Jesus and the Samaritan woman (John 4)

 

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Turning now to the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman, we may observe that John Chapter 4 highlights the same key emphases as the genealogy of Jesus at the outset of Matthew’s Gospel. Both underline in Jesus’ ministry on earth his special concern for women, for foreigners/Gentiles and for sinners.
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Women in Matthew and John

My family tree was written in 1920 in Frankfurt, Germany. At the top it has an introduction (in German) which boasts that this family tree is totally unique as it includes women and not only men. When I first saw this, I smiled! Actually women do play quite a significant part in bringing to birth the next generation of a family! I realised too that whoever brought our family tree together evidently did not know their New Testament! Over 1850 years before 1920 Matthew made a point of listing several women – Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Uriah’s wife and the climax of “Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.”
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Matthew not only specifically introduces women into the genealogy at the outset of his Gospel, but also at its conclusion only tells of two women witnessing the resurrection of Jesus. And he observes that Jesus commissions those two women to be the first preachers of the good news of the resurrection, the heart of the Gospel (Matthew 28.10 uses a verb of proclamation when Jesus commands them to ‘tell’ of his resurrection). Of course the fact that women were the first to proclaim the good news of Jesus’ resurrection does not mean that the church should not also allow men to preach!
Turning to John, in chapter 4 the word “woman” is strongly underlined by means of constant repetition. It was culturally unacceptable for a single man like Jesus to chat with an unknown woman. And we read that Jesus’ disciples had gone away into the town to get some food. No wonder they were surprised to find Jesus “talking with a woman” when they came back (4.27)! And it was through the testimony of that woman that many of the Samaritans came to faith in Jesus ((4.39). In the history of Christian mission women have played a leading role – and still do so. Thus many Chinese churches were founded by Bible women; and in the great fast-growing churches of China today many have a woman as senior pastor.
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A Samaritan woman

Matthew’s genealogy also includes various foreigners – Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Uriah’s wife – unashamedly embracing non-Jews as an essential goal even for a Jewish church.
In John too, we see that God in his grace does not normally parachute us direct into the heart of enemy territory, into areas of ministry which are impossibly alien to us. Usually he prepares the way by sending us first into forms of work which are closer to our own background and prepare us for the further challenge of what could prove really difficult for us. So he does not immediately call his disciples to witness with Gentiles, but emphasizes first the Samaritans. As we noted in our last blog, the Samaritans form a bridge between Jew and Gentile. In the Gospels therefore we not only have Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman, but he also tells the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10.25-37). And in Luke 9.51-56 Jesus purposely walks to Jerusalem via a Samaritan village.  Luke also recounts how Jesus healed ten lepers and only one came back to thank the Lord; and Luke’s punch line is “and he was a Samaritan” (Luke 17.11-19). Unlike Matthew and Mark who say nothing positive about the Samaritans, Luke clearly had learned a lesson both from Jesus’ own teaching and from his experience as companion to Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles!
So God gently takes his disciples out of their nice Jewish comfort zone and prepares them for the wider international mission. Today in contemporary Britain the Lord may call us too into wider service among ethnic minorities in our own country as a preparatory bridge into further mission overseas.
What ‘Samaritan’ ministry might God be calling you to now? And what more difficult calling might lie ahead for you?
Sinners
“I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners”, Jesus declares (Matthew 9.13); “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (Matthew 9.12). Jesus had just healed a paralytic and related this miraculous healing to the assurance that “your sins are forgiven” (Matthew 9.5). God’s church is no place for the smugly self-righteous!
The Samaritan woman was known for her immorality, having already had five husbands (John 4.18) and was now living with a sixth. Was this why she was going to the well for water in the middle of the day? Women normally fetched water in the morning and evening, not in the midday heat, so she was alone when Jesus met her there. Was she unacceptable and despised by other women? In her shame was she forced to go alone to the well when no-one else was around?
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Many people (including Christians) carry around with them a deep inner sense of guilt. Some former sin remains on our conscience. Of course as Christians we know, but can easily forget that “the blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1.7).  “All sin”, not just ‘most sin’! No exceptions – the blood/death of Jesus Christ cleanses totally from all sin of every kind, however serious it may be. What relief and joy the Samaritan woman must have experienced after she met Jesus! No wonder she went back to her village and told people widely about Jesus, “He told me everything I ever did” (4.39). Jesus knows us through and through; and he cleanses us from all sin. Hallelujah!
I am
Jesus never normally revealed his divine identity in starkly clear words. But to this immoral foreign woman in the context of the coming Messiah he declares that the one talking to her is ‘I am’ (4.26), the very name of God himself (Exodus 3.14). To no-one else in the Gospel accounts does Jesus reveal himself so clearly – sadly some of our English translations fail to reflect the unmistakable clarity of Jesus’ use of the divine name ‘I am’.
John’s Gospel is known for its so-called ‘I am statements’ where Jesus declares that he is the good shepherd, the entry door, the resurrection and the life etc. Throughout his Gospel John is constantly showing us just who Jesus really is – he is the Word who is God, comes from God, lives in perfect oneness with God, obeys and glorifies God,  reveals God and returns finally back to God his Father. What a Lord! What a Saviour! We worship and praise him.
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Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Jesus and the Samaritan woman (John 4)

  1. James Rae

    I prayed for encouragement this morning and Encouraged I Am Amen

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