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Chapter 4

Jesus asks a Samaritan woman for a drink of water and then explains that he is the one who gives living water to all. Those who drink it will never again become thirsty (4:1-42).

The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more converts than John (although it was the other disciples and I who were doing the baptizing). When Jesus learned about this he left Judea and started back to Galilee. His route took him through Samaria, and before long he came to a town called Sychar. It was located not far from the plot of land that our ancestor Jacob had given to his son Joseph. That was where Jacob had dug a well. About noon, Jesus was tired from his journey, and sat down beside the well. A woman of Samaria came to draw water.

"Please give me a drink of water," said Jesus to the woman. (We had gone into town to buy some food.)

The woman exclaimed, But you're a Jew! How come you're asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink of water?" (No Jew would ever drink from a cup used by a Samaritan).



Ancient city ruins with Mt. Hermon in the background

Jesus replied, "If you only knew the gift of God and who it is that is asking you for a drink of water, you would be the one asking me, and I would give you living water." ("Living water" is a pun. It can mean "flowing water," as in "fresh water," or it has a spiritual meaning, which is what Jesus intends.)

The woman replied, "But sir, you don't have a bucket and the well is deep. Where will you get this living water? Surely you are not greater than our father Jacob, are you? He is the one who gave us this well. He drank from it himself, and so did his sons and his flocks."

Jesus replied, "Everyone who drinks of this water will get thirsty again, but once a person drinks the water that I will give, he will never be thirsty again. In fact, it will become in him a perpetual spring of water welling up to eternal life."

"Please, sir," the woman exclaimed, "give me some of that water. That way I'll never get thirsty again and won't have to keep coming way out here to draw water."

Jesus said, "Go, call your husband first, then come back again."

"I don't have a husband," the woman replied.

"That's right," said Jesus, "you don't have a husband. Already you have had five, and the one you are now living with is not your husband. You told the truth."



Ancient harvesting

The woman said to him, "Sir, I can see that you are a prophet! I have a question for you: Should we worship on this mountain where our ancestors worshiped, or should we worship, as you, a Jew, would say, in Jerusalem?"

"Believe me," said Jesus, "the time is coming when the place where one worships -- here on this mountain or in Jerusalem -- will no longer matter. You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship; but we Jews know all about him, because salvation comes through our race. A time is coming -- in fact, it is here already -- when true worshipers will be led by the Spirit to worship the Father as he really is. And the Father is looking for people who will worship him like that. God is spirit, and those who worship him must be led by the Spirit to worship him as he really is."

The woman said, "I know that the Messiah (who is called "Christ") will come, and when he comes, he will explain everything to us."

"I am the Messiah," said Jesus, "the very one who is speaking to you now."

Just then we returned from the town. We were surprised to find Jesus talking with a woman. However, none of us asked her what she wanted or questioned Jesus as to why he was talking with her. At that point the woman put down her water jar and hurried off to town, where she told everyone, "Come and meet the man who told me everything I have ever done! Could this man really be the Messiah?" The people left what they were doing and went out to meet Jesus.

Meanwhile we kept urging Jesus to take some food and eat.

"I have a source of nourishment you know nothing about," he answered. We asked one another, "Could someone have brought him food to eat?"


A stone strewn field

Jesus said, "My food is to do what God desires. He is the one who sent me and I must finish the work he gave me to do. You say, 'There are four months between sowing and harvest'; but I say, 'Open your eyes and look around! The fields are already ripe for harvest.'

"Already the reaper is drawing his pay for having gathered a crop destined for eternal life. Sowers and reapers are rejoicing together. The saying holds true, 'One sows and another reaps.' I am sending you to harvest a crop in a field where others have done all the hard work. You are about to reap the benefits of what they have done."

A number of people in that Samaritan village came to believe in Jesus because of the woman's testimony, "He told me everything I have ever done!" They came to him with the urgent request that he remain with them in their town for a time. So for the next two days he stayed there, and many others came to believe when they heard Jesus for themselves. To the woman they said, "We no longer believe just because you told us about him. Now that we have heard him for ourselves, we are convinced that he is the Savior of the world."

Jesus heals the son of a government official (4:43-54).

Two days later Jesus left Samaria and continued on his way to Galilee. (Previously he had noted that a prophet is held in honor everywhere except in his own country!) When he arrived in Galilee he was welcomed by the people, because they too had been at the festival in Jerusalem and seen everything he had done.


Ancient synagogue in Capernaum

Traveling through Galilee, Jesus came once again to the village of Cana, where he had turned water into wine. In nearby Capernaum there was an official of the imperial government whose son was ill.  When he learned that Jesus had come back from Judea and was in Galilee, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, for his son was about to die.

"Unless you people see miracles and wonders," said Jesus, "you will never believe!"

"Please, sir," begged the official. "Come before my son dies."

"Your son is alive and well," replied Jesus. "Go back to him." The official believed what Jesus said and set off for home.

While he was still on the way home, his servants came to meet him with the good news that his son had recovered. He asked them what time this had taken place, and they said, "One o'clock yesterday afternoon the fever suddenly disappeared."

The father remembered that it was at that very hour when Jesus had said, "Your son is alive and well." So the official and everyone in his family became believers.

Jesus did this second miracle after leaving Judea and arriving in Galilee.