John 4 Images of New Salvation: “Living Water" and "New Life"
Broad Outline of Fourth Gospel Ch. 1 Introduction: Prologue and Witness of John Ch. 2-12 Jesus Before the World ("Book of Signs") Theme: Through signs and discourses, Jesus reveals himself as the Son of God, sent to save the world, but is rejected by the world. Ch. 2-4 Images of New Salvation Ch. 2 "New Joy" and "New Worship" Ch. 3 "New Birth" and "New Master" Ch. 4 "Living Water" and "New Life" Ch. 5-10 Growing hostility Ch. 11-12 Final rejection Ch. 13-20 Jesus Before the Disciples("Book of Passion/Glory") Ch. 21 Appendix: Appearance in Galilee
Jesus and the Samaritans (4:1-42)Images of New Salvation: “Living Water” • Setting (v.1-6) – Pharisees notice Jesus’ movement is growing more than John’s; Jesus returns to Galilee; passes through Samaria; sits down at Jacob’s well near Sychar (near ancient Shechem). • Samaritans • Remnants of northern Israelites, living between Judea and Galilee. • Form of OT religion; temple on Mt. Gerizim (near Shechem). • Expected coming of “the Taheb” as prophet like Moses. • Despised by Jews as racially impure, religiously apostate. • Opposed rebuilding of Jerusalem temple after Exile. • Maccabees destroyed Samaritan temple in 128 BC. • Samaritans desecrated Jewish temple with bones. • Jesus’ presence in Samaria is intentional. • Didn’t literally have to go through Samaria – many went around. • Overcomes ethnic, religious, and sexual prejudice.
Jesus and the Samaritans (4:1-42)Images of New Salvation: “Living Water” • Jacob’s well • Not mentioned in OT, but Jacob settled/was buried at ancient Shechem (near the Samaritan village here called Sychar). • Usually identified with a deep well (100 ft.) near Sychar/Shechem (modern Nablus); clear, cool water. • Story plays on two words for “well”: • Pēgē (v. 6, 14) = spring; fountain; well fed by underground spring; became symbol of spiritual life/eschatological salvation (Ps. 36:9; Prov. 13:14; Joel 3:18; Ezek. 47:1-12; Rev. 21:6; 22:1). • Phrear (v. 11) = cistern; pit; reservoir carved into stone for collecting/storing surface water; inferior quality. • Jer. 2:13 makes same distinction: “My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” • About noon, Jesus sits by well (pēgē) as disciples go to buy food.
Jesus and the Samaritans (4:1-42)Images of New Salvation: “Living Water” • Samaritan woman and “Living Water” (v. 7-15) • Request for drink startles her; violates taboos (v. 7-9). • Offer of “living water” baffles her – double meaning (v. 10): • Literal: “flowing water” (cf. Didache 7 – specifies “living water” for baptism). • Metaphorical: symbol of eternal life (cf. 7:37-39—”living water” symbolizes baptism and gift of Spirit). • Leads to “misunderstanding” (cf. Nicodemus) (v. 11-12). • No bucket and “well” (phrear) is deep – thinks of literal water. • Is Jesus greater than Jacob (Israel) who dug the well? • Sees Jesus as mere supplier of physical needs (cf. 6:26). • Clarification: not literal water (which quenches momentarily) but “spiritual water,” a perpetual fountain of eternal life (v.13-15). • “A spring (pēgē) of water gushing up to eternal life.” • Imagery symbolizes baptism and gift of Spirit (cf. 7:37-39), resulting in eternal life and eschatological salvation. • Woman is satisfied with cistern (phrear) of standing water (v. 11); Jesus wants to give a fountain (pēgē) of eternal life (v. 14). • Why Settle for a Cistern When God Wants to Give Us a Gusher? • Response: still wants literal water, doesn’t “see” (v. 15).
Jesus and the Samaritans (4:1-42)Images of New Salvation: “Living Water” 3. Samaritan woman and true worship (v. 16-26) • Jesus asks about woman’s husband (v. 16-18). • Reveals divine knowledge of her life: five husbands. • Is she presented as immoral or as a victim? • Woman calls him a prophet, asks about ancient dispute over proper place of worship – Jerusalem or Mt. Gerizim (v. 19-20). • Jesus announces arrival of “spiritual worship” not bound to place or temple cult (v. 21-24). • The “hour” has arrived (“realized“ eschatology) when worship is no longer bound to Jerusalem temple – Jews no longer have advantage. • New Age of Spirit – all have access to God through Spirit. • Worship is now “outside the box.” • Qumran: Spirit of Truth instructs in Torah, purifies community to become Temple of God. • John: Spirit enables community to function as Temple, but no thought of Torah or purification. • Woman’s objection and Jesus’ response (v. 25-26). • Woman: Messiah will settle it when he comes (future eschatology). • Jesus: “I am (he)” – realized eschatology; first absolute “I am.”
Jesus and the Samaritans (4:1-42)Images of New Salvation: “Living Water” • Conversion of the Samaritans (v. 27-42). • Woman announces Messiah to her city (v. 27-30). • Disciples return, startled that Jesus is talking with woman. • Woman leaves jar at well, returns to her city. • Announces possibility that she has found the Messiah. • Conversation between Jesus and disciples (v. 31-38). • Disciples return with food for Jesus. • Jesus: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me.” • Challenge to take up task of “harvesting” – mission of gathering believers. • Samaritans arrive and believe in Jesus (v. 39-42). • Some believed because of woman’s testimony about Jesus’ supernatural knowledge. • More believed because of Jesus’ “word” – exemplify mature faith, not dependent on signs. • Jesus is “Savior of the world” (cf. 1 Jn. 4:14) – universalism.
Second Sign: Healing an Official’s Son (4:43-54)Images of New Salvation: “New Life” • Similar to healing centurion’s servant (Mt. 8:5-13; Lk. 7:1-10). • Both live in Capernaum; receive healing from a distance. • Centurion is Gentile; John’s “royal official” may be also. • Simple request for healing receives sharp rebuke (v. 47-48). • “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” • Evangelist is critical of faith dependent on signs (cf. 2:23-25; 20:29). • Official persists and “believes Jesus’ word” (v. 49-50). • Jesus assures that the boy will live – cures from a distance. • Key point: Official believes Jesus’ word before he sees the miracle – another example of mature faith, not dependent on signs. • Back home, he finds the son recovered (v. 51-53). • “New life” comes to those who believe in Jesus. • Miracle does not create but confirms faith – believes first, then sees sign. • Official’s believing “along with his whole household” reflects language of Christian mission (cf. Acts 11:14; 16:31; 18:8; etc.). • Conclusion (v. 54). • Story is numbered as “second sign” – in spite of intervening references. • Official may complete sequence: Jews – Samaritans – Gentiles.
Symbolic Use of “Fountain/Spring” Ps. 36:7-9 How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. Prov. 13:14 The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, so that one may avoid the snares of death. Joel 3:18 In that day the mountains shall drip sweet wine, the hills shall flow with milk, and all the stream beds of Judah shall flow with water; a fountain shall come forth from the house of the LORD and water the Wadi Shittim. Ezek. 47:1-12 (Depicts life-giving stream flowing from beneath restored temple.) Rev. 21:6 Then he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Rev. 22:1-2 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life …; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.