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JOHN EXEGESISgk Chapter 04

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4:1-42   The second discourse passage of the Gospel, but one which is intimately related to the incident with which it is associated.  It actually contains three discourses, skilfully integrated with a narrative presented in a series of distinct scenes:

(i)    vv 1-6        :     Introductory

(ii)   vv 7-15      :     1st scene - Jesus’ initial encounter with the woman, occasioning his words about living water         

(iii)  vv 16-26    :     2nd scene - Jesus prompts a mutual revelation, the setting for his words about true worship

(iv)  vv 27-30    :     3rd scene - the return of the disciples prompts the woman’s departure and her testimony to Jesus in the city

(v)    vv 31-38    :     4th scene - the disciples with Jesus, the occasion for his words about God’s harvest

(vi)  vv 39-42    :     5th scene - Samaritans respond with faith

The passage continues the themes of the previous two chapters (newness, linked with water symbolism and the issue of worship; testimony and belief, related to the identity and work of Jesus). But it also marks a new stage (Jesus moves outside orthodox Judaism to the Samaritans, and is eventually hailed as o` swthr tou kosmou).

| 1  Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, “Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John” 2 — although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized — 3  he left Judea and started back to Galilee. 4  But he had to go through Samaria.   5  So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.                6  Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well.  It was about noon.    7  A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”8  (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.)    9  The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)  10  Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”     11  The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep.  Where do you get that living water?12  Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” 13  Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty.  The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”   15  The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”   16  Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.”   17  The woman answered him, “I have no husband.”  Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’;  18  for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband.  What you have said is true!”    19  The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20   Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.”      21  Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22  You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.        23  But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”        25  The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ).  “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.”   26  Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”     27  Just then his disciples came.  They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?”       28  Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city.  She said to the people, 29  Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done!  He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” 30  They left the city and were on their way to him.   31  Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.”32  But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.”   33  So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” 34  Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.  35  Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’?       But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting.36  The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.  37  For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’38  I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor.  Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”  39  Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.”40  So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days.41  And many more believed because of his word.42  They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.” 43  When the two days were over, he went from that place to Galilee  44 (for Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in the prophet’s own country).45  When he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, since they had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the festival; for they too had gone to the festival.         46  Then he came again to Cana in Galilee where he had changed the water into wine.  Now there was a royal official whose son lay ill in Capernaum. 47  When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48  Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”  49  The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my little boy dies.” 50  Jesus said to him, “Go;  your son will live.”  The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way.    51As he was going down his slaves met him and told him that his child was alive. 52So he asked them the hour when he began to recover, and they said to him, “Yesterday at one in the afternoon the fever left him.”    53   The father realized that this was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.”  So he himself believed, along with his whole household.   54  Now this was the second sign that Jesus did after coming from Judea to Galilee. | 1-4  A linking statement between the incidents on either side, explaining Jesus’ presence in Samaria.  The obvious inference is that Jesus perceives the growing hostility of the Pharisees and retires prudently to Galilee, since it is not yet h` w`ra for confrontation.  Verse 4 makes sense as a simple geographical note [Josephus confirms that, despite their antipathy toward the Samaritans, Jews commonly took the direct route between Judea and Galilee, through Samaria], although it is possible that it carries a secondary sense of divine purpose. Neither of the textual variants (vv.1,3) is of significant interest. 