Resources » The IVP New Testament Commentary Series » John » He Came to His Own (1:19-4:54) » The Glory Begins to Be Revealed (2:1-4:54) » The Glory Is Revealed Among the Despised: A Samaritan Woman (4:1-42)

The Glory Is Revealed Among the Despised: A Samaritan Woman (4:1-42)

In chapters 2 and 3 the glory of God is revealed within kosher Jewish settings, first in the countryside and then in Jerusalem. We now move on to see Jesus offer God's grace to folk despised by most Jews, namely a Samaritan and a Herodian (who may even be a Gentile). These accounts are followed in chapter 5 with a pivotal scene in which we see Jesus' graciousness to one whom even Christians would be tempted to despise, a man who betrays Jesus to the authorities, a Judas figure. In each of these stories we continue to see Jesus, who is God's presence on earth, revealing God's gracious love.

After illustrating the faulty faith described in 2:23—3:36, John offers examples of true faith, beginning with the Samaritan adulteress. The story depicts a series of barriers that must be overcome in order for her to have faith in Jesus. Thus, in this story we learn more about who Jesus is and the grace he offers, as well as more about discipleship.

Jesus moves back into Galilee from Judea because the Pharisees have learned of his popularity (4:1). There has been no opposition from them up to this point, though the commotion in the temple has raised questions. Jesus is not "on the lam" yet (contrast 7:1), but he nevertheless clearly wants to avoid contact with the Pharisees. If Nicodemus had shared with his fellow Pharisees something of his conversation with Jesus, then they would have even more questions. They had sent agents to the Baptist to ask whether he was the Christ and to find out why he was baptizing (1:19-28). By moving on, Jesus avoids such questions and the confrontation that would inevitably follow. But he moves not merely for the sake of expediency; he moves because it is God's will. He only does God's will, and it is God's will not only that he avoid the Pharisees but also that he meet this Samaritan woman. Jesus had to go through Samaria (4:4). There is no geographical necessity for going through Samaria. The necessity is due to God's plan, as had (edei) indicates (cf. comment on 3:14). The Father was sending him there to look for those who would worship him in spirit and truth (4:23).

At noon Jesus stops to rest outside of Sychar and sends his disciples into town for food. It was the hottest time of day, not the best time to be traveling and a very unusual time for a woman to fetch water. The fact that it was noon may highlight both Jesus' desire to avoid the Pharisees and the woman's desire to avoid her neighbors, who would come to draw water at cooler periods of the day. Since she had had six of the men of the village, the other women would have little love for her. Her immorality is well known to the villagers (4:29), as one would expect.

As she comes to draw water Jesus initiates the conversation, in contrast to his encounter with his first disciples (1:37). The woman is shocked that he, a Jew, would speak to her, a Samaritan woman (4:9). The Samaritans were held in contempt as religious apostates who had mixed the purity of Israel's worship with idolatry and the worship of pagan gods (cf. 2 Kings 17:24-41; Ezra 4:1-3; Sirach 50:25-26). While these texts reflect a Jewish explanation of the Samaritans, they probably do not refer to Samaritans (cf. Williamson 1992:726). Certainly the Samaritans were at least as zealous in their monotheism as the Jews. The animosity toward the Samaritans was greatly intensified about twenty years before Jesus' ministry when some Samaritans defiled the temple in Jerusalem by scattering human bones in the courtyard during Passover (Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 18.30). This conflict at the temple highlights one of the fundamental differences between the Samaritans and the Jews, namely, the question of where God has centered his worship. Apart from this issue most of their beliefs are represented within segments of Judaism, that is, until the Pharisees came to dominate the scene (cf. Gowan 1982:163-77; Haacker 1978; Williamson 1992).

For Jesus to have dealings with this woman was to risk ritual defilement (4:9). The expression do not associate with (ou . . . synchrontai) can mean "use together with" (cf. NIV note; Daube 1956:373-82). The ritual impurity of the person was thought to pass to whatever he or she had contact with, like spiritual germs. There is thus an enormous religious barrier between this woman and Jesus, the first of several barriers. Jesus takes the initiative and will keep at it until all of the barriers are dealt with. This gentle persistence should be a great comfort to us who are not without barriers ourselves.

