Home to Galilee, by way of Samaria
Jesus retreats from Pharisees1Pharisees heard that Jesus was baptizing more people and picking up more followers than John. Jesus knew this report got back to the Pharisees.
2Actually, it wasn’t Jesus doing the baptizing. His disciples baptized the people. 3Jesus decided to leave Judea. He went back to Galilee. 4He took the route through the region of Samaria.
5He came to the Samaritan town of Sychar, stopping near some land Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6Jacob’s well was still there. It was noon and Jesus was tired from his trip. So, he sat beside the well.
Eternal thirst-quencher7A Samaritan woman came out of the town to get some water. Jesus said to her, “I sure would like a drink.” 8The disciples weren’t there at the time. They had gone into town to buy some food.
9The Samaritan said, “What do you think you’re doing, asking me for a drink? You’re a Jew. I’m a Samaritan woman.” Jews and Samaritans usually try to avoid each other.
10Jesus said, “You’d be asking me for water if you knew who I was and if you knew about God’s gift that I’m bringing. I would give you living water.”
11The woman said, “Mister, this is a deep well and you don’t have a bucket. How are you going to pull up any water for me? 12You can’t possibly think you’re a bigger deal than our ancestor Jacob. He dug this well and he gave us this water. He drank from it, too, just as his sons did and his flocks.”
13Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water gets thirsty again. 14But anyone who drinks the water I’m giving them will never get thirsty again. This water is a spring inside a person. It gushes up like a fountain of eternal life.”
15The woman said, “Mister, I’ll gladly take some of that water. I’d love to have water that would quench my thirst for good. Then I wouldn’t have to keep coming here to pull water out of this deep well.”
16Jesus said, “Go get your husband and bring him back here.”
17The woman said, “I don’t have a husband.” Jesus replied, “Right. You don’t. 18But you’ve had five husbands. The man you’re with now isn’t your husband. So, you’re right. No husband now.”
19The woman said, “Sir, I can see now that you’re a prophet. 20Our ancestors worshiped here on this mountain. But you Jews say people need to worship in Jerusalem.”
21Jesus said, “Believe me, madame, the time is coming when people won’t worship here or there. 22You Samaritans don’t understand how to worship. We Jews do. In fact, Jews will bring salvation to the world. 23The time is coming—it’s already here—when people who truly want to worship the Father will do it wherever they are. They’ll worship truly, from the heart and through their spirit. That’s the kind of worshipers the Father wants to see. 24They have to worship this way because God is spirit. Anyone who wants to worship him has to do it with their spirit and truthfully.”
25The woman said, “I know the Messiah is coming, the one known in Greek as ‘Christ.’ When he comes, he’ll explain everything so we’ll understand it then.”
26Jesus said, “Here I am. The one talking to you is the one you’re talking about.”
27That’s when the disciples got back. They stood there shocked. They couldn’t believe Jesus would talk with a woman out in public. But they didn’t say a thing about it. No one asked the woman, “What can we do for you.” No one asked Jesus, “Why on earth are you talking with this woman?”
“Is it possible that he’s the Messiah?”28The woman rushed off to town, leaving her water jug at the well. She spread the word in town. 29“Follow me and I’ll show you the man who could tell me everything I’ve ever done in my life! Is it possible that he’s the Messiah?” 30Town folk followed her out to meet Jesus.
31While all this was going on, the disciples were trying to get Jesus to eat. They said, “Rabbi, you’ve got to eat something.” 32But he told them, “I have food you don’t know anything about.” 33The disciples started asking each other, “No one brought him anything to eat, did they?”
34Jesus said, “I’m talking about spiritual food. I get satisfaction and fulfillment in doing what God sent me to do. 35Haven’t you heard someone say,
‘We’ve got four whole months,
before we’ve got to work the harvest.’
One plants the crop and another harvests it.’38It’s harvesttime. I’m sending you out to harvest fields you haven’t worked. Others did the hard work. You’re going to get the benefits of their work.
Non-Jews welcome Jesus39Many of the Samaritan people from town believed that Jesus was who he said he was. They believed it because of what the woman said about him when she reported “he told me everything I had ever done in my life!”
40When the Samaritans came out to meet him, they pleaded with him to stay. He stayed for two days. 41During his visit there, many more people believed him after they heard what he had to say. 42The town folk told the woman, “At first, we believed in him because of what you said to us. Now we believe in him because of what he said to us. He’s the Savior of the world. You don’t have to tell us that. We know it for ourselves now.”
43After a two-day visit, Jesus left and went back to Galilee. 44Jesus once said a prophet can’t get any respect in his own land. 45When he got back to Galilee, the people welcomed him home because of everything many of them had seen him do at the religious festival in Jerusalem. Many saw it because they went there to celebrate the festival, too.
Jesus heals son of government official46Jesus went back to the Galilean village of Cana, where he had turned water into wine. Further ahead, in the village of Capernaum, a government official had a son who was critically ill. 47When the official heard that Jesus had returned to Galilee from Judea, he went to meet him. He told Jesus that his son was about to die, and he begged Jesus to come to the village and heal him.
48Jesus told the people, “You folks aren’t going to believe in me until you see proof. You need miraculous signs.”
49The official told Jesus, “Please sir, come with me before my little boy dies.”