5  There is some debate over the identification of the polij to which Jesus comes. There is, first, a textual variant, but there is strong manuscript support for Sucar, as reflected in the UBS4 A rating. Of the other readings, Sicar and Shcar look like pronunciation-based spelling variants, while Sucem has limited and non-Greek support, and looks like a modification to suit the expectation of the obvious location of Shechem. Almost certainly, we should accept Sucar, and this might well (though by no means certainly) be identified with the modern Askar, quite near the site of ancient Shechem. Michaels points out (p.76) that Askar’s being about a kilometre away from the probable site of the well actually fits the narrative even better than greater proximity. What John stresses is the close association of the location with Jacob and Joseph, who were especially significant figures for the northern kingdom and hence for Samaritans – cf. Joshua 24:32 (also Genesis 33:19; 48:22). 6  Reinforces the above association.  And we have here (in kekopiakwj, “having grown weary”) a reflection of Jesus’ genuine humanity, whether intentional or not.  The time note may serve to explain Jesus’ weariness and thirst, or may suggest the woman came at an unusual time and hence that she was a social outcast because of her reputation. 7f  Sets scene for encounter, the note about the disciples explaining Jesus’ being alone.  But both Jesus and the disciples are depicted as being ready to interact with Samaritans (the purchase of food is especially significant). Ridderbos points out (p.154) that the opening clause “contains precisely those words that will dominate the conversation that now follows” (i.e. gunh, Samareia, u`dwr). 9  This underlines this readiness, and probably implies that her being a woman is an additional factor [Carson cites a slightly later rabbinic statement, probably reflecting longstanding popular sentiment: “the daughters of the Samaritans are menstruants from the cradle”]. Note the repetition of terms of ethnic identification. 10 The expression h` dwrea tou qeou can either refer forward to u`dwr zwn or be a term for the Torah.  Either way, Jesus seizes the opportunity to bring the conversation around to his identity and his mission.  The precise significance of u`dwr zwn is debated. It clearly uses the fact that fresh spring water was prized and there may also be an OT background (e.g. the water from the rock in Num.20:11; also Is.12:3, Jer.2:13). As to deeper meaning here, verse 14 suggests zwh aivwnioj, or its source (the Spirit?). 11f  The woman betrays that she understands neither Jesus’ mission nor his identity, although her first use of kurie suggests a dawning respect. She takes him to be speaking of spring water and assumes that he cannot be a greater person than the patriarch Jacob. There is dramatic irony in her response, however: John is presenting Jesus precisely as a greater-than-Jacob, who does a new and greater thing. 13f  Jesus makes his meaning a little clearer, certainly its universal relevance and its metaphorical character.  John is probably conscious of rich Old Testament echoes [see Carson, p.220], of which Isaiah 55:1 is perhaps most significant (see Isaiah 55:1,5,7).  A Samaritan might have been expected to think of their hoped-for prophet, to whom Numbers 24:7 seems to have been applied (certainly a little later). The expression ouv mh diyhsei eivj ton aivwna is emphatically negative, and may possibly recall Ecclus. 24:21, if so exceeding by reversal what is there said of Wisdom/Law.  15  But the woman still fails to understand (or else is ironically expressing her scepticism : “if you’re so great, then do this for me”). Note the repetition of kurie. Perhaps John wants us to see that this is appropriate here in a stronger sense than the woman intends.  16  Jesus appears to change the subject abruptly, but is actually pointing to the woman’s real need and in so doing to his own identity (as vv 17-19 reveal). 17f  Jesus reveals his knowledge of the woman’s history and her sinfulness. Clearly her present relationship is irregular, while the linking with this of her five previous husbands suggests irregularity there as well. Even if the possibility of successive legitimate marriages be allowed, it then may become relevant that the Rabbis disapproved a woman’s remarrying more than once, or twice. Köstenberger (152f.) suggests a play on the sense of anhr, so that her “men” may not necessarily be husbands, and her present man may not be hers, but another’s. 19  Like Nathanael, she is impressed by Jesus’ knowledge, which she takes to be a prophet’s insight. This affects how we understand the third use of kurie. 20  She then raises a major issue between Samaritans and Jews - the lack of immediate connection has prompted speculation about her motive, but this is risky, since John displays no interest in it, and it is certainly not strange to seek the opinion of a profhthj on such a matter. “This mountain” is Mt Gerizim and the Samaritans’ choice of it reflects both their interpretation of the Pentateuch and their history - look at Deut.11:29f.,12:5 [see further in Carson, p.222] 21  Jesus initially downplays the significance of this debate by pointing to a future when it will be irrelevant (an indefinite future as he speaks, but John’s use of w`ra hints that it is the future Jesus himself ushers in). 22  Jesus does not declare explicitly for Jerusalem, but does affirm the Jewish tradition, which includes the central place of Jerusalem. It also includes their larger canon of Scripture, over against the Samaritan (the tradition which John sees as fulfilled in Jesus as Messiah). In 22a the use of the plural u`meij - Jesus addresses the woman as representative of the Samaritan people, thus maintaining the emphasis of the chapter on this great division, which he is about to bridge. 23f  A pregnant yet somewhat ambiguous declaration.  In the light of the combination of terms used and of the context, I would understand its primary implications to be these four:(i)  Jesus as the One sent by the Father brings the decisive hour and the new worship (Barrett,238 makes the helpful point that the expression o` pathr toioutouj zhtei is essentially a statement of the Father’s purpose in sending the Son)(ii)  As a result the issue is no longer the place of worship but the character of our worship(iii)  True worship will recognise Jesus as the Son, the bearer of God’s Spirit and God’s truth (i.e., the reader is meant to understand this eventually in the light of the linking of pneuma and alhqeia in the Farewell Discourse)(iv) True worship will be shaped by the Spirit and truth imparted by Jesus! See further, Carson, pp.224-226; KeenerI, pp.608-619