While the differences between the Jews and Samaritans were not as great as most Jews believed, there was indeed a difference between Jew and Samaritan, and the truth of Judaism over against Samaritanism is ratified by Jesus (4:22). But the hatred and the alienation are not accepted by the Son. The Samaritans do in fact offer worship, though they are in ignorance of the one they worship (v. 22). But the one they are desiring to worship wants their worship and comes to them, revealing himself and bringing salvation. Like the world (3:16-18), the Samaritans are worthy of condemnation and yet are loved. The distinction between Judaism and Samaritanism is maintained, but individuals within both of these communities either receive or reject God's salvation. John's characteristic appreciation of the importance of both the group and the individual is evident here.

The woman has asked Jesus a question, and he replies with another of his cryptic sayings: If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water (4:10). She could not have understood in depth what Jesus was saying, as is the case with his other cryptic sayings, but she could have picked up on something in it that would point her in the right direction. The phrase gift of God was a very common expression, "a comprehensive term for everything that God bestows on man for his salvation" (Schnackenburg 1980a:426). So this term should have at least indicated to the woman that Jesus was talking about God's revelation. The image of water is also used in both Jewish and Samaritan sources as an image of God's revelation, the Torah, as well as of the Spirit.

On the basis of such general associations she could have understood Jesus to be saying, in effect, "If you knew the Scriptures and the salvation they reveal and if you were aware of my identity as Messiah, then you would ask me as the bearer of revelation and salvation and I would give you revelation and salvation." The woman does in fact have some knowledge of the gift of God in that she expects the Messiah (4:25). She obviously would not understand the role of the Holy Spirit and the death and resurrection of the Son of God, but she could have understood that Jesus was speaking of the revelation of God. She could also see he was implying not just that his request for water that was strange, but that his own identity was unusual. The purpose of the conversation is to reveal something of this identity.

The woman's reply shows that she misunderstands Jesus entirely (4:12). She does not make any of the connections that Jesus' cryptic saying might have triggered. Rather, she thinks he is talking about physical water. This superficial level of reference is the second barrier to her belief. Jesus uses this barrier itself as a stepping stone. She says, Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds? (v. 12). Even though she thinks they are speaking only of physical water, she recognizes that Jesus' cryptic statement implies he is greater than the patriarch Jacob.

What would it mean to a Samaritan that someone is greater than Jacob? Jacob was central to the covenant identity of the people. Among the patriarchs, "Jacob Israel, the son of Isaac, became the actual progenitor of the elect, the Hebrew tribes" (MacDonald 1964:16). And by the same fact, "Jacob Israel represents the last of a line, the line of the Patriarchs, and the beginning of a new line, the line of the elect" (MacDonald 1964:448). These covenants were of primary importance for the Samaritans' identity as the elect of God. Furthermore, God chose Jacob because of the way Jacob lived (MacDonald 1964:227). These features of Samaritan thought are paralleled in the Jewish evaluation of Jacob (cf. Odeberg 1965). Crucial for both Samaritan and Jew is that "it is the name of Jacob which defines the people of the covenant" (Odeberg 1965:191-92). Thus, to make a claim to be greater than Jacob would set oneself up as more virtuous than a major model of piety, and, most importantly, it would suggest a superiority to the covenant, which was central to the identity of both Jew and Samaritan.

Jesus makes it evident in his statement concerning the coming change in the religion of both Jew and Samaritan that he intends to suggest some such notion of superiority (4:21). What is necessary is spirit and truth (4:23-24), which have come in Jesus (1:17; 3:6; 20:22). Jesus' superiority to Jacob means that both Judaism and Samaritanism have been superseded in Jesus. Jacob gave a well that provides water, but Jesus is the giver of a greater gift, living water (4:10). The provision of living water speaks of the superiority of Jesus' revelation to that of the old covenant, for Jesus not only brings revelation of God but gives the Spirit by which this revelation is internalized in believers, giving birth to spirit (3:6). Such is the basic thrust of this story in its revelation of Jesus and what he is doing.

Jesus' offer of water leads the woman to focus on his identity (4:12). Jesus blows on this ember of understanding by continuing to use the idea of water to lead her to an understanding of himself. He makes another of his testing comments, contrasting the water Jacob gave with the water he gives. What he says about this water—that in a person it will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life—is very cryptic indeed (vv. 13-14). The man-made well is contrasted with a God-given spring (cf. Loyd 1936:63). The woman's response seems disappointing, for she remains on the superficial level (v. 15). She wants this spring of water welling up to eternal life so she will not have to come to the well anymore. The phrase living water (hydor zon) can mean "running water." So Jesus is offering her eternal life, but she thinks he is talking about indoor plumbing.

