John Chapter Four: Jesus and a Woman

By: Deji Yesufu

Seminary education became increasingly despised at a time in the Nigerian religious clime. The idea that a person could just receive a calling, combine it with charismatic gifts, and then branch out to open a church, became such a fad that churches now litter the landscapes of most urban cities in Nigeria – all of them led by different founders. The result was that with increase in churches was a corresponding decline in biblical knowledge and lessons in godly living. The rise of corrupt tendencies in the average Nigerian mind is a testament to this. One thing I learnt from seminary was the graceful, purposeful, and intelligent manner in which one can glean Jesus from every passage of the Bible. From the Old Testament to the New, the person of our Lord is either implied or demonstrated by the writers of scripture. So, when Providence Reformed Baptist Church Ibadan commenced the study of the book of John, we knew that we would enter a roller-coaster of a ride at learning the Person of Jesus Christ. In this essay, I will try to glean a few thoughts from the fourth chapter of the gospels of John.

The chapter opens up with Jesus and his disciples travelling from Judea through Samaria (unto Galilee). Our Lord is described as weary and his disciples leave him by a well to go into the city to buy food for the Master to eat. At church, we pondered on the thought of why it required twelve grown men to go and buy food when one or two could have gone. But God was up to something, and our Lord thus encouraged all his men to go so that he could have this momentous encounter. In a short time, a woman, who was never named in the passage, came to the well to draw up water. Then Jesus spoke to her: “Give me a drink…” The woman was stupefied. In those days, men do not speak to women in public. Some Rabbis would not even talk to their wives in public. Secondly, the Jews regarded the Samaritans as very inferior, so Jesus asking this woman for a drink was breaking all norms. He was not only speaking to a woman; the matter was made worse by his speaking to a Samaritan woman. So, the woman pointed this to our Lord. And Christ quickly led her on a conversation that he could give her living waters.

Naturally speaking when the woman heard “living waters”, she felt that it meant a kind of water resource that would require that she never come to the well to draw water. Immediately she consented to it but in doing this, the woman fell into a train of thoughts that Jesus Christ intended. If she would have living waters, she would have to rid herself of a lifetime of protruded waters that are within her. Christ then asked her to go and bring her husband. If our Lord was going to give her resources like no one in Samaria has, there should be an authority figure in her life, a man, who should help secure it. The woman confesses that she has no husband. Christ then, supernaturally, describes her life: she has lived with five men previously and is presently living with the sixth. She had cohabited with these men and had never committed to marital life to any. Only someone with divine abilities could know this, so the woman wisely tried to change the topic and told Jesus that he must be a prophet. Then she threw up a theological debate that was common between the Jews and Samaritans of that time.

Samaria was located in a place in the ancient Israel landscape where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had lived. Because of this, the Samaritans held the position that since the Patriarchs lived here and worshiped God here, this is where worship was to be held. Mount Gerazim was regarded as the exact location for this kind of worship. Why then do the Jews say that we must go to Jerusalem to worship God? Jesus permits this change of subject and explains to her that the time has come that the physical places where people worship would not matter anymore; rather it is those who worship God in spirit and in truth that God is seeking. Then the woman raised another theological point, as if to use her grasp of the Bible to drown her conviction of sin. I paraphrase her here: “Besides sounding like a prophet, you know a great deal. We are looking forward to the coming of the Messiah who will tell us everything we need to know so that theological debates like these will die out.” Jesus replied: “I who speak to you I AM”. Unfortunately, when the translators of scriptures reached this point in their work, they changed the original “I am” in Greek to “am he” so that the sentence would make better sense. But in doing this, they lose the force of the original meaning which was that Jesus was identifying himself with God’s first revelation of himself to Israel in Exodus 3:14 as the “I am”.

This woman understood the force of Christ’s words: this was no ordinary prophet, this was God in the flesh. She abandoned her water pot and fled into the city, calling on all the men to come and see what she had just encountered. The result was phenomenal. The whole city of Samaria turned to faith in Jesus Christ. Our Lord spent two days with them before carrying on his journey to Galilee. We now understand what God was doing when he directed all the disciples to leave the weary Christ and go and buy food in town. It is very likely that if just one of Christ’s disciples was around, the force of the encounter between Jesus and that woman would have been reduced. It is said that this conversation between Christ and the unnamed woman is the longest recorded conversation Christ had with anyone in all of the Bible. If that conversation was meant to convert a whole city, it made sense that God would permit this.

John chapter four did not end with the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman. In the final verses, the author describes Jesus’ encounter with a noble man, after Christ had arrived at Galilee from Samaria. The rich man had a problem: his son was dying and he had come to Jesus to plead with him to come and heal him. Unlike the Samaritan woman, with whom Jesus had a long conversation, in this case, Christ only speaks two sentences: “…Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe…” This statement was an obvious reference to John 2:23-25 where people were said to have believed in Jesus but Christ did not entrust himself to them because he knew that they were fair whether believers, who only latched on to him because of the glories of healing they saw. Christ was saying to the man: the main purpose of my coming is not to heal people, but to bring sinners to acknowledge faith in me.

The man was way too desperate to begin to engage Christ, and he cried out to the Lord: “Sir, come down before my child dies…” Jesus then replied to him, perhaps in pity, “Go your way, your son lives”. And I could imagine Jesus sitting there, observing whether this man was like the crowd who were looking for miracles or he truly believed his words. Without a hint of whether Christ’s words will come to pass or not, this man turns around and leaves for home. This man’s faith was genuine. We get the impression that the trip home took close to 24 hours because, on the way, his servants met him and told him that the son was well. He had begun to get better the day before, just when Jesus said “Your son lives”. The man who had demonstrated implicit faith in Christ’s spoken words would eventually lead all his household to believe in the Christ of the Most High God. John chapter four ends with the author explaining that this miracle was the second miracle that Christ would demonstrate in Cana of Galilee. The first is the miracle of changing water to wine. We get the point of these passages, not from them but from John 20:31, which tells us that the whole purpose of Jesus’ sojourn on earth was not to bring miracles to people, but to help them place faith in himself and in doing this they would have eternal life. Christ succeeded in doing this with the whole city of Samaria, and then eventually with the household of a nobleman.

Two things can be gleaned from this chapter. I would like to put them in the form of questions. First, have you found faith in Jesus Christ? Second, is your faith in the Lord increasing? The first question would be to men who are not Christians; people who are still goaded with protruded waters and have not laid hold of living waters. Jesus is calling all such people to repent of their heinous lifestyle and to come to him in faith. It would require admitting in your inner being, that a certain lifestyle you are engaged with is rebellion against God. In repenting of that lifestyle, and by believing in Christ to save you from your sins. Only then can you be saved from God’s wrath coming on sinners. The second lesson is relevant to all who have believed in Christ. Just as the nobleman did, we can go from one level of faith in Christ to another level of faith – this latter level of faith affects all those around, our household, our workplace, our city, and the nations of the earth in general. John chapter four describes to us the purpose why Christ came: to bring men to living faith in him and by doing this, men, who originally were heading to a Christ-less grave, would now have eternal life.


Deji Yesufu is the Pastor of Providence Reformed Baptist Church Ibadan. He is the author of HUMANITY.

Posted by Deji Yesufu

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