Here is the Gospel text for Sunday, March 23, Lent 3, Year A, followed by a line-by-line commentary.
There is very little in the way of helps and tips for preaching itself this week, and most of the commentary has been pilfered from other sources (dutifully cited, however). It's been a long week and still has a ways to go, so you're on your own.
The Other Good Samaritan
[1Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, “Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John” 2—although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized—3he left Judea and started back to Galilee. 4But he had to go through Samaria.]
5So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.
7A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8(His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.)
9The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)
10Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
11The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?”
13Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”
15The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
16Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.”
17The woman answered him, “I have no husband.”
Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!”
19The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in
. 22You worship what you
do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is
from the Jews. 23But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true
worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father
seeks such as these to worship him. 24God is spirit, and those who
worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” Jerusalem
25The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.”
26Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”
27Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?”
28Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, 29”Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” 30They left the city and were on their way to him.
31Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.”
33So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?”
34Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. 36The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
39Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” 40So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41And many more believed because of his word. 42They 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 truly the Savior of the world.”
 “Jesus” (ho Iēsous) The majority of the manuscripts have ho Kurios. But some (Alexandrian) have ho Iēsous. Mark usually has ho Iēsous and Luke often ho Kurios. In the narrative portion of John we have usually ho Iēsous, but ho Kurios in five passages (4:1; 6:23; 11:2; 20:20; 21:12).
 “tired out” (kekopiakōs). Perfect active participle of kopiaō, a state of weariness. “The fact that Jesus was tired from his journey and needed to sit down to rest indicates his humanness. The same word for “tired out” (kopiao) is used twice in 4:38 in reference to working or laboring for the harvest. These are the only instances of the word in John.” Stoffregen, “Exegetical Notes,” Crosmarks.
 “Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans” (ou gar sunchrōntai Ioudaioi Samareitais) “Have no familiar or friendly intercourse with.” Brown (Anchor Bible: John) translates “use nothing in common,” stressing the feeling among Jews that the Samaritans were ritually unclean.
 Living water (hudōr zōn). Running water; fresh, perennial, like a spring or a well supplied by springs. The Hebrew parallel means “spring water.” See Jer. 2:13; Zech. 14:8.
 Or “Lord.” The Greek term κύριος (kurios) means both “Sir” and “Lord.” There is probably a gradual transition from one to the other as the woman’s respect for Jesus grows throughout the conversation (Joh_4:11; Joh_4:15; Joh_4:19).
 The word for “well” has shifted to φρέαρ (phrear, “cistern”); earlier in the passage it was πηγή (pēgē). (NET Bible).
 “Ancestor Jacob” (patros hēmōn Iakōb) Lit., our father Jacob.
 The verse begins with mē, a common construction for questions in which the answer is implied in the asking.
 “Spring of water gushing up” (pēgē hudatos hallomenou eis zōēn aiōnion). Or fountain…springing. Both words have the sense of something bubbling up, leaping up into the air. “The verb άλλομένου (hallomenou) is used of quick movement (like jumping) on the part of living beings. This is the only instance of its being applied to the action of water.” (NET Bible).
 “Eternal life” (εις τον αιωνα). “Eternally,” literally “into this age” 4:14. “The word for forever or everlasting in Greek means “into this age,” literally that which keeps going into this age. In short, when we hear “forever” we assume this means “life after death,” but nothing grammatically or even theologically in John's Gospel, certainly in this chapter, suggests this. This is a continuing theme in John's Gospel: life in Christ begins now and continues even through death” (Rob Myallis, “Lectionary Greek,” http://lectionarygreek.blogspot.com/2014/01/john-4-woman-at-well.html).
 “Water” is missing in the Greek, but supplied for clarity.
 “Ancestors” (πατερες, paters) Lit. Fathers, but degenderized following contemporary standards.
 “You.” “The Greek word for you here and in verses 21 and 22 is plural” The NET Bible translates this as “you people.”
 “Woman” “A polite form of address, similar to “Madam” or “Ma’am” used in English in different regions.” NET Bible.
 “You” The Greek here is plural. The NET Bible translates this as “You people.”
 “What you don’t know…what we [do] know”
 “The hour is coming and now is [here]” (kai nun estin) “Here” has been added by the translators for clarity (I prefer the old rsv, which gets along fine without it).
 “In spirit and truth” “a double phrase with a single sense, similar to ‘Spirit of truth’ in 14:17; 15:26; 16:13. It means an openness towards the Spirit whom Jesus gives (3:6; 4:14) and the truth that he reveals (1:14, 17; 14:6). Oxford Bible Commentary.