 25  The woman seems now to recognise something of what Jesus says, but not its present fulfilment in himself.  So she relates it to the Jewish hope of the Messiah, but understood in Samaritan fashion as primarily a prophet (the Samaritan Taheb <Restorer> is the second Moses, the promised prophet of Deut.18:18). The use of both Messiaj and Cristoj probably underlines this important moment. 26  Jesus now declares the key missing element: he is the Messiah.  The evgw eivmi is at least emphatic, but probably also anticipates the later occurrences of the expression.    27  This underlines the unconventionality of what Jesus was doing.  The Imperfect evlalei might suggest an extended conversation, which is certainly what has just been recorded. Much (not all) Jewish thought considered that a rabbi should not waste his time talking to a woman, and certainly that they should not be treated as serious disciples. Several commentators expand on this, e.g. Köstenberger, p.159. Their silence may suggest respect for Jesus’ judgement or simply reluctance to get involved with this woman themselves. 28f  But she proves the fruitfulness of Jesus’ attention to her by going and bearing witness. The form of her testimony [introduced by mhti] expresses some uncertainty (since an outright negative doesn’t fit the context), but it is not clear whether this reflects her own hesitancy or, especially in the light of v.42, her sensitivity to theirs. It is not clear how much we should make of the detail of her leaving her jar behind. If we are guided by what has preceded, the most natural interpretation (if we see it as more than a lively detail suggestive of haste) is that it points to her having found the u`dwr zwn. 31f  The disciples’ urging Jesus to eat is natural, and in line with the expectation that disciples should care for the physical well-being of their master [so, Köstenberger, 160f.]. But in the narrative it provides Jesus with an opportunity to teach them something, and John with a discourse related to, though distinct from, the earlier one about living water. There may also be a parallel with the woman’s leaving of her jar. 33  The disciples, like the woman (and others in these early chapters), fail to understand. 34  A probable reference to Deut.8:3: Jesus lives as God desires his people to do.  Its terms also bring together three prominent themes of the Gospel: Jesus’ obedience; his being sent; his doing the works of God. 35a  There have been attempts to identify a particular time, the time of a festival, but most natural is a reference to the gap between the latest sowing and the beginning of harvest, especially since harvest is a common eschatological metaphor. If so, then the emphatic u`meij conveys that this is well known to them.  35b-36  Hence: the eschatological harvest has begun (possibly with a scriptural reference to Amos 9:13 and a contextual reference to the approaching Samaritans). Read Amos 9:13-15. If so, Jesus is the reaper and either the Father or the prophets constitute the sower. But some see a reference to a future harvest, viewing Jesus as sower and his disciples as reapers – see Moloney, 139f.,144. 37f  The expression evn gar toutw| can refer forward or back, but here the former seems easier.  Jesus takes a common saying, but gives it a new and positive twist (usually it had idea of injustice or judgement).  Some have queried its appropriateness here, but it can apply if we see the disciples as already sharing in Jesus’ harvest in vv 39-42.  However, it is likely that we are also meant to see this event as anticipatory, either specifically of the Samaritan influx recorded in Acts 8 or more generally of the fruitful ministry of the apostles in the earliest days of the church. 39-42  A description of the Samaritan response, furthering Johannine themes of testimony and faith.  