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John chapter 4

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What does John chapter 4 mean?

The gospel of John frequently uses contrast as a teaching tool. In chapter 2, there is a distinction between the joyous, secretive miracle at the wedding (John 2:6–10) and the public, dramatic cleansing of the temple (John 2:13–16). Chapter 3 presents another contrast. This passage moves from the loud, public, confrontational temple incident to a quiet, private, instructional conversation with Nicodemus (John 3:1–2).

Chapter 4 once again presents meaningful contrasts. Nicodemus was a man of power and prestige, well educated, and one who sought out Jesus of his own free will. The Samaritan woman mentioned here is poor, outcast even among the outcast Samaritans, and not expecting to meet the Lord at all. Nicodemus needed to be reminded that his knowledge was incomplete (John 3:9–10). The Samaritan woman needed to be confronted with her sin (John 4:17–18), but also encouraged and given value (John 4:23). These contrasts help demonstrate how the gospel of Jesus Christ is not only for all people, in all times, but that it will reach each person wherever they are, spiritually speaking.

The first major portion of the chapter is Jesus' conversation with the Samaritan woman. Their back-and-forth banter reveals Christ's mastery of personal evangelism. This passage is also an excellent example of the principle of ipsissima vox, or "the very voice" of Scripture. Almost certainly, this conversation involved more words and more time than are recorded here. Rather than a verbatim transcript, John reports the substance of the conversation, probably as related to him by Jesus at some later time. As part of that discussion, Jesus reveals that He knows very personal details about the woman's life (John 4:1–16).

Christ's remark about the woman's troubling lifestyle might seem blunt. The woman immediately tries to change the subject. She is confident and clever, but Jesus knows exactly what she needs to understand. The Savior knows what she has done, and who she is, and seeks her anyway. To worship "in spirit and truth" is the role of a true believer. That Christ seeks all people, despite our former sins or our current circumstances, and wants to make us sincere disciples is the great message of His conversation at the well (John 4:17–26).

When the woman goes into town, Jesus tries to get His disciples to understand the purpose of their mission. This hinges on the idea of reaping and sowing: a process of creating more true believers in Christ. In many cases, one person will lay the early foundations, and a later person will be there to follow through to conclusion. As Jesus is speaking, He apparently sees the people from Sychar coming in a large group. This might have led to a moment of embarrassment. The disciples of Christ went into town as a group and brought no one back to meet the Lord. Yet a single, untrained, outcast, female Samaritan not only told others, but she also brought them to see Jesus face-to-face (John 4:27–38).

This chapter presents a very practical foreshadowing of a command given by Jesus elsewhere in the Scriptures. At this point, Jesus has traveled from Jerusalem (John 2—3), through Judea and into Samaria (John 4). The Samaritans respond to Jesus by proclaiming Him "the Savior of the world." At His ascension, Jesus will declare His disciples to be His witnesses "in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8). Just as He had done, He called His followers to do (John 4:39–45).

Chapter 4 also includes the second of seven "signs" recorded in the gospel of John (John 4:54). Part of the lesson in Christ's healing of this official's son is the difference between belief based on miracles and belief rooted in trusting faith. Jesus essentially forces the man to demonstrate actual trust, which is validated soon afterward. While this miracle is more open than that at the wedding, it is still relatively quiet. Later miracles will become more public, more spectacular, and invite more hostility from the local religious leaders (John 4:46–54).
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