3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 4

Contents

Chapter 4: The Samaritan Woman, the Harvest, and the Return to Galilee

wheat_2225018bThis is part 4 of a 21-part series which traces “seeing” and “hearing”, and looks at how they relate to “believing”, through the Gospel of John.

In this chapter Jesus meets two special people who come to faith, both of whom are foreigners. The way they respond to him has a great deal to do with hearing.


Reviewing the Text – Chapter 4

The chapter opens with this:

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, ‘Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John… – John 4:1

Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe

What is the significance of the Pharisees “hearing”? Consider: they learned the truth! When they “see”, they often fail to comprehend. But in this case they heard, and it was the truth.

The Samaritan Woman

For the first part of this conversation there is very little to see or hear. At one point she “sees” that Jesus is a prophet (4:19), and he replies with confusing, profoundly spiritual language (4:21-24), which she didn’t understand, but makes a declaration of faith (4:25). Jesus then speaks plainly (4:26).

The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.’

Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

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.’

Jesus said to her, ‘I am he, the one who is speaking to you.’

He told me everything I have ever done

When the woman goes into the town, it is in a mixture of our themes, seeing and hearing: She tells them to “come and see a man…” (4:29), but his credentials are not things that can be seen – She believed because he “told me everything I have ever done! Couldn’t he be the Messiah?” (4:29).

‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! Couldn’t he be the Messiah?’

They left the city and were on their way to him.

– John 4:29-30

The people were coming (4:30), but at this stage it sounds like they were coming to “see a man”, as she had prompted them.

The disciples started talking about earthly matters, and Jesus responded by declaring he was receiving his sustenance spiritually (4:34), and invoked their spiritual gift of sight: “I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting.” (4:35). Now it is revealed that the Samaritans are not coming “to see a man”, but rather, “Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I have ever done.’” (4:39). This is the hearing-believing sequence, which is authentic faith. As if to emphasise the point, it is repeated:

And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves …’ – John 4:41-42

Galilee

The exchange between the royal official and Jesus is extremely instructive. It goes like this:

When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his son. Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.’

– John 4:47-48

 

Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your son will live.’  The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way.

– John 4:50

 

…this was the hour when Jesus had said to him, ‘Your son will live.’ So he himself believed, along with his whole household. – John 4:53

I can’t really add much to that. It makes the connections fairly obvious, I think.

the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him

Questions to Ponder from Chapter 4

At what point would you say that the woman believed?

What was Jesus asking the disciples to look at, when he was talking about the fields being “ripe for harvesting”?

When the royal official “believed”, what did he believe?


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