Letters to the Prison - Week 40

Hello, everyone!  We’re continuing our study of John 4 and the conversation between Jesus and the woman at the well.  Last week we saw the amazing things Jesus said about himself and we were about to see how the Samaritan woman reacted.  But before we look at that, now would be a good time to compare the conversation we read about in chapter 3 with the conversation we’re looking at now.  There is much to suggest that John meant us to compare these two conversations.  So, let’s take a look:
       Compare             John 3:1-21                              John 4:1-42
Who:NicodemusA Samaritan with no name
Gender and why it matteredMale.  Rabbis were men and taught only men in 1st-Century IsraelFemale.  That Jesus, being a teacher, would speak to her at all would be considered outrageous
StatusAn educated respected leader of the JewsAn uneducated “nobody” who was rejected and outcast by her own people
Nationality and why it matteredA Jew by birth.  Jews were “God’s chosen people.” They carefully maintained their pure Jewish lineage and did not intermarry with other nations.A Samaritan.  Samaritans were half-breed foreigners hated and rejected by the Jews to the point where to call someone a “Samaritan” was an insult.
ReputationA Pharisee known for his careful devotion to the lawA woman who had been through five husbands and was now living with a man who was not her husband
Time of visit with JesusNightIn the middle of the day
How the conversation went:Nicodemus got hung up on the idea of being “born again.”  When Jesus explained it to him, He asked: “how can these things be?”  This shows that he just simply “didn’t get it”The Samaritan woman got hung up on the idea of “living water.”  When Jesus explained it to her, she asked more questions and Jesus answered them carefully
What did they do about it?Nicodemus went away and we hardly hear anything from him again (we’ll see him again later in the study)The Samaritan woman goes away, and we’ll discuss what she does now.
This chart shows only a few of the ways we can compare what happened in John 3:1-21 with what happened in John 4:1-42.  There are so many other things you could compare and notice about these two encounters.  We encourage you to review these two events on your own to see what you come up with.  These people were totally opposite in so many ways.  And how they reacted to Jesus was totally different, as we’re about to see.  In Chapter 3, Nicodemus goes away “scratching his head,” so to speak.  Look at what the Samaritan woman does:
•28 So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” -John 4:28-29
We see here that she literally drops everything and goes back to her people to tell them what happened.  Her question “can this be the Christ?” was not something she was asking for herself.  She already knew.  She was encouraging her people to come and see for themselves.  She might even have been asking them to come and see rather than proclaiming what she already knew because –given her bad reputation—who would listen to her anyway?
Meanwhile, as the Samaritan woman is going to gather the town, Jesus says yet another profound thing about himself to his disciples.  They returned just in time (God’s timing is perfect!) to see the Samaritan woman leaving (John 4:27), and they offered Jesus some food out of concern for him (John 4:31).  Look what Jesus says:
•But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.-John 4:32-34
Jesus here shows that everything he does is according to God’s plan and purpose.  In fact, it is in doing what God wills that Jesus finds his life and nourishment.  We read in other gospels (Matthew 4, Mark 1, and Luke 1) about Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness where he goes 40 days without food.  That is about as long as any human could possibly go without starving to death.  This is not trying to say that Christians should never eat.  What Jesus is saying here is that his first and only priority is to do the will of God.  Everything Jesus does is according to God’s perfect plan.  Jesus’ works are God’s works.  How can we be sure of this?  Because, as we have seen and will see many times more, Jesus claims to be God.  Jesus says something else amazing to his disciples as the Samaritan woman is returning with the people from her town:
…Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. -John 4:35
When he says this, Jesus, is drawing the disciples’ attention to the crowd of Samaritans gathering around them.  Some commentators have mentioned that the white head coverings of all these people coming to Jesus across the fields might actually resemble a wheat field ripe for harvesting… when the tops of the wheat plants turn white.  Only in this case, they aren’t harvesting grain for food, they’re harvesting souls for the kingdom of God:
•36 Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” -John 4:36-38
What Jesus says quickly before the Samaritan woman returns with her whole town behind her is extremely important.  We’ll look at it closely next week.  Meanwhile, re-read the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus and compare!  We love you!

Dean A.

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