Although she remains on this superficial level, she also makes a profound movement toward faith. For even on this superficial level, by asking for this marvelous private supply of running water she is actually putting faith in Jesus as one greater than Jacob. While as yet her level of faith is very shallow and her misunderstanding is great, nevertheless she has begun to believe in Jesus. It is a source of great comfort to us to realize how patiently God works with each of us to lead us out of our misunderstanding and shallowness to come to ever deeper levels of faith, knowledge and union with God.

Next Jesus seems to change the subject entirely, but in fact he is responding to her request for living water by revealing more about himself. She has shown an openness toward him, and now he responds to her. He indicates his own special identity by revealing something of her identity, or at least of her marital status (4:16-18). He tells her something about her personal life, as he had done with Nathanael (1:48), and his preternatural knowledge indicates to the woman that he is a prophet (4:19). With this realization she has come to the place of understanding that she would have reached earlier had she understood Jesus' first statements about the gift of God and the living water. Those previous cryptic statements had contained hints that Jesus is special in a religious way, and she now realizes this.

Her recognition of Jesus as a prophet could be a very significant statement of faith, much more so than it would be if she were a Jew. For the Samaritans, unlike the Jews, did not recognize a succession of prophets. Rather, their expected one, their "Messiah," called Taheb (ta'eb), was the prophet like Moses (Deut 18:15). But since she is not calling Jesus the Messiah (cf. 4:25), she probably does not use the word prophet in this Samaritan sense. She is engaging in ecumenical dialogue, using the word prophet more like a Jew would, to signify a holy man rather than the expected one. She is moving in the right direction, but there are still difficulties to be overcome.

It is very significant that she does not react defensively to Jesus' knowledge of her domestic relationships. Many interpreters see here an attempt on her part to avoid the subject. But her interest in pursuing religious questions is actually in keeping with what we have already learned about her, namely, her consciousness of differences between Samaritans and Jews and her pride in the patriarch Jacob. By implicitly affirming that Jesus is greater than Jacob, she focuses on his person, not her own. So her attention remains on Jesus' person even though her own life is being used to reveal something more of his identity. This focus on Jesus is a key characteristic of true faith.

She now returns to the original barrier between herself and Jesus: the religious differences. She has met a genuine religious figure, but he is a Jew. She thinks, What about the religious separation? She does not ask about the relations between Jews and Samaritans; she simply states the differences in terms of places of worship (4:20). In this simple statement of the problem we are reminded of the way Jesus' mother presented the problem at Cana (2:3). Jesus' response is, not surprisingly, quite mystifying (4:21-24). Here is God's assessment of the division between Jews and Samaritans: in essence Jesus says that salvation is indeed of the Jews, but now with the coming of that salvation in himself as the Messiah people will be able to worship God in a qualitatively different way that supersedes the worship of the past and the controversies associated with it. The blessings expected in the last days have come (cf. comment on 4:35-38).This new worship is characterized by spirit and truth (pneuma kai aletheia, 4:23). Like most of the key terms in this conversation, these words function on more than one level. On one level to worship in spirit could mean to worship not just with words or thoughts or mere emotion but with one's innermost self, at one's center, one's heart. Such worship engages the mind, emotions and body, but it is centered deeper, in the spirit. And to worship in truth could mean to worship as who one really is, with no hypocrisy, falseness, deception. Such a reference to the human spirit and integrity develops thoughts already introduced in the Gospel (for example, 1:47; 3:6).

But even on this earthly level the reference is not merely to human qualities, for one must be born from above (3:3-8). To worship in spirit and truth means to worship as one who is spiritually alive, living in the new reality Jesus offers, referred to here as the gift of God, which is living water. For behind the earthly things are the heavenly things, that is, God himself (cf. 3:12). Worshiping in spirit is connected to the fact that God is spirit (4:24). And worshiping in truth is connected with Jesus, the Messiah who explains everything (4:25-26). This picture of Jesus will be developed more when it is said that his words are spirit and truth (6:63) and he is himself the truth (14:6). So worshiping in spirit and truth is related to the very character of God and the identity of Christ. It is to worship in union with the Father, who is spirit, and according to the revelation of the Son, who is the truth. Indeed, it is to be taken into union with God through the Spirit (chaps. 14—17).

