We are looking at the story of Yeshua's conversation with the Samaritan woman at a well. Lazarus uses marital imagery in chapters 2, 3, and 4 to present Yeshua as the Bridegroom of the Church. That Jacob's well is the location of His encounter with the Samaritan woman is to remind the reader that in the Tanakh a well was the place where a bride is courted, as when Jacob first saw his beloved Rachel. In Chapter 4, through the Samaritan woman, Yeshua, the Bridegroom, is speaking to His beloved, Israel, and calling her back into a Covenant relationship. This is a story of fulfilled prophecy.
What we have seen so far is that Yeshua and His disciples have left Judea and are headed to Galilee. They are traveling through Samaria and stop at a well. Yeshua is tired and remains there while His disciples go into town to buy food. After they leave, the Samaritan woman arrives, and a conversation begins, which Lazarus records for us.
They have discussed water, and He has pointed her to the water that is eternal life. They have discussed worship, and He has pointed out that the time is coming and now is in His ministry that worship will no longer be carried on either in Mount Gerizim, the mountain of the Samaritans, or in Mount Zion, the mountain of Jerusalem. But actually worship shall take place wherever a man in the spirit of truth lifts his heart to God:
The woman said to Him, "I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us." Yeshua said to her, "I who speak to you am He." John 4:25-26 NASB
Note that this Samaritan woman believed in the promise of the Messiah. To her the Messiah would be a teacher, not a military conqueror. In many respects she seems to have had a clearer vision of the Messiah than even the Jews! The Jews thought of Him primarily as a political and military figure, who would rid them of Roman oppression/domination.
How is it that the Samaritans, who believed only in the inspiration of the Pentateuch, could know of the coming Messiah? There is actually a lot we can learn about Messiah from the Pentateuch. The first messianic glimpse was in Genesis 3:15, where it was indicated that the woman's "seed" would ultimately crush Satan. Later, Abraham was told that through his offspring all nations of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 22:18). Jacob had foretold the coming of Shiloh (rest-giver) from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10).
In Exodus, the Messiah had been foreshadowed in the passover lamb, and in Leviticus various offerings prepared those paying attention for the Messiah's redeeming sacrifice (Leviticus 1-5).
In Numbers, the death of Him who was to be "lifted up" to provide healing, was prefigured, and Balaam spoke of the star that would arise out of Jacob, the scepter out of Israel, to destroy the enemies of Yahweh (24:17-19). And, as we have already seen, Moses told of "the prophet" like unto Him, to whom all would owe obedience (Deuteronomy 18:15-19). So this woman looked for with expectance the coming Messiah.
"Yeshua said to her, 'I who speak to you am He'"—the Greek text literally reads, "I am, the one speaking to you." His words "I am" recalls God's revelation to Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3:14: the Samaritans were familiar with Exodus where Yahweh declares His covenant name. I think it is here that she finally recognizes who has offered her this living water as Yeshua affirms that He is the Messiah. At this point their conversation ends abruptly just as the disciples return with food:.
At this point His disciples came, and they were amazed that He had been speaking with a woman, yet no one said, "What do You seek?" or, "Why do You speak with her?" So the woman left her waterpot, and went into the city and said to the men, "Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?" They went out of the city, and were coming to Him. John 4:27-30 NASB
"At this point His disciples came"—"at this point," in the Greek that is very, specific. "At this point," at this specific moment. This is a critical juncture. The disciples had finished buying food most likely in Sychar. The very moment Yeshua had declared who He was, and the woman now born from above couldn't get to the village fast enough to tell everyon:
At this point His disciples came, and they were amazed that He had been speaking with a woman, yet no one said, "What do You seek?" or, "Why do You speak with her?" John 4:27 NASB
The disciples are "amazed"—this word "amazed" is from the Greek word thaumazo, which was characteristically used when the object of perception was extremely unusual. For instance, it is the word used of the disciple after Yeshua had calmed the storm:
He said to them, "Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?" Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. The men were amazed, and said, "What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?" Matthew 8:26-27 NASB
The word, "amazed," here is also thaumazo. Can you picture this? You're in the boat and all of a sudden the storm stops and everything is calm. They saw the power of God right before their very eyes, and they were amazed.
