John 4 exegesis


Step I Acquaintance

A. Comparison of translations

V 9: RSV…Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.

Message: (Jews in those days wouldn't be caught dead talking to Samaritans.)

NEB: (Jews and Samaritans, it should be noted, do not use vessels in common.)

V 10: RSV: If you knew the gift of God and who it is that is saying to you, "Give me a drink," you would have asked hi, and he would have given you living water.

Message:…generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink and I would give you fresh, living water.

NEB: If only you knew what God gives…

V 14: RSV … The water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

Message: The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountain of endless life.

V 19: RSV: I perceive that you are a prophet

Message: Oh, so you're a prophet! Well, tell me this: Our ancestors worshiped God at the mountain, but you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place for worship, right?

V 23: RSV: The hour is coming…when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him.

Message: The time is coming…when what you're called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter.

Its who you are, the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That's the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship.

V 24: RSV: God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

Message: God is sheer being itself - Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirit, their true selves, in adoration.

V 27: Message: (The disciples) were shocked. They couldn't believe he was talking with that kind of a woman. No one said what they were all thinking, but their faces showed it.

V 28: The woman took the hint and left. In her confusion she left her water pot.

V 38: RSV: I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor; others have labored and you have entered into their labor.

Message: I sent you to harvest a field you never worked. Without lifting a finger, you have walked in on a field worked long and hard by others.

B. Textual Criticism

C. Rough Translation

D. He comes then into a city the Samaria being called Sychor, near the land the gave Jacob to Joseph the son of him, and there was pege the of Jacob. Jesus, made tired from the journey sat at the pege. Hour was about six. Comes woman of the Samaria to draw water. Saying to her Jesus: Give me to drink. For the disciples his had gome away into the city that food arorasosin (to shop for). Saying therefore to him the woman the Samaritan: How you a Jew being fro me drink are asking woman Samaritan? [For not synchronistic Jews Samaritans] Asked Jesus and said to her - if you knew the dorean the of God and who is saying to you Give me drink you would have aske and he would have given you water living. She saying to him: Lord, no antlema you have and the phsear is deep where then get you the water the living? Not you greater are than the father of us Jacob who gave us the phrear and self of it drand and the sons of him and the cattle of him. Answered Jesus and said to her all the ones drinking from the water this well be thinking again. But - drinking from the water that I will give him, not will thirst into the aeon but the water I will give him will become in him pege water allomenou into live reonian. Saying to him the woman Lord, give me this the water that not I thirst nor come here to draw. Saying to her Go call the husband of you and come here. And the woman and said Not I have husband. Saying to her the Jesus Well you say husband I have not. Five for husbands you had, and now - you have not is your husband. This truth have you said. Saying to him the woman, Lord, theoro that prophet are you. The Father of us in the mountain this worshiped; and you say that in Jerusalem is the area where to worship should. Saying to her the Jesus, Faith me woman that is coming hour when neither in the mountain this nor in Jerusalem will hyou worship the Father. You worship what not you know, we worship what we know because the salvation from the gudear is but comes hour and now is when the tru worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, and for the Father, such seeks the worship him. Spirit the God, and the worshipping in spirit and truth to worship saying to him the woman. I know the Messiah is coming the being called Christos. When comes that one he will herald to us everything. Saying to her Jesus I am, the speaking to you and at this came the disciples of him, and were astonished that with woman he was speaking. None however said, What are you seeking or why are you speaking with her? Left therefore the water jar of her the woman and went away to the city and saying to the men Come see man who told me everything which I did. Not this is the Christ. They went forth out of the city and came toward him. In the meantime asked him the disciple saying Rabbi, eat. But he said to them I food have to eat which you not know. Said therefore the disciples toward others Not anyone brought him to eat? Says to them - Jesus, My food is that I do the will of the having sent me and finish of him the work. Not you say that yet four months is and the harvest is coming? Look I say you raise the eyes of you and see the fields, that white they are toward harvest. Already the reaping wages receives and gathers fruit into life eternal, that the saving together may rejoice and the reaping. In for this the word is that another is the saving and another the reaping. I sent you to reap that not you have vorked; others have worked and you into the work of them have entered.

