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A Tale of Two Encounters


John 4:21–26

21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

This encounter described here in chapter 4 of John’s gospel is a wonderful depiction of the life and ministry of Jesus. It simply occurs in the regular day to day life of Jesus. In his ministry, led by the Spirit, these common moments like stopping for water on the journey home become moments of divine inspiration that change a woman, an entire community, and centuries of Jesus followers who still read of this event today.

It is likely that John is contrasting this event (the Samaritan woman at the well) with Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in chapter 3.

Both of these conversations touch on the themes of water and spirit. John 3:5-8

5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

The scene of Jesus’ interaction with the woman here is at a well. In the back and forth of their conversation Jesus says to her in v. 10 “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” John 4:10

The conversation with Nicodemus revolves around being born again of the Spirit and the conversation with the woman at the well revolves around worshipping God in spirit.

Although the themes are similar these two characters could not have been more different. NT scholar DA Carson writes in his commentary on John, “[Nicodemus] was learned, powerful, respected, orthodox, theologically trained; she was unschooled, without influence, despised, capable only of folk religion. He was a man, a Jew, a ruler; she was a woman, a Samaritan, a moral outcast. And both needed Jesus.” These two stories represented Jesus interactions with very different people. The simple fact that Jesus interacted with such a vastly different audience represents a vitally important part of Jesus’ ministry—this new life that Jesus was bringing, this new way of being human, the kingdom of God was not just to be for one group of people, it was to be for everyone without distinction.


Are there any categories or groups of people that you tend to overlook the most basic truth that they need Jesus?Is there a political party or ideology or a person that has a certain characteristic or ways of thinking to you find detestable. We would do well to remember the words of Paul that Jesus came to save sinners of which I am the worst.

Additional Content

Jesus Offers Living Water and…Marriage? – Bible Project Blog Post