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John 1:19-4:54, Part 6

by Karl Kemp  
12/04/2012 / Bible Studies

We will finish this verse-by-verse study of John 1:19-4:54 here in Part 6, starting with John 4:24.

(24) God is spirit [[I would translate "God is Spirit" with Beasley-Murray, R. E. Brown, the NAB, the margin of the NASB, the Phillips' translation, and others; the NKJV has, "God is Spirit." (I had a footnote: Some translate "God is [or, is (in italics)] a Spirit," including the KJV, Amplified Bible, and the older (1977) edition of the NASB in the margin.] The NKJV put the verb "is" in italics because the Greek text doesn't have a verb here. The Greek doesn't require a verb here (but a Greek verb often is included in such uses), but the English does require a verb here.

Jesus wasn't equating "God" with the (Holy) Spirit here, though it is true, of course, that the Holy Spirit is the third Person in the Trinity. Believing Israelites in Old Testament days and disciples of Jesus in the days before the new birth/birth from above became available could worship God on one level, but to worship Him on an adequate level requires His worshippers to be on the same wavelength (living in His dimension, having been born of and indwelled by the Holy Spirit). After we are glorified at the end of this age, we will be able to worship Him on the highest level, when we will be fully living in His presence.]], and those who worship Him must worship in spirit ["in the Spirit"; (I put "the" in italics)] and truth [or "and the truth" (I put "the" in italics)].' (25) The woman said to Him, 'I know that Messiah [cf. John 1:41] is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.' [[This woman may have already been considering the possibility that Jesus was the Messiah. When He went on to say that He was the Messiah in the next verse, she clearly believed Him, at least she believed Him at some level (cf. John 4:28-30, 39-42). Her heart was open to Jesus; the Spirit of God had undoubtedly been dealing with her (and with many of the Samaritans).

I'll quote a sentence from what F. F. Bruce says here ("Gospel of John," page 111). "The place occupied in much Jewish expectation by the messiah of David's line was occupied in Samaritan expectation by the great prophet of the future, the one foretold by Moses in Deut. 18:15."]] (26) Jesus said to her, 'I who speak to you am He.' (27) At this point His disciples came [cf. John 4:8], and they were amazed that He had been speaking with a woman [I had a footnote: "The disciples were shocked, not because Jesus was talking with the woman (KJV) - a Samaritan - but with a woman! That is characteristic of attitudes to women reflected in Jewish rabbinical writings. Billerbeck cites, among other extraordinary examples, Abot 2 (1d): 'One should not talk with a woman on the street, not even with his own wife, and certainly not with somebody's else's wife, because of the gossip of men,' and Qidd. 70a: 'It is forbidden to give a woman any greeting' ("Kommentar" 2:438)" (Beasley-Murray, "John," page 62).], yet no one said, 'What do You seek?' or, 'Why do You speak with her?' (28) So the woman left her waterpot [For one thing, she planned to return to Jesus, but her actions show that she was much more concerned with Christ Jesus and with encouraging her neighbors to go to Him than with her waterpot, or with physical water.], and went into the city and said to the men, (29) 'Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done [cf. John 4:17-19]; this is not the Christ, is it?' (30) They went out of the city, and were coming to Him. (31) Meanwhile the disciples [cf., e.g., John 1:35-51; 2:2, 12; 3:22; and 4:2] were urging Him, saying, 'Rabbi [cf., e.g., John 1:38, 49; 3:2, 26; and 6:25], eat.' [This was a reasonable request in that the disciples had just returned after going into the city to buy food (John 4:8).] (32) But He said to them, 'I have food to eat that you do not know about [see verse 34].' (33) So the disciples were saying to one another, 'No one brought Him anything to eat, did he?' [The NRSV translates, "Surely no one has brought him something to eat?"] (34) Jesus said to them, 'My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work. [[Compare, for example, Deut. 8:3; Matt. 4:2-4; John 5:30, 36; 6:38; 8:29; 17:4; and 19:28, 30. Jesus (being a man with a physical body; the God-man) needed to eat physical food to live, but His primary food (that which sustained and satisfied Him in His heart and caused Him to rejoice) was to always do the will of Him who sent Him and to accomplish the work assigned Him. At that moment Jesus was consumed with the response He had just received from the Samaritan woman and with harvesting many Samaritans into God's kingdom. He knew that at that moment many of the Samaritans "were coming to Him" with open hearts (see verse 35).