Why were the disciples amazed that Yeshua was talking to a woman of Samaria?
Their reaction reflects the typical Jewish prejudices against Samaritans and women. In Yeshua's day, men in general, and rabbis in particular, did not publicly talk to women.
I'm sure you have heard the prayer that Jewish men prayed, "Blessed art Thou O Lord who has not made me a slave or a Gentile or a woman." The woman's prayer was, "Blessed O Lord who hast fashioned me according to Thy will." And that prayer of hers was simply a prayer acknowledging that she is nothing more than a piece of furniture. That's the way a woman felt in that culture.
Jewish thought held that for a Rabbi to talk much with a woman, even his own wife, was at best a waste of time and at worst a diversion from the study of Torah, and therefore potentially a great evil that could lead to Gehenna (Pirke Aboth 1:5). The Rabbis held the study of the Law to be the greatest good in life, and they discouraged women from studying it at all. When Ben Azzai suggested that women be taught the Law for certain purposes Rabbi Eliezer replied: 'If any man gives his daughter a knowledge of the Law it is as though he taught her lechery' (Mishnah Sotah 3:4).
This was the belief of that culture, but Yeshua went against cultural norms and treated women with respect and honor. This caused His disciples to be amazed. We see from Scripture that Yeshua treated women differently—His mother, Mary Magdalene, the woman bent over for 18 years, the Syrophoenician woman, Mary and Martha, the widow with the two coins, and others.
Paul wrote to the Galatians:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Yeshua. Galatians 3:28 NASB
In our relationship to the Lord there is no difference between male and female. Wherever Christianity has become deeply rooted in a culture, the treatment of women has greatly improved.
The same cannot be said for Islam. Throughout the Muslim world today, women are treated as second-class citizens who are inferior to men in terms of intelligence, morals, and faith. This arrangement derives from the Qur'an itself, which states unambiguously: "Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other" (Qur'an 4:34). The Qur'an likens a woman to a field (tilth), to be used by a man as he wills: "Your women are a tilth for you [to cultivate], so go to your tilth as ye will" (2:223).
Sahih Muslim (4:1039) — "A'isha said [to Muhammad]: 'You have made us equal to the dogs and the asses'" These are the words of Muhammad's favorite wife, complaining of the role assigned to women under Islam.
The Islamic court system relegates women to a most lowly status. According to the Qur'an, a woman's testimony is worth only half that of a man. In cases of rape, no conviction can occur in an Islamic court unless four male eyewitnesses testify to having seen the act occur. This is in keeping with a 7th-century edict issued by Muhammad.
Today the plight of millions of women in cultures around the world where Yeshua is not known and trusted is dismal, to say the least. And as we see Yeshua dealing with this woman we should realize that; Christianity changes everything! He treats that Samaritan woman with love and respect and wins her respect.
"So the woman left her waterpot, and went into the city"—she came to draw water and left with living water. There is a lot of discussion as to why this woman left her waterpot. Nobody knows for sure, but I think that she was so excited, at having discovered the Messiah, that all she wanted to do was go back to her village and share the good news. Carrying a heavy waterpot would have slowed her down.
Originally Yeshua had told her He was thirsty and wanted something to drink and the well was a 100 feet deep, so maybe she left the water pot so He could continue to have the water. Whatever the reason she left in a hurry.
She goes back to here village and "Said to the men"—why is she telling men? Typically at the gate of every village the men sat and adjudicated the issues of the town. So it would have been natural for the woman to report her discovery "to the men" in Sychar, because they (as the spiritual leaders) would have had to determine if Yeshua really was the Messiah.
She tells them, "Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done"—this may be hyperbole, but shows that Yeshua has come from God. He has supernatural ability.
