The Gospel of John
Jesus, The Woman at the Well, and Sychar

J. Deering,

The Gospel of John – Text Based Studies
Jesus, The Woman at the Well, and Sychar

The Gospel of John – Text Based Studies

John, Chapter 4:1-54 - Woman at the Well, Spiritual Harvest, Samaritan Belief, Move to Galilee, The Official’s Son

John 4:1-26
Jesus Talks to a Samaritan Woman at Jacob’s Well.

Samaria, Samaritans (Heb.: Guardians of the Torah)

Samaritans descend from the Hebrew tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Levites. The split between them and the Judean-led Southern Israelites began during the time of the priest Eli when the Southern Israelites split off from the central Israelite tradition. The single nation became two. Israel in the north, and Judah in the south. Much of the northern nation of Israel became known as Samaria. Part of the split was over where the Temple should be constructed (Deuteronomy 12:5). The Judean Israelites focused upon Jerusalem and Mt Zion, the Samaritans on Mt. Gerizim where God required the sacrifice of Isaac.

The inclusion of the Woman of Samaria is not by chance (nothing in the scriptures is by chance). She, a real person in this real situation, is also a metaphor for the people of Samaria as a whole. They often included other gods in their worship and her infidelity points to that and that both her, and Samaria’s current “husband” was not a source of living water.

The Story Line:
We began with the explanation of Jesus as the preincarnate Son of God and the introduction of John the Baptist as His precursor. We’re introduced to Jesus in Bethany, a small town just east of Jerusalem. Then on to Cana, west of the Sea of Galilee, for miracles at a wedding. Then to Capernaum, on the western coast of the Sea of Galilee, then on to Jerusalem and Nicodemus’ visit at night.

The end of chapter 4 tells us that Jesus is on His way to Galilee to bring healing to an official’s son. So when we see the words, “Now He had to go through Samaria,” in Vs. 4 we should become aware that Jesus’ heavenly Father has both a plan and a route for Jesus’ life and ministry. He is headed for The Cross and has many “appointments” to meet along the journey. 

John 4:1-3 The Transition from John the Baptist to Jesus and on to Galilee

Therefore when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were), 3 He left Judea and went away again into Galilee.

Jesus, and His words and miracles, has been gaining followers. Some translations use the word disciples, but we should probably think of most of them as followers. Jesus has already noted that many of those who follow after Him have not become true believers (He knows their hearts) and they will be the very ones who will stand and shout “Crucify Him,” in a short three years. Even most of His true disciples are, at this point, only mostly convinced and won’t know their true relationship to The Christ until after His death and resurrection. The number of daily followers has increased to the point that His numbers exceed John the Baptist’ numbers – and John the Baptist’ followers are beginning to dwindle, some have moved from John The Baptist’s camp to Jesus’ including His first disciples.

A dispute arose between John The Baptist’s followers, probably a sign of jealousy. John The Baptist instructs them that he is the forerunner to Jesus and that now that Jesus is active in His own ministry his ministry must decline in both numbers and importance. John The Baptist ministry was to bring together a core of “repentants” who would become the basis of Jesus repentance ministry in order to make the offer of the establishment of the Kingdom that was promised to Abraham and his descendants. Those who were baptized under Jesus’ ministry were these repentants. We must not confuse these pre-church age “conversions” with Christian belief and baptism, for the vast majority of each of the Gospel books deal with Old Covenant, Old Testament, events. The Jewish Messiah must come, minister, and be killed and resurrected before He can be recognized as the suffering, crucified and resurrected Lord of all. The “Mystery” of the Church has not yet been revealed. This, of course, does not mean that those who truly believed and put their heart and trust in God, those who fulfilled the requirements of their day’s revelation were not “saved.” Salvation is individual and always based upon the calling and grace of God.

Because Jesus has an itinerary to follow He is aware that certain miracles and acts on His behalf will draw undue attention to Himself and could otherwise result in events getting out of hand. But, He is the God-man who controls Himself and His ministry and these events are carried forth as planned. God in His desire for us to know Him has given us much information to show how He controls time and events keeping them in line with His plans. So John reports that when Jesus becomes aware that the Jewish leaders are gaining an interest in Him… it’s His time to move on, and in this case it’s back to Galilee.