E. Out of the city that many believed into him of the Samaritans because of the word of the woman witnessing that He told me all that I did. When therefore came toward him the Samaritans, they asked him to remain with them; and he remained there 2 days and more may believed because of the word of him. To the they said, That not because of your talk we believe. Selves for we have heard and we knows that this man is truly the Savior of the world.

Step II Disposition

A. Genre - How the text says what it says.

A. This text makes use of a cross-cultural encounter to give new insight into the full indetity of Jesus. In the dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman, levels of meaning emerge. Wise readers or hearers are privy to the deeper meaning, although the Samaritan woman is not (like Nicodemus and the disciples). The woman's confusion about "water:, Jesus' "greatness" relative to "Jacob", "worship", etc. all serve to place the reader "in the know". The disciples' misunderstanding about food follows a similar pattern. The entire text becomes evangelistic in the woman's "witnessing" Jesus' "white unto harvest" teaching and the townspeople's "faith" in him.

B. Personal Interaction - Questions and observations

C. 1. What is the background of Jewish - "Samaritan" relations?

D. 2. Why does John need to tell us they didn't get along?

E. 3. What is the significance of Jacob's well?

F. 4. Did "Rabbis" talk to women, Samaritans?

G. 5. Was the woman an outcast?

H. 6. What was the significance of "Samaritans" to the Johannine community?

I. 7. What prominence did women have in the Johannine communityh?

J. 8. How did the community understand the living water and its relation to Jesus?

K. 9. Jesus begins by asking something of her, but he has the "gift" to give.

L. 10. Who are the "other" who toiled before the disciple: an anachronism?

M. 11. Some Samaritans believed because of the woman's words. Others, because of words from his own lips. What would this mean to Johannine and present day Christian communities?

N. 12. What are sermonic possibilities for contemporary pluralism/ways of worship?

O. 13. How do we understand the "living water" today?

C. Organization - Where elements of B are located.

D. Questions of Historical Background: 1,3,4,5,6,7

E. Questions of author's intent: 2, 10, 11, 8

F. Questions about the early Christian community: 6,7,8,10,11

G. Homiletical possibilities: 9,11,12,13

Step III. Composition

A. Immediate Context

Preceded by the Baptist's departure, followed by the healing of the royal official's son.

B. Compositional whole

Within the gospel of John this pericope elaborates themes of pneumatic and christological concern, as well as the familiar motif of theologically maturing insight into the true nature and vocation of Jesus. Underlying conflict with synagogue authorities is also detectable.

Step IV Context

A. Primitive Christianity

This text offers a glimpse into an early Christian community that in some way may have experienced the risen Christ as transcender of barriers of gender, race, class and ethnicity. We are reminded of Paul's lists of such broken barriers. A woman is presented as an important witness. The first "mass" conversion in the gospel is of "foreigners". It also speaks to the community's experience of the present Christ through the living water of the Spirit. Disenfranchised from synagogue worship, Johannine Chrsitians here learn that the spacial necessity of a "meeting place" is irrelevant.

B. OT and Judaism

The text evokes the story of Elijah and the widow of Sidon (1 Kgs. 17:10-11). Jesus and the woman at the well recalls betrothal stories of Isaac, Jacob, and Moses. The "greater than Jacob" question juxtaposes the revered ones of Judaism with the unparalleled superiority of Christ. The Jewish/Samaritan conflict serves theological needs. Her initial characterization of Jesus as "prophet" is superceded by the christological confession.

C. Hellenistic world

The transcending of ancient divisions holds significance for the mission to the gentiles. The promise of unexplainable, inner spiritual resources would have resonance with Hellenistic religious expressions.

Step V. Distillation.

A. Summary of Salient Features

This is a missionary text which envisions Christ transcending human barriers, putting people in touch with "springs of living water, welling up from within", as they encounter the Christ through the word proclaimed. It urges a first-hand faith based on personal experience of the living Jesus.

B. Smooth translation

But it was part of the plan that he should have to go through Samaria. So he came to Sychar, Samaria, near the piece of land that Jacob had bequeathed to his son Joseph. "Jacob's well" was there, and jess was sitting by the well, exhausted by the trip. It was about noon.