Now notice what she says to the men, "This is not the Christ, is it?"—I don't think this expresses doubt on her part, I think she is a believer at this point. She wisely framed this in the form of a question to elicit investigation. She asks a question which elicited a negative answer, leaving them perfectly at ease to draw their own conclusion and contradict her! So she isn't trying to instruct the men, and incite their male egos, she goes to them with a question, she is looking to them for guidance.
Personally, I think that this is the best way to introduce controversial doctrines to people, ask them questions. Such as, Why do you think Yeshua told the crowd that He was speaking to that, "this generation will not pass away until all these things take place"? What did He mean by "this generation"? Make them think about it without coming across like you know more than them. Asking questions rather than making pronouncements tends to disarm people.
They went out of the city, and were coming to Him. John 4:30 NASB
The tense of that last verb, "were coming to him," is vividly descriptive of the fact that the testimony that this woman gave in the city was so remarkable that there was a continuous stream of people who were coming out to hear about the man who had told her all things that she had done.
"They" probably the community leaders, proceeded "out of the city" to the well, to investigate Yeshua's identity.
So in the background the woman returns to her home and tells everybody in the village about what has happened to her. The response is a movement toward Yeshua. Meanwhile, in the foreground Yeshua is in dialog with His disciples.
Meanwhile the disciples were urging Him, saying, "Rabbi, eat." But He said to them, "I have food to eat that you do not know about." So the disciples were saying to one another, "No one brought Him anything to eat, did he?" Yeshua said to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work. John 4:31-34 NASB
As is typical in this Gospel, the disciples interpret Yeshua's remark literally. He says, "I have food to eat that you do not know about." And they assume that someone has brought Him lunch. So He says to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work"—this is a declaration of Yeshua's priorities. Yeshua was speaking figuratively of the sustenance that comes from doing the will of God. This points to a very significant fact of spiritual life; our strength in life comes from doing His will. Yeshua is echoing Deuteronomy 8:3, where Moses addresses Israel and seeks to explain God's way to them:
"He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD. Deuteronomy 8:3 NASB
"Man does not live by bread alone"—we don't stay alive because we have food, we stay alive because God grants us life. We are dependant upon God and God alone for our life. Yeshua's spiritual nourishment came from doing the Father's "will," and advancing "His work."
"For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. John 6:38 NASB
Yeshua had not come through Samaria simply because it was the short route to Galilee. He came through Samaria to do the will and the work of God: to keep His divine appointment with this Samaritan woman. He went to Samaria to fulfill prophecy.
Yeshua came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). Food and drink were secondary; reaching lost people was primary. So in three short years, Yeshua could pray:
"I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. John 17:4 NASB
The will of the Father is always the driving force behind Yeshua's mission. Which reminds me of a statement that David makes in the 16th Psalm when speaking typically of the Lord Yeshua he says that, "I have set the Lord always before me." That is how all of us who are Christians should live life. God's will should be more important to us than anything else. But it sure seems that we look at life differently. Instead of being sustained by our service to Yahweh, we seek to find satisfaction in homes and financial security, we would love to spend our life in pleasure, but our Lord has a very significant word here for Christians. "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work." I wonder what we are willing to do without so that the Gospel can be shared, that people can be taught about Yeshua. One of the reasons that we so often struggle in the Christian life is that our priorities are not straight. Like the disciple, we are too physical. Yeshua's disciples think of literal food as quickly as Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman thought of literal water.
The Lord further instructs His disciples:
"Do you not say, 'There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. "Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. "For in this case the saying is true, 'One sows and another reaps.' "I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor." John 4:35-38 NASB
"Do you not say, 'There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest'"?—some say that this tells us that it is December or January on this occasion since the harvest occurs in April-May. Some say that Yeshua's reference to "four months" was probably proverbial. It was the approximate time between the last sowing and the earliest "harvest" reaping.
Given the fertility of Israel, there are two planting seasons per year and four months is the time between planting and harvest. Yeshua is telling them not to wait around, for the fields are "already white for harvest!"