 “God is Spirit” (pneuma ho theos). “Πνεῦμα (pneuma) is understood as a qualitative predicate nominative while the articular θεός (theos) is the subject.” (NET Bible) “The phrase describes the nature, not the personality of God. Compare the expressions, God is light; God is love (1 John_1:5; 1 John_4:8)” (Vincent).
 Both Greek “Christ” and Hebrew and Aramaic “Messiah” mean “the one who has been anointed.”
 “I am he” (ἐγώ εἰμι egō eimi) Literally I am.
 “Disciples came…were astonished” (ἦλθαν …ἐθαύμαζον). The tense of each verb is different: the verb came is aorist, meaning that it occurred in a single point of time, the time that the disciples arrived. But the second, “astonished” is imperfect, meaning a continuing of occurrence, the continued to be amazed. It marks something that goes on and on.
 “Messiah” or “Christ.” The former is derived from the Hebrew and the latter comes from the Greek.
 28-30, 39-42. “Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony: The first missionary (apart from the disciples) was a Samaritan and a woman!” Dan Nelson, http://sio.midco.net/danelson9/yeara/lent3a.htm.
 “Look around you” (ἐπάρατε τοùς ὀφθαλμοùς ùμῶν, eparate tous ophthalmous humōn). First aorist active imperative of epairō. Literally, “Lift up your eyes.” A deliberate gaze. “Look intently at.” Deliberate looking as in John 6:5 where theaomai also is used as here.
 Cf. Matthew 9:37-38: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
 nrsv note: Or 35… the fields are already ripe for harvesting. 36The reaper is receiving
 “The woman’s Testimony” (λóγον logon) Literally, “Word.” “There is a contrast between this belief on the basis of the woman’s word and belief on the basis of Jesus’ word (vs. 41)—is this an adumbration of the logos concept of the Prologue?” Brown, p. 175.
 “Savior” (σωτερια) “‘Salvation’ in the sense of saving, preserving, delivering, 4:22; σωτηρ 4:42) Christians again assume that salvation means heaven, specifically life after death. The word in Greek means saving, simply delivering, including if not primarily a very earthly sense. John's Gospel includes resurrection and this is ultimate salvation, but this does not cover the entirety of Jesus' ministry” (Rob Myallis, “Lectionary Greek,” http://lectionarygreek.blogspot.com/2014/01/john-4-woman-at-well.html).
Line-by-line commentary from a variety of sources
Commentary John 4:5-42
Jesus and the Woman of Samaria
This is the third of many lengthy readings, mainly from the Gospel of John, during Lent—whole chapters at times—often with confusing, easy to misunderstand, language. This one is the longest continuous conversation between Jesus and another person in the entire Gospels.
Start by noticing the similarities and differences between chapters 3 and 4. Probably on purpose by the author. One is a wealthy respectable man who sneaks in to see Jesus in the dead of night. The second is a (probably) disreputable Samaritan peasant woman who he meets in broad daylight (ωρα εκτη—”sixth hour,” meaning straight up noon) the time of her visit to the well would be considered a very unusual time to travel, unless the time is meant to be contrasted with the darkness of Nicodemus. Or, just as possible, some scholars say that the hour reflects her desire to not meet the other women of the village. For reasons that will become clear in the unfolding story, she has a past that could make her less than acceptable among her peers.
And finally, notice that the prominent Judean gets a name, “Nicodemus,” but the Samaritan woman does not.
And both have secrets in their pasts.
1 Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, “Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John” 2 —although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized— 3 he left Judea and started back to Galilee. 4 But he had to go through Samaria.
He had gone to Jerusalem after Passover (2:13), and there had been a number of baptisms at Aenon near Salim (3:23) that gained him some degree of acclaim. (However, note John’s hesitancy at assigning the baptisms to Jesus.) So, now he tries to get back to Galilee, and travels through Samaria to get there.
“Had to” go through Samaria. ‘There were in fact other routes from Judea to Galilee, but the most direct lay through Samaria.” (HarperCollins Study Bible) “Although v. 4 is not part of our lection, it is significant for the verb dei – ‘it is necessary.’ Normally, it is not necessary to go through Samaria when traveling from Judea to Galilee. Many Jews would take the longer route that bypassed the unclean land of Samaria. On a literal level, we might guess that Jesus was in a hurry and didn’t want to take the longer route. On a symbolic level, the word dei is often used of God’s plan or what Jesus must do. Was this a “chance” meeting or part of God’s plan?”
