Sermon Manuscript: John 4:1-19: The Woman of Samaria (Part 2)

Have you ever wondered why it is that Pastors can be preaching on the same text of scripture and yet their sermons sound very different? I suppose sometimes it is because one Pastor is right and the other wrong – that certainly must be the case if they are contradicting one another. But more often than not it is simply this: though every passage of scripture has only one meaning (the author certainly only had one thing in mind when he wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit), there are a number of legitimate ways to present that one meaning to a congregation in the form of a sermon. The job of every Pastor is to take the singular and unchanging truth contained within Holy Scripture and to teach it to their congregation in a way that is understandable and applicable to their lives.

I mention that because even I, though I am only one Pastor, and not two, am sometimes indecisive when it comes to the best way to teach on a particular passage of scripture.

If you remember, last week I told you that we would deal with the story of the Samaritan woman in two parts, each part containing three points. But upon sitting down to write the second sermon, a seventh point emerged. This seventh point was to be a sub-point under the fourth according to my original plan, but as I was writing this point grew and grew until it became apparent that it would require a sermon of it’s own.

So now we have a three part series on the woman of Samaria – three points were delivered last week; one point this week; and (Lord willing) another three points next week.

Reading of God’s Word

Let’s give ourselves to the reading of God’s most holy word beginning, as we did last week, in John 4:1. We will read through verse 19.

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour [noon].

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “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.” 

The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” 

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet…” (John 4:1-19, ESV)


So we have seven points spread out over three sermons, as I said. The important thing to remember is that these seven points have to do with seven themes that have already been introduced in John chapters 1-3 which are picked up and beautifully illustrated in the story of Jesus’ interaction with the woman of Samaria.

The first three were these: 1) Jesus is the Savior of the World, 2) Jesus Offers Living Water, and 3) Jesus Shines Light in the Darkness. These themes have already been introduced by John in chapters 1-3, here we see them in action in the life of Christ.

IV. Jesus Speaks With Divine Authority

The forth point (which is the one that rose from a place of sub-point-obscurity to sermon-worthy-prominence) is that Jesus is one who speaks with divine authority.

You might assume that the reason I missed this point in my original planning is because it is a minor point – one easily overlooked due to it’s unimportance. But actually I think the opposite is true. The reason I missed this emphasis of Jesus as one who speaks with divine authority is because it is a concept that is central to the story in a pervasive sort of way. In other words, I think it was a classic example of not seeing the forest for the trees. I was focused upon the details so much so that I am missed this general, but very important principle, that, because Jesus speaks with divine authority he is to be listened to; his words are to be taken seriously. We are to look to Christ for the answerers to life’s most important questions.

The Conversation Between Jesus and the Women Progresses

That principle is indeed at the heart of this story.

Remember that there is a progression to the conversation between Jesus and the woman of Samaria. She seemed, at first, to be rather hard towards Jesus. She misunderstood him again and again, taking him to be speaking of earthly things instead of spiritual things. But remember that Jesus broke through her hardness. He shocked her by revealing something significant about her past. He confronted her concerning her sin and her worldly ways, things that he could not know unless he were something other than an ordinary man. He broke through and opened her eyes.

I think it is interesting to note that Jesus did the same sort of thing when he called Nathaniel, the brother of Philip, to be one of disciples. John 1:47-48:

“Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!’ Nathanael said to him, ‘How do you know me?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’” (John 1:47–48, ESV)

And so evidently Jesus  had a habit of doing this sort of thing. He would reveal something, or do some miraculous work, in order to open the eyes and to soften hard and skeptical hearts.

Both Nathaniel and the woman at the well stood before Jesus skeptical at first, but both experienced a transformation – a change of mind and heart. And what did they both come to confess? The came to see Jesus as one who spoke with divine authority.

Nathaniel would eventually confess,“Rabbi [teacher], you are the Son of God [the one who has come from God]! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:49, ESV)

The woman, similarly, would came to confess, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet…” (John 4:19, ESV)

And that is the one verse that I would like to focus upon today. Verse 19: “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.”