Most striking but most difficult is the expression o` swthr tou kosmou.  It is probably best to see it as John’s own choice of expression to characterise the Samaritan response.  They presumably accepted him as the Taheb, and possibly more (eg. Taheb and Messiah together, thus instrument of God’s salvation for Jews and Samaritans together).  But John catches up the language of 3:16f in an expression which at once echoes Old Testament statements about God and Greco-Roman statements about their gods and the emperors [certainly Hadrian, 117-138, was termed ‘saviour of the world’]. Clearly this conclusion emphasises that Jesus has been sent for the salvation not only of Jews, but of “the world”. 4:43-45  A transitional passage, containing a saying found also in the Synoptics but more problematic in this setting.  In this context it makes best sense to understand verse 44 as a reference to Galilee as Jewish over against the Samaritans, and verse 45 as depicting a positive welcome but one which falls short of the faith of the Samaritans. This fits both the description of Jewish responses in chapter 2 and the statement of Jesus in 4:48. For a more detailed discussion, see Carson, 234-238.    4:46-54  The second sign recorded in this Gospel, and the balancing conclusion to chapters 2-4.  It continues the interest of these chapters in levels of faith, telling the story of a man’s growth in faith.  But as a sign which points especially to Jesus as giver of life, it not only recalls chapter 3 but also anticipates the discourse in chapter 5. 46  The opening words favour the view that chs. 2-4 constitute a unit. The basilikoj [“royal official” - adjective derived from basileuj] is probably a servant of Herod Antipas. 47  The words hvmellen gar avpoqnhskein underline the seriousness of the son’s condition and hence the pointedness of the sign. Köstenberger calculates (p.170, with a declared debt to Dalman<1935>) that this journey would have taken about six hours, and that the official would have only got part way home that day, and met his slaves on the following morning. 48  The verb ivdhte is plural, so Jesus is generalising, either about Galileans or more probably about all Jews, not singling out the official.  In context it seems to constitute a challenge to deeper faith (probably deliberately so, although John does not say). 49  His response is not explicitly in these terms, but it does imply belief that Jesus can heal. 50  Jesus’ response is positive but not in the form which the official sought, so the reported faith is worth something (and the obedience suggests that the kurie of verse 49 was more than mere courtesy). Jesus says, o` ui`oj sou zh|, literally, “Your son lives.” At the primary level of meaning, the context (together with some LXX precedent) suggests a word about physical recovery, but if the story anticipates ch.5 then a secondary reference to life of the Age seems likely. If so, the present tense anticipates Jesus’ claim to give eternal life now. 51f  News which justifies his belief. The word evpuqeto [BAGD: “inquire, ask, seek to learn”] tends to suggest some measure of curiosity. So perhaps we are to understand that the official already suspects that this might be the answer.      53  The climax : the man comes to a strengthened faith which acknowledges Jesus as the one whose word is true and powerful, and who gives life. Repeatedly, something of this kind is the conclusion of Johannine pericopes. Here it is given added force by the mention of his oivkia. This doesn’t mean that he or they had come to fullness of faith, but it does seem to point the reader to such faith. 54  A further connecting with Cana. This probably also suggests a parallel between the response of the official and his household and that of the disciples in 2:11. |


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