Jesus’ Encounter with the Woman at the Well
Jesus spent much of His ministry among the masses, but He also had several life-changing, one-on-one encounters with people who needed exactly what He offered. In part 2 of our three-week series, we’re examining Jesus’ surprising yet divinely planned conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4.
On the surface, this meeting made no sense. She was a Samaritan. She had been divorced five times. She was a woman alone at the well. By all indications, she was an outcast not only in Jewish society but likely in her own Samaritan town. So why would Jesus, a Jewish Man, speak with this woman? Their interaction was no mistake, and Chris will show us exactly how Jesus changed her life by meeting the deepest need of her soul.
Just before ascending to heaven, Jesus told His disciples in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Last week we saw how Jesus’ encounter with the Jewish Pharisee Nicodemus represents Jerusalem and Judea. This week the woman at the well represents Samaria.
Steve Conover: Welcome to The Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover and with me is our host and teacher, Chris Katulka. While parts of the US are opening up. We're still producing this program from our homes, and we're thankful that we've been able to continue to bring you new episodes of The Friends of Israel Today during this time of uncertainty. And it's in these times of uncertainty we want to fellowship with you through prayer. Prayer is a gift from God that unites believers all over the world. And perhaps you today are feeling fearful or uncertain, and we want to pray for you. When you visit our website at foiradio.org, there's a prayer form you can fill out. And when we receive those prayers, we'll privately pray for you. These prayers will not be mentioned on air, but our production team will bring them before our loving, heavenly Father. Thank you to all those that have contacted us and asked for prayer. It's been a real joy to bear these burdens with you.
Chris Katulka: Now today on the program, we are going to be continuing our series, the Encountering Jesus series, where we're looking at these one-on-one moments with Jesus. Today, we're going to be looking at the woman at the well, a unique one on one moment that Jesus had with a Samaritan woman. But first, the news. Israeli scientists from the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel, they think they know why the coronavirus is more severe for some, but mild for others. The answer according to Amir Giladi is that the lungs of the worst affected patients become riddled with immune cells that increase the virus's impact instead of fighting it. So essentially our very own bodies fight against us. This research can be very helpful in finding a cure for those whose bodies are overwhelmed by these harmful immune cells.
But I want to turn here for a moment, the Weizmann Institute, where they are finding out this information is actually named after Israel's first President Chaim Weizmann. The Weizmann Institute is a world renowned institute of science that produced one of the earliest computers and drugs to fight cancer, the flu and the ability to even repair heart tissue after a heart attack. These are just to name a few. God has blessed the Jewish state, and in turn, they will bless us.
Okay, so we're continuing our series here, the Encountering Jesus series. And I really believe that this is going to be a blessing to you. I think it's going to encourage you during this time and show you the more intimate side of Jesus from the gospels. As the Book of Acts opens, Jesus commissions the disciples to take the good news of the gospel to the whole world. Jesus says this in Acts 1:8, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the farthest parts of the Earth." Jesus is telling the disciples that this message is starting in Jerusalem, like the center of a dart board, that the message of the gospel will then begin to move outward from Jerusalem in concentric circles from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, to the ends of the Earth.
And here's what's so amazing about Jesus is that he actually did Acts 1:8 in his own ministry in the gospels. Jesus on a very intimate, personal level, ministered to Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria and to the rest of the world. Last week, we looked at Jesus's interaction with Nicodemus, the Jewish Pharisee from John 3. And Nicodemus comes to represent Jerusalem and Judea. We saw how this one interaction with Nicodemus gave way to a verse that is used so eloquently and concisely to connect people to the gospel, the power of salvation, John 3:16, this comes right from the message that Jesus was giving to Nicodemus. And it says this, "For this way, God loved the world that he gave his one and only son so that everyone who believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life." Really, John here is showing us the power of salvation that comes through Christ Jesus, a moment that all stems from the conversation that Jesus had with Nicodemus.
Now today though, we're going to look at the woman at the well, we're going to turn the page to John chapter four, the Samaritan woman, who of course represents Samaria. And we're going to see the power of Christ's forgiveness as he welcomes us into a posture of reconciliation and worship. Next week, we'll study the Syrophoenician woman, a woman from Tyre and Sidon, a place that really represents the world outside of the land of Israel. In each of these, we're going to see how Jesus' intimate moment with these people, with these individuals, reveal his unique power and desire to save, forgive, and heal.
So now we're going to move outside of Jerusalem and let's step into Samaria. Jesus was in Jerusalem and Judea and Jesus knew the Pharisees heard that he was winning more disciples than John the Baptist. So Jesus left Judea and set out north for Galilee. Now directly north of Jerusalem and Judea was an area called Samaria. And most Jewish people traveling to Galilee would actually take a path that went around Samaria to go up to the northern parts of the Galilee region. They would actually go east of Jerusalem. They would leave Jerusalem and go east. They would cross the Jordan River and then travel north up the east side of the Jordan River to get to the area of Galilee. But the text says this about Jesus, that Jesus had to pass through Samaria. He had to pass through Samaria. He could have gone different routes, but the text indicates he had to go through Samaria signifying that Jesus was on a divine mission. And let me tell you, this mission was a controversial one. Jewish people from Jerusalem wanted nothing to do with Samaria.