5 So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar…
No Samaritan city by this name is known today. Haslam, Nelson, and the ESV notes say that “most scholars” believe “Sychar” was Askar. The HCSB (with others) says it was Shechem and references Gen. 33:18-19 and Josh. 24:32. The two villages were close together, and within sight of Mount Gerizim, so it is difficult to know. If Shechem is correct, then the name itself may be significant. “Shechem” in Hebrew means “drunken-town” (Isaiah 28:1) or “lying-town” (Hab 2:18).
One could go on about the Samaritans and their relationship (or lack of one) with the Judeans for days. Here are a few quotes from others about them.
Samaritans traced their origin to the ancient kingdom of Israel; however Judeans considered the Samaritan's Israelite pedigree to have been bastardized due to inter-marriage with Assyrian (conquerors), (722 BC) before Judean elites were exiled by Babylonian conquerors (586 BC). Since in antiquity people and their land were organically connected, it followed that both Samaritans and their land were unclean or impure in Judean eyes.
“The Samaritans were a mixture of Jews whom the conquering Assyrians (in 721 BC) had deemed too insignificant to deport to Babylon and of Gentile people whom the Assyrians had settled in Palestine. See 2 Kings 17; Ezra 4:1-3; Nehemiah 4:1-9. Relations between Jews and Samaritans were never good, but in 52 AD a clash was so serious that it was resolved by Roman intervention (see Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 20.6.1-3 118-36; Jewish Wars 2:12.3-5 232-46)” (Haslam).
In Matthew 10:5 Jesus sent out the twelve disciples with the instructions to “…enter no town of the Samaritans,” though that may have been for their own safety and not out of prejudice. Jesus also calls attention to the Samaritan leper as an example of faith (Luke 17:16), and to the Good Samaritan as an example of love (Luke 10:25-37). Later, the first Christian mission outside Jerusalem was to Samaria (Acts 8:4-25).
History and Bitterness of Samaritans
“Religious group, representing their own religion. The number of adherents are now between 550 and 600 individuals. About half of the Samaritans live in Kiryat Luza, close to Mount Gerizim, just south of Nablus inPalestine, which is their religious centre. The rest live in Holon district right outside Tel Aviv in Israel.
This group has many traditions in common with the Jews, due to common roots.
The Samaritans of Palestine participate in the life of Palestine, while the Samaritans of Israel participate in the Israeli society. The Samaritans broke with the Jewish majority in 6th century BCE, and constructed a temple on the mountain Gerizim. The Samaritans have been the object of much hate from the Jewish community, something which can be seen in Gospels, where Jesus uses the Samaritans as a metaphor of despised, yet helping people, i.e. the good Christian.”
The Samaritans, despite the efforts of the Assyrians and the name-calling by the Judeans, continued to consider themselves Children of Israel and descendants of Jacob. They worshiped YHWH, maintained the Levitical priesthood and held the Torah as holy scripture.
The disciples were upset that he was talking with a woman. But she was upset that he, a Jew, was talking to her, a Samaritan.
“John 4.9 shows that the Samaritan woman’s astonishment stems from Jesus’ violation not of gender barriers but of religious/ethnic ones: ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria? Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.’”
Robert Maccini argues that Jesus’ breaching of racial/ethnic boundaries was far more important than crossing the gender walls. “Prior to ν 27, the emphasis falls not on the character’s gender, her womanhood, but on her ethnic identity: she is a Samaritan (vv 7-9). A similar point applies to Jesus. His Jewishness, not his gender, matters. What dominates this narrative, then, is not the relationships between men and women but between Jews and Samaritans. In this particular context the public dialogue between a man and a woman could well be nothing out of the ordinary.”
“Today a few Samaritans survive, not having lost their identity through intermarriage. There are about 550-600 active practitioners of the Samaritan religion with some admixture of Islam, most of whom live in the city of Nablus, in the area now known as the West Bank. Although their temple is long since destroyed, they still celebrate Passover every year around their ancient temple site of sacrifice, Mount Gerazim, their holy mountain. The Day of Atonement is the holiest day of their year and the Sabbath is most rigidly observed. They are a distinctly religious community and their high priest acts as their political official and representative.
About half of the Samaritans live in Kiryat Luza, close to the mountain of Gerizim, just south of Nablus in Palestine, which is their religious center. The rest live in Holon district right outside Tel Aviv in Israel.
The Samaritans of Palestine participate in the life of Palestine, while the Samaritans of Israel participate in the Israeli society. In spite of the continuing conflict in the area, the group has managed to keep privileged relationships with both the Israelis and the Palestinians.”
5Near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.
“Given to his son Joseph” (ho edōken Iakōb tōi Iōsēph tōi huiōi autou). Perhaps referring to Gen 48:22, “As one who is above your brothers, I give to you the mountain slope, which I took from the Amorites with my sword and my bow.” Or: Gen 33:19, “Then he purchased the portion of the field where he had pitched his tent; he bought it from the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for a hundred pieces of money.”
