The Gospel of John, Jesus' first sign, Final
Oct 31, 2019
Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well that the day would come when they would all worship God in spirit and in truth. They would no longer follow the denominational spirit where they had to go to the “right” location to meet God. Contrary to popular opinion, God shows up in some very odd places when someone truly seeks Him.
Perhaps more was actually said, because the woman understood Jesus to say that the Messiah would resolve this dispute between Jerusalem and Mount Gerazim and even clarify all things.
The Revelation of the Messiah
John 4:25, 26 says,
25 The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”
It appears that this was the first time that Jesus had revealed to anyone apart from His disciples that He was the Messiah. It was dangerous to reveal this to the public at large, for this would have caused undue controversy and would have also aroused the suspicions of both the Jewish priests and the Roman government. Others had already made this claim and had led revolts, thinking that this was their messianic responsibility. Jesus obviously was not of that mindset, but such a claim would have caused the Romans to investigate Him and watch Him closely.
His messianic identity, however, must have been a great revelation to the woman, for she ran back to her village to tell others with the exciting message that the Messiah had come to visit them. But the disciples had also returned from the village carrying some food that they had purchased for lunch. John 4:27 says,
27 And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He had been speaking with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or “Why do You speak with her?”
According to Dr. Bullinger’s notes on this verse, there were six things forbidden in the Talmud for a rabbi to do. One of these was to talk to a woman. Jesus was a recognized rabbi (John 1:49; 3:2), probably discipled by his great uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, and later confirmed by John the Baptist. So it is certain that Jesus knew the Talmudic rules. Yet He obviously disagreed with these rules, knowing that the law of God nowhere prescribes such restrictions.
In verse 27 above, the NASB and the KJV suggest that both of these questions were directed toward Jesus, but it seems to me that we should read the questions: “yet no one said to the woman, “What do you want?” or to Jesus, “Why do you speak with her?” It seems odd to me that the disciples would have asked Jesus, “What do You seek?” This question more logically would have been directed at the Samaritan woman.
The First Samaritan Evangelist
John 4:28-30 says,
28 So the woman left her waterpot and went into the city and said to the men, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?” 30 They went out of the city and were coming to Him.
She left her waterpot at the well, intending to return as Jesus had instructed. Recall from verse 16 that Jesus had told her to go get her husband. As it turned out, she brought many more with her to hear what Jesus had to say. Obviously, they had messianic expectations as well.
John 4:31-34 says,
31 In the meanwhile the disciples were requesting Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But He said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 The disciples therefore were saying to one another, “No one brought Him anything to eat, did he?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.”
Here again the disciples referred to Jesus as a rabbi, “my master,” an official title of honor. Jesus did not reject the food that the disciples had purchased from the villagers, but He used the occasion to teach them about real food that energized Him spiritually. His “food” was to do the work of His heavenly Father “and to accomplish His work.”
In this case, it was to reveal the truth to those who sat in darkness. His food was not for His own consumption but to feed those who were spiritually hungry to know the truth. Perhaps He could already see the Samaritans already coming in the distance, and He was preparing His disciples for what He was about to do.
John 4:35 says,
35 “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.”
Harvest time is whenever there are people whose hearts are ready to hear the truth. There is also a seasonal time of harvest, such as when the Spirit of God is poured out in special ways. Yet in between those seasons, there is also much opportunity to reach those hungry to know the word.
John 4:36, 37 continues,
36 “Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. 37 For in this case the saying is true, ‘One sows, and another reaps’.”
The “food” in question is to do the work of the One who sent you, whether it is sowing or reaping. Those who sow are not always the same ones who later reap. There is a division of labor, yet all receive “wages” for their labor. In the case of the Samaritan village, the word was being sown at the same time as the reapers were harvesting. The word had been sown in the woman, and now she was bringing the field to the disciples at harvest time. It is clear that Jesus was preparing His disciples to help with the harvest. John 4:38 says,
38 I have sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
To enter into another man’s labor means that we build upon what others have done in the past. Without their prior labor, it would not be as easy to do our own labor.
This teaching comes to us within the context of the denominational differences between Jerusalem and Gerazim. No doubt the teachings at the temple on Mount Gerazim were faulty in many ways; yet it had already sown seeds of messianic expectations, which could now be harvested by the disciples.
We today ought to recognize the same lesson, so that we may enter into the labors of those who have sown seeds of truth in other denominations. Like the teachings of Gerazim, modern denominations may possess truth, however faulty, but nonetheless, they have enough truth for us to enter into their labor and receive the same wages.
Fellowship with Samaritans
John 4:39 says,
39 And from that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all the things that I have done.”
We should remember from verse 9 that “Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.” Most Jews traveling between Galilee and Jerusalem would not pass through Samaria, because of the hostility between them. Jesus was led to go through Samaria in order to share the word with them. Unlike most of the earlier men claiming to be messiahs, Jesus did not consider the Samaritans to be enemies.
John 4:40-42 concludes,
40 So when the Samaritans came to Him, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of His word; 42 and they were saying to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.”
The spirit of denominationalism tends to consider outsiders to be enemies or competitors. Another major problem is that which is seen in the story of Saul’s coronation. The people want to be ruled by a man, rather than by God directly (1 Samuel 8:5-7). The Samaritans’ confession was thus significant in that they no longer believed on account of the woman’s testimony but now had heard directly from Jesus Christ Himself. Their faith shifted from an indirect faith to a direct faith in Christ.
Concluding Jesus’ First Sign
The Samaritan woman (and village) came to the conclusion that “this One is indeed the Savior of the world.” This is the final lesson in the section dealing with Jesus’ first miracle-sign, where He turned the water into wine. The lesson shows that when Jesus transforms us into “new wine,” He does not limit this work to a few who are genealogical descendants of Abraham (as many of the Jews believed). John included this story to show us the scope of Jesus’ ministry. In other words, we are to understand that turning water to wine applied to the whole world.
We also read in 1 John 4:14,
14 And we have beheld and bear witness that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.
No doubt he was referring to the lesson of the Samaritan woman. The narrow nationalism seen in Judaism and the competition between Jerusalem and Gerazim were both abolished in Christ. Salvation was universal, and the hope of glory applied equally to all men.
Hence, the new wine in John 2 is linked to the real food (or bread) in John 4, suggesting a picture of communion between the saints of all ethnic groups. In this way, the first sign in John “manifested his glory” (John 2:11).
This is part 13 of a series titled "Jesus' First Sign" To view all parts, click the link below.