John 4:4-6

4 And He had to pass through Samaria. 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.

We touched on verse 4 in the introduction, so I’ll recap. The plans of God for His Son include necessary times and places. Verse 4 points to this, however it is also just plain truth that if you want to go from Judea to Galilee ( Vs. 43) and you want to do it in the least amount of time (2 days) you need to travel north on one of two roads that go there. If you take the eastern route you need to first go down into the deep valley of the Jordan River and upon your arrival at Capernaum (easiest way to Cana from there) go back up out of that deep valley. The western route from Jerusalem to Cana is considerably shorter and does not require the decent/ascent from the Jordan. Either way – “He had to pass through Samaria” (see map on page 401).

Sychar is several miles into Samaria from the Judean border. In the introduction we saw that there are tensions between the Hebrew people of Judea and those of Samaria. Largely “they don’t talk” with each other. It’s there that in Genesis 33, Jacob purchased some land and built an altar to God. Of this land Jacob gave a field to Joseph, his son. Upon that field sat the “Well (or spring) of Jacob.”

Most modern drawings show a stone walled well, however ancient wells were often ground level, dug out, and often under the shelter of trees or palms that grew there because of the water. It would be an inviting place to sit and rest, and be refreshed with fresh water. His disciples have departed to the local town to find food.

It’s here that Jesus, weary, hungry, and thirsty from His travels, comes to sit. It’s about 3 p.m. in the afternoon. While He’s there, a woman of Samaria, from the town of Sychar, comes to draw water. Jesus, the Judean Jew, speaks to the woman, a Samarian Israelite. She’s astounded that this Jewish man would speak to her for two reasons. 1 – He’s a man and she’s a woman. In their cultures a man and a woman did not address each other without either a husband or a father present. Even today an orthodox Jewish man will avoid touching any woman over the age of 12 that is not their wife in order to avoid contact with someone who may be menstruating – thus becoming unclean. 2 – He’s a Jew and she’s a Samaritan. Orthodox Jews believe that men are so weak spiritually that merely hearing a woman’s voice or touching a woman who is not their wife will lead them down the path of sin. Even worse – to be seen alone with a woman who it not their wife!

The Hook:
John 4:7

7 There *came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus *said to her, “Give Me a drink.”

Jesus speaks to her and says, “Give Me a drink!”

Consider the woman’s plight. She’s come from the town to get water from the well. She probably has at least two water jugs with her. As she approaches the well she sees that someone is there already and it’s a man! And not only is he a man, but he’s a Jewish man (Jesus is a Rabbi and His clothing and lack of a haircut is the evidence).





The Book:
John 4:8-24

7 There *came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus *said to her, “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?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 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.” 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? 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?” 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.”

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, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” 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. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 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. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Jesus’ next action is to introduce her to “The Gift of God – a well springing up to eternal life.”

He responds, “If you knew (if you had perceived) 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.”

“The Gift of God” – God has given us His Son, and in that He has given us an eternal destination in His presence and in the eternal family of God. Ephesians Chapter 1:3 tells us that the Father has given, blessed, us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places – in Christ.

So His statement is twofold, if she had perceived Him, and if she had perceived the gift – she would have asked. Her answer to Him is temporal, but shows respect for Him, “master, she calls Him,” but, she still doesn’t understand. “You have nothing to draw with, the well is very deep, where do You get that water? You’re not a great man like Jacob, are you?”

She still doesn’t get it but she’s on the journey to faith. Jesus continues, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsting again, and again, but whoever drinks of the water I will give him will not be thirsting, and the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water which springs up into life eternal.”

The Spiritual Harvest:
The woman says, “give me this water!” But she’s still thinking in temporal terms – “Give it to me so I don’t have to come all the way out here to get it every day.” Then Jesus engages her into a discussion about her husbands and she’s had a few. At that time in Palestine women could not initiate divorce and that means that her earlier husbands either died or divorced her, and she’s now seeing yet another man. We should not see her as a prostitute either. She could also have been a concubine, a legitimate occupation of their culture. John’s focus is to show the similarities of this woman’s life with the condition of the nation of Samaria, and in that to show her, them, and us the path to salvation in Christ Jesus.

She now recognizes that He knows things that she keeps hidden from all others, she says that she perceives, or beholds, that He may be a prophet.

The woman brings up the question of the two temples. We should see by this that her mind is now upon spiritual things. Who’s right? Jesus refocuses her once again back to who He is. He’s blunt with her that there is coming a time when it won’t make any difference where you worship. He could be speaking of death – when it will be too late to decide concerning worship, or that the Cross will forever change both Samaritan and Jewish ritual worship as the symbolic Lamb of God is forever finished being continually slain in sacrifice and replaced with the Lamb of God – The Son of God, the one sitting with her, to be slain once-for-all, and the worship in the temples will be lost to time.

In any case He tells here that “salvation is of the Jews.”