There was a long history. Samaritans are considered somewhat of a half-breed of Jewish people. Going back to 2 Kings 17, those Israelites who remained after the Assyrian exile were mixed with Babylonians and Persians by the Assyrians. So there's that. And then when the Jewish people returned to the land in 538 BC under Ezra, Nehemiah, Zerubbabel. The Samaritans work to prevent them from rebuilding Jerusalem and the temple. So there's that. And then the Jewish high priest destroyed the Samaritan temple on top of Mount Gerizim, about 125 years before Jesus was even born. So there's that, there's a lot of bad blood between the Jewish people and the Samaritans. Also the Samaritans only value the Pentateuch, the first five books of Moses. They don't really value the writings and the prophets in the Old Testament.
Now, there's so much tension, that's palpable tension that can be felt between the Jewish people and the Samaritans. And yet here's the amazing thing about Jesus. He walks right into it. He walks right into Samaria, and this is what he had to say in John 4, starting in verse five, it says this. “Now he came to a Samaritan town called Sychar near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.” Joseph's well was there. So Jesus, since he was tired from the journey sat right down beside the well, and it was about noon and a Samaritan woman came to draw water. And Jesus said to her, "Give me some water, (for his disciples had gone off into the town to buy supplies.)” So Jesus is alone, verse nine. “So the Samaritan woman said to him, "How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for water to drink? For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans."
There are a few things going on here my friends in the beginning of John 4. First in general, in the religious Jewish world, it was just wrong for a man to talk to a woman alone, especially at a well, it actually looked like flirtation. Think about the biblical stories of Isaac and Jacob. Both wives were found at a well. So in general, it did not look good in the Jewish world for Jesus to be speaking to this woman alone, asking for a drink, it seemed flirtatious. Second, a Samaritan woman in the rabbinical tradition was actually considered unclean all the time. So there's that as well.
The woman came to the well alone, which is a bit unusual. It could be that the women of Sychar didn't like her, probably because of her lifestyle, which we'll hear about in a moment. And even this woman recognizes Jesus's request is a bit out of place. "How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for water to drink?" The woman confronts this encounter in racial terms, under Jewish law, even her water vessel was considered unclean for Jewish drinking. There's a lot of tension in this moment when Jesus is interacting with the Samaritan woman.
The account continues in verse 10. Jesus answers her, "If you had known the gift of God and who it is, who said it to you, ‘give me some water to drink.’ You would have asked him and he would have given you living water." "Sir," the woman said to him, "You have no bucket and the well is deep. Where then do you get this living water?" Verse 12, "Surely you're not greater than our ancestor Jacob, are you? For he gave us this well and drank from it himself, along with his sons and his livestock." And Jesus replied, "Everyone who drinks some of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks some of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. But the water that I give him will become in him a fountain, a water springing up to eternal life."
In this one on one moment, Jesus is drawing out this woman's, listen, Jesus is drawing out this woman's need. The water Jesus would give doesn't temporarily fix her physical thirst. It's a living water that can quench the thirst she has in her heart and we're going to see what that thirst is in a moment. But the conversation is about to move here in a different direction, because Jesus is going to highlight a personal issue this woman is dealing with. Friends, Jesus knows every aspect of our lives, even the things we would never share with anybody. And his reaction that he knows about all these issues that this woman is dealing with. His reaction is one that will bring you to your knees to worship because of his grace and mercy toward us. So come back after the break, my friends, to see the love and mercy and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.
Steve Conover: As we've been learning about Jesus and his time here on Earth, we wanted to share with you a way to walk with Jesus and to see for yourself where He journeyed, knowing the rich background and details of the land of Israel deepens their meaning.
Chris Katulka: Charlie Dyer's book 30 Days in the Land of Jesus will take you through the land of Israel and give you insights into Jesus' point of reference to better appreciate the ways of our Messiah while he was here on Earth.
Steve Conover: To purchase your copy of 30 Days in the Land with Jesus, visit us at foiradio.org. That's foiradio.org. We'll have the link on our homepage, or you can call our listener line at (888) 343-6940, and someone will return your call during our regular business hours. Again, that's (888) 343-6940.
