Jesus & the Samaritan Woman - Lesson 3
Find the Gospel in the Story
At its heart, the gospel is the story of a romance. Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who made a wedding feast for his son” (Matt 22:2). This understanding explains why Moses allocates twice the attention he gives to his account of creation (Gen 1:1-31) to his account of the engagement of Rebekah (Gen 24:1-67). It explains why the Bible begins and ends with a wedding in paradise. Genesis opens with the account of Adam and his bride in the garden of Eden (Gen 2:8, 22). Revelation ends with the account of Christ, the, new Adam, and his bride in the garden city of the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:2).
The Gospel accounts give a number of glimpses of the “bride of Christ.” While the entire body of believers, viewed collectively, constitute the church or the “bride of the Lamb,” (Eph 5:23; Rev 21:2, 9-10), individual portraits of a number of women who have encounters with Jesus are clearly chosen to represent the “bride.” None of these women can be considered “the bride.” They represent, however, in their unique individual aspects, something about the bridal community of the faithful of all the ages. In this sense, the scene in which they appear takes on the character of a betrothal or a romance.
We have already described the Lord’s encounter with Mary Magdalene in the garden on the morning of his resurrection. Jesus appears as the new Adam, with a freshly healed scar in his side. He calls to Mary using the name “Woman.” These are features of the narrative that evoke the recollection of Adam’s first meeting with his bride, when he was newly aware of the scar in his side and expressed his joy in calling his bride, “Woman.” But from this encounter of Adam and his bride we learn to imagine how the bride of Jesus will appear. Mary had been delivered from the defilement of seven demons. So we learn that Jesus’ love is not reserved for the righteous, but is freely bestowed on the needy. The Lord loved Mary and so she loved him out of a heart of deep forgiveness.
Another portrait of an unlikely bride is the Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well of Sychar (John 4:7). In the Hebrew Bible, the patriarchs often found their brides at foreign wells. The brides of Isaac and Jacob were identified at the well of Haran. The bride of Moses was identified at the well of Midian. The account of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well of Sychar has the encounter of Jacob meeting the beautiful Rachel at the well as its background. Two details make this connection unmistakable. First, the well is Jacob’s well, which he gave to Joseph, Rachel’s son (John 4:5). This recalls the well of Haran where Jacob met Rachel (Gen 29:1, 6). Second, the Samaritan woman came to the well at noon (John 4:6-7), an unusual hour to come to the well, but precisely the same hour that Rachel came to the well of Haran (Gen 29:7, 9).
Now a Samaritan was not an acceptable marital partner for a Jew (John 4:9). The woman is not only foreign, she is likewise impure in her most intimate marital history (John 4:17-18). The Samaritans were foreign. They were despised “half breeds,” a mongrel people of mixed Jewish and Gentile ancestry. But in fact, the Samaritan precisely matches the composition of the New Jerusalem, with its twelve foundations named for the apostles to the nations and its twelve gates named for the patriarchs of Israel (Rev 21:12-14). So the Samaritan woman teaches us not to despise the foreign woman when seeing the bride of Christ. Further, she also teaches us, by her serial failed marriages, not to envision a beautiful and virginal “bride of the Lamb.”
The Suffering & Glory of Jacob
The Suffering & Glory of Jesus
1. Jacob was rejected by his brother Esau, who threatened to kill him (Gen 27:41).
1. Jesus was rejected by the brethren, who wanted to kill him (John 1:11, 7:1).
2. Jacob left his father Isaac to seek a bride in a far country (Gen 28:1-2; cf. Gen 2:24).
2. Jesus left his Father in heaven to seek a bride on earth (John 1:1, 14, 3:29).
3. Jacob would have twelve sons, the patriarchs of Israel (Gen 35:22).
3. Jesus would have twelve apostles, the patriarchs of the church (Rev 21:14).
4. On his way, Jacob had a dream at Bethel, sleeping upon a rock he was to anoint to represent the “house of God” (Gen 28:18-19).
4. On his way, Jesus promised Peter, one of his disciples, that he would represent the rock upon which the church of God would be built (John 1:42; Matt 16:18).
5. Jacob saw a staircase in his dream upon which the angels of God were ascending and descending (Gen 28:12).
5. Jesus promised Nathanael, one of his disciples, that he would see the angels of God ascending and descending (John 1:51).
6. Jacob came to a foreign well where, at high noon, Rachel came to draw water. Jacob drew and gave her water (Gen 29:7, 9-10).
6. Jesus came to a foreign well where, at high noon, a Samaritan woman came to draw water. Jesus promised to give her living water (John 4:6, 10).
7. Jacob fell in love with the beautiful and virginal Rachel and betrothed himself to her (Gen 29:9, 11, 18). He would receive her only after many years of deception and suffering.
7. The Samaritan woman asked Jesus, “Are you greater than our father Jacob? Who gave us this well” (John 4:12). Jesus would suffer great thirst (John 4:7, 19:28) before he would give her “living water” (John 4:14 , 7:38-39).