In that situation, where Jesus had to choose between eating physical food and ministering to lost, hungry, receptive souls, there was no contest - the physical food would have to wait. One primary reason that Jesus spoke these words, along with the words that follow in verses 35-38, was to stir up His disciples to join Him in His excitement and in fulfilling their assigned ministries.]] (35) Do you not say, "There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest"? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white ["ripe" NIV] for harvest. [[Apparently the idea here was that the disciples would have estimated that it would be about four months before the grain in the fields around them would be ready for harvesting/reaping. But Jesus called their attention to the large number of Samaritans who were headed their way and informed His disciples that those fields of men were ripe and ready (and desperately needing) to be harvested/reaped. In that setting Jesus was especially concerned with those particular Samaritans, but there were many other fields of men that were ripe to be harvested into God's kingdom (cf. Matt. 9:37, 38; Luke 10:2).]] (36) Already [[The word already could be included at the end of verse 35 instead at the beginning of verse 36, and I somewhat prefer that other reading. The KJV has, "for they are white already to harvest" at the end of verse 35, and the NKJV has "for they are already white for harvest." Verse 36 would then start with "He." Whether the "already" is taken with the end of verse 35 or the beginning of verse 36, it is clear that Jesus was exhorting His disciples to get ready to harvest/reap now.]] he who reaps is receiving [I would translate "receives" (with the NKJV), instead of "receiving."] wages [[The Greek noun ("misthos") translated wages here could also be translated "reward." These words at the beginning of verse 36 probably included the exhortation that it was necessary for the disciples to get busy doing the harvesting/reaping that they were commissioned to do, so (for one reason) they could receive their wages/reward. It was to be understood, of course, that it was a great privilege to be called to work for God (by His grace) and to "[gather] fruit for eternal life." Besides that, God always takes care of those who faithfully work for Him and meets their needs (including their need for physical food), but the emphasis here is on the spiritual food (blessings, rejoicing, etc.) they receive, like the food Jesus just mentioned in verses 32, 34. It is to be understood, of course, that those who work for God "gathering fruit for eternal life" will inherit eternal life themselves and be rewarded for their faithful labor (cf., e.g., 1 Cor. 3:10-15; 9:17).]] and is gathering fruit [cf. Rom. 1:13] for life eternal [[Those being harvested/reaped were entering into salvation in Christ Jesus, which includes eternal life (cf., e.g., John 3:15, 16, 36; 4:10-14; 5:24; and Rom. 6:22, 23). They were entering the kingdom of God in a preliminary stage. As we have discussed in some detail, the new birth/birth by the Spirit was not available until after Jesus was crucified, resurrected, and ascended, and the fullness of eternal life will not be available until the end of this age, when we will be born into the fullness of eternal life/glorified.]]; so that he who sows ["the sower" NIV; "the one sowing"] and he who reaps ["the reaper" NIV; "the one reaping"] may rejoice together. [Jesus was the one sowing here (cf., e.g., Matt. 13:1-30; Mark 4:1-20); at least He was the primary one sowing (see John 4:38). Those sowing seeds can't rejoice in the fullest sense until after the seeds they have planted bring forth a harvest. The whole purpose of planting seeds and watching over the plants is to bring forth a harvest. Jesus' disciples were commissioned to reap (see verse 38).]] (37) For in this case the saying is true, "One sows and another reaps." [[Jesus sowed; the disciples reaped. It isn't spelled out exactly what the disciples did in their reaping in Samaria, but it undoubtedly included ministering to individuals (as required) and it could have included baptizing in water (cf. John 3:22-26; 4:1, 2). By most definitions of reaping, Jesus did much reaping too.]] (38) I sent you to reap [[Jesus sent these disciples in the sense that He commissioned them to reap, and to do other things. ((I had a footnote: R. C. H. Lenski ("St. John's Gospel," page 337) translates "I myself did commission you to reap...." Apparently Jesus had commissioned His disciples to reap before they came to this city in Samaria (cf. John 3:22-26; 4:1, 2).)) For one thing, the disciples were in school, so to speak; some of them were being prepared for very significant ministries, including the ministry of the twelve apostles and the ministry of the seventy disciples that Jesus sent out to minister (Luke 10:1-20).