“The Hour now is when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such to worship Him now.” This is a dramatic change in what God has proclaimed as acceptable worship. With the advent of the Christ, worship began the transition from the Law (law, sacrifices, administration) to Grace through faith in God’s Son alone. The Law was coming to an end as God’s method of worship. “God is spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth.”

The Revelation:
John 4:25-26

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.” 26 Jesus *said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”
“The woman says to Him, I know that Messiah is coming; the one called The Christ: and when that one comes, He will declare all things to us.”

Jesus responds: “I, the one speaking to you, am He.” 

The Disciples Return:

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?”

As they return, they see – probably even from a distance – that Jesus is speaking with this woman. As they approach, or soon after their arrival, she departs their company. Perhaps she’s embarrassed by these self-righteous separatists Jews, or perhaps she just departed to start her mission to the people of Sychar. But whatever here reasons the disciples didn’t question either her or Jesus – but they were amazed that Jesus was engaging her in conversation. We do know that she was in a hurry, for she leaves here water pot at the well when she goes. Fresh water was her reason to be at the well, and now she’s left her pot, probably still full, and she’s headed back to Sychar – this time carrying a message for them.

28 So the woman left her water pot, 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?”

She’s prepared to take a message to the town, however it’s uncertain as to whether she believes, or just has found a prophet.

It may seem odd to us that she went to the men of the city, however religious/spiritual talk was mostly for the men, and talk of a prophet (or perhaps even a Messiah right outside the village) was definitely something for the men. She’s mostly impressed with His knowledge of things He should have not known – all about her private life. They must have known somewhat of her private life for they did not question her about what He did know – but…

30 They went out of the city, and were coming to Him.

We should stop and consider just what it takes to bring men, and women, into contact with the Gospel in such a way that they might desire it. We could point to interest in this woman, or interest in the religious possibilities of the Messiah just outside of town. But we would be missing the most important part of the process – God’s preparation through the ministering agent of His powerful Holy Spirit. It is God who calls, and God’s Spirit who prepares the heart and soul. It is He that provides personal conviction of the truth of the message and of personal sin and guilt. For true conversion to take place the Calling of God and the conviction of the Spirit of God must be present and active.

The woman comes to the well today because God called here there today. Jesus comes to the well because His Father wills Him to be there today (and He is obedient to His Father’s will). The woman is prepared by the Holy Spirit to hear the Gospel, Jesus exposes the truth of the Gospel and because she’s prepared by the Holy Spirit—she acts to share that precious revelation of the Gospel.

Jesus’ discussion with the disciples:

31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But He said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.”

The disciples have returned from their mission to find food for lunch, and when they get back He’s not hungry for what they have brought. The disciples were concerned for Him and repeatedly telling Him, “Rabbi, eat.” But Jesus is trying to refocus them into heavenly things and away from earthly things. He’s just had this conversation with the Samaritan woman that will—soon—yield a whole city full of believers. He is full, like after a fine meal, only full of content at the work of the Gospel. Probably better translated, “I have a kind of food to eat that you do not know about.”

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

The disciples are new to their relationship to Jesus. They will take a long time to even begin to understand Him. Their minds are filled with the cares of lunch and spiritual things just bounce off them.

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.”

Sometime in eternity past Jesus agreed with His father that He should undertake this task of the salvation of His people (those who would) here on earth. Because the members of the God Head (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) are all in complete unity—there would be no division of purpose between them. What the Father wills, is what the Son and the Spirit wills. It is fulfilling and satisfying to accomplish each other’s will. Just as a husband and wife, in a perfect relationship, are fulfilled by satisfying each other in all respects of life.

Jesus’ message attempts to wake the disciples up spiritually. He’s on a mission that may, or may not, end up with the establishment of “David’s” millennial Kingdom on earth—and He has a measured amount of time to accomplish that decision. Thus He speaks to them of the Harvest Time. The prophets spoke to the harvest, God’s harvest. It was a common theme in the language of the Old Testament writers. A period of time is set to come, there is work to do in order to be ready for that harvest.

“Open your eyes!” Jesus tells them, “Look to the fields—for they are white unto harvest!” Open your eyes, disciples, the time is coming when God may establish His earthly kingdom. The “Harvest” of belief is about to begin. Christians in our time tend to see these words as meaning salvation before the return of The Lord, however, Jesus was speaking about the time coming for Him and the repentance of Israel. Would they repent or refuse Him and His message? His metaphor is adaptable for either message, however here it directly relates to His offer of the Kingdom to Israel.

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.”

