John 4:1-44

May 29, 2017

John 4.1-44.pdf

This post is deliberately set, all on one page, to enable the viewer to get the full picture. The details are readily viewable by magnifying the text of the pdf file (hyperlink above). There are many things that could be said, but I will make just a few notes to highlight a few points. First, the intricacy of the overall structure is a credit to the genius of St. John the Theologian. Count them - there are numerous levels of structure all in the same amazing text. It is a wonder as to how John, the fisherman from Galilee who is said to be unschooled, was able to compose this text - indeed the entire gospel. (Peter Ellis’ commentary, “The Genius of John” is aptly named.) Yet we need to take note, as the rulers and elders did in Acts 4, that John had been with Jesus. Glory to Jesus Christ!

The structure highlights how Jesus is asking and answering questions. In 4:11-12, the Samaritan Woman (“Photini” as she was known in church tradition) asks a few questions and these are answered in turn by Jesus with his own spin. One minor observation can be noted in 4:11. Here the woman says, “Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep.” Her following question should be translated, “How (not ‘where’ as in the English translations) then do you get that living water?”  Jesus understands her reference as to drawing the water and so he answers that his water will be a fountain springing up into eternal life. There is no need to come draw this water. If she had asked ‘where’ to get the water then Jesus ignored her question - but he didn’t ignore her and actually answered her quite well (pun intended;>)

The main text of the second half is interpretively outlined to highlight the ideas of sowing and reaping that Jesus explicitly teaches his disciples toward the center of that passage. I don’t believe it is “over interpreting” to see the implicit progression toward and away from his explicit teaching. Just for interest and because it happens to fit the theme, I added also the concept of “after-ripening.” This a botanical term for the period, after sowing, during which changes occur in a dormant seed to ensure germination.  In this case, on two occasions, some of the men of the city made an initial response that fell short of actual belief (that might coincide, botanically, with the entire life of the plant from germination to reaping). The men do, in fact, then believe (as outlined in the following respective “reaping” sections). I hope then that the outline reflects at least the basic intent of John’s rhetorical design in that regard.


Lastly, the structure helps the reader to focus on the (Messianic) food and drink that Jesus, the Christ, offers - not only to the Samaritans, but to all who believe (hopefully including us, the readers). Do spend a generous amount of time “digesting” this section of John 4 for at least your own spiritual nourishment if not others also.