Here in John chapter 4 we are reading about things that took place quite early in the ministry of Jesus. Many more disciples would be added, and some "disciples" would stop following Him too, and, significantly, it would be quite a while yet before Jesus would choose the twelve apostles and send them out to minister (Matt. 10:1-42; Mark 3:13-19; and Luke 6:12-16). When the twelve apostles were sent out to minister they did a lot of sowing too, and especially after the crucifixion, resurrection, and Pentecost.]] that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor.' [It would probably be better to translate something like "you have entered into THE BENEFITS OF their labor." (The NEB has, "and you have come in for the harvest of their toil"; the NIV has, "and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.") The point is that after others had done most of the work the disciples had the enviable task of reaping the harvest. In this immediate context those who had labored clearly included Jesus, and it probably included the Samaritan woman, who testified to her countrymen about Jesus. ((I had a footnote: I'll quote a sentence from what F. F. Bruce ("Gospel of John," page 114) says under verses 35-38. "Jesus himself was the sower; now his disciples had an opportunity to share his joy by helping to reap the harvest which had sprung from his conversation with the woman and her witness to the other Samaritans.")) Her testimony played an important role in the conversion of many Samaritans (cf. John 4:28-30, 39-42).

In a fuller sense we could include John the Baptist. In a fuller sense yet we could include Abraham, Jacob, etc., and Moses and the old-covenant prophets. In a fuller sense yet we could include all the righteous people of God who had ever lived, whose input affected the final harvest, very much including all the intercessory prayer. Consider, for example, the parents of John the Baptist, Mary and Joseph, and Simeon and Anna the prophetess, who served night and day with fastings and prayer, who are all mentioned in Luke chapters 1, 2. The triune God (and His grace) was behind all this labor of sowing, and He must receive all the glory, but He has chosen to use His people (including us) in the outworking of His plan of salvation.]] (39) From that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him [We need not (and probably should not) infer that all who "believed in Him" (see verses 39-42) pressed on to become born again/from above Christians (cf., e.g., John 2:23-25; 8:31).] because of the word of the woman who testified, 'He told me all the things that I have done [cf. verses 16-18].' (40) So when the Samaritans came to Jesus, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. (41) Many more believed because of His word; (42) and they were saying to the woman, 'It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.' [Hearing Him (and being in His presence and seeing Him), as He stayed with them for two days, would have greatly increased their knowledge and appreciation of Christ and of God's plan of salvation, which would have enhanced their faith.] (43) After the two days [cf. John 4:40] He went forth from there into Galilee [cf. John 4:1-4]. (44) For Jesus Himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country [cf. Matt. 13:57; Mark 6:4; and Luke 4:24]. (45) So when He came to Galilee, the Galileans received Him, having seen all the things that He did in Jerusalem at the feast; for they themselves also went to the feast. [[Apparently the idea here in verses 43-45 is that (one reason) Jesus manifested Himself with miracles, etc. in Jerusalem at the Passover feast (John 2:13-3:2) BEFORE going to His own country (Galilee) to minister was because He knew that He wouldn't be received as a prophet (and more than a prophet) in Galilee if they had not "seen all the things He did in Jerusalem at the feast; for they [the Galileans] also went to the feast." ((I had a lengthy footnote that goes on for three paragraphs: I'll quote part of what F. Godet ("Gospel of John," page 443) says here. "Meyer seems to us quite near the truth, when he explains: Jesus, knowing well that a prophet is not honored in his own country, began by making Himself honored outside of it, at Jerusalem (ver. 45); and thus it was that He returned to Galilee with a reputation as a prophet, which opened for Him access to the hearts in His own country. Reuss is disposed to hold the same relation of thought: 'In order to be received in Galilee, He had been obliged first to make Himself acknowledged outside of it.'