“Jacob’s well.” There is no mention of Jacob having a well anywhere in the Hebrew Scriptures. However, Jacob met Rachel at a well (Gen 29:1–12), and this could be the allusion.
By 380 AD, a church was built at the site of a well that was identified as Jacob’s well at Balata, at the foot of Mt. Gerizim, south-east of Shechem. Its proximity makes its authenticity likely.
“about noon.” Literally “The sixth hour,” a time when it would have been hot and time to rest, and travelers would be thirsty. Normally, women would come to draw water in the morning or evening when it was cooler (Gen. 24:11; cf. 29:7–8); the …woman comes at a time when no one else would be at the well.” “The local women would not come to draw water in the midday heat, but this woman had to do so, because she had to come alone …
That this Samaritan woman comes to the well alone rather than in the company of other women may indicate that the rest of the women of Sychar did not want her to be in their company, and if so, probably because of her sexual activities (cf. comment on 4:18). Although Jewish teachers warned against talking much with women in general, they would have especially avoided Samaritan women, who, they declared, were unclean from birth. Other ancient accounts show that even asking water of a woman could be interpreted as flirting with her—especially if she had come alone due to a reputation for looseness. [There is slight evidence of that, though I wouldn’t push it too far: When she tells Jesus, “I am not married,” that is considered by some to be a euphemism for, “I am available.” ]
Jesus breaks all the rules of Jewish piety here. In addition, both Isaac (Gen 24:17) and Jacob (Gen 29:10) met their wives at wells; such precedent created the sort of potential ambiguity at this well that religious people wished to avoid altogether.
7 A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”
“Jesus’ words, ‘Give me a drink’, and the mention of Jacob’s well, are probably meant as an allusion to two scenes in the OT: the demand for water in the desert (Ex 17:2) and the gift of water at Beer (Num 21:16), which is celebrated by a famous song: ‘Spring up, O well! Sing to it’ (Num 21:17). In the LXX and in the targums ‘Beer’ is considered as a ‘well’ and not as a place. In the targums the place Mattanah is interpreted as ‘gift’. Therefore the targum Pseudo-Jonathan considers the well as God’s gift.” 
“Came to draw water…” Again, note the unusual timing of her trip to the well. Raymond Brown notes that “The woman’s choice of time for coming to the well is unusual; such a chore was done in the morning and evening.” (Anchor Bible: John, Vol. 29). Leander Keck (Cambridge Study Bible) adds the possibility that “The woman’s coming for water at noon suggests that her bad reputation led her to avoid meeting other women who would have come for water early in the day.”
“Give me a drink” Note that in the first reading, Exodus 17:2, the Hebrew people also ask for water while in the desert, and that water may well have been seen as “living.”
Jesus’ request crossed both gender and racial/ethnic taboos. “While it is astonishing that Jesus speaks to the woman, it is equally astonishing that instead of immediately getting up and leaving, she engages in conversation with Jesus. Her daring, courageous, willingness to also break the taboos creates the possibility for the transformation that will arise from the conversation that follows.”
8 (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.)
Parenthetical comment by the author, probably to emphasize to the reader that this conversation happened while the two of them were alone. See also on v. 9. It could also have been that they did not have enough food of their own, but if that is the case, it could have had a social meaning because of the enmity between the two peoples. That is, it was highly unusual for Jews to buy food from Samaritans.
9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?”
Notice that she calls him a Jew. This is the only place in John where he is called that, and in fact he is a Galilean. Could be a simple mistake on her part, but also John wants to emphasize the ethnic distance between them.
“A woman of Samaria” Men didn’t talk to women and Samaritan women in particular were considered unclean, so she had a double reason for asking about his talking to her. “Though both Jews and Samaritans were descended from ancient Israel and practiced similar religions, there was long-standing hostility between them.” (Harper Collins Study Bible.)
(Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)
They don’t share anything in common. Not buckets, water, ladles, or cups.
This is another parenthetical comment by the author, which probably reflected more the later reality of John’s time when new Christians did not know of the ancient animosity between the two ethnic groups. If John’s readers had still seen themselves as “Jews,” the explanatory comment would not have been necessary. Dan Nelson makes the interesting observation that “In John 8:48 Jesus is denounced as a Samaritan by Judeans, perhaps because of his dealings with them, but certainly to make Jesus appear to be an ‘outsider’ in Judean society.” If someone is different, other, strange, then you are more easily justified in doing harm to him. Some ancient manuscripts omit the insertion altogether. Marvin Vincent describes the hostility this way: “The Jews treated the Samaritans with every mark of contempt, and accused them of falsehood, folly, and irreligion. The Samaritans sold Jews into slavery when they had them in their power, lighted spurious signals for the beacon-fires kindled to announce the beginnings of months, and waylaid and killed pilgrims on their road to Jerusalem.”
