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John 4:5-30

John C. Thomas

So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" (Jews do not share things in common 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 no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?"

Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life." The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water." Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come back." 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 have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!" The woman said to him, "Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem." Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming" (who is called Christ). "When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us." Jesus said to her, "I am he, the one who is speaking to you."

Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, "What do you want?" or, "Why are you speaking with her?" Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, "Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?" They left the city and were on their way to him.

The role attributed to the Holy Spirit in the gospel according to John is distinctive amongst the canonical gospels. In this gospel, the work of the Spirit is intimately connected with the person and ministry of Jesus, for the first mention of the Spirit is in regard to Jesus' identity as the one upon whom the Spirit descends and remains upon (1:32-33). It comes as no surprise to the readers that it is the one upon whom the Spirit descends who is identified as the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.

Near the beginning of this gospel, the readers discover that those who believe are given authority to become children of God, to be born of God (1:12-13). Later it is learned that the Spirit is the means by which believers experience "birth from above", for it is necessary to be born of water and Spirit to see the Kingdom of God (3:5). Though the work of the Spirit is like the wind, being sometimes difficult to determine where it comes from and where it goes (3:8), those born of the Spirit are able to discern his activity.

In his conversation with the Samaritan woman, Jesus uses the term "living/running water" in reference to the Spirit. While this woman thinks Jesus is referring to an underground stream of "running" water, he is actually inviting her to tap into the "living water" that he makes available to her. For the water of which he speaks will quench her thirst forever and will be a well of water leaping up into eternal life. The dynamic nature of the Spirit's activity is conveyed in part by the fact that the words "leaping up" are normally used to describe the activity of animals or humans, not inanimate objects like water. But when the believer taps into this underground river, it becomes a dynamic well in them. It is by means of the Spirit and the Truth (Jesus) that worship of the Father is possible and indeed necessary (4:23), for God is Spirit and he must be worshipped in Spirit and Truth (4:24).

In John 6:63 the readers learn that there is an extremely tight interplay between "eating the flesh" and "drinking his blood" and the work of the Spirit.

The Spirit's work is further elucidated in John 7:37-39. Though the text says that "the Spirit was not yet", it is clear that the believers know the Spirit's activity in the ministry of Jesus and the lives of those who believe in him. The words of 7:39 indicate that it is "out of his belly" that "rivers of living water" will flow. This language builds on the words directed to the Samaritan woman, identifying Jesus as the source of the living water that will spring forth from the well located in the believer. The appearance of the plural, "rivers", may indicate that in addition to experiencing birth from above, there may be other experiences of the Spirit in store for the believers.

In John 14-16, the future role for and additional experiences of the Spirit are indeed described by Jesus. The Spirit, who comes from the Father at Jesus' own request (14:16), is called another Paraclete, indicating that he is to function like Jesus. He is the Spirit of Truth (14:17), underscoring the intricate connection between Jesus, who is the Truth (14:6), and the Spirit who speaks on his behalf, the Spirit of Truth. Like Jesus, the Spirit is not received by the world but by believers, who know him (14:17). The Spirit will teach the disciples all things and remind them of the things which Jesus said (14:26). He will inspire their witness in the world (15:26-27) and convict the world of "sin, righteousness and judgment" (16:8-11).

The gospel concludes with two proleptic promises of the Spirit. When Jesus dies upon the cross (19:30), the Greek text says that he "gave the S/spirit", a phrase which could possibly mean that he expired, but perhaps conveys the idea that the gift of the Spirit is tied to his death. Later, when Jesus appears to the disciples after the resurrection he commands them to "receive the Holy Spirit" (20:22). This final promise and command with regard to the Spirit rings in the readers' ears as the gospel closes.

[Sous-titre à venir]

If the gospels are foundational documents for the various New Testament communities which they represent, what are the implications of the teaching of the gospel of John on the role of the Holy Spirit for contemporary Christians?

First, divine begetting, "birth from above", is possible only by means of the Spirit. This experience, that comes to those who believe, results in one becoming a child of God. Is this experience of the Spirit present in your life? If so, describe this event to a trusted brother or sister.

Second, the experience of the Spirit in the life of the believer is described as a dynamic one. In fact, Jesus uses the language of "a well of water leaping up unto eternal life". Identify an occasion when you felt the presence of the Spirit was leaping forth in your life.

Third, the Spirit's role in the life of the believer is perceived to be quite active, for he leads believers into all truth, reminds them of what Jesus said and convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. In what ways have you sensed the active presence of the Spirit in your life and that of your community in any of these or other concrete ways?

Fourth, part of the Spirit's role is to inspire witness on behalf of Jesus' followers. Have you ever been conscious of such Spirit-inspired witness in your own life? When have you seen it in the lives of others? What was the result of such inspired witness?

Fifth, the repeated commands of Jesus with regard to the Spirit serve as a refrain calling us to receive all the Spirit has for disciples of Jesus. What impact does such a refrain have upon your own spiritual life? Is there more of the Spirit that you need? Exactly what do you need? How do you plan to respond