John’s Gospel: 4:25-45 (“I who speak to you am he.”)

(John 4:25-26 ESV)  25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.”  26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

The Samaritan woman had already figured out that Jesus was a prophet. But Jesus had just spoken of the Kingdom coming — soon. After all, if worship would no longer be about Jerusalem, then God was about to bring a mighty change, and if so, that would seem to be the coming of the Kingdom — and with the Kingdom comes the Messiah.

The woman knew enough to prod Jesus regarding whether he might be the Messiah. The parenthetical “he who is called Christ” is surely added by John to help Greek readers. “Christ” is the Greek translation of the Hebrew “Messiah,” and both mean the Anointed One or King.

The woman might have been speaking abstractly about the coming of the Messiah, but I think she was intending to prompt Jesus to reveal himself if he should be the Messiah. She was clever.

Jesus admits that he’s the Messiah.

(John 4:27 ESV)  27 Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?”

Notice that they weren’t astonished that he was speaking with a Samaritan but with a woman. Proper Jews just didn’t do this. It was bad for their reputation. Jewish men looked down on women as a class, and a rabbi would be particularly reluctant to speak to a woman.

Why did Jesus care so little for his reputation? Why didn’t the disciples ask him about his strange behavior? What was it about Jesus that prompted them to keep silent?

What does this tell us about Jesus and women?

(John 4:28-30 ESV)  28 So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people,  29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?”  30 They went out of the town and were coming to him.

Jesus could have gone into the village and announced himself. He could have had his disciples announce him; they were going to the village anyway. But Jesus set things up so that he was announced by an immoral woman — in a society in which women were not allowed to testify in court because they were considered unreliable witnesses.

We have trouble imagining how radical Jesus’ behavior was, but was very much out of the ordinary, and would surely have been widely criticized for going so far against societal norms. Some would say that his behavior would make it hard for others to accept him. Some would wonder about protecting his reputation. Why did Jesus care nothing for such things?

The woman said, “Can this be the Christ?” Does that mean she didn’t believe? Or was she encouraging the townspeople to decide for themselves?

(John 4:31-34 ESV) 31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.”  32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.”  33 So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?”  34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.

Why does John include this section? To prove Jesus’ remarkable stamina? His motivation?

(John 4:35-38 ESV) 35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.  36 Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.  37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’  38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

It’s a difficult saying. Some commentators conclude that Jesus is saying they are now reaping the fruit of John the Baptist’s labor. And why wouldn’t Jesus credit the work of the prophet sent to make his paths straight?

Or it could be that Jesus and the woman have now made it easy for the disciples to complete the work they began.

(John 4:39-41 ESV)  39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.”  40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days.  41 And many more believed because of his word.

John is surely intentionally ironic in pointing out that the Samaritans believed because of the woman’s “testimony.” Women could not testify in court, but being with Jesus changed everything, not only for her but for those she influenced. She had credibility that women were not normally granted.

For a Jew to be invited into the home of a Samaritan was equally unheard of. They wouldn’t have asked and a Jew wouldn’t have accepted. But Jesus was no ordinary Jew.

Jesus took advantage of the time he spent in Samaria to teach others and promote new belief — surely paving the way for the conversion of the Samaritans reported in Acts.

(John 4:42 ESV)  42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

The fact that Jesus remained there added further credibility to the woman’s word. She was proved a valid witness — surely elevating her status in the community. She wasn’t seen as a mere incidental player — she’d brought the Messiah to their village!

(John 4:43-45 ESV)  43 After the two days he departed for Galilee.  44 (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.)  45 So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast.

Verses 43-45 are hard to follow. Jesus’ hometown was Nazareth, and yet he was honored in Galilee (where Nazareth was). Some suggest that John’s point is that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, which is in Judea, and so was going to Galilee, but if that’s so, why mention it after saying Jesus stayed in Samaria? He was leaving Samaria, not Judea.

The NET Bible translators say,

The last part of v. John 4:45 is a parenthetical note by the author. The major problem in these verses concerns the contradiction between the proverb stated by Jesus in v. John 4:44 and the reception of the Galileans in v. John 4:45. Origen solved the
problem by referring his own country to Judea (which Jesus had just left) and not Galilee. But this runs counter to the thrust of John’s Gospel, which takes pains to identify Jesus with Galilee (cf. John 1:46) and does not even mention his Judean birth. R. E. Brown typifies the contemporary approach: He regards v. John 4:44 as an addition by a later redactor who wanted to emphasize Jesus’ unsatisfactory reception in Galilee. Neither expedient is necessary, though, if honor is understood in its sense of attributing true worth to someone. The Galileans did welcome him, but their welcome was to prove a superficial response based on what they had seen him do at the feast.
There is no indication that the signs they saw brought them to place their faith in Jesus any more than Nicodemus did on the basis of the signs. But a superficial welcome based on enthusiasm for miracles is no real honor at all.

I suppose another possibility is that Jesus left Samaria because he did not intend to adopt Samaria as his new home and thereby lose honor there. Indeed, the Louw-Nida Lexicon points out that patris, translated “hometown,” can refer to where someone normally resides.

It’s at least possible that Jesus was so well received by the Samaritans that he considered adopting it as his hometown, but decided to relocate for fear of spoiling his relationships there.

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About Jay Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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One Response to John’s Gospel: 4:25-45 (“I who speak to you am he.”)

  1. John says:

    John 4:26 Egw eimi, ho lalwn soi. The first time Jesus reveals himself as Messiah and the first of the great ” I am” passages in the Gospel. How far does the grace of God reach ! ! ! ! Woman — Samaritan — likely adultress, but certainly used / abused.

    Three strikes and you are out — but God doesn’t play baseball with grace.

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