The woman first confronts this encounter in racial terms: under Jewish law, even her water vessel (same term as in 2:6) was considered unclean for Jewish drinking. Ironically, in John’s Gospel only non-Jews recognize Jesus’ Jewishness (here and 18:33–35).
10-15: First dialogue.
Like with Nicodemus in chapter 3, it is filled with misunderstanding. Jesus is the source of eternal life, expressed in terms of living water.
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
“Living water” A term that generally meant fresh, running, spring water. Jesus means it spiritually, but to her ears the term was only physical not spiritual, referring to spring water, or water from a well-supplied by springs. This type of difference in understanding is typical in John. See 3:4; 7:33-36. The “Well of Jacob” was probably filled by rain water, more like a cistern than a well. Robertson says that it was “Good water, but not equal to a real spring which was always preferred (Gen 26:19; Lev 14:5; Num 19:17).” The term would have been familiar to the Jews. See Jeremiah 2:13; 17:13; Zechariah 14:8. Not necessarily the same as water of life (Revelation 21:6; 22:1, 17).
“Note that Jesus is willing to share a drinking vessel with the woman, a serious polluting act by Pharisee standards, given the fact that he is a stranger sharing a utensil with a Samaritan woman. Yet she is willing to share with him. He, in turn, treats her like family, and now she begins to reciprocate.
The point is important because it signals that the space Jesus and the woman occupy is being transformed from "public" space, where their actions would have been considered deviant, to "private" space, where they are not.
Interpersonally, the woman is becoming part of the group of disciples forming around Jesus, hence, no longer a woman with whom he should not speak.”
11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?”
13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again,
14 but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”
“Eternal life” “The word for forever or everlasting in Greek means “into this age,” literally that which keeps going into this age. When we hear “forever” we typically assume this means “life after death,” but nothing grammatically or even theologically in John’s Gospel, certainly in this chapter, suggests this. This is a continuing theme in John’s Gospel: life in Christ begins now and continues even through death,” not just after death.
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
Still thinking of physical water, she wants some so that she won’t have to keep returning to the well. A good image for spiritual water, but she means it physically.
16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.”
“Husband” “Perhaps this subject is raised because, in the OT, the meeting of a man and a woman at a well often leads to marriage; see Gen 24:10-61; 29:1-20; Exod. 2:15-21.
17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!”
“Five husbands” “Jews were allowed only three marriages; …if the same standard was applicable among the Samaritans, then the woman’s life had been markedly immoral.” (Brown, p. 171) “According to Josephus (Ant. 9.288) the Samaritans were composed of five different nations, each one having its special god. The woman’s five husbands could symbolize these five gods whom the Samaritans had formerly worshipped, and the one who is not the husband could be YHWH whom the Samaritans are only partly linked to, because they worship him at a different place from that of the Jews (see v. 22). This is an interpretation not held by all biblical scholars. 2 Kings 17:24–34 mentions five nations of the Samaritans, two of whom had two gods each, making seven altogether.
Historically, preachers and commentators have spent far too much time on trying to understand her as a prostitute. It’s probably safe to say that she is wounded. Having five husbands when you should only have one and were only allowed at most to have five, and now living with someone else, does not indicate that your life is going well. However, that isn’t the same as (as some have done) fantasizing long red fingernails and bright red lipstick and cakes of makeup and a job in the evening. Men could divorce their wives on a whim. Burning the food was one allowed offense. There is no reference to children, so perhaps she was infertile. Who knows? But whether she was made single again so many times through deaths or divorces (which the husband would have to instigate), either way, she has led a precarious life. and now she is with a man who will not marry her. The most important part of this story is not that she has done all sorts of terrible things (though that is always possible too), but that she comes to the water a wounded person, shunned by her peers, and meets someone offering her life again.
Tell the story of Millard Fuller, the founder of Habitat for Humanity. His life was ruined, his wife had just thrown him out of the house. His kids wouldn’t speak to him, and flying off for a business trip he happened to sit on a plane with Clarence Jordan. They talked for over an hour, and when the plane stopped at Atlanta, and Jordan was going to get off, Fuller got off with him and moved in to the Koinonia Farm for six weeks. He later in his autobiography said that sitting there on that plane he felt like he had received Christ’s “Living Water.”
