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John 4:1-7

[New to our exegesis of John’s Gospel? Try starting at The Beginning — see top menu for John 1:1-2].

 Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, “Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John” —although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized— he left Judea and started back to Galilee. But he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

A Samaritan woman came to draw water.

 Ὡς οὖν ἔγνω ὁ Ἰησοῦς ὅτι ἤκουσαν οἱ Φαρισαῖοι ὅτι Ἰησοῦς πλείονας μαθητὰς ποιεῖ καὶ βαπτίζει ἢ Ἰωάννης— καίτοιγε Ἰησοῦς αὐτὸς οὐκ ἐβάπτιζεν ἀλλ’ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ— ἀφῆκεν τὴν Ἰουδαίαν καὶ ἀπῆλθεν πάλιν εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν. ἔδει δὲ αὐτὸν διέρχεσθαι διὰ τῆς Σαμαρείας. ἔρχεται οὖν εἰς πόλιν τῆς Σαμαρείας λεγομένην Συχὰρ πλησίον τοῦ χωρίου ὃ ἔδωκεν Ἰακὼβ τῷ Ἰωσὴφ τῷ υἱῷ αὐτοῦ· ἦν δὲ ἐκεῖ πηγὴ τοῦ Ἰακώβ. ὁ οὖν Ἰησοῦς κεκοπιακὼς ἐκ τῆς ὁδοιπορίας ἐκαθέζετο οὕτως ἐπὶ τῇ πηγῇ· ὥρα ἦν ὡς ἕκτη.

Ἔρχεται γυνὴ ἐκ τῆς Σαμαρείας ἀντλῆσαι ὕδωρ.


Jesus left Judea, in the south, to go back to Galilee in the north. Perhaps things were heating up in Judea. John the Baptist may have been arrested around this time and Jesus thought it best to go north where the intensity of religion was a bit less vicious. Samaria was sandwiched in the middle of Judea and Galilee, and the Jews and Samaritans were hostile to each other. There were all kinds of historic reasons for this ancient feud that continued to fuel the fires of distrust and animosity. Consequently, any other Jew wouldn’t walk straight through the middle of Samaria but head east to the River Jordan or west to the coast and circumvent the hated Samaritans. Rabbis especially avoided Samaria for purity reasons.

Not Jesus. He crossed over the boundary and headed north as a man on a mission. There is here in verse 4 a fun little word  ἔδει which means of necessity. Translators normally translate this verse as shown above in English — “he had to go” or “he had to pass through.” One might think he had to pass through Samaria to get to Galilee — hence this sentence. However, this lacks the full sense of  ἔδει as used in John’s Gospel. In John, this word always means there exists a divine necessity. The sense here is that Jesus is driven across the border to accomplish a divine purpose. More, that there is an appointment to be kept! He needs to move!

Frankly, I don’t normally live my life that way. I don’t wake up in the morning with a divine sense of necessity. My life, probably like yours, is full of habits and heuristics that tend to order it according to tasks and appointments.

But what if we woke up every morning with a sense of divine necessity?! God has someone for me to meet today of crucial importance; or, God has something for me to do today that is critical to The Mission. How would our lives be different if we had that sense of daily presence? A heightened spiritual direction with a sensitivity to the Spirit’s guidance?

I believe if I were better at this, I would see burning bushes daily, and feel driven to say something or do something I might not have done otherwise.

I want to be better at this!