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Teaching a Samaritan Woman

Teaching a Samaritan Woman

JOHN 4:3-43



On their way from Judea to Galilee, Jesus and his disciples travel north through the district of Samaria. They are tired from the journey. About noon they stop near the city of Sychar to rest by a well that Jacob likely dug or paid to have dug centuries earlier. Down to our time, such a well can be found near the modern-day city of Nablus.

While Jesus rests near the well, his disciples go into the nearby city to buy some food. In their absence, a Samaritan woman comes to draw water. Jesus says to her: “Give me a drink.”​—John 4:7.

Jews and Samaritans generally have no dealings with one another because of deep-seated prejudices. So the woman is astonished and asks: “How is it that you, despite being a Jew, ask me for a drink even though I am a Samaritan woman?” Jesus answers: “If you had known of the free gift of God and who it is who says to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” “Sir,” she replies, “you do not even have a bucket for drawing water, and the well is deep. From what source, then, do you have this living water? You are not greater than our forefather Jacob, who gave us the well and who together with his sons and his cattle drank out of it, are you?”​—John 4:9-12.

“Everyone drinking from this water will get thirsty again,” Jesus declares. “Whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty at all, but the water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water bubbling up to impart everlasting life.” (John 4:13, 14) Yes, though tired, Jesus is willing to share life-giving words of truth with the Samaritan woman.

The woman then says: “Sir, give me this water, so that I may neither thirst nor keep coming over to this place to draw water.” Jesus now seems to change the subject and says to her: “Go, call your husband and come to this place.” She replies: “I do not have a husband.” But how shocked she must be at what Jesus knows when he tells her: “You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’ For you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.”​—John 4:15-18.

The significance of his statement is clear to her, and she says in amazement: “Sir, I see that you are a prophet.” She then shows that she has an interest in spiritual things. How? She continues: “Our forefathers [the Samaritans] worshipped on this mountain [Mt. Gerizim, which is close by], but you people [the Jews] say that in Jerusalem is the place where people must worship.”​—John 4:19, 20.

However, Jesus explains that the place of worship is not important. He says: “The hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.” Then he tells her: “The hour is coming, and it is now, when the true worshippers will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for indeed, the Father is looking for ones like these to worship him.”​—John 4:21, 23, 24.

What the Father looks for in true worshippers is not where they worship but how they worship. The woman is impressed. “I know that Messiah is coming, who is called Christ,” she says. “Whenever that one comes, he will declare all things to us openly.”​—John 4:25.

Then Jesus reveals an important truth: “I am he, the one speaking to you.” (John 4:26) Think of that! Here is a woman who comes at midday to draw water. Yet, Jesus favors her in a wonderful way. He tells her pointedly what he has apparently not yet confessed openly to others​—that he is the Messiah.


Jesus’ disciples return from Sychar with food. They find him at Jacob’s well where they left him, but now he is talking with a Samaritan woman. As the disciples arrive, she leaves her water jar and heads for the city.

Once in Sychar, the woman recounts to the people the things that Jesus told her. With conviction, she tells them: “Come and see a man who told me everything I did.” Then, perhaps to arouse curiosity, she asks: “Could this not perhaps be the Christ?” (John 4:29) That is a question on a vital subject​—one that has been of interest since Moses’ day. (Deuteronomy 18:18) It moves the people of the city to come out to see Jesus for themselves.

Meanwhile, the disciples urge Jesus to eat the food they have brought. But he replies: “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” The disciples wonder at that, saying to one another: “No one brought him anything to eat, did he?” Jesus kindly explains with words that hold meaning for all of his followers: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”​—John 4:32-34.

The work Jesus is talking about is not that of the grain harvest, which is some four months away. Rather, Jesus is referring to a spiritual harvest, as he goes on to show: “Lift up your eyes and view the fields, that they are white for harvesting. Already the reaper is receiving wages and gathering fruit for everlasting life, so that the sower and the reaper may rejoice together.”​—John 4:35, 36.

Jesus may already realize the effect of his encounter with the Samaritan woman. Many from Sychar are putting faith in him on account of her testimony, for she is telling the people: “He told me all the things I did.” (John 4:39) Therefore, when they come from Sychar to the well, they ask Jesus to stay and talk to them some more. Jesus accepts the invitation and remains in Samaria for two days.

As the Samaritans listen to Jesus, many more believe in him. They tell the woman: “We no longer believe just because of what you said; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the savior of the world.” (John 4:42) Surely the Samaritan woman provides a fine example of how we can witness about Christ, arousing curiosity so that our listeners will welcome more information.

Recall that it is four months before the harvest​—evidently the barley harvest, which in this region occurs in the spring. So it is now probably November or December. This means that following the Passover of 30 C.E., Jesus and his disciples have spent eight months or so in Judea, teaching and baptizing. They now head north to their home territory of Galilee. What awaits them there?