This profound response to the woman's statement goes completely over her head. Jesus has spoken directly to the issue she raised, but she is not able to hear it at all: The woman said, "I know that Messiah" (called Christ) "is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us" (4:25). In effect she is saying, "I do not know what you are talking about, but I believe that the Messiah will come and teach us about all of these things." This view of the Messiah is true to the Samaritan understanding. They were expecting not a Davidic king, but rather the Taheb who would be primarily a lawgiver, teacher, restorer, revealer (MacDonald 1964:362-65; Dexinger 1989:272-76). She is expecting someone who will clear up all the confusion.

Her reply reveals her basic openness and receptivity, which are crucial elements of true faith in this Gospel. This is the sort of person the Father is looking for (cf. 2 Chron 16:9). She recognizes that things are not right, and she is waiting for God to act. She is expecting one who will teach, which is to say she is open to revelation. This response epitomizes an appropriate response to Jesus and his cryptic sayings. Faced with such openness Jesus reveals himself to her immediately: I who speak to you am he (ego eimi, ho lalon soi, v. 26). His use of ego eimi here is primarily self-designation, but it conceals yet deeper revelation since it is God's own self designation as I AM (cf. comment on 8:58). Thus, Jesus identifies himself as the awaited Messiah of the Samaritans, but he does so in language that hints he is God's own presence, the Jewish God who brings the living water of salvation, who indeed is "the spring of living water" (Jer 2:13).

The woman's response to his declaration is not given. The starkness and clarity of Jesus' statement is exceptional in light of what has been seen up to this point in the Gospel. But now the disciples arrive on the scene, and the woman heads to town (4:27-28). In the background her response is hinted at: Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ? (4:29). She is entertaining the possibility that Jesus is the Messiah, but with some question still.

This question is the last we hear of her. We are not told whether it is a question that results in solid faith, as in Nathanael's case, or in rejection, as it does for the Jewish opponents later in the Gospel. The impression left is favorable, because of what is revealed of her heart (4:25) and the parallel between her and the first disciples. Like Andrew and Philip she is characterized by her testimony to others who come and see and believe (4:28-29, 39-42). Also, the Samaritans want Jesus to stay with them (4:40), just as the first disciples wanted to stay with Jesus (1:38). The story concludes with a confession reminiscent of Nathanael's (4:42; cf. 1:49).

The woman's receptivity stands in obvious contrast to the opponents' unwillingness to receive. Nathanael began by asking one of the very same questions later raised by the Jewish opponents concerning Jesus' origin (cf. 1:49). In the same way, the woman's question of whether Jesus is greater than our father Jacob (4:12) is identical with the opponents' later question of whether Jesus is greater than "our father Abraham" (8:53). But John makes it clear that "the Samaritan woman, who is ready, seemingly, to desert her traditional religion (verse 15), is in reality faithful toward the element of truth received from the fathers, whereas the Jews, who were apparently unswervingly loyal to the inheritance from their father Abraham and to the Tora [sic] of Moses, in opposition to the demands of Jesus, had already severed themselves spiritually and intrinsically from the way of Abraham and the Tora of Moses" (Odeberg 1968:178-79). Thus, the woman stands alongside the disciples as an example of one who is receptive of Jesus. The docility before God and his law that figures so prominently in the opponents' self-understanding is actually present in the followers of Jesus, including this Samaritan adulteress.

The Samaritan woman was surprised that Jesus would talk to a Samaritan (4:9). When the disciples return they are surprised he is talking to a woman (4:27), reflecting the sensitivities of their time. "Sir [Sirach] ix 1-9 describes the care to be taken lest one be ensnared by a woman; and rabbinic documents (Pirqe Aboth i 5; TalBab 'Erubin 53b) warn against speaking to women in public" (Brown 1966:173). In particular, the woman's presence at the well at this unusual hour might have raised the disciples' suspicions, in which case their question could reflect warnings regarding the adulteress (Prov 5; 6:20—7:27).

But they neither snap at her What do you want? nor ask Jesus Why are you talking with her? In these unasked questions we again see their confusion and also their docility. These private questions point up the fact that Jesus has just revealed his identity to a Samaritan adulteress, which is to say, he has acted about as shockingly as he possibly could. While it is true that God hates divorce (Mal 2:16), here we see God's incredible love toward one with multiple marriages or perhaps just affairs. The glory of God continues to be revealed as we see the scandalous graciousness of God. Jesus is talking with this woman because God loves her. He is looking for true worshipers (4:23), those who will enter into life (4:36).