Gospel Study Notes
The background of the account of the Samaritan woman in John 4 is the evangelist John’s presentation of Jesus as the new Jacob. At the beginning of the Gospel, Jesus, like Jacob, left his Father to go into a far country to seek a bride (John 1:1, 14, 3:29). Jesus, like Jacob rejected by Esau, was rejected by his own brethren (cf. John 1:11). Just as Jacob was to have twelve sons, John tells us how Jesus began to call twelve disciples (John 1:35-51). On his way to meet his bride at a foreign well, Jacob had a dream at Bethel. Sleeping upon a rock later to be anointed to represent Bethel (Heb “the house of God”), Jacob saw a staircase between earth and heaven, and “the angels of God ascending and descending” upon the staircase (Gen 28:10-22).
Jesus, like Jacob, chose two disciples whose calling is highlighted by the evangelist. Simon, Jesus said, would be called Cephas, meaning stone (John 1:42). He would be the rock upon which the church, “the house of God,” would be built (Matt 16:18). The second disciple whose story retells the account of Jacob with Jesus, is Nathanael (John 1:51). This disciple, who like Jacob is a true Israelite, is promised that he will see the vision given to Jacob, of “the angels of God ascending and descending” upon the Son of Man (John 1:51). It is the Bethel account that is the prelude to Jacob’s discovery of his bride at the well of Haran (Gen 29:1-11). It is likewise the Bethel account of the calling of Simon and Nathanael that is the preview to the encounter of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well of Jacob in Sychar (John 4:1-42).
“Now Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were small, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance. Now Jacob loved Rachel” (Gen 29:16-18).
The Samaritan woman, who had lost her beauty and purity, asked Jesus, “Are you greater than our father Jacob?”…“Whoever drinks the water I will give him will never thirst. But the water I shall give him will become in him a fountain springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:12-14).
There is tremendous drama in the account of Jesus’ encounter at the well with the woman of Samaria. The reader can imagine the scene with all the angels of glory looking on from heaven as Jesus, the Lord of Glory, sits upon the well in his exhaustion while his disciples make their way on into the city to buy bread.
All heaven sees Jesus sitting upon that well under a set of circumstances that recall Jacob, waiting by the well of Haran the moment, at high noon, when the beautiful and virginal Rachel came to the well. When Jacob first laid eyes upon her, he fell in love with her for her beauty and purity. But now it is the Son of God who waits by a well. The hour of midday approaches. All of heaven waits. Angels in glory imagine who will she be? Who has Father God chosen to represent the bride of Christ? Who could possibly exceed Rachel for beauty and purity as much as Jesus exceeds Jacob for glory and truth? Who is the one worthy of the honor to be the betrothed of Jesus, a husband who is so much greater than Jacob? So all of heaven waits. The angels stretch their necks to behold the beauty and purity of the one so highly favored by the Father. Who will she be?
So the noon hour comes. In the distance, the silhouette of a woman comes out of the city. She makes her way to the well and to Jesus. But as she comes closer, all of heaven is stunned. For there is no beauty left in her. And she is certainly no longer pure. But Jesus sees her, too. He recognizes that his Father has chosen her to represent his bride. So he loves her already for that choice. His heart beats a bit faster, and swells with love and gratitude. He knows who she is and why she has come. So he determines to meet her, to ask her for a drink from the well. But he also knows he will give her the gift of his precious Living Water!
The woman comes to the well. She sees Jesus, a Jew, sitting on the well. But she is thirsty, so she comes anyway. Jesus asks her for a drink. She is shocked that this man, a Jew, would ask her for a drink of water. She engages in a strange bit of conversation with the Stranger. He unexpectedly offers her water. Living Water that will forever satisfy her thirst. She misunderstands completely who he is and what he is offering. But she reasons that the water he offers must be better than the water Jacob’s well would bring forth. So she asks her question. All of heaven knows the answer to her question. She is the only one who doesn’t yet understand. Her question is the whole point. Her question sums up the whole gospel. She asks Jesus. “Are you greater than our father Jacob?”
Soon, the Samaritan woman will know the answer to her question. Her story will be enough to teach all the world what heaven already knew.
“How is Jesus greater than Jacob?”
Jacob loved the beautiful and virginal Rachel from the moment he met her at the well. But Jacob would never find it in his heart to love the unlovely Leah. Is Jesus greater than Jacob? Now all the earth knows what all of heaven already knew. The answer to the Samaritan woman’s question is her gospel. What is the answer to her question? Yes! Jesus is far greater than Jacob. Jesus, we understand, can love the unlovely. He can even love the impure! His eyes can see a foreign and whorish woman, like the Samaritan, and imagine a beautiful and pure bride! His love will make her so. Jesus can even see a whorish city like Lady Babylon, dressed in scarlet as vivid and crimson as her sins, and see how she can become a virginal city like the New Jerusalem, dressed in righteous garments made white in the blood of the Lamb. He can see her city given drink from the waters of the Crystal fountain, filled to fullness, and never to thirst again!
Dr. Warren A. Gage © 2022