Lesson 7: Jesus’ Conversation with the Samaritan Woman

This Lesson is part of John’s Gospel Easy Notes Series. 

Matthew Henry divides the conversation Jesus had with the Samaritan woman (John Chapter 4) into four heads:

  1. Conversation concerning the water (v. 7—15).
  2. Conversation concerning her husband (v. 16—18).
  3. Conversation concerning the place of worship (v. 19—24).
  4. Conversation concerning the Messiah (v. 25—26).

The above division is helpful to understand the conversation.

The Context
Samaria is in the middle between north and south of Israel. The people of Northern Israel were carried away to captivity in Assyria. A lot of people from other races were brought in there in 722 B.C. The few Jews who had remained in the land intermarried with other races and became mixed blood. Their faith also got mixed up with other religions. They are the Samaritans who later erected a place of worship at Mount Gerizim too (referred to in v. 19). For these reasons Samaritans were hated by the orthodox Jews.

Conversation Starters
Jesus broke barriers. He talked to a woman which Rabbis normally did not do in public (see v. 27) even if it is his wife. Jesus was tired from the journey and he used it as an opportunity to start a conversation. “Will you give me a drink?”

It is a lesson for all of us. The starting point of a conversation with a non-believer can be a natural one. It can slowly lead to helping that person find Jesus. The importance of having a context is important. Try to build relationships with people. Then you will find it natural and easy to share with them, Jesus.

The Gift of God
Jesus talked about himself as the gift of God (John 4:10). This is yet another clear indication that none of us can earn our salvation based on any of our good deeds. Simply we have to say “Thank you” and accept it as a gift.

Paul was so moved in his heart as he was writing about being generous in giving. And as he was writing about sowing generously, his heart overflowed with the thought of God’s great generosity in giving his Son Jesus to the world. All on a sudden he praises God with this lovely expression: “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15. Compare John 3:16—the generosity of God’s giving!)!”

Living Water—Jesus Is the One Who Satisfies
Jesus talks about living water. Jacob’s well (dug two thousand years before the time of Jesus) was around one hundred feet deep and water collected in it from beneath the soil. Jesus is contrasting that water to water that flows in abundance. Living water to the listener meant running water in contrast to water that remained still in the well. The Samaritan woman naturally wondered from where Jesus was going to provide that refreshing running water.

It is an interesting episode in Jesus’s conversation with people that when Jesus said something heavenly the listener understood it in an earthly way. With Nicodemus when Jesus talked about being born again, he tried to ask, “How can that be?” Can a man “enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born?”

With the Samaritan woman Jesus was talking about himself being a complete satisfaction—living water—and she was answering him by saying that the well is deep and he had nothing to draw with. She also became practical when she said, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Both responses make Jesus talk more on the subject. Are you able to understand what Jesus is speaking to you is about eternal things. Or are you still responding to him with practical questions?

The whole point of the conversation about living water is that natural water does not satisfy thirst permanently. But in Jesus we can find complete satisfaction. Just look at your life. With what are you trying to fill that vacuum or emptiness in your heart? Jesus is inviting you today to himself—the source of living water. Will you accept that invitation?

Jesus with Sensitivity Confronts the Samaritan Woman
When Jesus confronts her with the situation regarding her married life, she suddenly diverts the question to a seemingly spiritual question—about worship. See verse 19. Jesus however answers that question saying that true worship is not confined to a place—but people can worship God from anywhere if they worship in spirit and in truth. It is worship that is spiritual and real which comes from the heart.

When Jesus deals with you, he will not allow you to escape with sin in your life. He will certainly point it out to you. Instead of condemning her, Jesus simply said to her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” That made her to realize that there is a thirst in her life which she was trying to quench the wrong way.

Again, as she goes back to her town, her testimony was: “He told me everything I ever did (v. 39). The deep insight Jesus has about what has happened in your life so far should be motivation to seek him out. The Samaritan woman was convicted in her heart. Even though she tried to deflect the conversation away from her life’s dissatisfactions to arguments about place of worship; Jesus turned her eyes to himself—the Messiah—by saying, “I who speak to you am he.”