And again He is speaking in a spiritual sense. While the physical harvest from the farms necessitates waiting while the crop grows and matures, and can happen only at that time, the spiritual harvest is always present, always there. Here in this Samaritan town, where the Jews would not even expect it, there was a spiritual harvest, ripe and waiting.
"Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest"—when have you ever seen a harvest, excluding cotton fields, that was white? As our Lord looked out over the hills, evidently there was something white and they would have understood it. The Samaritans dressed in long white flowing garments. And since our Lord at one moment is speaking about natural food and them of spiritual food, since He so quickly moves from the water that we drink to the well of water that springs up into everlasting life, it wouldn't be surprising for Him to understand by this, "Look on the fields and see these Samaritans that are coming out in their long flowing garments, the fields are white unto the harvest."
"So that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together"—this clause extends the agricultural metaphor in new directions. We all know that you don't sow and reap together. But Yeshua seems to be referring to the eschatological promise of Amos:
"Behold, days are coming," declares the LORD, "When the plowman will overtake the reaper And the treader of grapes him who sows seed; When the mountains will drip sweet wine And all the hills will be dissolved. Amos 9:13 NASB
Yeshua seems to be saying that the eschatological age has dawned in His ministry, in which sowing and reaping are coming together in the harvesting of the crop, the messianic community, the church. And notice the verses that precede this in Amos:
"In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David, And wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins And rebuild it as in the days of old; That they may possess the remnant of Edom And all the nations who are called by My name," Declares the LORD who does this. Amos 9:11-12 NASB
Who was this promise—"In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David,"—made to? Amos was writing to Israel, the 10 Northern tribes. "Booth" refers to his family line. Yahweh said He was going to destroy and rebuild Israel, meaning that National Israel would be destroyed, never to rise again, but Spiritual Israel will rise from her ruins.
James says (Acts 15) that Peters account of Gentiles being saved is a fulfillment of this prophecy of Amos. So James is saying that this prophecy was being fulfilled in the Church. I believe that the Bible teaches the essential continuity of Israel and the Church. The elect of all the ages are seen as one people—true Israel, with one Savior, one destiny.
This view has been called "Replacement Theology"—it is said that the Church replaced Israel. But a much better term would be "Fulfillment Theology"—the promises of Yahweh made to Old Covenant Israel are "fulfilled" in the Church of Yeshua the Christ, which is true Israel. Christianity is the fulfillment of Yahweh's promises to Israel, because we are true Israel. And our sacrifices and our house is spiritual.
"For in this case the saying is true, 'One sows and another reaps.' John 4:37 NASB
The Greek term, en touto (lit. in this) can look forward as well as backward. In this case it looks forward. Verse 37,which contains a proverb, summarizes verse 38. It means that both sowers and reapers are necessary to get a good harvest:
"I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor." John 4:38 NASB
The disciples were being able to reap where they had not labored, referring to the Samaritans. The "others" who labored before them are the prophets, Moses and John the Baptist and his followers. His work in this very area had prepared the way for Yeshua and His disciples:
John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there; and people were coming and were being baptized— John 3:23 NASB
Both of these cities are in Samaria. So the prophets and John had sown along with the Samaritan woman who has gone into the town, bearing testimony that Yeshua is at the well, and that He has "told her all she had done." She did the sowing; now it is time for Yeshua and His disciples to reap.
I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. 1 Corinthians 3:6 NASB
There is a process that hopefully we are all involved in:
From that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, "He told me all the things that I have done." So when the Samaritans came to Yeshua, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. Many more believed because of His word; and they were saying to the woman, "It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world." John 4:39-42 NASB
"From that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, 'He told me all the things that I have done'"—did the testimony of this Samaritan woman bring these Samaritans to saving faith? When Lazarus says that people believed, that is exactly what he means:
but these have been written so that you may believe that Yeshua is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. John 20:31 NASB
Her confession regarding the exposure of her past probably was so explicit that she became a compelling advocate for the prophetic credibility of Christ, and they believed.