Story (not so happy an ending), of a young woman in a neighboring church I knew back in Heavener who was engaged to be married to a young man in the community. She went off to college and got pregnant. And she was so shamed by what she did so she went home and told her mother. Her mother, a good fundamentalist Christian woman, pushed and pushed and finally forced the young girl to stand up in church and confess her sins to the congregation during announcement time. It was an awful, painful addition to her already shamed life. She did what her mother said, but when she went home after church that day, she packed her bags and left home and never returned. She also never returned to church again. I know that, because a few years ago I went to her father’s funeral and she was there and we spoke, and she told me from that last day when she was forced to tell everybody what she had done, she had never gone back to church again.
Stoffregan on the five marriages:
What if each of those marriages ended when the husband died. She would have buried five husbands. She would have gone through five funerals. The pain and suffering and loss in her life would be great -- perhaps too great for her to commit herself in marriage to another man. Maybe this is why she wants to come to the well alone. Her pain is too great to talk about it with anyone else. Maybe this is what has sapped the life out of her.
What if each of those marriages ended when an abusive husband got tired of her and threw her out of the house and divorced her. What if she had spent her life being victimized by these men and then was discarded like garbage? Maybe she had become so distrustful of marriage that she wouldn’t go through the ritual with the sixth man. Could the bruises on her body keep her from associating with other people? Could the terror in her mind keep her from talking to anyone about her suffering? Is that why she is alone? Is that what has sapped the life out of her?
On another level, there may be great symbolism in her answer of five husbands.
2 Kings 17:24 indicates that after the fall of the Northern Kingdom: “The king of Assyria brought people from
Babylon, Cuthah, Avva,
Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria
in place of the people of Israel;
they took possession of ,
and settled in its cities.” People from five
nations were resettled in Samaria. Samaria
A little later in 17:29, we are told “every nation still made gods of its own and put them in the shrines of the high places that the people of
had made, every nation in the cities
they lived”. Could the five husbands symbolize the five nations and their gods?
[Note that 17:30-31 lists seven gods worshiped by the five nations.] The sixth “man”
of the Samaritan woman could symbolize their worship of the LORD, who was not
really their god because they continued to worship and serve these other gods.
They weren’t “married” to the LORD -- they were just “fooling around” with the
LORD as well as other gods. Samaria
In addition, the Hebrew word for “husband” is “ba`al,” which also means “god” as well as the specific god, “Baal”. However, this is not the word used in 2K 17:29, but “elohim”.
If such symbolism is meant, then the sin is idolatry -- a topic that often produced oracles from a prophet, and would naturally lead to discussion about proper worship.
19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet.
“Prophet” “The Samaritans did not accept the prophetical books of the OT, so the image of the prophet probably stems from Deut xvii 15-18…This Prophet-like-Moses would have been expected to settle legal questions, whence the logic of the implicit question in vs. 20. Also…the Samaritans expected the Taheb (the Prophet-like-Moses] to restore proper worship.” (Brown)
20-24: Second dialogue
Worship of God is not on a mountain or in Jerusalem, but must be in spirit and truth.
20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.”
“This mountain.” “Mount Gerizim, the Samaritans’ holy site equivalent to Judaism’s Jerusalem, was in full view of Jacob’s well. She uses the past tense for “worship” precisely because of her continuing consciousness of Jews’ and Samaritans’ racial separation: roughly two centuries before, the Jewish king had obliterated the Samaritan temple on that mountain, and it had remained in ruins ever since. Samaritans mocked the Jewish holy site and once, under cover of night, even sought to defile the Jerusalem temple. Jews similarly ridiculed Mount Gerizim and even built many of their synagogues so worshipers could face Jerusalem”
21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
“This mountain” “Gerizim, at the foot of which lies the well. Here, according to the Samaritan tradition, Abraham sacrificed Isaac, and met Melchisedek.” (Vincent) See Deut 11:26; 27:1-13; Josh 8:30-35. Supposedly the Samaritans once had a temple on the mountain until its destruction by John Hyrcanus (128 b.c.), which was near Sychar (Shechem), where the story takes place. However, recent archaeological evidence reported on by Robert Bull suggests that it was only a spot on the mountain that she was pointing at and not the entire mountain “her reference to the termination of Samaritan worship in the past may have been attached to the ruins visible to Jesus and herself as they talked at the well.”
22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.
“From the Jews” Or better, “from the Judeans.” See the note on “Jew” in John 4:9. “The statement…seems to endorse Jewish worship over Samaritan just at the point at which both are being declared no longer relevant. That salvation is from (or “of”) the Jews is, at the least, an unexpected assertion in the Fourth Gospel. Because in this Gospel Samaritans are viewed more favorably than Jews, it is all the more difficult to understand why such a statement is made.” Harper’s Bible Commentary. James Luther Mays, ed. (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988).
