Red Letter Year: 10/11

John 4.39-54

39 Many Samaritans from the village trusted Jesus because the woman had said, “He told me everything I ever did!” 40 When they came out to see him, they begged him to stay in their village. So he stayed for two days, 41 long enough for many more to hear his message and believe. 42 Then they said to the woman, “Now we trust, not just because of what you told us, but because we have heard him ourselves. Now we know that he is indeed the Savior of the world.”

43 At the end of the two days, Jesus went on to Galilee. 44 He himself had said that a prophet is not honored in his own hometown. 45 Yet the Galileans welcomed him, for they had been in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration and had seen everything he did there.

46 As he traveled through Galilee, he came to Cana, where he had turned the water into wine. There was a government official in nearby Capernaum whose son was very sick. 47 When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged Jesus to come to Capernaum to heal his son, who was about to die.

48 Jesus asked, “Will you never trust me unless you see miraculous signs and wonders?”

49 The official pleaded, “Lord, please come now before my little boy dies.”

50 Then Jesus told him, “Go back home. Your son will live!” And the man trusted what Jesus said and started home.

51 While the man was on his way, some of his servants met him with the news that his son was alive and well. 52 He asked them when the boy had begun to get better, and they replied, “Yesterday afternoon at one o’clock his fever suddenly disappeared!” 53 Then the father realized that that was the very time Jesus had told him, “Your son will live.” And he and his entire household trusted Jesus. 54 This was the second miraculous sign Jesus did in Galilee after coming from Judea.


The first thing to note today is that the work of the first Gospel preacher, the Samaritan woman, finds completion because it brings people to Jesus himself and their initial trust in what she was telling them transformed into direct trust of Jesus. This is always the way it works. People come to faith because they trust someone who leads them and then that trust is transferred to the source of the message , the Word Himself, where trust properly belongs. Every good preacher of the Gospel works toward getting out of the way (those who never get out of the way aren’t preaching the Gospel, instead they are eliciting dangerous pastor-worship).

Next, John points out that while Jesus was rejected both in Galilee and Jerusalem (as the other three Gospels point out), this was by no means a wholesale rejection. We should know this from the crowds that followed Jesus around, but John saw the need to make this explicit. Luke had already worked to paint the crowd in a better light than in Mark and Matthew. John goes one step further in stating it directly. He will bring this theme back toward the rejection Mark and Matthew focus on later in the Gospel.

Then we have the story of Jesus healing a boy, what John calls the “second sign” Jesus gave, even though John alludes to more miraculous activity happening in Jerusalem. We should not think of “second” meaning only the second miracle to happen, rather this is the second one John wants us to focus on (much like how I wrap up a 75 minute lecture by recapping the “big ideas” – that doesn’t mean the rest was unimportant – i.e., it’s all testable – but here are the handful of points to organize your thought around). We will need to keep a mental collection of these signs as we go, since John wants us to organize our thought around them, (and yes, the number of things we’re carrying through John is getting large).

So why is this an organizing thought for John? What is Jesus affirming here? I think one relates to the father’s position – he is a government official. After reading Luke, we might expect Jesus to be so about kingdom reversal that secular power brokers like this guy get shut out from benefiting from kingdom works like healing power. That is not the case because God does not have enmity toward the world (not even its power brokers), it is they who hate God. Never the other way around. Never. The love and compassion of God are for all who will receive, all who will ask for it.

At the same time, the kingdom power is not for folks hung up on signs and wonders. In both signs so far (the wine to water was the first), Jesus expressed a reticence to perform the miracle and a distrust of signs for the sake of signs. Jesus doesn’t trust those who run after signs, wonders, and feel good experiences for their own sake because such quests have little to do with trusting Jesus.

But when the man asks a second time and focuses on the need (not the sign), Jesus responds. And note how he responds. Jesus doesn’t go to the boy, doesn’t touch the body, no fancy show. Jesus speaks and his word brings life. This exemplifies the first thing John told us – Jesus is the Word of God – the One who brings us to life.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The First Gospel Preacher: The Samaritan Woman at the Well (Red Letter Year: 10/10)

John 4.27-38

27 Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked to find him talking to a woman, but none of them had the nerve to ask, “What do you want with her?” or “Why are you talking to her?” 28 The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, 29 “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?” 30 So the people came streaming from the village to see him.

31 Meanwhile, the disciples were urging Jesus, “Rabbi, eat something.”

32 But Jesus replied, “I have a kind of food you know nothing about.”

33 “Did someone bring him food while we were gone?” the disciples asked each other.

34 Then Jesus explained: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work. 35 You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest. 36 The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike! 37 You know the saying, ‘One plants and another harvests.’ And it’s true. 38 I sent you to harvest where you didn’t plant; others had already done the work, and now you will get to gather the harvest.”


I wrote yesterday about this woman’s marignal status (three times over), so there is no need to do more than mention the disciples’ confirmation of that with the questions they didn’t have the nerve to ask Jesus. John includes everything except the “Eww” and wrinkled up noses that so readily complete this picture.

The woman leaves her jar (indicating she is coming back), runs into town, hurtles her marginalized barrier, and preaches the very first Gospel sermon. Ever. That’s right, the first Christian sermon was preached by a woman, an ethnic minority, and a person cohabitating outside marriage (after being married five times). Think about all the restrictions placed around preaching ministry these days and let this fact sink in. And she doesn’t just preach, her sermon leads to the conversion of her entire town. So she gets to claim the first Christian revival too.

Since she was such an effective preacher, we should see what we can learn from her homelitic technique. Her sermon was invitational (Come and see), affirmed the humanity of Jesus, personal, self-critical, and also affirmed the divine power of Jesus (who told me everything I ever did). She brought her hearers to a moment of decision while also being engagingly honest about her own doubts (You don’t think this could be the Messiah, do you?). Her sermon was full of energy, Christ-centered, and (this is important) brief. She was a very good, very effective preacher.

In preaching the Gospel, this woman brought about what Jesus had just told her could happen. She received the living water Jesus offered her and then immediately she became a well, gushing the living water of Jesus onto everyone in her reach. Jesus reminded his disciples of an old proverb about waiting for the crops to come in – and then shows them that common wisdom does not apply here. Now the sower and the reaper get to celebrate together at the same time. The sower in this analogy is Jesus. The reaper is the Samaritan woman – the first person to partner with Jesus to do the work of the kingdom. The first one to experience the joy of the harvester, the joy of the preacher who delivers God’s word to those thirsty for it, those ready to be harvested. We should all aspire to be preachers like this woman.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.