Chris Katulka: Welcome back everyone. We are continuing our study on the woman at the well in John 4 and it's been amazing to see the radical one-on-one moment Jesus has with the Samaritan woman. To show us the power of Christ's forgiveness, his reconciliation and his desire for us to worship him in spirit and in truth. And Jesus begins, we've been looking at John 4 and Jesus is speaking to this woman at the well, and Jesus begins to transition the conversation again. He moves it from being physically thirsty, to satisfying a spiritual thirst. And he's going to tap into a personal issue that this woman is dealing with, where she is dipping into a well that will never bring her total satisfaction. Jesus says to her, "Go call your husband and come back here." The woman replied, "I have no husband." And Jesus said to her, "Right you are when you said, "I have no husband." For you have five husbands. And the man you are living with now is not your husband. This you said truthfully."
This is probably the reason the woman is at the well alone at noon. The Samaritans and the Jewish people have many similar, strict moral laws since they both value the Torah, the law. This woman would have been considered an outcast, the Samaritan woman, and yet Jesus engages her. Jesus gives her dignity and even after five divorces and living with a man that is not her husband and a culture in society that totally frowned upon such a lifestyle, Jesus reaches down to give worth and value to this woman. Seeing that Jesus has the capability to know about her life, she deems him a prophet. And the conversation actually takes another turn now. Jesus ultimately gives this woman truth about the proper way to worship God. It won't be in temples. True believers will worship God in spirit and in truth. Jesus, in some ways, inviting this woman to become a true worshiper of God.
She says to Jesus, "I know that the Messiah is coming, the one who is called Christ. Whenever he comes, he will tell us everything." And Jesus said to her, "I, the one speaking to you, am he." Imagine the shock here. Here is this Samaritan woman who is religiously, socially and racially separated from the Jewish people. And one might think that her track record of sin, that Jesus would just walk away from her. And I have to say later in the text, the disciples show up and they were shocked to see Jesus speaking to her. And yet Jesus tears down this partition wall, the barrier between these two people that are actually neighbors and invites her into a true form of worshiping God.
Well, how does one come to worship God in spirit and in truth? Earlier on, Jesus says to the woman that there's only one way to have salvation. He says salvation is from the Jews. There aren't many ways to come into a relationship with God to worship him. There's only one way, and Jesus even highlights that. You can't choose, Jesus is saying, the Samaritan way doesn't work. Here, Jesus is saying the only way to have a relationship with God is actually through the Jewish way, that salvation is from the Jews. And what is that concept of salvation from a Jewish perspective, it's always associated with repentance that leads to forgiveness and then reconciliation. And it's through this reconciliation with God that we're able to worship him in spirit and in truth. These are pretty Orthodox principles when it comes to how we engage and know God and how we find forgiveness with God and how we worship God.
But notice something about Jesus in this moment, Jesus doesn't shun the woman for her years of bad choices. Instead, he teaches her truths about himself and truths about God, the Father. And I think it's fascinating that it's through this moment we see how a simple conversation that started with, "Can I have a drink?" Ends with a woman deeply thinking about her own life and that in the middle of it, she learns about the power of Christ's forgiveness that leads to reconciliation, that leads to true worship. Jesus is offering eternal life to this woman. And as a result, she becomes a spokesperson for Christ in her Samaritan town.
When people find something that fills a need, it becomes instinctive for them to become a spokesperson for it. I always hear people evangelizing about the latest iPhone or the latest gadget or the newest TV show that comes out, or a diet that works for them, or whatever it is. They become evangelists for these things. But those things only fill the need for a moment, because you know what happens? All of a sudden you're left with an old gadget or an outdated television show or a diet that never worked.
It's like pulling water from a stagnant well. But the need Jesus met for this Samaritan woman is that he revealed himself to her and he reveals himself to us that he is the living, fresh water that quenches every thirst. And it's a drink that's available for every sinner. I love the way that this story ends. The Samaritan comes to have faith in Christ and listen to what the Samaritans say from her town. They say this to Jesus, "No longer do we believe because of your words, where we have heard for ourselves. And we know at this one really is the Savior of the world. This woman changed by the forgiveness and reconciliation of Christ changed the lives of her community and Christ is known not just as the Messiah of Israel now, look what he's known as. The Savior of the world.
I want to encourage you as you think about this passage that Jesus did something incredibly controversial. He walked right into an area that Jewish people often didn't go into, Samaria. And on top of that, he speaks to a woman one-on-one which in the Jewish world was completely unheard of. He would have been an outcast himself for doing such a thing. The disciples looked at him and thought, "What is Jesus doing speaking to this woman one-on-one, let alone a Samaritan woman?" But see, I think there's a principle that we can draw from this. Jesus, the message of the gospel, is one that is controversial in and of itself and it's one that's not designed for the righteous person. It's actually one that's meant for the sinner. Jesus was able to speak right into this woman's life. He didn't condemn her. He didn't shun her. Instead, he welcomed her into what would be the message of eternal life. To drink from the living water that only Jesus can provide.
