- The Ancient Path, Matthew Chapter 4:12 Jesus Begins His Public Ministry

The Gospel of Matthew
CHAPTER 4:11-16
"Jesus Begins His Public Ministry" - The Land of the Gentiles

and God's Message to Israel

Jim Deering,



Mt 4:12, John The Baptist Arrested, leaving for Galilee


Jn 4:5-26, Judean wilderness to Galilee Via Samaria; The Samaritan Woman


Jn 4:27-33, Looking to The Samaritan Harvest


Jn 4:34-37, Seeking the Samaritan Harvest


Jn 4:39-42, Reaping the Samaritan Harvest


John 4:43-45, Arriving in Galilee - The Land of the Gentiles


Lk 4:14b, Jesus' Name Spreads



Jesus' Public ministry begins with the Arrest of John The Baptist and Jesus leaves for Galilee


Matthew 4:12

Now when He heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee;

With the baptism of Jesus John's more especial office ceased. The king had come, and there was little further need of the herald. We learn that John and his disciples continued to baptize some time after our Lord entered upon his ministry (John 3:23; 4:1). He also instructed his disciples in certain moral and religious duties, as fasting (Matt. 9:14; Luke 5:33) and prayer (Luke 11:1 ). We learn also that he still continued to be a witness to Jesus, so confidently pointing him out as the Lamb of God that two of his own disciples were led to accept Jesus as the true Messiah, and became his followers (John 1:29, 35-37).


Capernaum to Galilee Via Samaria - to meet the Samaritan Woman at the well


John 4:5-26
5 So He *came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph; 6 and Jacob’s well was there. So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour[40].


Jacob's Well

Genesis 33:1-20

Centuries earlier Jacob was camping on land given to his son Joseph. It was on this place where Jacob reunited with his brother Esau, where he had the vision of the Ladder with angels ascending and descending, and also where He wrestled with God. When he left this place he headed to a area named Shechem and a city named Shalem. There he purchased a piece of land and erected an altar there and named the place El-Elohe-Israel - "The Mighty One, God of Israel." This is where Jesus met the woman of Samaria.


John 4:7-9
7 There *came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus *said to her
[41], “Give Me a drink.” 8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9 Therefore the Samaritan woman *said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?”[42] (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)


Jesus has apparently already arrived and it by the well. Nothing happens by accident is the life of Jesus and He has arrived here by His Father's appointment. It's not until verse 39 that we find the reason why His Father has done so - "from that city, many believed because of the word of the woman who testified...."

About 900 years earlier the tribes had a brief civil war and the nation was split into two factions, much like the war between the North and South in our own history. The key issues concerned allegiance to Jehovah. The Northern tribes (all except Judah and Benjamin) wanted inter-marriage with other "pagan" cultures and the other gods that went with them. Judah, the tribe of the Kings (leading all the way to Jesus) and Benjamin stood alone clinging to Jehovah. They would eventually drift away as well, but that's part of a different story. The city of Samaria was once the capital of the Northern tribes, the "Kingdom of Israel," today it is called the "West Bank."

The northern tribes had their own capital and their own temple of worship. Jesus will later say to the Samaritan woman, "you worship what you do not know, we worship what we know."[43] A clear statement concerning the northern tribe's departure from Judaism. And here is Jesus waiting for this Samaritan woman. She would be from a Samaritan family who does not know Jehovah.

Jesus' disciples have all gone into town to buy food. We can easily put ourselves into the setting. It is approaching meal time and all but Jesus have gone to find food for the meal. It could be mid-day and Jesus' disciples have left Him behind to rest and be refreshed by the waters of the well.


A young lady comes to the well to draw water - for her home or for her animals. Jesus, knowing she has come, is about to engage her concerning the knowing the Son of God.


When I was a younger man I had the opportunity to know Rev. Stephen Brown, then from Quincy, Ma. He was a young pastor, perhaps 8 years or so my senior. He had a "great big voice," and was totally engaging. He told me of one of his favorite pastimes in the New England summers - Going fishing - however, his passion was for catching men and not fish for the Gospel. He would find a pleasant shady spot along a riverside path and cast his line into the stream. "Not so different" you would think, however Steve never placed any worm or bait on his hook. When someone would come along, Steve would invite them to sit with him and fish. Sooner or later they would find out that he fished with no worm and of course ask him about this. He'd tell them stories about Jesus fishing for men. He led may to the Lord that way. So, this is the picture we see of Jesus sitting at the well - just waiting for the Samaritan woman to "bite." Jesus' bait was the fact that He was a Jew - and obviously so. He was a Rabbi and probably left the side locks of His hair grow, as is the practice of the faithful Jew.


"Give me a drink," He says, and the line is cast.