The complete explanation of this obscure passage follows, as in so many cases, from the relation of the fourth Gospel to the Synoptics [the Synoptic Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke]. The latter make the Galilean ministry begin immediately after [Christ's] baptism. But John reminds us here, at the time of Jesus' settlement in Galilee, that Jesus had followed a course quite different from that which the earlier narratives seemed to attribute to Him. [Matthew, Mark, and Luke skipped mentioning Jesus' early ministry in Jerusalem and Judea, leaving a wrong impression and an incomplete picture. No historical account includes all the details. Thank God for giving us the Gospel of John too! We need all four Gospels! For another very important example of where John addresses a wrong impression left by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, see the introduction to John chapters 13-17 in my paper on those chapters on my internet site.] The Lord knew that the place where a prophet has lived is the one where, as a rule, he has most difficulty in finding recognition. [More importantly, Jesus was undoubtedly led by the Father to conduct His ministry as He did.] He began, therefore, by working for quite a long time...and it was only after this that He came in the strict sense to begin His ministry in Galilee, that ministry with which the narrative of the other Gospels opens. The meaning, therefore, is: It was then, and only then (not immediately after the [His] baptism [and forty day temptation in the wilderness]), that He commenced the Galilean work with which every one is acquainted [through the Synoptic Gospels]. ...."

I'll also quote part of what R. C. H. Lenski ("St. John's Gospel," pages 345, 346) says here. "Since a prophet is not esteemed in his own land, Jesus now, after winning his esteem in another land, comes back to his own and finds that esteem awaiting him. ... In a simple way John thus again supplements the synoptists. They skip the eight to nine months of Jesus' work in Judea, taking us at once from the baptism and the temptation of Jesus into his Galilean work (Matt. 4:12 [with 3:13-4:11]; Mark 1:14 [with 1:9-13]; Luke 4:14 [with 3:21, 22; 4:1-13]). John reports that all these important months, spent in Judea, intervened. ....")) Most of the people of His hometown (Nazareth) rejected Him anyway (cf. Matt. 13:53-58; Mark 6:1-6; and especially Luke 4:14-30).]] (46) Therefore [or "Then"] He came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine [cf. John 2:1-11]. And there was a royal official whose son was sick at Capernaum. [On Capernaum, compare John 2:12; Luke 4:23. This royal official was living at Capernaum; he was undoubtedly under Herod Antipas (a son of Herod the Great), who was the tetrarch over Galilee and Perea from 4 BC to AD 39.] (47) When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee [cf. John 4:3, 4, 43-45], he went to Him [at Cana] and was imploring Him to come down [to Capernaum. Capernaum was on the northwestern edge of the Sea of Galilee, which was about 700 feet below sea level.] and heal his son; for he was at the point of death. [This "royal official" had been in Jerusalem when Jesus worked His miracles there (cf. John 2:23; 3:2; 4:45) or had at least learned of those miracles.] (48) So Jesus said to him, 'Unless you people [[The "you" is plural in the Greek; the word "people" is in italics in the NASB; apparently Jesus intended these words for the Jews in general. It seems rather clear that this royal official was a Jew (cf. Matt. 12:38-45; John 2:18; 6:30, 31; and 1 Cor. 1:22). There were many exceptions to this general statement, and this royal official was (at least to some extent) one of those exceptions. Verse 50 informs us that he believed the word that Jesus told him, that He had already healed his son, and verse 53 indicates that he (along with his household) became a believer.]] see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.' [[And, more importantly, their believing (faith), like the Gentiles, was often extremely shallow and superficial - many who "believed" weren't true believers and didn't become His disciples (cf. John 2:23-25; 8:31, 32; and the parable of the Sower in Matt. 13:1-23; Mark 4:1-25). Many such "believers" were quick to abandon Christ. True believers/disciples have a heart devoted to God the Father, to His Son, and to His word. Acceptable believing (saving faith) includes making Christ (and God the Father) and His word top priority (making Him Lord), trusting Him, and obeying Him (by His grace). Being a believer means a whole lot more than giving mental assent to correct doctrine or having an emotional experience.