Notice a few things about verse 19:

  1. First of all, notice that this confession is situated in the middle of this story – it is at the heart of it. It is the turning point in the narrative. It is the axis upon which the story turns from from negative and dark, to positive and bright. That seems to me to be significant.
  2. Notice that, although this was a good confession – for Jesus was indeed a prophet –  it was still an inadequate confession – for Jesus was more than a prophet. As the story progresses, Jesus will move the woman (and those from her town) to confess something even greater than this – namely, that Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior of the world.
  3. Though this was an inadequate and incomplete confession, this woman was certainly on the right track! She had come to recognize that Jesus was to be taken seriously; that his words carried weight; that he spoke with divine authority.  His words were indeed the words of God, and not of man.

The thing to be recognized is that this is a key and essential step in the process of coming to faith in Christ. To come to Christ, and to follow him really and truly, involves coming to him, believing that he is truth – that his words are true – that they are authoritative.


The reason I decided to devote an entire sermon to verse 19 is not because it is a difficult verse to understand or explain, but because the subject of authority is of great importance.

May I suggest to you that of all the questions a person must ask when deciding what to believe about God and about themselves and the world around them, the most fundamental question has to do with authority.

What I mean is this: a person cannot really begin to answer the question, what is truth? without first looking to someone or something as the final authority for truth? 

In other words, when a person sets out to think rightly about themselves and the world around them they must first decide where they are going to look, ultimately and finally, to find the answers to life’s most significant questions.

In reality many people live their entire lives believing certain things to be true without ever asking themselves the more fundamental question, have I looked in the right place for the answers? They assume that they have looked in the right place and, therefore, never question if what they believe is in fact correct. They assume that they have the question of authority correct, and therefore assume that the worldview that flows from that authority – whatever it may be – is also correct.

So, to what, or to whom, do people look as their final authority for truth these days?

Many look within, thinking that the answers to life will be found in their hearts, if you will. They rely upon emotions or feelings or instinct. Others look to, what we might call, the law of love, as their final authority. Whatever they perceive to be most loving they deem as true. Some look to the church – maybe it is the Roman church, or the Eastern Church, or some other religious entity or cult personality – many look there and say, that is the final authority – what he says, or what they say goes. Some look ultimately to science (which is most strange, given that science is supposed to be concerned with the unbiased observation of the natural world, and not with answering the philosophical questions of life); but many claim to place their ultimate trust in what they call science. Others trust supremely in human reason – their mind is the ultimate authority – they will only believe in what makes sense to them. Still others look to their parents or to cultural norms. The point is that people look to all kinds of people or things for the answers to life’s most significant questions.

Have you ever wondered how it is that people see the world so differently from the way that you see it? How can it be that people living in the same world can come to such different conclusion about life’s biggest questions: Is there a God? If so, what is he like? Can he be approached? Can he be known? If so, how are we to approach him? What is this world for? What is It’s end? Who are we? Why do we exist? What are we capable (or incapable) of? What is our end? Why is there evil in this world? Why is there suffering? What task should we devote ourselves to while on this earth? These are the kinds of questions that we wrestle with as human beings. But have you noticed that people come to very different conclusions when considering these questions?

Why? Why do people come to such different conclusions concerning these things? At the heart of it is the issue of authority. People come to different conclusions about the world in which we live because they are looking to different things as their final authority for truth.

The Christian perspective is that, while the things mentioned above (reason and science and the church, for example, as well as many other things) may serve as conduits for some truth, they cannot serve as the final authority for truth for at least two reasons: One, these things are, in and of themselves, limited in what they can reveal. Science, for example, while it is capable of answering questions about how the world works, is wholly incapable of answering questions about God and morality and the meaning of life. The church, similarly, though is called to testify to the truth cannot function as the final authority given it’s limitations. The church must be dependent upon and in submission to a greater authority, namely, God. These things are simply not capable to standing up under the weight of final authority. And two, we should not forget that these things have been, in one way or another, corrupted by the fall and are therefore, distorted in what they reveal. Maybe a better way of saying this is that we have been corrupted by the fall and are therefore incapable of interpreting these sources of truth without distortion, even if they remain relatively pure. It would be nice if we could simply look inward to find what it is true. The problem is that our hearts are far from pure.

The Christian is unique in this: We look to God as our final authority for truth. We confess that the final authority for truth will not be found in this world  – not in the stars, not in the dirt, not in the human mind, not in the human heart. If we are to know the truth concerning the biggest questions of life it must be revealed from above.

More specifically, we look to God who has revealed himself in human history. He walked with Adam and Eve in the garden and made himself known. He spoke appeared to the Patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He revealed himself to Moses in the form of a burning bush, and Moses wrote scripture, as did others like David and Isaiah, and Amos. God is our authority for truth. And he a God who has revealed himself to man in a variety of ways.

