths.

Exodus 7:3-4:

I [Yahweh] will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you.  Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment.

Daniel 4:1-3:

King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you!  It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me.

How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders!  His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation.

Daniel 6:25-27:

Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: “Peace be multiplied to you.  I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel,

for he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end.  He delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions.”

If someone believes because of “signs and wonders,” then his faith is in those “signs and wonders.”  This is a dangerous place to be, for one’s faith is only as strong as the impact of those “signs and wonders” last.  Further, “the coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders” (2 Thessalonians 2:9).

In the early Church, when God sent His Spirit upon His people, “signs and wonders” and various miracles did take place.  Notice, however, also what took place—the speaking of the Word.  “Divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues [glossa, languages] as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:3-4).

Before being crucified, Jesus prayed for His soon-to-be Apostles.  In His prayer, He revealed faith comes about in one way: “those who will believe in me through their word” (John 17:20).

Now, Jesus will force the official to grapple with His word and confront what faith is by how He responds to go to the man’s house to heal his son.  Jesus answered, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”  In other words, faith isn’t based on “signs and wonders.”

Taken aback by the opposite of what he expected, the man’s faith is thrown into confusion.  Still, he responds with a renewed request, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”

Jesus’ second response again forces the man to confront what faith is and what enables Jesus to do what He does.  The man wants a miracle (teras, a “wonder”) but Jesus will only give him a “sign.”  “Go; your son will live.”  What Jesus gives him is a “sign,” pointing him to a greater truth.

The man is now left with nothing to depend on but the bare word of the Word, Jesus.  For he expected Jesus to go back home with him.  Can Jesus do what He says by a plain word?  Do you believe Jesus is who He says He is?  Do you believe He will do what He says He will do?  If so, then go!

Jesus never performed naked displays of power to impress people, which is why John uses the word “signs” so often.  For the “signs” Jesus gives points beyond themselves to the deeper realities perceived through the eyes of faith.

The official, forced to exercise far greater faith than what he came with, returns, and finds everything to be as Jesus said.  Faith must cling to the bare word.  Jesus healed the man’s son, which was the sign pointing to something greater, the power in the spoken word.

Unlike trusting in “signs and wonders,” trusting in the Word is not a false faith.  For the Word, Jesus, comes in the spoken word, as He promises.



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