"How it is that you, a Jew, have asked me, a Samaritan, for a drink of water?" The Jews of the day were extreme separatists, as are some today. Special plates for meals that gentile hands have never touched, special utensils, special this, special that, all very "kosher." She was a Samaritan - worse than a gentile, she belonged to the tribes who forsook Jehovah - and, heaven forbid, she was a woman. Even today many cultures set the woman aside. In some places you may not even look them in the eyes without breaking the law. So this is no mere small moment between This man and a waitress at the well but a cultural explosion. A Jewish rabbi and a Samaritan woman talking together - alone.


John 4:10

10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the 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.”


Hebrews 13:2 says "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it."


An awesome verse - "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained The Son of God without knowing it!" Just like this Samaritan woman. Jesus responds, "If you knew who it is who is speaking to you...," If she knew it was the very Son of God - what a difference her first meeting would have been. But Jesus goes further, "If you knew the gift of God." She didn't know, as millions don't know, what is the gift of God. Romans 6:23 says, "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord," - living water! That's what He could offer - If she knew.


John 4:11

11 She *said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water?


She doesn't know who He is or what gift He brings. Instead she can only see the physical things - "I have nothing to draw with, the well is deep, and where do you get living water?"


John 4:12

12 You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?”


Her answer sounds almost like ancestor worship. The great father of the nation of Israel - able to jump over tall buildings..., "Ooh, Jacob's water," no, just the man whom God used to take the Abrahamic Covenant and make a nation of it. He built this well, and he drank from it.


John 4:13-14

13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”


Salvation is a gift from Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Messiah. Notice that Christ asked the woman to receive Him and His Gift without any prerequisite change in her life [no asking for repentance, as He was offering her eternal life, not entrance into the Earthly Kingdom of Israel]. After she believed, and because she believed, her way of living would be changed.


Jesus' words, stories and parables are all clothed in language that resounds in only the ones the Holy Spirit has prepared.[44] What a wonderful offering - refreshing water that refreshes with only one sip, and then no need to be ever refreshed again. Water that, once inside, wells up, ever refreshing, up to eternal life.


This is when we ask the question of you, "Do you possess this refreshing water, given only by the Son of God, that wells up, ever refreshing to eternal life?" I hope you are not like the Samaritan woman who never quite seems to believe. She's going to be impressed with what Jesus can tell her, but not with what He can give her.


With her attentions still on the things physical...


John 4:15-20

15 The woman *said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.” 16 He *said to her, “Go, call your husband and come here.” 17 The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus *said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.”

19 The woman *said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.

20 Our fathers worshiped in this mountain[45], and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.”


Somehow, "I perceive that You are a prophet" doesn't quite fit the flavor of what she was saying. It would be more like, "Wow, you must be some kind of a prophet!" "I know something about religion too, Our ancestors worshiped right here, did you know that?"


John 4:21

21 Jesus *said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.


Jesus is so patient with her. Out of context this seems like a harsh statement. Out of context we could say that Jesus was saying that she will never believe, head off into the place of the dead, and never worship the Father. But no, just the opposite is the meaning. He's telling her that she is on the edge of a wonderful voyage of belief.


John 4:22-23

22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews[46]. 23 But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.[47]


"The hour is coming and now is" sounds a little confusing, but turn it around... "The hour is now, and it is also coming later." The Father seeks such people who worship Him in spirit and truth. Now was her time to decide ("The Hour of Decision")[48] "Woman, will you decide? Now is the time." And Jesus also is referring to the time when the Nation of Israel and the Kingdome of God are united upon Jesus' second coming. Then all of His Kingdom will worship Him in spirit and truth."


John 4:24

24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”


Jesus continues to "reel her in." She has been worshipping who knows what. Jesus teaches her one of the very basic and important lessons about God. He is spirit. He's not a wooden idol. He's not an impressive man. He is spirit. "Immortal, Invisible, God only Wise."[49]How could one worship Him in any other manner than in spirit and in truth.


John 4:25

25 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.”


She's learned from her rabbis of the promises made long ago to Abraham - and the one who would come to make it happen. The Messiah, the Christ. "When that One comes," shows her hope, even as a Samaritan who worshipped what they did not know, her hope was in the Christ. Some day, some day, He would come.


John 4:26

26 Jesus *said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”[50]


The Messiah, the Christ has come to His people, and here He is offering eternal life, to this Samaritan woman, at this ancient well.


Looking to the Samaritan Harvest

John 4:27-33


John 4:27

27 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?”