Jesus Delighted to Do the Will of God
John is very careful to show us the divinity of Jesus that he is the Son of God. At the same time he shows us how much Jesus was the “Word made flesh.” In this incident he is shown as tired from the journey (v. 6). He needed to eat food (v. 31) but he had infinitely higher priorities that satisfied him. In this case, he found delight in doing the will of God and finishing the work that God gave him to do.

There seems to have been a divine compulsion in him choosing this route to travel (see v. 4) and he brought that to a completion by leading the Samaritan woman to recognize him as the Messiah. What a joy it gave him to lead one single soul to eternal life!

This incident tells us how much value Jesus puts on a single soul. The Samaritan woman had no great reputation. But Jesus met her and pointed out the emptiness of her life. She had thirst more than for water. Jesus helped her realize her true need.

Meeting the Christ
Jesus declared himself to be the Messiah to the Samaritan woman (as well as the man who was born blind—John 9:37. The blind man responded with worship. See v. 38). Jesus is not pointing out to her religion in in Samaria or in Jerusalem but he was pointing her to himself.

The Samaritan woman comes to realize who Jesus is. Her real need is met. She leaves the water jar and goes back to her town. Her testimony leads an entire town to come out to Jesus. And many believed in him as the Saviour of the world.

Food for Thought
How are you trying to deflect Jesus’ claim to be your Lord and Saviour? And when you have found him, is it not natural that you have a desire to share him with others? When Jesus is concerned about a single soul, like the disciples are we concerned about eating lunch?

Again, Jesus challenged the disciples about the harvest. Isn’t it now the right time to see the need of people ready to listen and open their hearts to the gospel? You need to “open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest (v. 35b).”

Nicodemus and the Samaritan Woman: Two Contrasting Characters

Nicodemus

The Samaritan Woman

A Jew

A man

A learned person

He was morally upright

He was wealthy and from the upper class of society

He recognized Jesus’ merits and sought him out

He was serious and dignified

A Samaritan

A woman

An ignorant person

She was sinful

She was poor and was probably an outcast from society

She saw in Jesus a curious traveller and was indifferent to him

She was flippant (not having a respectful attitude) and possibly boisterous (noisy, energetic and cheerful)

[Adapted from: JOHN—The Gospel of Belief by Merrill C. Tenney]

Worship
If you look at people worshipping God as described in the Bible it almost always is accompanied by a posture of the body showing respect, awe, reverence or adoration to God. We find people bowing down to the ground. We find people lifting up hands to God in prayer. We have records of people kneeling down. But imitating all these will not be true worship.

Today many go to church to see others and be seen by them. Going to church is a habit rather than having a purpose. Jesus, in his talk with the Samaritan woman, speaks of the time that worship is not going to be place-centric (people will worship neither in Jerusalem nor on this mountain). Instead, people will worship God in spirit and in truth.

Worship fails when people tell a preacher that his sermon was good and that they enjoyed listening to it. It succeeds when people go home having experienced God. Worship fails when people enjoy the music but that does not lead them to think about the One about whom the song was all about. Some people pray as if God is there just to sign plans approved by people. That is not worship.

Worship does not start unless you start with God. Think a moment about God and who he is. Think about his holiness, his justice, his righteousness, his infinite love, the cross and the shed blood of Jesus, his wrath against sin and the sinner, and the Holy Spirit who dwells in our hearts making the presence of God real to us. “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name (Psalm 100:4).”

Worship cannot end unless you see your utter sinfulness in God’s eyes. Often we come to God with the attitude of the righteous Pharisee. What was his problem? He was comparing himself to someone else. But worship means you stand before God like that sinner. And see yourself as God sees you.

Worship cannot continue unless you repent and experience the forgiving love of God (Read Psalm 51).