Some random questions and reflections on reading John 4, in no particular order and without having taken time to integrate them:
- Why does Jesus leave the area after the Pharisees hear? Do they function as a kind of Saul here, with Jesus carrying out the Messianic secret? Or could the Pharisees in this case be representing the quarrels over wells that took place in Genesis, so that Jesus is here repeating the paths of Abraham and Isaac in being forced to find another well? The latter seems appealing.
- Why Sychar? It is related to the Hebrew for beer and could suggest drunkenness. There seem to be mixed opinions on whether Sychar is Shechem. Contemporary Bible dictionaries seem to reject the idea. However, the connection with Joseph’s field (Genesis 48:22, and especially Joshua 24:32) seems to establish that this is Shechem. This is typologically very appealing, for in this passage Jesus offers the covenant to a non-Jew but he is not like the faithless Levi and Simeon whose offer of the covenant is only a pretext for murder. Levi and Simeon kill the men of Shechem after two days, but Jesus teaches the people of Shechem for two days.
- The sixth hour does not appear to have a strong Old Testament connection. I wonder here if it is rather serving a chiastic purpose, linking this passage with the sixth hour in John 19:14. Here, Jesus is named the Messiah; there, he is crowned. Here, Jesus speaks of his Father; there, of his mother. Both here and there Jesus thirsts. Both here and there women are prominent (the Samaritan woman, Jesus’s mother, Mary’s sister, and the two other Marys). Here Jesus speaks of the water he provides; there water literally flows from Jesus’s inner parts. Spirit and truth appear in both places as well. This fits with the chiasm proposed by Hajime Murai.
- The woman at the well is clearly marital imagery, following on two suggestions already in John that Jesus is the bridegroom, and following in the steps of the many wells in Genesis. The Samaritan woman is a new Hagar, Rebekah, Rachel, Zipporah. She is likely a type of Jesus’s bride, his church.
- Most commentators suggest that this Samaritan woman is a woman of poor character. James Jordan suggests that we have misread this, that she has simply been mistreated, following in the footsteps of the wives of Malachi 2 and Matthew 5 and 19. She is clearly no Jezebel. The fact that she represents a kind of typological Eve here I think tends to confirm this, that at worst she has been deceived and the primary blame lies upon her husbands. The fact that she may represent the church as the bride is a little less clear, as there are many more dimensions there (faithless shepherds, deceived flock, remannt). But I certainly don’t think she stands in for the faithless shepherds of Israel. Jordan’s suggestion seems very plausible.
- I have wondered often what it means to worship “in Spirit.” Some believe this implies the need for spontaneous emotion in one’s worship (perhaps connecting this with the wind of John 3 in order to reach this conclusion), but I don’t think that is what Jesus is getting at. James Jordan suggests that it implies “in the corporate meeting” because that is the sphere of operation of the Spirit, binding us together and working through us to minister to one another. That is possible, especially if we consider that this is contrasted against worshipping in Jerusalem. But I think the implication may be broader. Looking at Romans, being in the Spirit is identified with simply having the Spirit in you (Rom. 8:9ff), which is a consequence of belonging to and being connected to Jesus. This connection to Jesus is sealed in our baptism (Rom. 6), which ties us in to both the Spirit and the new creation kingdom (Tit. 3:5). That fits well with the preceding context here in John, which has much to do with baptism. So, we could paraphrase “in Spirit” by saying either “baptized” or “in the new kingdom-creation.” There is certainly also a Trinitarian aspect here: Father, Spirit, and Word-truth.