50Jesus told the man, “Go back home. Your son will live.” The man believed him and went back home. 51On his way home, some of his servants rushed to meet him. They brought news that his son was alive and doing well. 52The man asked what time his son started to get better. They said, “Yesterday at about one o’clock in the afternoon. That’s when the fever broke.” 53Immediately, the father realized that was the very hour Jesus told him, “Go back home. Your son will live.” The man became a believer because of this. So did everyone in his household.
54This was the second miraculous sign Jesus did. He did it after returning to Galilee from Judea.
Samaria was a region in what is now the central part of Israel and the West Bank Palestinian Territories.
Sychar is today known as Nablus, a Palestinian city in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Samaritans and Jews did not generally get along. Their relationship was about as unfriendly as that of Israelis and Palestinians today. For this reason, Jews traveling between Jerusalem and northern territories such as Galilee generally bypassed the Samaritan region in between the two. See note for 4:22.
Jesus later identifies the living water as the Spirit, 7:37-39. But when Jews spoke of “living water,” they usually meant the kind of water required for ritual washings and baths. It was water from a flowing source, such as a stream or a well, which tapped into underground rivers and lakes. A pond wouldn’t work because the water sat still.
Samaritans worshiped God and followed many of the worship practices of the Jews, such as animal sacrifice. But they rejected most of the Jewish Bible, including books by the prophets, psalms, and books of history. So Jews, then and now, argued that Samaritans had a limited understanding of God.
Many Bible experts say Jesus was likely quoting a saying that otherwise has been lost in history. The lines are hard to interpret. Some guess it was a way of saying, “Now’s the time to kick back and relax. We’ll work later.”
It’s not clear who Jesus is talking about. One guess is that the “others” are Jesus and the Samaritan woman, and the harvest is the people of the Samaritan village. Or the “others” might be John the Baptist and his disciples.
“Jesus told the people, ‘A prophet can get some respect just about everywhere he goes except at home. Hometown folks, relatives, and the family don’t generally honor their homegrown prophet’” (Mark 6:4).
John doesn’t report much of what Jesus did. He does say that Jesus chased the merchants out of the Temple as Passover approached (2:13-16). But apparently, he performed miracles. While in Jerusalem, he also impressed a Jewish scholar and Pharisee known as Nicodemus (3:1-21).
John may have been talking about the springtime Passover Festival that Jewish peoples observe to celebrate God freeing their ancestors from slavery in Egypt.
This wasn’t the second miracle Jesus did. He did many miracles that John didn’t describe. “A lot of people saw him perform miracles” (2:23). But this was one of seven miracles John highlights in the case he is making for the divinity of Jesus. John—or whoever else wrote this anonymously written Gospel—says he wrote this book to prove that Jesus is the divine Son of God (20:30-31). The seven miracles, described as “signs” in many other Bible translations, provide some of the evidence to support John’s argument. For the seven miracles, see the note to John 2:11.
John reports that when Jesus found out Pharisees heard Jesus was becoming more popular than John the Baptist, Jesus “went back to Galilee” (4:3). Doesn’t that sound a little like the Son of God was afraid of the Pharisees?
John is the only one of the four Gospels to report the story called “The Samaritan woman at the well.” Why would you guess John put the story in his book when the others did not? What do you think he saw in the story that he thought was important for people to know?
How do you think Jesus got himself into the situation of talking with the woman at the well? He stayed beside the well while the disciples went into the village for supplies. Would you guess Jesus knew this woman was going to come along? Or do you think it’s more likely he hoped someone would come to the well in the heat of the day because she didn’t want to have to face the group of people who came to get water in the cool of the morning or evening?
When Jewish people ritually cleansed themselves for worship, they would take a bath in living water. That’s water from a flowing source such as a stream, an underground lake that feeds into wells, or pockets of collected rainwater that create springs and waterfalls. Why do you think Jesus used living water as a symbol to represent himself?
Christians have broken up into a lot of denominations. Sometimes denominations split in two. Do you think there’s anything church leaders should take from the conversation Jesus had with the woman Samaritan woman about where to worship God (4:20-24)?
Okay, this is just a yes or no question for fun. Does anyone else find it funny that the disciples don’t seem to get the poetic preacher talk of Jesus? Sometimes Jesus says spiritual things that sound like something a preacher would say. For example, he says, “I have food you don’t know anything about” (4:32). And the disciples—a bunch of fishermen, a tax collector, and only God knows what else— whisper among themselves, “No one brought him anything to eat, did they?” (4:33).
How do you think an atheist or an agnostic today would respond to a modern-day story similar to the one of Jesus healing the son of a government official. The government official in the village of Capernaum asked Jesus to come and heal his son. Jesus told him to go home and he would find that his son was healed. When the man got home he discovered that his son’s fever broke at the same time he met with Jesus, at about one o’clock in the afternoon” (4:52).
LIFE APPLICATION. Jesus enjoyed a warm visit among the Samaritans for a couple of days. The very next sentence John reports: “Jesus once said a prophet can’t get any respect in his own land” (4:44). What’s up with that?
LIFE APPLICATION. John focuses more on what Jesus taught than what he did and where he went. If we want to read about the miracles Jesus performed, we should probably go to one of the other Gospels. Yet even in John, we have healing miracles. Why then, but not so much today—if ever?