Jesus then speaks of – He who reaps. Those are the ones who know and understand God and His plans, for they are already gathering and reaping human fruit for Life Eternal. In that design both the reaper (those who have opportunity to “Bring in” a soul), and the sower (those who seek others for faith by spreading the Good News) are in a partnership that results in rejoicing—for both the reaper and the sewer, whether it be Old Testament, The Gospels, or New Testament application—that’s the plan, the reaping of souls for Eternal Life.

38 I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor.”

Jesus says He is sending His disciples into the world to “reap” those souls that Jesus’ ministry touches. The old hymn, “Bringing in the sheaves,” picks up on this process. The “Sheaves” being those who have been readied by the “sewers” of God’s word, as “Born from Above” new members in the Kingdom of God, through faith.

We also don’t want to forget the imagery that Jesus uses while talking with His disciples about the fields, “That they are white for harvest,” as Jesus sits with His disciples looking down the path to Sychar as the men come out of the city. They appear as white waves of grain in the distance with their light colored tunics and turbans. These are the ones that others have labored for and His disciples will now reap.

John now continues with his narrative.

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.”

Now comes the evidence of what Jesus has been teaching the disciples. Men come from the city and approach Him, and ask… remember, these are men which the Judean Jews would not even speak with,… and ask Him (and his disciples – more Judean Jewish men) to come back with them to their homes in the city—and stay with them. Clear evidence of the Power of the Gospel.

The end result is that “many of the Samaritans believed in Him, at first, because of the testimony of the Samaritan woman (testifying of His miracle of knowing all about her).

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.”

Jesus agrees to stay two days. His ministry evidently touches many men and their households. The present tense of the verb “asking” indicates that many individuals were encountering Him and asking Him to stay in their homes.

In their homes, His testimony concerns the prophecies concerning His coming as the Messiah. When they have encountered the woman of Samaria they now tell her that it is not because of Her testimony about what Jesus knew about her, it was now based upon what He has told them, and what He has told them concerns His coming as the fulfillment of the office of the Savior of the World. So He was not just telling them about their lives, but of His life and His office as Savior.

Jesus Continues on His Journey to Galilee:

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.

Jesus, having just demonstrated this truth with the Samaritans that you have to be from somewhere else in order to be recognized as a specialist or expert. Jesus tells His disciples that this is what is to be expected from the Jews – His own country (a reference to being a Jew).

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.

So now Jesus is going to demonstrate this saying again in Galilee. The first thing John tells us is that when He gets to Galilee—they received Him. Many there, because of being in Jerusalem for the Passover, remembered His miracles there.

46 Therefore He came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum.

The Father has a stop in Capernaum on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee (again) on Jesus’ itinerary. There’s a “Royal” official, a Jewish (we’ll see why in a moment) member of the household of Herod, who is ill about 16 miles as-the-crow-flies away from Cana. Capernaum is a small village and not worthy of a Royal Official. It may be that this official has been traveling from Jerusalem to find Jesus or just that the Galilean Jews, upon returning from the Passover, had been talking about the Miracles of Jesus during that time and word spread to Capernaum in that time that Jesus was there.

47 When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.

The official comes to Jesus in Cana and begs Jesus to come back to Capernaum and heal his terminal son. The dialog continues…

48 “Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”

49 The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”

50 “Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.” The man took Jesus at His word and departed.”

Jesus said to the Jewish Royal Official, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will never believe.” It’s the Jew who requires signs and wonders for the confirmation of God’s authority and power, not a gentile, not a pagan member of the world community, but a Jew. He states this to make sure the official is asking “in faith,” and not just as a test of His power. The official’s response is genuine faith, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” And it is done for him. God is present. Jesus’ power to heal is not dependent upon time, space or distance. At the command of the Master, it is done – the child will live.

51 While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. 52 When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “Yesterday, at one in the afternoon, the fever left him.” 53 Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and his whole household believed.

54 This was the second sign Jesus performed after coming from Judea to Galilee.

It would seem that the corroborating evidence is place here for a witness and testimony to the unbelieving reading this text. It’s obvious to us that the Power of God in healing can be immediate, and effective. Many of us have directly witnessed this in our own lives. But the reported evidence is here for those who are seeking faith.

It would also seem that this is testimony and evidence that the Samaritans did not require any signs or miracles to bring the men, and their families, to faith while Jesus was there, for it is recorded that the healing of the Royal Official’s son was the second miracle (the first was telling the Samaritan woman her life story) since Jesus left Judea. There’s also no evidence that the Samaritan woman, who experienced His miracle of prophecy, ever in-face became a believer herself.