John 4:1–26: The Gift of Jesus
The life and ministry of Jesus is filled with surprises, but everything we have read so far in the Gospel of John seems like a reasonable action for the Messiah to take. Certainly, Jesus is the one who has descended from heaven (John 3:13), so his teaching and his ministry often challenge our preconceptions; however, on the whole, the nature of Jesus’ ministry since the day John the Baptist revealed him to Israel has been a steady increase of public ministry. If we were to imagine what the story of Jesus might look like from the end of John 3 onward, we would probably expect a pretty steady stream of stories like the ones we have already seen, filled with Jesus’ teaching, the world’s misunderstanding, and a lot of conflict. John 4, however, throws us a curveball.
When Jesus starts to attract the attention of the Jewish authorities, Jesus avoids further conflict at this time by leaving Judea altogether to go to Galilee (John 4:3), and on his way, he stops for rest in a small town in Samaria called Sychar (John 4:4). The Jews despised the Samaritans (John 4:9), but Jesus goes out of his way to have a conversation with a candidate with three strikes that should have disqualified her from Jesus’ interaction, according to the standards of the day: (1) a Samaritan, (2) a woman, and (3) a sinner. Jesus should have avoided her altogether, but he instead offers the woman fuller revelation about himself than he had even with the respectable religious teacher Nicodemus. In this story, we see God’s heart for the world—a heart shaped by overflowing grace and mercy toward those whom we deem to be the least deserving. In this scandalous story, Jesus reveals the full extent of God’s gift of grace to the world.
1. Who is the most shocking person you have ever seen turn around to become a Christian? In your heart, do you consider yourself just as unworthy to receive the grace of God?
2. Why does God describe himself through the whole Bible as “living water”? Where do you find yourself experiencing the most acute spiritual thirst? How has God quenched your thirst in the past? What can we learn for seeking God’s living water for the future?
3. How do you react when God exposes your sins to you? Where do you turn—toward hiding (perhaps by redirecting the conversation), or toward the Savior Jesus in desperation?
4. Do you first emphasize the importance of worshiping in truth, or in spirit? When you come to corporate worship, which do you notice yourself to be the most critical about in yourself or in others around you? How do you prepare yourself for seeking to worship in spirit and truth?