So when you think about what it means to speak the gospel, the gospels actually meant for people who are the gravest of sinners. Be sure to share the gospel with everyone because everybody has a need, a need that only Jesus can fill.
Steve Conover: Now Apples of Gold, a dramatic reading from the life and ministry of Holocaust survivor Zvi Kalisher.
Mike Kellogg: Israel is a small country. And at times we feel as if we are sheep among wolves. But even though we are small, we remain strong because the Lord is with us. Most people living in Israel, both Jews and Arabs, do not know the Lord. We believers are God's witnesses to tell them of that love. One day, some of my Arab neighbors came to my home extremely upset, saying, "How can we receive Bibles when they include the New Testament?" They were very confused. So I said, "Before you received the Bible, I will explain it to you if you wish." They agreed and appreciated my help. I then opened my New Testament and told them how to put their faith in the Lord Jesus. The mention of that name surprised them and they asked, "How can you speak about Jesus? You are a Jew."
So began a long discussion about faith in the Lord Jesus and the difference between faith by the sword and faith by love. I told them your faith comes by the sword and those who do not believe as you do are killed. God has given freedom to every creature. He has said, "I have loved you with an everlasting love." Jeremiah 31:3. One Arab remarked, "God said that only to the people of Israel." I quickly turned to John 3:16 to prove that God's love is available to all nations, including the Arabs.
It is written, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Mark 12:31. It does not say love the Jew or the American, but not the Arab. Then they wanted to know how I came to believe in the Lord since I am Jewish. I replied, "Our faith did not come from propaganda literature or by force, but by God's mercy and love. You as Arabs came to me, a Jew and I received you as my best friends, even though I know you hate me with all your hearts. But the Lord said we're to love those who hate us and pray for them because love is of God."
Still not understanding what I meant, one asked, "Why do you serve in the army if you love your enemies?" I explained, "I serve because I am a citizen of Israel." Even Jesus said, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God, the things that are God's." Matthew 22:21. I then related an incident that occurred during the 1967, six day war. I went to the home of a wealthy Arab family and found gold and diamonds worth millions of dollars. The owners were afraid I would take their possessions, but I assured them, I am only looking for guns and ammunition. But if a soldier who was not a believer had come to search your home, your possessions would have been taken."
As I finished my story, I explained to my guests, this is the big difference between those who believe in Jesus and those who do not. And it does not matter if they're Jews, Arabs or any other nationality. They did not believe my story. So he offered to take them to the home of this Arab family so that they could ask them about it themselves. But they finally accepted the fact that even war cannot break our love for our enemy, because the love of our Savior is in us. Please pray that these Arab neighbors and the thousands of other Arabs in Israel will be reached with the gospel of the Lord, Jesus Christ.
Steve Conover: Thanks for being with us today. Chris, next week we continue our series Encountering Jesus.
Chris Katulka: That's right. Next week, we're going to actually be wrapping up our Encountering Jesus series and we're actually going to be moving outside of Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria. And now we're going to go to the ends of the Earth. Jesus ministered, to a woman from Tyre and Sidon, the Syrophoenician woman. We're going to see the power of Christ's healing hand in our lives. So be sure to come back and join us next week.
Steve Conover: And as a reminder as we close, to purchase your own copy of 30 Days in the Land with Jesus, visit us foiradio.org. That's foiradio.org. We'll have the link on our homepage, or you can call our listener line at (888) 343-6940 and someone will return your call during our regular business hours. Again, that's (888) 343-6940. Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione. Co-written by Sarah Fern. Mike Kellogg read Apples of Gold. Our theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong, and I'm Steve Conover, Executive Producer. The Friends of Israel Today is a production of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide evangelical ministry, proclaiming biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah while bringing physical and spiritual comfort to the Jewish people.
30 Days in the Land with Jesus
By Charles H. Dyer
Walk with Jesus and see for yourself where He journeyed! Knowing the rich background and details of the land of Israel, deepens their meaning.
30 Days in the Land with Jesus by Israel expert Charlie Dyer will take you through the land of Israel and give you insights into Jesus’ points of reference to better appreciate the ways of our Messiah while he was here on earth.
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Apples of Gold: Faith by the Sword—Or Faith By Love?
In Israel, Arabs and Jewish people are enemies. But Zvi came to his Arab neighbors determined to treat them with love. This shocked the Arabs, who disagreed with his view of the Bible but did not expect the kindness he showed them. While they had people killed for believing a different faith, Zvi showed love to his enemies as Jesus commanded. He told a story from his army days to show that true followers of Jesus practice love in speaking the truth about God’s free gift of salvation.
Zvi’s story is available in Elwood McQuaid’s book, “Zvi: The Miraculous Story of Triumph over the Holocaust,” available at our online store.
More stories from Zvi are also available in his book, “The Best of Zvi,” available at our online store.
The Friends of Israel Today and Apples of Gold theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.