John 2–4 | Feb 6-12 | Come Follow Me Insights – powered by Happy Scribe
And I’m Tyler.
This is Scripture Central’s Come Follow Me Insights.
Today, part one of John chapters 2-4, our focus will be on the water turning into wine.
Yeah. So as we jump into chapter 2, you see the the timestamp that John gives you. And keep in mind we’ve been spending a lot of time so far this year in Matthew, Mark and Luke, the synoptic gospel writers. And so now we get this opportunity, the beginning of Jesus’s ministry, to come over and get John’s perspective. And it’s very unique. You see that he begins here with his telling of the first recorded miracle in John’s gospel being this miracle of water to wine at a marriage feast. And there’s some beautiful symbolism in there for John who is trying to convince us that Jesus is the Christ. But he’s doing it using a different set of symbols than what we normally interact with in the Synoptics, Matthew, Mark and Luke. The symbolism of the marriage between the bride groom and his bride being in a beautiful context, we, you and us, all of us combined, are the bride preparing ourselves for entering into this covenantal relationship with Christ. So now you get this outward wedding feast that’s going on as a placeholder or a symbol for the ultimate marriage that Christ is trying to prepare us for as his bride.
So weddings at this time in the ancient world were some of the most joyous occasions. I mean, if you take all the kinds of festivals and occasions, weddings were probably the most joyous. So it’s interesting that John, in his second chapter, he’d moved to this very joyous occasion to help us understand the identity of Jesus Christ. We’ve mentioned in past episodes. So much of what the gospels are trying to do is to help us to experience and see the identity of Jesus using different approaches. And so John uses this wedding as yet one more way to understand who Jesus is, not just for the people back then, but for the people here now, today.
So we begin in verse one where he says, and the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee. If you look at the footnote there, the Joseph translation just makes it very clear it’s not the third day of some event, it’s simply the third day of the week. So Saturday is your last day. So Sunday would be day one Monday. Tuesday is the third day of the week. And there’s this fun tradition among many Jewish people, and I believe it’s throughout a lot of their history is Tuesday is a good day to get married. Because in the creation account back in Genesis, it’s the only day of the of the seven days that actually gets twice blessed, where the Lord calls it good twice. Second day. So it’s kind of this good omen for a new family to get married on that third day of the week. And that’s what’s happening here. And in a symbolic sense our covenant relationship with Christ, it’s a twice blessed day when that happens, right? So it says that the mother of Jesus was there. You’ll see that Joseph, Jesus’s stepfather, is not mentioned anywhere in the story after the event at the temple at age twelve.
So that was 18 years before this point over in the book the Gospel of Luke that we got that story. And so somewhere in those 18 years the assumption is that Joseph has passed away and leaving Mary a widow. And under Jewish law that leaves Jesus as the first born son in that family, the birthright son. That leaves him in charge of taking care of Mary and the family. So culturally speaking that’s kind of an important point that it tells you Mary is there and she seems to have some sort of authority over the servants. She’s not your typical wedding guest to be able to go and tell the servants to do certain things and have them obey. So some have wondered is this perhaps the wedding of one of Jesus’s half sisters or perhaps a brother? Usually a wedding feast would take place at the home of the groom so maybe more likely for a half sister. But at the end of the day we don’t know. It could be other close relatives of Mary but she is there. And Jesus says in verse two both Jesus was called and his disciples to the marriage.
So it’s a close enough relation, whoever’s getting married, that Jesus and his disciples are called as well to the wedding. So for most of you in most cultures of the world today when you see that there was a wedding and a marriage feast you think of say a wedding breakfast after the ceremony or maybe a reception. It all largely usually will take place within that day or within 24 hours on either side of the wedding. But in antiquity, in a Jewish setting this is a big deal. As Taylor mentioned, they are used to long feasts and festivals down in Jerusalem and when a wedding takes place it can span multiple days.
Partly is to accommodate you have travelers from a variety of locations and again if you’re visiting a family member in their wedding and they’re 1020 or 30 miles away, it takes a bit of effort to get there. You might as well have a really worthwhile party and a joyous occasion. Going over multiple days allows people to come and go and accommodates this larger time frame for people to travel to get to the wedding feast.
So now we get into the beautiful miraculous part of this story that John’s telling us. Verse three says on when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him they have no wine. So whoever’s in charge of this feast ultimately has run aground when it comes to the drink. They’ve run out of wine and she turns to Jesus and says, hey, they’re out. That’s interesting that she’s letting him know this. It makes you wonder, has she had past experiences with Jesus in the first 30 years of his life where they’ve run out of things or it seems like we’re in trouble? But whenever you involve Jesus, things seem to work out somehow, some way, things go better for you. And I like to believe that Mary trusts Jesus completely, that they have no wine. So his response in the King James Version says, woman what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come. Which is an interesting phrase, and it sounds to our modern day sensitivities. And the way we hear it, it sounds very insensitive, sounds disrespectful. But the Joseph Smith translation says woman gunay in the Greek, what wilt thou have me to do for thee that will I do, for mine hour has not yet come.
