I get worn out some days. It happens before the day is even done. Jesus understands. Jesus got worn out as well. Jesus was working hard to get the good news message to as many as he could. He was at it non-stop. On this day, it would lead to a stunning encounter with “the Samaritan woman.”
When Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard he was making and baptizing more disciples than John (though Jesus himself was not baptizing, but his disciples were), he left Judea and went again to Galilee. He had to travel through Samaria; so he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar near the property that Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, worn out from his journey, sat down at the well. It was about noon. | John 4:1-6 (CSB)
Because the Pharisees were trying to incite competition between Jesus and John the Baptist, Jesus left Judea and started north for Galilee. He could have taken one of three possible routes: along the coast, across the Jordan and up through Perea, or straight through Samaria. Orthodox Jews avoided Samaria because there was a long-standing, deep-seated hatred between them and the Samaritans.
The Samaritans were a mixed race, part Jew and part Gentile, that grew out of the Assyrian captivity of the ten northern tribes in 727 B.C. Rejected by the Jews because they could not prove their genealogy, the Samaritans established their own temple and religious services on Mt. Gerizim. This only fanned the fires of prejudice. So intense was their dislike of the Samaritans that some of the Pharisees prayed that no Samaritan would be raised in the resurrection! When His enemies wanted to call Jesus an insulting name, they called Him a Samaritan.
Because He was on a divinely appointed schedule, it was necessary that Jesus go through Samaria. Why? Because He would meet a woman there and lead her into saving faith, the kind of true faith that would affect an entire village. Our Master was no respecter of persons. Earlier, He counseled a moral Jewish man, and now He would witness to an immoral Samaritan woman!
He arrived at Jacob’s well, at the usual time for women to come for water. The disciples went to the nearby town for food while Jesus deliberately waited at the well. He was weary, hungry, and thirsty. John not only presents Jesus as the Son of God but also as true man. Our Master entered into all the normal experiences of our lives and is able to identify with us in each of them.
As you read our Lord’s interview with this woman, notice how her knowledge of Jesus increases until she acknowledges that He is the Messiah.
Let’s dig deeper
Here is the literal translation:
So when Jesus knew that the Pharisees had heard, “Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John [the Baptist is making and baptizing]”—2 and yet indeed Jesus himself wasn’t baptizing; rather, his disciples [were baptizing]—3 he left Judea and went back into Galilee. And it was necessary for him to go through Samaria. So he comes into a city [we’d call it a town] of Samaria called Sychar near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to Joseph his son [Genesis 33:18–19; 48:21–22; Joshua 24:32]. 6 And Jacob’s well was there. So Jesus, tired out from the journey, was sitting thus [that is, in a tired condition] at the well. It was about the sixth hour.
Jesus’ making and baptizing more disciples than the Baptist made and baptized does two things:
- It reemphasizes Jesus’ superiority
- It shows the fulfillment of the Baptist’s statement, “That one must increase, but I decrease”
Jesus’ knowing that the Pharisees heard doesn’t have to imply his divine omniscience (somebody could have told him); but in view of such omniscience in in general, it probably does here too. The Pharisees have already appeared as resident in Jerusalem and as antagonistic. So Jesus leaves Judea, the southern territory, where Jerusalem is located, and goes back to Galilee in the north, where Nazareth, Cana, and Capernaum are located.
The qualification that Jesus deputized his disciples to baptize people for him heightens Jesus’ superiority over John. Baptizing in water is for others to do. He will baptize people in a much superior element, the Spirit. Besides, so many people are coming to him that he has to use the disciples as his deputies.
And it was necessary for him to go through Samaria. It wasn’t topographically necessary to go through Samaria on the way from Judea to Galilee. To go through Samaria was to take the direct route, in fact. Nor was it culturally necessary to go through Samaria. On the contrary, because of mutual antipathy between Jews and Samaritans strict Jews usually avoided Samaria by way of a detour.
So the present necessity is divine, as always elsewhere in John too. For example,
- “It’s necessary that you be born from above”: God requires it.
- “It’s necessary that the Son of Man be lifted up”: God requires it.
- The necessity that Jesus go through Samaria means, then, that Jesus is carrying out God’s requirement.
- Jesus has other sheep, not of the Jewish pen but of the Samaritan pen: “I have other sheep that aren’t of this [Jewish] pen. It’s necessary that I bring those as well, and they’ll hear my voice and become one flock” (10:16).
So he comes into a city [we’d call it a town] of Samaria called Sychar near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to Joseph his son [Genesis 33:18–19; 48:21–22; Joshua 24:32].
And Jacob’s well was there. So Jesus, tired out from the journey, was sitting thus that is, in a tired condition at the well. It was about the sixth hour. The reference to Jacob prepares for a later reference to him. The term for “well” refers to the kind in which water bubbles up. Jesus’ fatigue explains why he’s sitting (probably on a low stone wall surrounding the well to keep people and animals from falling in) and prepares for his requesting a drink. Incidentally, the fatigue reinforces the Word’s having become flesh.
The reference to the sixth hour explains why Jesus was tired out and why a Samaritan woman is about to arrive. But what was the sixth hour? Counting from sunrise, it could be noon, in which case the woman comes then because she’s too ashamed of her sordid life to come with other women at dusk, when the heat has died down.
But she’ll give the impression of being shameless, and it’s a real question whether she’s a loose woman or a woman victimized by the men of Sychar. Counting from noon, the sixth hour would be 6:00 P.M., the normal hour for drawing water—and by that time Jesus would have been tired out from a full day’s journey. Also, that hour suits the disciples’ going into town to buy food for an evening meal, whereas Jews didn’t eat a lunch. So 6:00 P.M. makes better sense than noon does
Christian Standard Bible. (2017). (Jn 4:1–54). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, p. 299). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
Gundry, R. H. (2010). Commentary on the New Testament: Verse-by-Verse Explanations with a Literal Translation (pp. 364–365). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.