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Gospel of John--High Christology

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4:1 - 42--The Samaritan Woman: Three Statements


Jesus makes three important statements in the course of the conversation with the Samaritan woman. The first (10 - 14) is the declaration of Himself as living water. In Jeremiah 2:13, God laments that His people have "forsaken Me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water." The people turned away from God and went their own way, which was futility. Jesus is living water, and as He has just discussed in 3:16 - 18, only He holds the key, and gift, of eternal life. The metaphor is initially lost on the Samaritan woman, as is probably to be expected--Samaritans only accepted the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament) as authoritative. They would not have been familiar with Jeremiah, or perhaps even such passages as Isaiah 44:3 ("For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants") and 55:1 - 3 ("Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters…come to Me; hear Me, that your soul may live"). She thinks that in order to provide a better, literal source of water than this spot, one must be greater than even Jacob of the Old Testament. In this she is correct, even though she misses the point!


The second important statement from Jesus is in regards to worship. Jewish culture and religion held the Temple in Jerusalem to be the highest center of worship. Jews from outside of Jerusalem often made at least one pilgrimage a year to the Temple. Samaritans, however, focused on Mount Gerizim as their center of worship. While this played into the animosity between Jews and Samaritans, Jesus notes that a time would be coming when worship would not be centralized to one geographic location; rather, people will worship God "in spirit and truth."


There is possibly a very subtle transition from the first to the second point, though if this is the case it is lost in the discussion about the woman's husbands. Verses 19 - 24 discuss the place of worship, which would have included sacrifices for sins. Earlier, in verse 13, Jesus says, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again" while noting that His living water will not necessitate a person drink again. With those in mind, consider this passage from Hebrews:


Hebrews 7:27--Unlike the other high priests, He does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for His own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when He offered himself.


Temple priests were required to make yearly sacrifices for the sins of the people. The sacrifices offered atonement, but only on a limited basis; the priests would have to return with more sacrifices the next year. Jesus' sacrifice, however, was a "once for all" sacrifice. This parallels Jesus' statement, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst." Everyone who drinks this water (the old sacrificial system) will be thirsty again (have to drink again/have to make sacrifices again); but whoever drinks the water I give him (accepting Jesus' atoning sacrifice) will never thirst (Jesus offers a lasting, once for all sacrifice). Again, if this statement of Jesus' is meant to be a transition into a discussion of temple worship, it is very subtle (and very clever).


The third important statement in this section is Jesus' confession of Himself as Messiah. Such self-proclamations are rare in Scripture; that Jesus does so to a Samaritan, and a woman, cannot be understated. What we are seeing here is not only the breaking down of prejudiced walls, but our final component of Jesus and "New Things." Thus far we've seen Jesus herald in a "New Joy" with the turning of water into wine; He then anticipated a "New Temple"; and in His conversation with Nicodemus Jesus talks of a "New Birth." Here, in conversation with a Samaritan woman (a double-taboo, if you will), Jesus demonstrates a "New Universalism": God will no longer exclude outsiders from being His people. We see hints of this in Jesus' association with "sinners" (see Mark 2:15ff and Luke 15), and this will be particularly significant with the inclusion of the Gentiles (we'll see that in chapter 12). We see it likewise played out here, in a conversation with this woman.


There are other interesting aspects to Jesus' conversation with the Samaritan woman, particularly as compared with a previous conversation Jesus has had earlier in John's Gospel. We'll look at that next week.


In Christ,


--Pastor Dan


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Last modified date:
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