The Puzzled Disciples
While Jesus was still speaking to the Samaritan woman, the disciples returned from the town with some food for Him. Now the Jews and the Samaritans never got along and during those days men rarely spoke with women in public. So when they saw Jesus talking to a woman and that too to a Samaritan, they were shocked but none of them dared confront Jesus about it. Perhaps Peter, who was in-charge of asking such knee-jerk reaction questions to Jesus was not present with them. His disciples urged Him to eat but Jesus was waiting for the figurative food that His father was about to send His way, which was the very purpose of His visit to the ancient town of Sychar. But the disciples did not understand what Jesus meant as they did not share His burden.
I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.John 4:38
What the disciples did not understand was that they were just small cogs in the Jesus wheel that had countless men before them and countless men after them. It was no coincidence that Jesus was sitting on that well in the midday sun while His disciples all scrambled for food. The disciples were called to harvest the souls that were planted by someone else. Throughout Israel’s history God used countless messengers to steer Israel towards Him. The disciples were only at the final stage of the crop season, whose harvest would arrive after Jesus’s resurrection from the grave.
A Samaritan Town Believes
…leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?”John 4:28-29
Similar in wording but different in spirit was Philip’s testimony about Jesus to Nathanael. The woman was herself not sure about Jesus’s identity and rather than sitting with Jesus and learning more about Him to strengthen her faith, she goes into the town to gather her people. On hearing her testimony, many Samaritans do come to Jesus and believe in His name but her testimony was based on her incomplete faith. However when the people who came through her heard Jesus, their faith was made complete in their acknowledgement of Jesus as the Messiah. We are empty vessels in the hands of our potter and can be used for anything by Him. However just because we have been used to spread the Gospel, or heal someone or even testify about our Savior doesn’t mean that we ourselves are saved as it is not our deeds but only by His Grace that we are saved. Like several people about whom we read in the Bible (Judas, Potiphar, Pilate, Caiaphas to name a few), even if our hearts are away from God, we can still be used to further his plans in someone else’s life.
They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”John 4:42
Quite ironical that the Jews , through whom the salvation was to come rejected the Messiah but the ‘pagan’ Samaritans were the first to proclaim Jesus as the Savior of the world. Jesus revealed His true identity in this Samaritan town, something that He would not do in the Jewish towns. Unlike us, Jesus doesn’t compartmentalize people based on their religion, color, caste or creed. But we create invisible barriers between us and think that it is impossible for a particular group of people to be saved by the blood of Christ. The encounter of Jesus with the Samaritans shows us that salvation is not reserved or even guaranteed to anyone but only depends on Jesus. If Jesus had taken the longer route that day, the town of Sychar would not have been saved.
The Second Sign
After staying two days in Sychar, Jesus left for Galilee. Contrary to Nazareth (Jesus’s hometown), the other towns in the region of Galilee were welcoming to Him as many of them had made the trip with Him to Jerusalem and first hand witnessed all that He had done at the Passover Festival. Jesus revisited Cana, the place where He turned water to wine when a certain royal official heard about it and immediately went to beg for his son.
“Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”John 4:48
Seems weird that Jesus would respond in such a manner to a distraught father’s request to heal his son. The whole crowd at Cana had been following Jesus to see signs and wonders. Even His own disciples depended on these signs and wonders to build their faith rather than understanding His words. The crowds were treating the savior of the world as a magician or the village doctor. The repeated pattern of people asking for signs and not paying heed to His words would have grieved Him.
We don’t know anything about the Royal official, only that he had come to Jesus making a day’s journey just for the sake of his son. Unlike Zacchaeus, he had not come to Jesus to know Him but only for deriving something from Him. Jesus’s retort and refusal to come to His house made a lasting impact on him as after finding out that only the words of Jesus were enough to heal his son, he and his entire family believed. We must ask ourselves, what is our reason to come to Jesus. Is it to derive something from Him, or simply sit at His feet and commune with Him?
- V27: Why were the disciples surprised that Jesus talked to the woman?
- V39: Can we testify about Christ without ourselves believing in Him completely?
- V42: Is it ironical that the Samaritans received salvation before the Jews?
- V48: Why is Jesus responding in such a way to a father’s request?
- Summary: What was Jesus’s expectation from the royal official? What does He expect from us?