The woman leaves the scene, and we hear her preaching her evangelistic sermon (4:29). She connects her understanding of the Scriptures concerning the Christ with her own experience and encourages folk to come out to the well. At the heart of any true evangelism is an invitation to come to Jesus himself, not just a call to accept the evangelist's own ideas or experiences.

Her witness is effective, for in the background we see a crowd coming to see Jesus (v. 30). The significance of what is taking place in the background is explained by the dialogue in the foreground (vv. 31-38). These verses reveal Jesus to be God's agent who fulfills God's promises for the last days, the eschatological reality now present in our midst in Jesus.

The section begins with the disciples' encouraging Jesus to eat something (v. 31). This expression of loving concern is met by an obscure response from Jesus: I have food to eat that you know nothing about (v. 32). His disciples are still very ignorant of who he really is and what he is really about. They have yet to see him as the revelation of the Father. Accordingly, the disciples do not get Jesus' point and so have more unasked questions, such as wondering if someone has brought him food (v. 33). They repeat exactly the woman's incomprehension concerning living water; she did not know how he could get a drink, and they do not know how he could get food. But there is an important difference, for whereas Jesus did not tell the woman what he meant by living water, he does give an explanation to the disciples: My food . . . is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work (v. 34). This saying calls attention to what is significant about his encounter with the Samaritan woman and indeed about all of his activity: he does God's will and finishes God's work. Jesus is the true Son of God, living out the obedience that was expected of the people of Israel, who were not to "live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD" (Deut 8:3). Jesus is thus not only God's presence on earth but also the model of discipleship. Doing the will of God is Jesus' food and is such for his followers also. Again questions are raised for modern disciples. Are we walking as he walked (1 Jn 2:6)? How is our diet? Are we malnourished? Are we starving ourselves by failing to nourish God's life within us through obedience? As we pray for our daily bread we should have in mind not only physical nourishment, but this spiritual nourishment as well. Indeed, the word for "daily" (epiousion) in the Lord's Prayer (Mt 6:11; Lk 11:3) is not the common word for "daily," suggesting that something more than just ordinary food is in mind (cf. Dunn 1992:622). In John's Gospel this deeper sort of nourishment is to share in God's very life (6:53-58). The point of reference behind these strands of thought is the cross, which is the greatest expression of Jesus' obedience to the will of God and also the deepest revelation of God's love and the means by which we receive the life of God.

Of special significance is his claim to finish his [God's] work (4:34). The Father has begun a project, and now Jesus is bringing it to its perfect completion (teleioso autou to ergon). Israel was to be a source of God's salvation for the whole world, and this is now coming to fulfillment, beginning with the Samaritans. Its extension to the rest of the world is represented later by the Greeks who come to Jesus, thereby indicating that the hour had come for him to be lifted up and draw all people to himself (12:20-23, 32).

But if God began the work and if Jesus now completes this divine work, he must be divine himself. Once again, then, we see Jesus' identity as central to the story. Before long this same theme of Jesus' working with God as his equal will get through to the Jewish opponents, causing them to reject Jesus (5:17-18) and launch the conflict that will dominate the rest of the story.

The remaining verses in this section dwell on the notion of Jesus' completion of the Father's work. The eschatological theme that the awaited time has now come (4:23) is developed with the image of a harvest. In the Old Testament this image usually represented God's coming judgment (for example, Joel 3:13), though it was also used of God's gathering in the Israelites who had been scattered among the nations (Is 27:12; cf. Demarest 1978:526). In our text this image implies eschatological blessings. The crop for eternal life (4:36) is starting to be gathered, as is evidenced by the fields that are ripe for harvest, literally, "white for harvest" (4:35). Jesus may well be referring to the approaching Samaritans, who probably would be wearing white clothing.

In this completion of the Father's work our standard expectations must be set aside. Normally in Israel it takes at least four months between the latest sowing and the earliest reaping. But in Jesus' work the sowing and harvesting are taking place simultaneously (4:35-36). This is another eschatological image of the abundance of God's blessings in the last days taken from the Prophets (Amos 9:13).

The imagery of sower and reaper is used in several ways in these few verses. Since Jesus is completing his Father's work, presumably the Father would be the sower and Jesus the reaper (cf. Schnackenburg 1980a:447). In another sense, however, here the same person is both sower and reaper, for Jesus has just spoken with the woman and already many are coming to him. But even though Jesus has functioned in these two capacities, in a deeper sense the Father is still the sower, for "it is the Father who `gives' believers to Jesus and `draws' them to him (cf. 6:37ff., 44, 65; 10:29; 17:6)" (Schnackenburg 1980a:451).

