If you were to take a survey of the people in your community and ask them this question, “Who is Jesus?” you will get a variety of answers: a good teacher, a very moral person, an inspiring leader, a prophet, an example of love & sacrifice, and more. Many people hold Jesus in very high regard.
But how would Jesus describe himself?
Let’s look at an important conversation that Jesus had with a woman from the region of Samaria. Notice that during the course of the conversation, the woman changes how she refers to Jesus. Who she thinks Jesus is at the beginning of their conversation is totally changed by the time to they get to the end of their chat.
When Jesus knew that the Pharisees heard He was making and baptizing more disciples than John (though Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were), He left Judea and went again to Galilee. He had to travel through Samaria, so He came to a town of Samaria called Sychar near the property that Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, worn out from His journey, sat down at the well. It was about six in the evening. (John 4:1-6 HCSB)
A woman of Samaria came to draw water. “Give Me a drink,” Jesus said to her, for His disciples had gone into town to buy food. “How is it that You, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a Samaritan woman? ” she asked Him. For Jews do not associate with Samaritans. Jesus answered, “If you knew the gift of God, and who is saying to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would ask Him, and He would give you living water.” (John 4:7-10 HCSB)
“Sir,” said the woman, “You don’t even have a bucket, and the well is deep. So where do You get this ‘living water’? You aren’t greater than our father Jacob, are You? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and livestock.” Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again — ever! In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up within him for eternal life.” (John 4:11-14 HCSB)
“Sir,” the woman said to Him, “give me this water so I won’t get thirsty and come here to draw water.” “Go call your husband,” He told her, “and come back here.” “I don’t have a husband,” she answered. “You have correctly said, ‘I don’t have a husband,’ ” Jesus said. “For you’ve had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” (John 4:15-18 HCSB)
“Sir,” the woman replied, “I see that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, yet you Jews say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus told her, “Believe Me, woman, an hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know. We worship what we do know, because salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. Yes, the Father wants such people to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:19-24 HCSB)
The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ ). “When He comes, He will explain everything to us.” “I am He,” Jesus told her, “the One speaking to you.” (John 4:25, 26 HCSB)
Just then His disciples arrived, and they were amazed that He was talking with a woman. Yet no one said, “What do You want? ” or “Why are You talking with her? ” Then the woman left her water jar, went into town, and told the men, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could this be the Messiah? ” They left the town and made their way to Him. (John 4:27-30 HCSB)
In the meantime the disciples kept urging Him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But He said, “I have food to eat that you don’t know about.” The disciples said to one another, “Could someone have brought Him something to eat? ” “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work,” Jesus told them. “Don’t you say, ‘There are still four more months, then comes the harvest’? Listen to what I’m telling you: Open your eyes and look at the fields, for they are ready for harvest. The reaper is already receiving pay and gathering fruit for eternal life, so the sower and reaper can rejoice together. For in this case the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap what you didn’t labor for; others have labored, and you have benefited from their labor.” (John 4:31-38 HCSB)
Now many Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of what the woman said when she testified, “He told me everything I ever did.” Therefore, when the Samaritans came to Him, they asked Him to stay with them, and He stayed there two days. Many more believed because of what He said. And they told the woman, “We no longer believe because of what you said, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this really is the Savior of the world.” (John 4:39-42 HCSB)
Jesus was spiritually compelled to travel through the region of Samaria. Even though there was cultural animosity between first-century Jews and Samaritans, none of that existed in Jesus. He was a friend to all. And he had a message of hope and salvation to share with the Samaritans, starting with the woman at the well.
Jesus directs the conversation with the woman. He starts with a point of connection, the need for physical water to drink. He then tells the woman that he can give people living water. The woman doesn’t quite understand that he is talking about eternal life until later. He then talks with her about her family relationships. She quickly changes the conversation to another subject. She says that the Samaritans prefer to worship God on their mountain, but the Jews of that day insisted that the proper place to worship was in Jerusalem. She asks his opinion, and his answer blows her away: he says that it is not about worshiping on this mountain or that mountain. Rather, it is about worshiping God in spirit and truth wherever you are.
During the course of the conversation the woman refers to Jesus as: “a Jew,” then “sir,” then “a prophet.” Her understanding of Jesus is growing. But what happens next she could not have anticipated. She tells Jesus that when the Messiah comes he will explain everything to her people. Jesus next statement blows her away.
Jesus says, “I am He. The One speaking to you.”
With the phrase “I am” Jesus is equating himself with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (see Exodus 3). This is the first time Jesus uses this reference in John’s gospel, but it is certainly not the last. Then Jesus goes on to clearly declare that he is the Messiah, the Anointed One from God.
The woman is stunned. She runs back to town and tells everyone about her conversation with Jesus. She even asks, “Could this be the Messiah??” The people of the town rush out to meet Jesus, to see and hear for themselves. Many put their faith and trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior. God uses the woman’s testimony to draw people to Christ.
The Samaritans conclude with this: Jesus is the Savior of the world.
And that is the truth of who Jesus is. He came to the earth, lived a perfect life, died for our sins upon a cross, and rose from the dead. He has the power to forgive sins, to change lives, to conquer death, to give eternal life. And he gives eternal life to all who turn from their sin and trust in him as Lord & Savior.
This event in Samaria has great implications for us:
- Salvation is available to people all over the world, in every tribe, tongue and nation.
- We must take the good news of salvation to all peoples: missions, missionaries, Bibles, churches.
- God is not confined to one building, one place or one region.
- Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, the Savior of the world. Only through him can people be saved.
- We have good news to share.
- Let us each follow the example of the Samaritan woman and tell those that we know about how Jesus has changed our lives and how he can change theirs too.
A prayer: “Lord, just like the Samaritan woman at the well, may you use me to lead many people to Jesus. AMEN.”