23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.
“The hour is coming and now is [here]” (kai nun estin) “Here” has been added by the nrsv translators for clarity (I prefer the old rsv, which gets along fine without it).
The phrase occurs frequently in John, referring to the completion of God’s intentions on earth that will happen after Jesus’ death and glorification. See John 5:28; 16:2, 16:25. However, in two instances in addition to this one (5:25; 16:32), he says cryptically that the time has already arrived. Does it mean theologically that for those who now believe and walk with Jesus the time has already arrived? Brown says, “[W]e find in John the same eschatological tension that is apparent in the Synoptic references to the kingdom—it is future, and yet it is at hand.”
24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
25-26: Third dialogue
What the Samaritans believed about a Messiah was probably based on Deuteronomy 18:15. Jesus identifies himself as the Messiah.
25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ).
“The woman’s response to Jesus seems to reflect Jewish messianic expectations (not Samaritan). But perhaps she refers not to the Davidic Messiah but to a prophet like Moses (cf. Deut. 18:15-22). The Samaritans viewed themselves as the heirs of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, in which the royal line was not descended from David.”
“Messiah” Both Greek “Christ” and Hebrew and Aramaic “Messiah” mean “the one who has been anointed.”
“When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”
“I am he” (ἐγώ εἰμι egō eimi) Literally I am. This is very problematic. Does he mean “I am he,” meaning “I am the Messiah”? or is he actually saying “I am,” which is roughly the Moses-on-Sinai name for God. There is a BIG theological difference.
“This is the first of a series of self-revelatory sayings, all echoing an Old Testament formula This is particularly striking in those sayings (6:20; 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19; 18:5-8) in which Jesus uses the words I am without any predicate. This verse is in striking contrast to the synoptic gospels, where Jesus tells his disciples not to disclose to anyone who he is” (Haslam). “The expression …is part of Jesus’ revelation of his divine identity in John. It functions virtually as a divine name, based on OT assertions of God’s identity (see, e.g., Ex 3:14; Isa 43:10-11, 25; 51:12). Sometimes other expressions (such as ‘light’ or bread’ are added to the ‘I am.’” (HCSB)
27 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?”
“Disciples came…were astonished” (ἦλθαν …ἐθαύμαζον). The tense of each verb is different: the verb came is aorist, meaning that it occurred in a single point of time, the time that the disciples arrived. But the second, “astonished” is imperfect, meaning a continuing of occurrence, the continued to be amazed. It marks something that goes on and on. The sense is that they stood looking and wondering and pondering and being amazed and shocked that they were actually looking at a man talking to a woman. Brown and others have noted that it is “curious that they were more shocked because she was talking with a woman than because he was talking with a Samaritan.”
“Jewish piety warned men not to talk much with women (some rabbis added, even with one’s own wife!), both because of temptation and because of what others might think. That the disciples are amazed yet trust their teacher enough not to ask about this situation is a sign of their respect for him, an attitude considered appropriate for faithful disciples. (A few later Jewish traditions report rabbis who disintegrated disrespectful disciples into heaps of ashes with their eyes, but such stories are meant only to illustrate the general principle that one ought not to challenge one’s teacher!)”
28 Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, 29 ”Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”
“Messiah” or “Christ.” The former is derived from the Hebrew and the latter from the Greek. Fred Craddock makes the observation that she did not run to them with answers, but questions, “Can this be the messiah?” Literally, “This can’t be the Christ, can it?”
Even though it is an unfinished question, says Craddock, “her witness is enough: it is invitational (come and see), not judgmental; it is within the range permitted by her experience; it is honest with its own uncertainty; it is for everyone who will hear. How refreshing. Her witness avoids triumphalism, hawking someone else’s conclusions, packaged answers to unasked questions, thinly veiled ultimatums and threats of hell, and assumptions of certainty on theological matters. She does convey, however, her willingness to let her hearers arrive at their own affirmations about Jesus, and they do: "This is indeed the Savior of the world." John immortalizes her by giving to her witness a name which is the very term with which he began the Gospel. The Samaritan woman, the Greek text reads, spoke ‘the Word.’”
30 They left the city and were on their way to him.
31-38: Fourth dialogue.
Between Jesus and the disciples and again with misunderstandings. Jesus’ food is obedience to God, the harvest is gathering fruit for eternal life, people for the kingdom.
31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 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, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?”
34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.