Along came a Samaritan woman to fill her jar with water, and Jesus said, How about a drink? ( His disciples were in town, shopping for food.) The woman responded, "YOU'RE asking ME for a drink? I'm shocked." (You see, Jews and Samaritans wouldn't dream of drinking from the same cup). Jesus answered, "If you only knew how good God is, and who is saying, "How about a drink', YOU'D be the one asking HIM and he would have produced a steady flow of fresh pure water for you'. The woman replied, "How you gonna get that nice fresh water without a bucket? I suppose you think you're better than Jacob, our honored "founding father", who gave us this well in the first place--yes, and drank from it, too, along with his whole family, and even his livestock!" Jesus said, "Yes, but even Jacob got thirsty again after he drank from this well. I will give "water" that will continually quench your thirst. The water I give will be a real torrent, and it will never be tapped out." "Ooh, let me have some of that stuff!" the woman burst out. "Then I won't have to drag myself down here for water all the time".

Taking a different tack, Jesus said, "Go get your husband and bring him here". She replied, "I haven't got a husband". "Bravo!" exclaimed Jesus. " ' I haven't got a husband'. I like your style. We both know, you've had five husbands, and the guy you're currently living with isn't one of them. 'I haven't got a husband'. Hah! That's a good one!" The woman replied, "Oh, so we're a prophet, are we? Well, riddle me this. Our people worshiped on this mountain, but you people say it has to be Jerusalem. Which is it?" "Trust me", said Jesus. "Geography is irrelevant now. You folks are pretty much I the dark. We Jews have the advantage of knowledge--salvation comes from us, you know. But that was then, this is now. You can tell the real worshippers by less tangible things than temples and mountains and ethnic heritage. They are known by inner spirit, and truth. That's the kind of worshipper the Father wants. God is not bound to time and place. Wherever his Spirit is there is truth. The woman, growing uncomfortable, said, "Well, I guess we'll just have to wait and see. When the messiah comes, he'll clear up all these gray areas for us, won't he?" Jesus replied, "Guess who you're talking to? The I AM!"

As if on cue, along come the disciples, back from their grocery shopping. They were dumbfounded to see him chatting with a woman, but they didn't dare challenge him about it. The woman scurried off back to the city, leaving her water jar in her haste. She said to the people, "Come and see a man with psychic powers. I've never met him before in my life but he was able to tell me my whole life story. You don't suppose he could be the One, do you?" They set out to see for themselves. Meanwhile, the disciples were fussing. "Rabbi, it's past noon. Eat!" But he said to them, "I have food that you don't know about." So the disciples said, "Do you think 'that woman' fed him lunch while we were gone?" Jesus said, "Don't be silly. My 'food' is to carry out God's orders. That's what really sustains me. You know the saying, 'Four months more, then the harvest'. Well, take a look around you. You don't need to wait four DAYS, never mind four months. This place is ripe for the picking right now. Here's a more pertinent quote: 'One sows, another reaps'. I sent you to gather the fruits of somebody else's labor. You've got the easy part. So reap, already!"

Many Samaritans put their faith in him because of the woman's witness. So they asked him to visit awhile, and he stayed for two days. A lot more came to faith in him because of what he said during that time. They told the woman, "Your story motivated us to go see for ourselves, but now we believe because we have heard the word direct from the horse's mouth. We say from personal experience, he is without doubt the Savior of the world."

C. Hermeneutical Bridge

This text speaks to the contemporary hunger for vital personal experience of God. It points to the centrality of Jesus as the Christ, and of inner spiritual "refreshment' through him. It could also address the difference between honoring tradition and getting hidebound by tradition. Christ as the transcender of barriers, racial/ethnic animosities, and religious conflict is another theme of contemporary importance. The church's call to mission--pointing people to personal encounter with God in Christ--is yet another. A sub-theme is that of doing God's will, the true food that sustains, in a fast-food world.

Step VI. Contemporary Address

A. Description of audience

B. Intended goals for the address

I want to help the congregation to explore possible meanings for our lives of Christ's promise of living water.