Jesus goes on to speak of the work his disciples will do in the future (4:37-38). He uses a well-known proverb to speak of a division of labor between sower and reaper. The idea of one sowing and another reaping is found in the Old Testament as a description of catastrophe and judgment (Lev 26:16; Deut 28:30, 33, 51; Job 31:8; Mic 6:15). The opposite picture—of reaping what one has sown—is a description of eschatological blessing (Is 65:21-22). Jesus, however, is describing a division of labor among those who are part of a common enterprise. The proverb in verse 37 is given as an explanation of verse 36, which literally says, "Already the one who harvests receives wages and gathers fruit unto life eternal, so that the one who sows and the one who harvests may rejoice together." At first it seems the sower and the harvester are the same person, but then they are clearly distinguished. This ambiguity, both reflects the mystery of the relation between the Father and the Son and, along with the implication of immediate harvest, suggests the abnormality of this time of eschatological fulfillment (cf. Bultmann 1971:197-200).

Jesus' disciples are to reap the harvest of what others have sowed and labored over. This prediction will be fulfilled specifically by John and the Samaritans: John and Peter will follow up on Philip the Evangelist's work in Samaria. The Samaritans have been "baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus," but when the apostles lay their hands on them, the Holy Spirit falls (Acts 8:14-17). Here indeed is a harvest for eternal life (4:36). But this is just one instance of what 4:38 is referring to. The general language used in verse 38 suggests that the whole ministry of the disciples is in view. They are being taught that their ministry is dependent on that of earlier laborers. Others probably refers to all those through whom the Father has been accomplishing his work, the work that is now coming to a perfect completion in Jesus.

This verse is thus part of the theme of Jesus as the fulfillment of Judaism and, indeed, of all God's work in the world. It is also the first glimpse of Jesus' teaching the disciples about their own ministry, a major theme in chapters 13—17. Already the fundamental point is clear: the work of the disciple is an extension of Jesus' own work (20:21)—doing the Father's will by the presence of the Spirit and embodying and proclaiming the eternal life available in Jesus, the one who completed the Father's work. Jesus' work is to reveal the Father and make available eternal life (17:3-4, 6). He has done so in the present context of his revelation to the Samaritan woman by telling her of the worship that the Father desires and by demonstrating, in his relationship with her, God's acceptance of Samaritans. So both in his action and in his teaching he has revealed God's love for Samaritans, his willingness to reveal himself to them and receive their worship.

The story concludes with the response of the Samaritans who went out to see Jesus (4:39-42). Their faith goes from being based on the woman's testimony (v. 39) to being based on their own experience (v. 42). There is no indication that their initial faith was false, but it obviously needed to be deepened. They had heard about Jesus, and now they needed to hear him for themselves (cf. 1:45-49). The lesson for our own lives is perhaps obvious: our faith also must be based on hearing Jesus for ourselves, not just on hearing about him. The folk in Jerusalem saw Jesus' deeds and thought they had faith, but it was faulty (2:23-25). These Samaritans have seen no deeds of power, no signs, but have come to have faith in Jesus. The signs and the teaching were meant to reveal Jesus' identity and the character of the Father. We who live after the coming of the Spirit, who illumines Jesus' words and deeds, are better off than the first disciples were while they were with him. We now understand him and actually share, through the Spirit, in his life with the Father. We hear about Jesus as we read the Gospels in the light of the insight the Spirit has provided to the church, but we must come to the well ourselves to meet him through the means of grace he provides.

These Samaritans want Jesus to stay with them for two days. The initial religious barrier that had kept the woman from Jesus has obviously broken down. These Samaritans—unlike Nathaniel, the Jews and this woman—are not put off by Jesus' origin (cf. Schnackenburg 1980a:455). This is an eschatological sign, an indication that the awaited time has arrived (4:23). The Father is seeking worshipers from among the Jews but also from the whole world, for he loves the whole world (3:16-17). This universal love must have been something of what Jesus taught these Samaritans as he stayed with them, for they come to believe that he is the Savior of the world (4:42). This powerful title summarizes the cosmic dimensions of Jesus' work revealed in the prologue (1:1-18), which was touched on in the Baptist's preaching (1:29) and in the story of Nicodemus (3:15-17) and which will recur again (6:33, 51; 12:32, 47).

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