Session 3: John 4 & 5
Human and Divine: Jesus' meets the Samaritan woman, heals the royal official's son and heals the lame man. This marks the beginning of the systematic persecution by the Jews.
- Play: Session 3 Video
Jesus' growing popularity caused him to leave Judea for Galilee, apparently to avoid premature confrontation with the Pharisees. Although Jews often crossed the Jordan and went up the east side to get to Galilee, Jesus “had to” go straight north through Samaria. This word of necessity implies that a divine appointment was awaiting him. He would meet a woman who was the opposite of Nicodemus in the previous chapter: female, unschooled, without respect or influence, an amateur student of folk religion.
His conversation with the Samaritan woman is a classic example of meeting a person on common ground and leading her step by step to believe. At first, the woman is surprised to be asked for a drink. Jews typically avoided Samaritans, considering them unclean half-breeds and heretics. Then she doubted he could get her water from such a deep well (over 100 feet deep, even today). When invited to go get her husband, she quickly changed the subject to the issue of which mountain (Gerizim or Jerusalem) is the proper place to worship. But neither site really mattered, since God is spirit and is to be worshipped in spirit and truth in the human heart. When she finally learned that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, she ran back to town to spread the news.
Meanwhile, the disciples returned and were surprised to find Jesus talking to a woman. This bothered them even more than that he was talking to a Samaritan! (The Mishnah records the teaching of certain rabbis that for a man to talk with a woman was a waste of time, and that it was as indecent as fornication to teach a woman the Torah. See Carson, 227.) Even her own townspeople were not eager to base their faith on her report, but believed in Jesus as Savior when they heard him for themselves.
Two days later Jesus went on to Galilee, revisiting the town of Cana. Hearing that Jesus was back in Galilee, a royal official went to ask him to heal his dying son. “Go, Jesus said, “your son will live.” This posed a considerable challenge: should the official leave Jesus and go all the way back to Capernaum (15 to 20 miles away), not knowing what he would find?
The man “took Jesus at his word” (NIV), literally “believed the word Jesus said.” (Just as with Abraham in Gen 15:6, faith involves accepting whatever God says.) When he neared home, the official's servants rushed to meet him with the good news, “Your son lives!” Finding out the exact hour of the previous day when the son was healed, he realized that was the very time Jesus spoke to him. This was the second sign (“a miracle with a message”) that Jesus performed in Galilee. (There were also other miracles already performed in Judea; see 2:23; 3:2; 4:45.) In every instance, the miracles led people to believe.
Jesus went back to Jerusalem for “a feast” (some mss. have “the feast”) of the Jews. If this feast was Passover, then John records a total of four (ch. 2, 5, 6, 12) and this makes the ministry of Jesus three years long. If this is not a Passover, then the ministry was only two years long.
Archaeology has found a double pool with four colonnades around them, with a fifth colonnade between them. Afflicted people used to gather at this pool area, believing an angel sometimes stirred the water and the first person in the pool would be healed. (A statement to this effect is in verse four in the KJV, but no ancient mss. include it.) At this pool Jesus found a man who had been an invalid for 38 years. The man assumed he needed someone to put him in the pool, but Jesus healed him with a single command and sent him on his way.
When the Jewish authorities saw him carrying his mat, they were incensed. They cared little for the man's wonderful healing; they only cared that he was breaking the Sabbath. The Rabbis had extended God's simple 4th Commandment into 39 categories of forbidden work, and the 39th was “carrying a load from one domain to another.” When the man encountered Jesus later at the temple (v. 14) he promptly went to the Jews and told them it was Jesus who had healed him and told him to carry his mat. (What gratitude!) While there was occasional opposition in Galilee recorded earlier in the Synoptics, this event marked the beginning of systematic persecution by the Jews.
Jesus defended himself by saying that his Father worked until now (sustaining the universe every single day) and he himself also worked. The Jews correctly understood that by calling God his own Father, Jesus was making himself equal to God (v. 18). Jesus did not say they had misunderstood; instead he delivered what is known as the Sermon on Deity. Three times he will assert that his Father has given him the right to raise the dead and to pronounce judgment on them. He will demand that all must honor the Son just as they honor the Father (v. 23). He will also explain that God gave him the authority to judge “because he is the Son of Man” (v. 27). (A guilty sinner might complain that God does not know how hard it is to resist sin, but he cannot say that about the Son who “became flesh and lived among us”; see John 1:14 and Heb 4:15.)
Jesus knew it was unconvincing to make this claim, so he backed it up with the testimony of John (v. 33) and the testimony of the Father (v. 37). Not only so, but the O.T. Scriptures themselves testified to him (v. 39). The Jews had spent their lives studying those texts, but their pride kept them from seeing that Jesus was their long-awaited Messiah (v. 43-44).
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