“Both this (cf. 5:30, 6:38) and ‘bringing his work to completion” (cf. 5:36, 9:4, 17:4) are Johannine descriptions of the nature of Jesus’ ministry. In the Synoptics ‘to do the will of God’ has a more general connotation (Mark 3:35; Matt 7:21). The theme of 34 is not far from that of Deut 8:3: ‘Man does not live by bread alone but by every word of God’—a citation attributed to Jesus in Matt 4:4.”
35 Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’?
“Probably a proverb. The Gezer calendar of the 10th century b.c. puts exactly four months between sowing and harvest; and there are early rabbinic reckonings to the same effect.”
But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. 36 The reaper is already receiving wages and is 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.”
39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days.
“Stay” (μενω) (“abide” 4:40). “This is a theme word in John’s Gospel. In this case, it was only after he abided with them that they declared him savior of the world. This is a reminder that to me that the promise is truly incarnational. In order for us to do better evangelism, we have to meet and STAY with people where they are.”
“For Jesus to lodge there, eating Samaritan food and teaching Samaritans (v. 40) would be roughly equivalent to defying segregation in the United States during the 1950s or apartheid in South Africa in the 1980s—shocking, extremely difficult, somewhat dangerous. The Jesus of the Gospels is more concerned with people than with custom.”
41 And many more believed because of his word. 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 truly the Savior of the world.”“Savior” σωτερια (“salvation” in the sense of saving, preserving, delivering, 4:22; σωτηρ 4:42) Christians again assume that salvation means heaven, specifically life after death. The word in Greek means saving, simply delivering, including if not primarily a very earthly sense. John’s Gospel includes resurrection and this is ultimate salvation, but this does not cover the entirety of Jesus’ ministry.
 Though it may be significant that Jesus' addresses her as "Woman" using the same term for his own mother (John 2:4 and 19:26) and other women of his group (John 8:10 and 20:13).
 nrsv note: Other ancient authorities read the Lord.
 Brian P. Stoffregen, “Exegetical Notes at CrossMarks” atwww.crossmarks.com/brian/john4x5.htm
 Malina and Rohrbaugh, p. 98.
 The Encyclopaedia of the Orient (http://i-cias.com/e.o/samaritn.htm).
 Maccini, Robert Gordon, A Reassessment of the Woman at the Well in John 4, in Light of the Samaritan Context, JSNT, 54 (1994), p. 39.
 From “Bible History Online,” www.bible-history.com/Samaritans/SAMARITANSModern_Samaritans.htm
 Raymond Brown, Anchor Bible: John, Vol. I (New York: Doubleday, 1969.
 Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2027.
 Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993).
 Keener, IVP Bible Background Commentary.
 John Barton and John Muddiman, eds., Oxford Bible Commentary (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001).
 David Ewart, “Holy textures,” http://www.holytextures.com/2011/02/john-4-5-42-year-a-lent-3-sermon.html
 nrsv note: Other ancient authorities lack this sentence
 Dan Nelson, http://sio.midco.net/danelson9/yeara/lent3a.htm
 Vincent, Marvin, Word Studies in the New Testament (C. Scribner’s sons, 1887).
 Keener, IVP Bible Background Commentary.
 A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, B&H Books: 1973.
 Malina, Bruce, and Rohrbaugh, Richard, Social Science Commentary on the Gospel of John (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1998), p. 99.
 Rob Myallis, “Lectionary Greek,” http://lectionarygreek.blogspot.com/2014/01/john-4-woman-at-well.html.
 Barton and Muddiman, Oxford Bible Commentary (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001)
 Brian Stoffregan, “Crossmarks,” http://www.crossmarks.com/brian/john4x5.htm
 nrsv Note: The Greek word for you here and in verses 21 and 22 is plural
 Keener, IVP Bible Background Commentary.
 Biblical Archaeologist, Vol. 38, p. 54
 Brown, Anchor Bible: John, Vol. 29, p. 172
 James Luther Mays, ed., Harper’s Bible Commentary (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988), p. 1053.
 nrsv note: Gk I am
 Brown, Anchor Bible: John, Vol. 29
 Keener, IVP Bible Background Commentary.
 nrsv note: Or the Christ
 “The Woman at the Well,” Fred Craddock, Christian Century, March 7, 1990, p. 243, retrieved from “Religion Online,” http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=711.
 Brown, p. 173.
 Brown, p. 174.
 nrsv note: Or 35… the fields are already ripe for harvesting. 36The reaper is receiving
 Rob Myallis, “Lectionary Greek,” http://lectionarygreek.blogspot.com/2014/01/john-4-woman-at-well.html).
Myallis, “Lectionary Greek.”
 Keener, IVP Bible Background Commentary.
 Myallis, “Lectionary Greek.”