It's not to hard to imagine her looking straight into Jesus eyes when He spoke to her and just perhaps... And then the disciples return. It must have been like that terrible moment that happens so often during the most important plea for the Gospel during a Sunday morning service - Just at the wrong moment... the baby in the back of the church starts to scream! And the moment is broken. Even the disciples could see that something special was taking place but they returned before she would make her commitment.


John 4:28-30

28 So the woman left her waterpot, and went into the city and *said to the men, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?” 30 They went out of the city, and were coming to Him.


Was she motivated by the words of Jesus, was she troubled because the disciples returned? It doesn't say, but she went and left here waterpot behind. When she gets to the city she speaks to the men there! Perhaps Jesus has rubbed off on her, or she has gone to the rabbis three to seek more information, again we don't know her motivation. Her question is direct in the Greek, "Not is this the Christ?" So the English would be more like, "Isn't this the Christ?", or "This is the Christ, isn't it." She's not made the commitment herself, but she's seeking more answers. The were obviously impressed with her information for they came out of the city and were on their way to Him.


John 4:31

31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.”


The poor disciples, they missed it entirely. They're still thinking about food.


John 4:32

32 But He said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.”


Picture Jesus, having spread the Gospel to the city through a simple conversation with a Samaritan woman. "I have food to eat that you do not know about!" I can see Him sitting back against the wall of the well being so filled and satisfied with this woman and the witness and testimony concerning Him that will bring "many" Samaritans to faith in Him. Food indeed.


John 4:33

33 So the disciples were saying to one another, “No one brought Him anything to eat, did he?”


Again, the disciples... still thinking about food, not listening or seeing who He is or what He's doing.


Seeking the Samaritan Harvest, John 4: 34-37

34 Jesus *said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work. 35 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. 36 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. 37 For in this case the saying is true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor.”[51]


John continues his report concerning the problem the disciples were having with the ministry of Jesus. Verse 34 gives us a glimpse into the heart of Jesus. His disciples were focused on themselves and the events of this physical world, and Jesus was focused upon His heavenly Father and the events in heaven. The disciples were concerned about physical food for Jesus' lunch, and Jesus was concerned that they were not thinking about His Father's desires for the ministry and mission of Jesus.


The time seems to be late spring and the harvest of wheat and other grains would come late in the summer. Jesus takes that opportunity to say, "There are yet 4 months, and then comes the harvest." He appeals to their physical knowledge in order to awaken them to a Spiritual truth. The wheat will be ready then, but this harvest - the harvest of men and women, is ready now.


While the argument is often made that these verses have to do with the repentance of Israel and it's hopeful return to Almighty God and their nation, there is no way to avoid the words of this verse, "gathering fruit for life eternal." Jesus speaks concerning Eternal Life, the outcome of the life which is centered in Jesus as God. So whether the individual man or woman is part of the nation of Israel or a gentile who is outside that covenant relationship, God has a people that He has ready to call and bring to Himself. The harvest for souls includes all people, Jew and Gentile, who are "white for harvest."


Then John says to them, that he who reaps and he who sows can only rejoice together when the harvest is actually brought in, for the harvest requires both. With  no sowing there is no reaping - and no harvest. With no reaping there is no reason for sowing - and no harvest. Only when both elements are present does the Harvest become fruitful.


Verse 38 is another reminder that they are part of a much bigger process. Everyone at the time of harvest is dependent upon the work of others much earlier in the process. Our footnote on this verse reminds us that the Scriptures, the Prophets, John the Baptist, and Jesus have all labored for this harvest, however it is God who calls and God who chooses in order to sow and then harvest. His disciples have now been told that the harvest is now ready - they will reap the harvest for which they have not labored - however, they now JOIN that labor and become part of that labor, as they enter into the harvest themselves.


When we consider our own Christian lives it is good to remember that many - hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands, etc. have labored in the past sowing the seed that allowed you to spring up and enter into His harvest. That person or persons that led you to salvation were led by others, who were led by others, on and on. While that's a great fact to ponder, there is also the enormous privilege we are given when we enter into the harvest process ourselves after we have been harvested. If The Lord Jesus tarries, we will see some come to Christ through our ministries, and perhaps even see fruit come our of our fruit. But rest assured that that process continues to grow the Body of Christ like a giant pyramid with Christ at the top.


Reaping the Samaritan Harvest (Sychar)

John 4:39-42

39 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.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to Jesus, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. 41 Many more believed because of His word; 42 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.”


What an amazing story. Jesus speaks to the woman at the will. She speaks to many and they get saved. But don't miss the point here, it is Jesus that is the object of their faith, not the word of the woman. Her words only introduced them to Jesus - but it is Jesus who establishes the saving relationship with Himself. It is Jesus who saves, and not we who save. I can say, "Thank you Bruce Martin and Dillard Montgomery for introducing me to Christ, but it is Jesus who led me to Salvation, it is Jesus who saves.


