Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John — although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.
Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
John has a beautiful way of teaching us who Jesus is by describing his encounters with people like John the Baptist and Nicodemus. In this chapter, Jesus meets a Samaritan woman by a well, and as it is a story packed with lessons, we will study it a few verses at a time, although I suggest you read the entire story from verses 1-42 to have the full context.
Jesus has been gaining followers in Judea, which begin to alarm the Jewish leaders who see in him a threat to their power. As things become increasingly dangerous for Jesus, he decides to return to his native Galilee because his time for a confrontation with them has not yet come. He chooses to travel via Samaria, the fastest way back. Most people took this route, one of three available, except for the strictest Jews who wanted to avoid ceremonial uncleanness by contact with Samaritans. We will discover the reasons for this soon.
Scripture says Jesus "had to" take this route, suggesting there was a divine reason for it. He came to Jacob's well in a town called Sychar. Jacob's well still exists there. Though the Bible doesn't tell of its construction, it was doubtless dug on the land Jacob purchased from the ruler of that area (Genesis 33:18-20). John then speaks about how Jesus was tired from his journey, so he sat down by the well.
John tries to show Jesus' weariness and vulnerability. This glimpse into his human experience reminds us that Jesus, in his earthly ministry, experienced physical fatigue, just like any human being. He also experienced other emotions. In John 11:35, Jesus weeps at the death of his friend Lazarus, displaying his deep sorrow. In Matthew 9:36, Jesus is moved with compassion for the crowds, highlighting his empathy and concern for people's needs.
In Matthew 4:2, we learn that Jesus experienced hunger during his forty-day fast in the wilderness and then faced great temptation (4:3-11). In Mark 4:38, we find Jesus sleeping in a boat during a storm, yet again showing his physical need for rest and his vulnerability to fatigue. There are many more examples, and by exploring this aspect of Jesus' humanity, we gain a deeper appreciation of his humility in embracing our condition.
While we acknowledge Jesus' humanity, we must remember he is not only a human being but also the Son of God, the divine Word made flesh (John 1:14). He is fully God and fully human, without any division or contradiction. Theologians call this union a "hypostatic union" of two natures in one person. To avoid heresy, church leaders gathered in the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD, where they laid out the teaching of Scripture about the dual nature of Christ. It is one of the "mysteries" of the incarnation, so don't beat yourself up too much if you cannot understand it perfectly. We WILL gain some understanding through this study.
This passage ends with the words: It was about noon. We will discover the significance of this fact in the following reflection.
God bless you.