JOHN 4: The Evangelist of Samaria

By Stephen W. HiemstraBillyGraham

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24).

What is your image of an evangelist?

An early influence on my life was evangelist, Billy Graham.  My parents worked for the Billy Graham Society (BGS) early in his California ministry campaigns.  When I committed my life to Christ as a young person after viewing the film, The Cross and the Switchblade, in the early 1960s, I was encouraged to complete a mail-order bible study provided by the BGS.  Later, after I had started seminary, I learned that the Graham family was a major inspiration and financial supporter of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC where I studied.

While my image of an evangelist is Billy Graham, the Gospel of John records that the first, truly independent evangelist was an unnamed woman with a nasty background from Samaria.

Do you think you have sinned and that God cannot forgive you?

Then you need to read the story of the woman at the well in John 4.  Jesus not only forgave her; he gave her a new life and a new career as an evangelist.  Her testimony was so compelling that her whole village had to see Jesus.  John writes:  Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, He told me all that I ever did (v. 39).  Do you think she stopped her evangelism there?

The location of Jacob’s well near Sychar (Shechem) links the woman at the well to the story of Dinah (Genesis 34).  The sin of Simeon and Levi following Dinah’s rape leads to Judah inheriting Jacob’s blessing.  The messiah, Jesus, is later prophesied to come from tribe of Judah by way of King David (Psalm 110).  The stories of Rebekah, Rachel, and Ziporah all involve interesting male-female encounters at wells but do not directly inform Jesus’ heritage or ministry (Genesis 24 and 29; Exodus 2).

John 4 actually includes two other important stories.  The story is in verses 1 and 2, where we learn that Jesus left Judea and traveled through Samaria to avoid competing with the baptismal ministry of John.  This is an important object lesson to ministers to focus on God’s kingdom, not their own.  It also mirrored John’s own humility (John 3:30).

The second story takes place once Jesus returns to Galilee to Cana—the site of his first miracle turning water into wine.  Jesus is asked to heal the child of a local official who he heals remotely (v 50).  In effect, Jesus became the first medical missionary on his return to Galilee.

Often the Gospel of John is compared with the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke—the synoptic Gospels—and people ask:  Why doesn’t Jesus speak in parables in John’s Gospel?  An interesting answer is that the synoptic Gospels record Jesus’ public ministry while John focuses on Jesus’ private ministry.

Today we would describe encounters, like those with Nicodemus and the woman at the well, as pastoral care. Jesus cared both for the rich and famous, like Nicodemus, and for the poor and neglected, like the woman at the well.  Both encounters were deeply theological.  Both encounters yielded fruit.  It is perhaps surprising that the encounter with the woman at the well was the more fruitful.

Do you think that God seeks such people today?  Do you think that he seeks you?


How was your week?  Do you have anything about your week that you would like to share?  Do you have any thoughts about last week’s lesson?

  1. How does Jesus react to the Pharisee’s comment about John and baptism? What does he do? (vv 1-3)
  2. Why then does Jesus visit Samaria? (v 4)
  3. Where in Samaria does this chapter focus? What is significant about the location? (v 5)  Hint:  Genesis 34.
  4. What names does the Samaritan woman use for Jesus? (vv 6,9, 11, 15, 19, 25, 26, 29,31, 42).
  5. What other biblical male-female encounters take place at a well? (Genesis 24 and 29; Exodus 2)
  6. What does Jesus ask of the Samaritan woman? Why?  How does she respond?  Why? (vv 7-9)
  7. How does Jesus introduce himself? Why? (v 10)
  8. Does the Samarian woman understand Jesus’ comment about living water? (vv 10-14)
  9. Why does Jesus change the subject when the woman asks for living water? Why does he ask for her husband?  (vv 10-11).
  10. Is the woman being sarcastic when she says that Jesus is a prophet? (v 19)
  11. What was the effect of Jesus’ conversation with the woman? (v 39)
  12. What does Jesus say to the disciples when they return? (vv 31-39)
  13. Where does Jesus go when he reaches Galilee?  What happens there? (vv 43-54).
  14. Why does John refer to Jesus’ miracle as a sign? (v 54).

JOHN 4: The Evangelist of Samaria

Also see:

JOHN 5: Walking in Faith

Vanhoozer: How Do We Understand the Bible? Part 1 

Roadmap of Simple Faith

Bothersome Gaps: Life in Tension

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

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