What does John 4:13 mean?
ESV: Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again,
NIV: Jesus answered, 'Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,
NASB: Jesus answered and said to her, 'Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again;
CSB: Jesus said, "Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again.
NLT: Jesus replied, 'Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again.
KJV: Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:
Here Jesus begins to unpack the concept of the "water of life." It was common for people to misinterpret Jesus' parables or teachings in a purely physical way. In some cases, those hearing Jesus sensed He wasn't being literal but could not see the point of the analogy (John 3:3–4). In others, they mistook the intended lesson (John 2:19–21). Jesus starts by explaining the difference between the literal well water, meaning the physical world, and living water, meaning the Holy Spirit. This is a concept Jesus will return to, in a much more public way, later in this gospel (John 7:38–39).
No matter how hard we try, earthly things will never satisfy the natural human longing for God. Writers from Augustine to C. S. Lewis have noted that human nature finds itself ultimately dissatisfied with material things. We seek those kinds of "water" because we're trying to quench our spiritual thirst. Only a healed relationship with God, through salvation in Christ, can solve that problem.
John 4:5–26 describes one of the most famous moments in Jesus' earthly ministry. Here, He converses with a Samaritan woman. This particular woman is not only an ''unclean'' Samaritan, but an outcast among her own people. She attempts to avoid Jesus' teachings, giving flippant and sarcastic answers. Despite that, and despite knowing all about her sin, Jesus encourages her with the love of God. This breaks through her hard heart; as a result, many others are brought to meet Christ. The disciples are also taught a valuable lesson about the purpose of their mission.
Jesus speaks to a Samaritan woman who is drawing water from a well. Jesus both confronts her about her sin, and comforts her with the truth of the gospel. In particular, He explains that even though He knows her sins, He still seeks after her, and those like her. The woman returns to town, eventually bringing many people to meet Jesus. The disciples, meanwhile, have to be reminded of the purpose of their mission. Jesus also heals the son of a government official in a way that demonstrates the importance of trusting faith, rather than reliance on spectacle.
John chapter 4 continues the use of contrast. Jesus goes from conversing with an educated, powerful, prestigious man to talking to an outcast, unlearned, self-conscious woman. The combination of this passage, along with Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus, makes an important spiritual point. The gospel is for all people, in all places, and all times. Christ can reach each person exactly where he or she needs to be reached.
The gospel of John was written by the disciple John, decades later than the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The author assumes that a reader is already familiar with the content of these other works. So, John presents a different perspective, with a greater emphasis on meaning. John uses seven miracles—which he calls “signs”—in order to prove that Jesus is, in fact, God incarnate. Some of the most well-known verses in all of the Bible are found here. None is more famous than the one-sentence summary of the gospel found in John 3:16.
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