So he’s saying to her, I haven’t yet started my ministry, so I’ll do whatever you want me to do. And the implication is, I want you to fix this problem. I don’t know how you’re going to do it, but I want you to do something. And so then Mary does something beautiful. Verse five. His mother saith unto the servants, whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. I like that. I like her faith in Jesus at this point, where she’s basically saying to the servants, he might ask you to do some very strange things. Just trust Jesus. Whatever he asked you to, just do it. I like that. And I think if Mary were standing here today, I think her advice to us might be exactly wordforword the same thing. Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. People who are the closest to him have learned to trust Him. And that’s what missionaries, that’s what leaders in the church, that’s what true friends will do for each other, is help increase and shore up faith in the Lord Jesus Christ based on multiple past experiences. You can trust Him, not just partly hold back nothing. You can put full trust in Him.
And whatever he asked you to do, just do it.
So what do they have is verse six. They were set there six water pots of stone after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. So a little detail apparently is important for John to share with us that the water that’s being used, this miracle is already set apart. Water that Jews would use to do their ritual bathings or ritual purifications. And it’s also a very large amount of water. Tyler how much is two or three? Perkins well, if you look this up.
In your Bible dictionary under weights and measures, look up perkins it’s approximately nine gallons for one firkin, and that’s an approximation. So if it’s two to three, that’s anywhere between 18 to 27 gallons, roughly. And if there are six water pots of stone that are used for this manner of purification. You do the math and I’ll save you having to do all the math. It’s going to come out to be somewhere just over 100 gallons and somewhere under 163 gallons somewhere in that range. In other words, 100 to 163 gallons. That’s a lot of water. And these are big water pots of stone. What we don’t know is exactly how they use them to purify the Jews. What we do know is that the water inside of these pots is used to purify people. That’s fascinating. You have guests coming into your wedding feast and some of them coming from if they’re coming from Jerusalem up to Galilee some extended relatives from Judea that’s a long six, seven, eight day journey depending on which route they take. They’re going to arrive and they’re not really clean because they’re not living in hotels along the way having a nice shower, using deodorant and brushing their teeth.
And so when they come in there’s got to be some sense of purification and you’ve got six of these. That’s a lot of water. When the first guests arrived, the water in these pots was absolutely clean. They’re water pots of stone. They’re not water pots of clay because you wouldn’t do that because clay will absorb the impurities under the mosaic law of the time. But if you make it out of stone the stone won’t absorb those impurities and you can clean it. So they’re very careful to make sure that the container is good. The water starts clean and did you notice that the people come in unclean in a state of ritual impurity? The water starts clean and then there’s this interaction, there’s this exchange where dirty people, so to speak, interact with clean water and an exchange takes place. All of the uncleanliness, all of the impurity from the people gets absorbed into the water. And when the people walk away from this experience with the purifying pots the people now enter the feast clean leaving the water behind unclean because the exchange has taken place. I wonder if this miracle of water to wine in multiple levels of its symbolism is actually our story today.
Every time we go to church I can’t think of a Sunday when I walked in the door of a sacrament meeting and said I’m clean, I’m perfect, I don’t need any help today. Every time I come in and I need to interact with the water of the sacrament and the emblems of the sacrament I’m unclean and I interact with these clean elements so that I can then walk away purified renewed for another week to go out and experience mortality. So we don’t know exactly how the interaction goes with this water. We don’t know if they dip their hands or washed their faces. We do know that the Jewish people at this time are very careful to wash before they partake and participate in these kinds of feasts and festivals. And so notice now John has set this up with six water pots of stone for purifying the Jews. And then verse seven, jesus saith unto them, the servants fill the water pots with water, and they filled them up to the brim. I love this because it’s so matter of fact. The servants have just taken Mary’s command and they’re running with it. That’s a lot of work, but if I were there, I think I might have been tempted to ask a few questions, such as, wait a minute, Jesus.
