Theme: Living Water
In this week’s lessons we look at the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman, and see that once the Lord brings someone to saving faith, one proof of their conversion is that they tell others.
Scripture: John 4:1-42
What is it that happens in the story? How does this conversion of the woman take place? It happens in exactly the same way Jesus was proceeding when he was talking to Nicodemus. Now what does Jesus do with the woman? He begins to teach her. What did Jesus do with Nicodemus? He began to teach him. In last week’s study of Nicodemus I mentioned the doctrines that Jesus covered, and said that what John records is only a summary, and that this conversation probably went on at some length.
Now, you have exactly the same thing when you come to the case of the woman, except that the teaching is different. He meets here where she is by discussing ideas that he knew were on her mind, but corrects her thinking and points to himself as the Savior. When we look at the content of Jesus’ teaching with Nicodemus, it’s exactly what you’d expect him to teach a Pharisee. But when he speaks to the woman, he speaks about things that would be of interest to her.
The first doctrine he teaches her is taught in the form of an image, the image of living water. They were there at the well, and he asked her for a drink. She was surprised at that and expressed that to Jesus. She knew that Jews and Samaritans do not interact with each other. So why was Jesus asking her for a drink? Jesus used that opening question as a way to begin this spiritual conversation. He said, “If you knew the gift of God, and knew who it is who asks you for a drink, you’d have asked him, and he’d have given you living water.”
Now it’s really a marvelous way of beginning to communicate biblical truth to this woman. She’d come down the hill in the heat of the day to draw water. This was what was on her mind, and so he speaks about “living water.” Now, when a person in that day spoke of “living water,” what they really meant was running water from a stream. We wouldn’t talk about water that way because how we get our water today is very different from how they got it back then. She had come to draw her water from a well, which is water that obviously does not course along but lies in the well. So when Jesus talked of living water, she immediately thought of water from a stream, rather than from the well to which she had come.
Apparently she thought that was a surprising thing for him to say, but also perhaps thought it was somewhat disrespectful given the source of the well. After all, it was their father Jacob who had dug the well, which he would not have done if there was a stream nearby. What she is doing, you see, is dealing with his image in the most literal way, which is exactly the way Nicodemus was dealing with the image Jesus gave him of his need to be born again. Nicodemus mistakenly thought Jesus was talking about the need to reenter his mother’s womb, just as this woman mistakenly thought Jesus was talking about actual water.
It probably is helpful at this point to realize something of the time factor. When Jesus got to the well, he sent his disciples up the hill to this Samaritan town of Sychar to get some food. The particular well to which both the woman and Jesus go, called Jacob’s well, which is still there to this day, is about a half hour from the town. So by the time you go into town, buy food, and come back again, it might take somewhere about an hour and a half. Now somewhere along the line the woman came down to the well. Maybe she passed the disciples as they were going into town, or maybe she started for the well after they got to Sychar. We don’t know the details, but it is probably fair to say that she and Jesus may have been alone for about an hour or more before the disciples returned. This suggests that just like with Nicodemus, more was talked about than John records.
What does the woman understand by “living water”? How does Jesus use the idea in speaking with the woman?
According to the stories of both Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman, what is the primary thing Jesus does in his encounters with them? How does he go about it in each case?
Application: What opportunities has God given you to teach others his Word, whether in your work, church, or home?