To believe that God exists isn't nearly enough to constitute a person a believer or a disciple; the demons believe He exists (cf. James 2:19). Nor is it adequate to believe based only on signs and wonders. For one thing, the devil and his followers can (to the extent God permits) work signs and wonders too (cf., e.g., Matt. 24:24; 2 Thess. 2:8-12; and Rev. 13:13-15). One reason God gives signs is to point people to spiritual reality, to the fact that Jesus is the Christ, for example, but many don't see the miracle(s) as signs (cf., e.g., John 6:26).

It is interesting to note that John did not mention any signs and wonders taking place in Samaria (John 4:4-42), except for the fact that Jesus revealed supernatural knowledge to the Samaritan woman regarding her past life. John 4:41, 42 say, "many more [Samaritans] believed in Him because of His word; and they were saying to the woman, 'It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.' "

This royal official had too much confidence in Jesus and was far too motivated by his son's need for healing to be put off by these words of Jesus that were something less than encouraging (cf., e.g., Matt. 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30). Jesus dealt with this man in a way that led him and his household to become true believers (verse 53).]] (49) The royal official said to Him, 'Sir, come down before my child dies.' (50) Jesus said to him, 'Go; your son lives.' The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started off. [[The fact that the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him showed that his faith in Christ was beyond the superficial; for one thing, he believed that his son had been healed before he was informed (the following day) by his slaves/servants that his son had been healed (cf. Matt. 8:5-13).]] (51) As he was now going down [to Capernaum], his slaves ["servants" NIV] met him, saying that his son was living. (52) So he inquired of them the hour when he began to get better. Then they said to him, 'Yesterday at the seventh hour [[In the margin the NASB says, "Perhaps 7 p.m. Roman time or 1 p.m. Jewish time." ((I had a footnote: See under John 1:39; 4:6 in this paper. I prefer 7 p.m. (the seventh hour after noon). If it had been 1 p.m. it is much more likely that the man would have gone back home the day that Jesus told him that his son "lives" (Note that his slaves informed the royal official that his son began to get better "yesterday at the seventh hour"); he certainly would have been motivated to get home as soon as possible. I'll quote part of what William Hendricksen ("Gospel of John," page 183) says here. "... Although the distance between Cana and Capernaum is only sixteen miles [I have also seen 18 miles, 20 miles, and a few other numbers], much of this is hilly country, so that not much less than seven hours is required to cover it." Apparently Hendricksen was assuming that this man was walking; he could have been riding a horse, etc. It is quite possible that the man didn't want to travel after dark so he waited until the next morning to start the trip.))]] the fever left him.' (53) So the father knew that it was at that hour in which Jesus said to him, 'Your son lives'; and he himself believed and his whole household [cf. Acts 10:2; 11:14; 16:15, 31-34]. [As I mentioned, I believe we are to understand that this man's faith (and the faith of at least some of the people in his whole household) was beyond the superficial - he probably pressed on to become a born-again/from above disciple of Christ.] (54) This is again a second sign that Jesus performed when He had come out of Judea into Galilee. [[The first sign that Jesus performed was when He turned the water into wine at the wedding in Cana of Galilee (John 2:1-11). John emphasized the point that these two miracles were the only ones that Jesus had worked in Galilee up until that time, which is tied (to some extent at least) to his correcting the wrong impression left by the Synoptic Gospels regarding the early months of Jesus' ministry after He was baptized in water, received the Spirit, and was "led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil" (Matt. 4:1). (See under John 4:45, including the footnote.)]]

May God's will be fully accomplished through this paper and His people be edified!

Copyright by Karl Kemp Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.

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