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John 4:1-45 Study Guide: Living Water

Community Group Study Guide — Living Water - John 4 Parts 1 and 2
John 4:1-45

Main idea: Jesus is a gift from God as living water for eternal life. In our passage he offers relationship with the woman at the well, who represents someone the culture would have viewed as undeserving. Her response to the gospel not only changes her life but also brings the town to a place of believing in Jesus. 

Study Information:
This passage is filed with a lot of tension. 

There was religious tension as Jesus left the region around the Jordan River to make way for Galilee because of pressure from the Pharisees. But that leads to ethnic tension as Jesus chooses to go through the region of Samaria instead of going around it like most Jews would have done. The Samaritans were ethnically part Jewish and part a mixture of other Ancient Near Eastern nations. They were formed as a result of intermarriage after Assyria conquered Northern Israel a resettled other people groups in the land. For this reason they were hated by the Jews because of their jumbled religion that incorporated pagan practices and Jewish practices. 

There was also cultural tension as Jesus talked to a woman who was out during midday. Her time at the well was likely because she was shunned by others in the town and as she tells Jesus, “Jews have no dealings with Samaritans” and as Jesus’ disciples commented “why are you talking with a woman?” This was not because women are not worthy to talk with Jesus, but their cultural moment saw women as less important than men and this kind of conversation as inappropriate. Notice how Jesus does not care about the cultural norm. 

Finally, there was moral tension as Jesus addressed one of the big issues in this woman’s life (John 4:16-18). There were two ways to look at Jesus comment about her having five husbands and the man she was with was not her husband. First she could have been a sexually promiscuous person who went from relationship to relationship looking for satisfaction and value. But, another way to view this is she is also a victim of her cultural moment. A single woman did not fare well in the ancient world, so to survive she’d have to attach herself to a man and if that man was done with her she’d need to find another one for security. We should not be too quick to place all the blame on the woman at the well, there could be extenuating factors and a mixture of personal sin and being a victim of the brokenness of the world. Regardless though, Jesus addresses this issue in her life and the tension leads her to change the subject. 

How does Jesus cut through all this tension? Jesus offered her relationship and in the most non-arrogant fashion possible, he told her that he is a gift from God to the world. Jesus is living water and the path back to life with God. This woman has been going to the physical well everyday to draw out water to keep her life going and Jesus use that image to point to himself. Her deepest need was eternal life and Jesus as the living water and gift from God offers her that very thing (John 4:10-14). Notice that Jesus offers her relationship before targeting any sin issues or theological questions. In turn she comes to recognize him as the Messiah, Jesus himself affirming that very identity, which was something he did not do often in the gospels, and she left changed. The woman at the well ends up telling her story to the town and many come to believe in Jesus and as Jesus stayed with the town, many more believed because of his own witness. 

The disciples came back and were shocked and Jesus used that moment to talk about his mission. The fields are ready for harvest and this woman is an example to them not only of someone who was spiritually ready to believe and be changed, but also as someone who was sent out as a witness to Jesus (John 4:31-42). 
The story of the woman at the well is surprising and reminds us that Jesus offers relationship before we deserve it and that he can change the heart of anyone and will use his people for mission. 

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:

How is the “woman at the well” different from Nicodemus (John 3)? Who has the more immediate spiritual response? How do their substantial differences communicate to us something about the variety of people who respond to the gospel?

What does Jesus offer her and why does he describe it as the “gift of God?”

Why does the woman at the well “change the subject” and what do we learn when she asks Jesus about worship? 

Jesus told his disciples of the urgency of mission through the image of harvest. How does the woman at the well illustrate the point Jesus was trying to make? What can we learn about sharing the gospel from her example?

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