I find it very exciting in our daily Bible readings to have entered the wonderful world of the mind of “the Disciple whom Jesus loved” – John, Son of Zebedee. This is such a beautiful account of the Gospel message! A dear friend once pointed out to me that John possibly described himself in this book in this way, not in arrogance, but rather in the humblest of connotations. He meant it to express an idea something like this, “Jesus – the exalted Son of God Himself – loved me, even me. Isn’t that an astonishing and wonderful-beyond-belief thing?!!” I like to approach it like this because I think John was more in-tune with Jesus than most anyone else at the time. He saw his Lord and Savior as both his best friend and his King of Kings. He was so very thankful for Jesus’ love.
I want to focus our attention today on this beloved Apostle’s account of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. This story is prefaced by the fact that Pharisee minions were closing in tightly on his ministry, so he decided to return to the region of Galilee. In order to get there, he had to pass through the quasi-Jewish area of Samaria. Unlike how most Jews traversed those roads – with swift feet and downcast eyes (like the priest and Levite in the Good Samaritan) – Jesus viewed his time there (and everywhere😊) as opportunity to interact with people. In his inimitably gracious way, whomsoever came across his path was worthy of his undivided attention.
He sat down by Jacob’s well, exhausted and apparently without resources to purchase a bucket to dip in for a drink (cp v.11) I imagine him patiently, wearily, thinking of his forbear, Jacob, while watching the Samaritan woman as she approached. Again, contrary to typical Jewish snobbery, he makes a deliberate choice to engage her (both a Samaritan and a woman!) when she draws near. (John notes that both she, and the disciples, are astonished at the modus operandi of this strange Jewish man, Jesus. vv.9, 27)
Jesus was a brilliant conversationalist. His conversations always find common ground and cut to the point – no small talk when it comes to him. So he engages her in a discussion about the spiritual symbolism of water as he sits by the well dug by the great Jewish patriarch. He gently draws her attention to himself.
“I can give you living water”
“You will never be thirsty again”
“If you drink what I offer, it will become a never-ending source of pure thirst-quenching fluid that will provide you abundant life now and forever”
She is intrigued. But she still has not quite grasped his meaning, because she requests access to this physical water so that she will no longer have to make repeated, strenuous visits to the well. v.15
And now Jesus makes a seemingly random statement about her husband – even though he already knows she is living with someone to whom she is not married. “Go call your husband and come here.” v.16 With the insight supplied by the power of God’s spirit, (she believes him to be a prophet after he states it) he tells “her all the things that she has done,” including five husbands and living with a man now. v.18 For her, this is the turning point in her opinion of this odd man in this odd interaction.
He has revealed himself as someone with spectacular insight that could only come from God. She now plugs into his wisdom to challenge the Jewish vs. Samaritan forms of religious worship. This is the heart of the conversation – I would suggest it is the heart of her personal spiritual struggle. That’s where Jesus likes to meet people.
Your garbled pseudo-Jewish form of religion is not acceptable, he says. “You worship that which you do not know.” God is looking for “true worshippers.” People that “worship Him in spirit and truth.” I would suggest he is implying that for this woman, both doctrine and behavior must necessarily be aligned to God’s ways. She is in need of change on both fronts.
Jesus then makes an intriguing statement to the Samaritan woman that is the title of this post. “Salvation is from the Jews.” v.22 Samaritan versions of religion are not acceptable. I see it as a simple concept that is at the same time utterly profound. And it is a concept that was overlooked by Samaritans of his day, as well as many modern pseudo-religions including some Christians. She needed to believe in the wholly Jewish form of worship, repent of her ways, and believe Jesus was the Savior.
Fundamentally, all religions that fail to recognize that the Jewish God is the only true God and can only be accessed through Jesus, are failing to see the true form of worship. Like this woman, it seems that even many Christians have sidestepped the simple fact that Jesus was Jewish. True worship should be Judaism (in its pure form) with acknowledgement of Jesus as Messiah (thus embracing the New Testament) That is what he is teaching this woman. He, the Jewish Messiah, is the source of thirst quenching, life-giving water. All the fundamentals of the Jewish faith and doctrine should be a part of Samaritan/Christian belief if it is to be valid. The New Testament (addressing things like the Law of Moses and animal sacrifice) helps us understand the aspects of Judaism that were fulfilled in the “New Creation” ushered in with the life and work of the Lord Jesus.
I’m a bit hyper-vigilant about this because we have had several experiences with professing Christians at the Bible Education Center who have no knowledge of Abraham! Or they think the Old Testament is no longer relevant! Or they wonder why the stories of people like Jacob were never taught to them in Sunday School! Jesus tells us that it is imperative that all believers understand that “Salvation is from the Jews.” In order to understand the Jewish faith, it is imperative that we understand the Old Testament. And, he said this to someone who was garbled up in her Samaritan version of belief in God, which entailed a lot of crossbreed religion and a lack of firm morality mixed with some truth.
The thought I’d like us to take away from this story is that Jesus promises this blessed woman (along with us), that he is the one that will “declare all things to us”. v.25 He will help us to sort through the superstition and the truths to come to God in holiness. He will help us to be “true worshipers” who “worship the Father in spirit and truth.” v.23 He promises this IF, AND ONLY IF, we take the time to lay down our water buckets to listen to him and drink living water, allowing it to spring up in us in belief and behavior.
Jesus closes his intense conversation with this woman by giving a beautiful testimony that God Himself is seeking people like that, people like her, to be His worshippers. Do hear his words too? God is seeking us. You and me. He wants us to worship Him in spirit and truth.
So, if we don’t know the stories of Abraham, and we haven’t seen the essential connection between the Old and New Testaments, and we don’t love the things to do with the Jewish people through history – then we may need to find out more about these things. If we are living crazy mixed-up lives with a vague idea of religion we may need to change our attitudes and behaviors. Because salvation is, indeed, from the Jews – it is their heritage by birthright and ours by adoption if we (and they) become the true seed of Abraham through faith.
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek [nor Samaritan😊], there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.
Jesus’ parting words should astonish us, just as much as surely he amazed the Samaritan woman, by speaking quietly to our hearts – “I who speak to you am Messiah.” v.26
It is remarkable to read the rest of the chapter and see the impact this single conversation had on lives. Not just the woman herself – her whole community was impacted by the convictions Jesus had instilled in a single heart. This was what kept Jesus sustained – reaping with his Father the harvest of repentance and conversion in human hearts.
Like this eventful day for this nameless woman from the second-class portion of Judea, may Jesus’ words impact each one of us also to choose to become a part of that great harvest!