Most supremely, God has revealed himself to us through his Son – the eternal word of God – God incarnate – God come in the flesh. Christ Jesus was the pinnacle of God’s revelation to man.

This is what Hebrews 1:1-2 says so beautifully: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” (Hebrews 1:1–2, ESV)

So here is the thing that distinguished the Christian from all others: it is our view concerning final authority. God is our final authority. He has revealed himself through the prophets, and most supremely, through his Son. And we look now to the Holy Scriptures as a inspired and authoritative, without error.

It is significant that our Confession of Faith begins with this. Chapter 1, Para 1 of the London Baptist Confession reads,

“The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience, although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God and his will which is necessary unto salvation. Therefore it pleased the Lord at sundry times and in divers manners to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his church; and afterward for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan, and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the Holy Scriptures to be most necessary, those former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.”

This is the Christian view. We look to God. We look to the variety of ways in which God has spoken in ages past. We look to Christ, the Son of God. We look to the Holy Scriptures as authoritative.

You might be thinking to yourself, then why do Christians disagree on so many things?

  1. Some openly confess that scripture and some other thing serves as final authority. I of the Roman Catholic Church at this point. They too claim to have God as final authority. They too claim to believe the Bible. But they set the tradition of the church on par with that of the Word as final authority. There you will find the source of all of the differences.
  2. Some Christians only give lip service to Christ and his Word as being final authority. They say, I believe the Bible! But in fact they give more weight to human reason or to feelings or to some other thing. 
  3. Some Christians look to the Bible but interpret it poorly. Their principles of interpretation are flawed. They do not take into consideration the whole history of redemption or the literary genre of certain texts. They fail to allow the clear portions of scripture help within interpreting the more difficult portions, and so on. 
  4. Some Christians look to Bible, but only to a limited part of it. They fail to take the whole of scripture into consideration when searching for answers.

I think there is a beautiful example of that very thing here in the story of the Samaritan woman.  

Do you remember last week when I mentioned two differences that existed between the Jews and the Samaritans in terms of their beliefs? First of all, the Samaritans believed that the proper place for the worship of YHWH was on Mt. Gerizim. The Jews believed it was Jerusalem. You might be thinking to yourself, how could these people believe in the same God, and share a common history, and yet come to such diverse opinions on the matter of the proper place for worship?

The answer has to do with the second difference between the Samaritans  and the Jews. The Samaritans  only accepted as authoritative the first five books of the Old Testament – Genesis through Deuteronomy. In other words they rejected the historical books, the Psalms and the Proverbs, and all of the Prophets after Moses. The Jews accepted the same Old Testament that we have today – Genesis through Malachi.

Notice this: It was because the Samaritans only accepted the fist five books of the Old Testament as authoritative that they believed that the proper place of worship was on Mt. Gerizim. Specific instructions for the construction of the Temple in Jerusalem came some 500 years after the days of Moses and after the writing of the Pentateuch. If you were to reject all of the books after Deuteronomy, as the Samaritans did, then you would naturally reject Jerusalem as the proper place of worship. What I am saying is that it was the Samaritan’s view of scripture – it was their decisions concerning final authority – which influenced to their understanding of the proper worship of God.

I say all of this for two reasons:

First of all, the Gospel of John has honed in upon this again and again – Jesus is truth. He is the eternal Word of God. He is the pinnacle of God’s revelation to man. No one can reveal the Father like the Son. We must look to Jesus if we are to lay ahold of the truth.

The second reason I emphasized the issue of authority is to say that this woman was on the right track at this point in the conversation with Jesus. Differences remain – questions remain – questions that need to be addressed before this woman will make a full and adequate confession of faith – but she is on the right track  when she says, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet…” She was looking in the right place for her authority of truth. It would not be long before her confession of faith would be full and true.


I would like to make application in two ways. First of all, to you as an individual.  Secondly, to us as a church.


Are you looking to God and his revealed word as the final authority?

Will we give ourselves to the proclamation of God word in a way that is real and true?


Wonderful things will happen in this story with the woman at the well and many from her home town, but at the heart of it is this – they perceived that Jesus was a prophet – that he spoke with divine authority – he reveled truth, not of this earth, but from above.

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warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom,
that we may present everyone mature in Christ."
(Colossians 1:28, ESV)

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