There is no piece of ancient literature that has as much manuscript evidence to support its integrity, as John’s gospel.
Documents P52 and P66 both date from 125-200 AD and provide evidence of John’s writing, very close to the time when he wrote the autograph original.
John, the beloved disciple, was especially close to Jesus (John 21:20,24) and in his gospel, though Jesus meets many people, he writes with the focus not on the people, but on the Jesus the people met.
In John 3 and 4 we meet Nicodemus and the unnamed woman of Samaria, they could not be more contrasting.
Because of the animosity between Jews and Samaritans, most walkers from Jerusalem in the south to Galilee in the north would go around Samaria, but Jesus has an appointment to keep, so he walks through Samaria. It is noon, hot, he is weary and he stops at the famed Jacob’s well, famed for its fresh, clean water.
With one request Jesus cuts through centuries of prejudice, ‘Give me to drink’, he says to the woman. The woman is shocked, men don’t speak to women and especially Jewish men to Samaritan women.
And we are left wondering why this woman is drawing water at noon, when others would come in the cooler dawn or dusk.
Jesus offers her water, but like Nicodemus before her, she interprets him literally and wants to know where he has his bucket. Jesus says he is offering water which quenches thirst eternally, there is a note of desperation in her, ‘Sir, give me this water’ v.15.
Grace is always operative when Jesus is involved, grace is favour contrary to deserving. Grace initiates the contact with the woman, grace offers her living water, but now grace seeks to peel back the scab and bring healing to this woman’s wound.
Jesus says, ‘Go call your husband’, she says,’ I have no husband’, Jesus says, ‘You are right in saying you have no husband, you have had five husbands and the one you have is not your husband’. Jesus knows this woman, he does not condemn her, he did not come to judge but to save (John 3:17). But, if she is to have this living water then the stagnant wells where she has been seeking satisfaction for her yearnings must be exposed.
Nicodemus looked for his yearnings to be met in religion, this woman looked to romance for the answer.
Jesus is on her wavelength and she understands him to be a prophet, but after a discussion on the worship of God, she refers to the Messiah,(v.25) and he says, ‘ I who speak to you am he’.
No one has been told this truth in John’s gospel, this woman, of questionable morality, at the well at noon, to avoid the judgemental contact of others, is the first to hear this truth from the Messiah’s lips.
She goes to her village, ‘Come see a man’, she says, they probably thought, ‘not another one’. But this man knows me, ‘who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?’ v.29.
Jesus is the talk of the town and when the people hear him they conclude, ‘we know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world’, v.42.
Grace is at work, grace initiates, grace offers, grace uncovers dead end paths which will never bring satisfaction.
Jesus is a prophet, the Messiah, the Saviour of the world.
‘He did not come to judge the world, he did not come to blame,
He did not only come to seek, it was to save he came,
And when we call him Saviour, and when we call him Saviour and when we call him Saviour then, we call him by his name’.
Nicodemus will not find life in law and religion, he must be born again. This woman won’t have her yearnings met in romance, she must drink the water that Christ offers.
John 7:37-39 is the concluding commentary on this section.
Living water is available to all who believe in Jesus, to believe is to have a conviction ( that he is the saviour) and a commitment ( his life for me, my life is his). When there is belief in him, two things will happen:
He will take our pride, all the ways we have hurt others and ourselves by seeking to quench our thirst at the wrong wells, and will forgive them.
He will give us the gift of the Holy Spirit, God living within us, making us new people, giving us new yearnings and new loves, satisfying our thirst fully and forever. You have the Holy Spirit, by ‘believing in me’( John 7:38). Come to Jesus and drink!
‘I looked for the dove( of the Spirit) and it flew away, I looked to the Cross and the dove flew into my heart’. (C.H.Spurgeon)