Did you not hear your mom? The problem they have here is they’ve run out of wine. The problem wasn’t they’re unclean and they need to be purified again or repurified that that wasn’t the issue. Or to say, Jesus, don’t you think there’s a different way to fix this wine probe? She told them, whatsoever thing he david it unto you, do it. So he said, fill those water pots of stone up. So they filled them to the brim. I liked that little clarifying word. They filled it all the way up to the brim. So we don’t know again if they’re interacting directly with this water or taking pictures out to interact with the cleanliness rituals. But the water is probably not fit for drinking. I don’t know if of any person who would walk into this kind of a setting and say, I’m thirsty, I need a drink. And then they would walk over to the water pots of stone for purifying and say, give me a drink. This is not drinking water. This is cleaning water. And now it’s full to the brim. Can you picture that moment with the Chief Steward standing there with his other servants?
Okay, we filled up all six water pots of stone, and it would have taken great effort. Now what? And Jesus response is, draw out now and bear unto the Governor of the feast. Don’t just take it and give it to the guests. No, very first thing, bear out. Or draw out and bear it to the Governor of the feast. Give it to him first. If you’re the Chief Steward, there’s a little bit writing on this command.
Yeah, you probably like to keep your job. And if the Chief Governor of the Feast starts drinking dirty water, what are you doing? I’m not that drunk. I can tell that this is really bad water. And where’d you get that? From the purifying pots. I mean, it’s amazing that these servants listen to Mary to follow Jesus. And again, John does not dwell on the details at length. And so all this context is packed in here. We realize John is telling us something about who Jesus is. By this point, people know Mary knows who Jesus is, and people know to trust her and him. Remember, this seems to be some kind of family affair. Maybe it’s cousins or stepsiblings. We’re not sure. People seem to know and there’s no expression here that the steward is asking any of the questions any normal person would ask. Had all of us been back there, as Tyler’s been pointed out, we would have all been saying, I can imagine a better way. But the steward knows Jesus. It seems he trusts Jesus Christ, or.
For starters, he trusts Mary, who trusts Jesus. Maybe he doesn’t know Jesus, but he’s taking his orders from Mary at least. And I Think there’s A Principle There for you And Me that Is really the Essence of missionary Work, of trying to Gather Israel, of trying to Teach Our Children and Teach Those That You Lead in church Callings is to Invite Them to take steps of Faith on the Covenant Path, to trust Jesus to follow the Things that He Has Asked Them To Do, knowing that once they Experience For Themselves what happens when you listen to and follow the Lord Jesus Christ, then Your faith in Him Increases your Testimony, your conversion to Him Increases. And now you can keep passing it on to other people. And I think that might be one way to look at these servants here. They’re taking Mary’s testimony, but by the end of this story they’re not going to need Mary to tell them because they have experienced for themselves following the Lord Jesus Christ and they’ll be able to bear testimony. Now this is a very interesting point in the story because we don’t know. John doesn’t give us any detail, and this is the only place where this story is contained.
The Synoptic gospels don’t tell us about this miracle. You have a couple of options to consider here. Option number one, the steward and the other servants walk over with a water pot, or a pitcher rather to the water pots, and they look in to these six water pots and they see beautiful pure wine. That’s option number one. Whoa, this is great, it’s wine. And then they bear it out to the governor of the feast. That’s option one. Option two is they look in and they see floaties and sinkies. And in between they see yuckiness in dirty water and they have to get their picture of water. We don’t know which option or if there was some other way that he did it, but the point is Jesus is testing their faith. There are footsteps of faith either way going on here. But I love verse nine. In fact, at a very personal level, verse nine has my favorite all time punctuation mark in any scripture anywhere. I think the King James translators were absolutely inspired, in my opinion, in what they did with verse nine. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine and knew not whence it was, he had no idea where that wine had come from.
And now look at this parenthetical statement. But the servants which drew the water knew. And then there’s a nice little winky face. I like that. King James winky face. It doesn’t appear in all English translations of the Bible. And keep in mind the Greek texts have zero punctuation in them. So any punctuation you see in our scripture are added in 1611 by the King James translators. But I have to say they nailed it because you can picture the governor of the feast drinking this, saying wow, this is amazing wine and he has no idea where it came from. But the servant standing there with the picture in his hand and everybody else that’s in that team of servants, they knew where that water came or that wine came from. Winky face. I think it’s so beautiful. Why? Not because it’s a nice situational humor going on here, but because it’s you and it’s me that we’re talking about here. You and me who symbolically could be represented by that water now in this instance, who are filled with impurities from top to bottom. We’re dirty, we’re unfit to be taken to the governor of the ultimate feast, God the Father, in one symbolic sense of interpreting this miracle.
And yet these actions of faith fueled by the infinite atonement of Jesus Christ, transforms that which is dirty into that which is pure. And as a side note, Jesus Christ does that every day in vineyards across the world. He’s turning dirty water into beautiful, sweet, pure grapes that can be turned into grape juice. This miracle happens naturally over time. The thing that makes this one so amazing is he’s doing it in a very short period of time, miraculously. And that’s what he’s doing with you and with me. And it doesn’t have to take a long period of time to change my heart or to change your heart. Now, sometimes it does take more process of time, but I love this story because it shows that at times there are miracles in store for people that are very quick.
