42 verses total, 40 for understanding: John 4:1-42
Brief description of action taking place or point being made
30. Jesus withdraws from Judea in John 4:1-3
31. Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well in John 4:4-26
32. Disciples question Jesus in John 4:27-38
33. Samaritans come to Jesus in John 4:39-42
Devotions (optional reading)
- Finding What You Really Need for Life (John 4:13-14)
- You Need Your Heart for Worship, Not a Place or Method (John 4:23-24)
- Jesus Claims to be the Messiah (John 4:25-26)
- Changed People Change People (John 4:29,39)
- Following Jesus Requires Coloring Outside the Lines (John 4:35)
1. What is your favorite verse or set of verses? Why?
2. Did you learn anything from the reading or find anything particularly cool? What?
3. Was there anything unclear in the passage that you have questions about? What are they?
After Completing the Bible Reading
Broader outline of each section of passage
John 4:1-3. The Bible doesn’t say why, but Jesus left Judea and headed to Galilee when he learned that the Pharisees discovered he was making lots of disciples, and that his disciples were baptizing many people.
John 4:4-26. This is perhaps one of the best extended conversations recorded in the Bible. Jesus strikes up a conversation with a Samaritan woman who we discover has had a checkered past. The conversation starts with water and then turns to religion. Jesus reveals to the woman that he knows about her past, but he does it in such a way that it is not judgmental. And he tells her so much about himself and what he has come to do and about the true nature of God. The woman holds up her end of the conversation, going deeper with Jesus as he reveals more about himself and what he knows.
John 4:27-38. At this stage in the conversation, Jesus’ disciples return with food that they bought, and they have a curious conversation about natural food while Jesus is speaking to them about spiritual food. At the same time, the woman runs off and tells the whole village about Jesus, and they come to see for themselves if what the woman told them is true.
John 4:39-42. Jesus is remarkably receptive to the Samaritans. Elsewhere he mentions that he is called to the Jewish people, and yet he intentionally engaged the woman in conversation, telling her even that he was the Messiah! And now he agrees to stay two extra days so he can speak to the entire village. And many of them believed in Jesus, both because of the woman’s testimony by itself, and also because they have seen and heard for themselves from Jesus.
My favorite passage and other random thoughts
The more times I read this story about this Samaritan village, the more I love it. Jesus told us that He was primarily called to the Jewish people, and therefore spent most of His time speaking and ministering to them. Perhaps because of the opposition that Jesus knew He would face from the religious leaders — who would seek to kill Him — He rarely spoke plainly to crowds about His identity, but rather taught them about God and the Kingdom.
But here He just lets it all hang out. He tells the woman that He is the Messiah that the prophets foretold. And I like that He didn’t choose the best and brightest. Commentators suggest that this woman was a social outcast, because she came when no one else was at the well, in the heat of the day, and not in the cool of the day. Perhaps her history of marital instability, and even some underlying personal issues that perhaps contributed to that instability, were the causes of her avoiding people.
So Jesus engaged her in conversation, which grew deeper as the conversation continued. Between him telling her some points of shame in her life — without shaming her — and him explaining that while God did indeed have a special relationship with Jewish people, He wanted to have a relationship with all people — her life was transformed so much that she dropped what she was doing and ran to tell everybody. And though she was probably an outcast, they believed her and came out to see for themselves. And though Jews do not associate with Samaritans, Jesus stayed and spoke to them 2 days, and seemed to have one of His most successful times of seeing people transformed.
But how does one pick a favorite verse out of that?! I choose John 4:23 “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks” (NIV). I like this because this makes plain that God is inviting all people to come, and explains what God is looking for when they come: to worship in spirit and in truth. I think this means that worship will not be based on a place (the Temple), but will take place anywhere a believer is. Worship comes from the heart (spirit), and it must also line up with sincerity and integrity (not just at a particular moment, but throughout one’s day, and one’s entire life).