This Samaritan woman is a new convert, and she is very excited about Christ. The sad thing is that in an individual who's been a Christian for a long time; the chances are they haven't spoken to anyone about the Gospel in a long time. And then there is a new Christian who has just found the Lord and it seems that in every conversation they have, something comes up about the Lord Yeshua. I wish we could keep the original zeal. The problem with most of us is that after a while, all the people that we associate with are Christians. We need to find ways to keep in contact with unsaved people.
So when the Samaritans came to Yeshua, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. John 4:40 NASB
The word "asking" is an imperfect tense form; they "kept on asking him" to remain with them. That Samaritans would urge a Jewish rabbi to stay with them attests not only the degree of confidence He had earned, but their conviction that He was none less than the promised Taheb, the Messiah.
"He stayed there two days"—this is the only time in His earthly ministry that this ever happened. It's the only time He actually spent two days with a whole town, revealing Himself to them.
Many more believed because of His word; John 4:41 NASB
These additional converts "believed" because of Yeshua's "word" (Yeshua's own witness), which confirmed to them what the woman had already told them:
and they were saying to the woman, "It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world." John 4:42 NASB
This is not to disparage the woman's testimony, but to confirm it: they have heard for themselves, and have judged what she told them to be true.
"And know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world"—the Samaritans are the first to recognize that the salvation Yeshua is offering is for all the nations of the world! The title "Savior of the world" is unique to Lazarus, occurring only here and in:
We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. 1 John 4:14 NASB
Earlier in this story, Yeshua told the woman that "salvation is from the Jews" but it wasn't only for the Jews. They knew that Christ was more than just a Savior to the Jews. He was their Savior too!
He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. John 1:11 NASB
Yet the Samaritans welcome Yeshua and proclaim Him to be the Savior of the world.
It was appropriate that the title "Savior of the world" should be applied to Yeshua in the context of ministry to Samaritans, representing the first cross-cultural evangelism, undertaken by Yeshua Himself and issuing in a pattern to be followed by the Church:
but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth." Acts 1:8 NASB
There is a lot of stress in the Fourth Gospel upon the universal salvation of the Lord Yeshua. He saves, not everybody without distinction or without exception, He does not die for everybody without distinction or without exception, but He dies for Jews and Gentiles and Samaritans, He's the Savior of the world.
What we see happening here in Samaria is the fulfillment of prophecy. Speaking to Israel Yahweh said:
And the LORD said, "Call his name Not My People, for you are not my people, and I am not your God." Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, "You are not my people," it shall be said to them, "Children of the living God." Hosea 1:9-10 ESV
and I will sow her for myself in the land. And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, 'You are my people'; and he shall say, 'You are my God.'" Hosea 2:23 ESV
Here we see the Samaritans who were "Not My People" become "My People." Prophecy is being fulfilled.
It is interesting to look at the comparisons between Yeshua's witness to Nicodemus in chapter 3 and the Samaritan woman in chapter 4 as a comparison of two people who are also representatives of the histories of their people: The covenant people of Judah and the apostate people of what was the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Yeshua's witness to these two is the beginning of the prophecy of Ezekiel 37:15-28
say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I am about to take the stick of Joseph (that is in the hand of Ephraim) and the tribes of Israel associated with him. And I will join with it the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, that they may be one in my hand. Ezekiel 37:19 ESV
The restoration of Israel that we see in our text is just the beginning. After the death of Stephen, the Jerusalem church was scattered abroad. And Philip the evangelist went to Samaria and proclaimed Christ:
Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them. Acts 8:5 NASB
His reception was outstanding:
The crowds with one accord were giving attention to what was said by Philip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing. Acts 8:6 NASB
Subsequently, the Gospel was proclaimed in "many villages" of the Samaritans:
So, when they had solemnly testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they started back to Jerusalem, and were preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans. Acts 8:25 NASB
The acceptance of Philip's message might be due to the preparatory work accomplished by one woman sharing her faith with those in her village. In that case, Philip, reaped the benefit of the labor of others.
This story of the Samaritan woman at the well, clearly shows us that Yeshua is the Savior of the world.