Jesus' Arrival in Galilee - The Land of the Gentiles

John 4:43-45

43 After the two days He went forth from there into Galilee. 44 For Jesus Himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country. 45 So when He came to Galilee, the Galileans received Him, having seen all the things that He did in Jerusalem at the feast; for they themselves also went to the feast.


John's words remind us that Jesus was on route from Capernaum to Galilee when He stopped in Samaria to speak with this woman. He had gone many, many miles out of His way to go from Capernaum to Galilee by way of Samaria - but there was a town there that needed salvation, and there was a woman there who could supply the context for their encounter with Christ. I wonder how far out of the way did God take those who led me to Christ - while they were on the way to somewhere else, and how far will Jesus bring me out of my way to bring salvation to another. The fields are white unto harvest - I will go like a migrant farmer, to be where the harvest is - that I may enter into the labors of others and see the harvest of salvation and the building of the Body of Christ.


Jesus had left Capernaum just when the tide was beginning to move against Him there. This is why John reports that the Galileans "received" Him there. We all know the quote written here, "a prophet has not honor in his own country." I can't begin to tell you of the number of times the experience and knowledge of a co-worker, or of myself, was completely dismissed in favor of an outside consultant's - just because they were "just employees." The term "familiarity breeds contempt," comes to mind.


"Jesus, you can't be the Christ, you live HERE!" Don't fall into the trap of considering the value of others as worthless, just because YOU know them. Don't think your Pastor a fool - just because he has been called to labor among you. It's dreadful how many times I have heard well meaning parishioners say to their pastors, upon returning from vacation, "We went to a different church last week and Wow, we heard 'real preaching' there." This kind of loose talk can be murderous to the local Body of Christ. Church members often fail to understand that God sends a Pastor to a church for His purposes and not ours. Our culture likes to throw away pastors, teachers, and leaders like out of style clothes - how shameful.


The remainder of verse 45 sounds like it came right our of our own time. The Galileans welcomed Jesus - because they had "seen the things He did...." I remember, long ago as a young Christian, that I had a fascination with faith healers. The 'magic' went out it when one of the famous ones was charged with murder after he had forced a goiter into the chest of a woman who then suffocated because of it. Apparently doing this was a favorite "cure" for may such charlatans who drew great crowds through thee false "miracles."


But Jesus was no charlatan. It is not Him who is false in this verse, but those who were drawn to him only because of His miracles. The miracles were attesting to them that He was indeed the Christ - but they only saw the miracles as something shiny like chrome on a new car. It just drew their attention and caused them to lust after the miracles and not Jesus. They would soon tire of Him.


The Ministry of Christ in Galilee - Jesus' Name Spreads
Opposition at Home and a New Headquarters

Luke 4:14b

14b and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district.


Luke speaks to us next in this chronology. Since Jesus was teaching things they had never heard before and doing miracles they had never seen before - He drew crowds, "and news about Him spread...."

Now with so many following Him He begins to move His ministry in a new direction. The Nation of Israel now becomes the focus of His ministry. We must not forget what we have learned so far - Jesus has come and been born among men and women, in order to (FIRST) OFFER of the fulfillment of the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob - which was the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven to the nation of the Jews. (He will later change course again - when the leadership of Israel will formally and publicly reject Him as God, their Messiah, and the One through whom the promises of the Kingdom would be fulfilled.


Like today, the people of Jesus day considered God to be irrelevant. "We don't want a spiritual savior, we want to be free from the powers of the Roman oppressors. They wanted a Kingdom where they could rule over others, not a Kingdom where God would rule over them. They wanted another Moses, not someone who would deliver them from their sins.


[40] Using the Jewish time system (6 am the first hour), about noon.

[41] For a man to speak in public to a woman who was a stranger and for a Jew to converse with a Samaritan was most unusual.

[42] Drinking from a Samaritan's water vessel would make a Jew "Unclean."

[43] John 4:22

[44] John 15:25, "These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; an hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but will tell you plainly of the Father."

[45] The temple at Samaria

[46] God had given that responsibility to the Jew - Jesus the Christ, the author of Salvation was a Jew, salvation is from Him.

[47] What a joy to see whom the Father seeks - those who Worship Him in Spirit and in Truth!

[48] Billy Graham, Radio Ministries

[49] Walter Chalmers Smith

[50] Another clear affirmation form Jesus Himself that He is the Messiah.

[51] The disciples would have the joy of reaping souls, the seed having been sown by OT prophets and John the Baptist, as well as Jesus and His disciples. Most of that reaping would have to wait until after Jesus' death and resurrection and the building of the Body of Christ - The Church - White unto Harvest!