The Fourteenth in a Series of Sermons on the Gospel of John
Israel’s prophets foretold that in the messianic age, God would include countless Gentiles among those who would be the beneficiaries of the long expected deliverance from sin and the curse which the Messiah would accomplish. But by the time of Jesus, Jewish piety centered around things like ritual cleanliness and purity, observance of feast and Holy days, and a rigid external obedience to the law of Moses as interpreted by legal experts whom we know as scribes and teachers of the law. This kind of piety excluded any Gentile (unless they ceased being Gentiles and became Jews) and caused Jews to view Gentiles as “dogs” (unclean). But when Jesus leaves Jerusalem and passes through Samaria, we begin to see how poorly the Jews understood their own Scriptures. Israel’s prophets spoke of a great harvest which would include both Jew and Gentile. And in John 4, it becomes clear that Jesus has come to bring about that anticipated harvest.
In vv. 1-42 of John 4, we read of Jesus’ encounter with an unnamed woman at Jacob’s well in the heart of Samaria. Although the passage should be covered in one sermon, because of our limited time, I broke the passage up into two parts. Last time, we took up the first 26 verses of the chapter which recount Jesus’ dialogue with this Samaritan woman. In this sermon, I will briefly recount that conversation before we look at the consequences of that dialogue in vv. 27-42. Just as Israel’s prophets had foretold, many Gentiles came to believe that Jesus is the long-expected Messiah and Savior of the world even at this early phase of Jesus’ messianic mission. As we will see, when the gospel went out to the Samaritans, many (unlike the Jews) embraced it with great joy.
In the opening verses of chapter 4, John tells us that Jesus and his disciples were headed north back to Capernaum after leaving Jerusalem where Jesus had gone to celebrate the Passover. During his time in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple calling it his father’s house. In righteous anger, Jesus cast out the merchants and money-changers who defiled the temple by selling their wares in the outer court of the Gentiles–that place where God intended the Gentile nations to come and worship the true and living God. This point is important to recall, because God’s intention to save Gentiles during the messianic age (extending the promise of salvation far beyond the narrow confines of Israel) will figure prominently in our passage.
Jesus performed a number of unspecified miracles during his time in Jerusalem. These miracles functioned to confirm that Jesus is Israel’s Messiah and the son of God, leading a prominent member of the Sanhedrin (Nicodemus) who witnessed them, to acknowledge that Jesus’ miracles were an indication that God was with him. Yet, we have no clear indication that Nicodemus ever came to faith. Already worried about the multitudes following John the Baptist, it was during this time that Jesus came under the scrutiny of the Jewish religious leadership. Although John the Baptist’s wilderness ministry began to decrease in influence (just as prophesied), Jesus’ ministry was only now getting under way. Since it was not yet time for Jesus’ messianic mission to come to its fruition with his death and resurrection, Jesus sought to return to Capernaum in the region of Galilee (which served as the home base for Jesus during this early phase of his messianic ministry).
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