So then the governor of the feast continued on explaining how aging wedding feast work. You want to give the good wine first because people get drunk and then their tastes get diluted and they don’t really know the difference of basically diluted wine where it’s mostly water and not wine. He says every man at the beginning just set forth good wine. And when men have well drunk, then that which is worse. But thou hast kept the good wine until now. So of course he’s surprised. Like wow, this is unexpected. Supposed to bring out the good stuff first. And then John concludes this vignette in this way this beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee and manifested forth his glory and his disciples believed on him. This word miracles here is interesting in the Greek it can also be translated as signs. And if you look carefully for that phrase of signs or miracles in the book of John, john seems to be using this word as a signal or a sign to help us to see. This is an expression of who Jesus is. Learn who Jesus is from this sign or this symbol or this miracle.
And so as you’re reading John, look for how is John communicating to me who Jesus is.
The other thing to consider here is if you look at the overarching symbol of water to wine being John’s first recorded miracle in his Gospel, he’s drawing our attention to this fact. We’ll stop and think about some of the other symbols that this might connect to. Think of Moses going into Egypt to bring the children of Israel out. What was the very first plague? It was the water of the Nile River being turned to blood. This was the first miracle, the first sign, as Taylor was talking, of God’s promise to deliver his people out of bondage, out of captivity, out of slavery, into the Promised Land, to bring them, quote unquote, into Heaven. In this context, think of what happens in the infinite atonement of Jesus Christ. So John begins with the first miracle and all miracles point us forward to that great and last infinite miracle, his infinite atonement. In Jesus infinite atonement, he goes into Gethsemane, he goes through the trials, he goes on to the cross. And the symbol that he uses in the Doctrine of Covenants to refer back to his infinite agonies is he says, I partook of the bitter cup.
That’s interesting. Jesus partakes of a bitter cup, down to the dregs. It’s infinitely bitter and dirty and unclean. Why? Because you and I put our uncleanliness into it, that we have interacted with it in a symbolic way and we’re the ones that have made it bitter. So what does he do? He drinks it. That water, that bitter water in a symbolic, metaphorical sort of a way, becomes a part of him. He internalizes our badness, our bitterness. It becomes a part of him. And under the intense agony and pressure of Gethsemane, his sweat, it was, as it were, great drops of blood. In Luke’s account and in the Book of Mormon, as well as the Doctrine and Covenants, we hear that he sweat blood or bled from every pore. So in goes dirty water, out comes the precious, pure, clean blood of Christ symbolized by wine. So John is in one sense setting up a beautiful bookend to the infinite agonies of Jesus Christ, that ultimate miracle that’s going to be performed by choosing this particular miracle to start his telling of the stories of Jesus’s miracles. Now, lest you and I forget, what does the Lord ask us to do?
He asks us to come to the sacrament table once a week and he offers us a little cup. But our cup is not a bitter cup like the one we gave Him. Our cup is a sweet, pure, clean cup that is symbolic of the blood that was shed for us. And now think about the symbolism of taking that offering from the Lord to remind us we’re always to remember Him and all that he’s done for us. And one of the ways he does that is by giving you not just a piece of bread but now a cup of our own that is sweet. And we internalize that cup like he symbolically internalized our bitter cup that we give to Him at infinite proportions of bitterness. That cup that contains that pure water that represents the blood of Christ, it becomes a part of me, it starts to circulate through my veins. His blood symbolically becomes part of my body and my blood. I let Him in because he’s going to symbolically cleanse me from the inside out. So every week we get to go to the sacrament table, we get to relive this water to wine miracle and the amazing power that Jesus has to make that which was dirty become clean.
I love this miracle the way John tells it to start his Gospel.
So after this experience in Cane of the Galilee we move into Capernum, which is the home base for Jesus’s Galilee and ministry. And then it moves us to the time period of the Passover. And this is one of the high holy days in Judaism every year and people are supposed to go to Jerusalem and there to offer sacrifice and to remember this is the festival or the holy day to remind them that Jesus as Jehovah in the Old Testament saved his people from bondage.
And if you remember, Passover was the 10th plague in Egypt and I think John is beautifully coupling this together with a symbol of the first plague in Egypt, the water to blood of the Nile River followed up with Passover. We go to the temple and it’s there where Jesus goes in. And here’s a difference. So you have a couple of options. John’s gospel tells you that Jesus goes into the temple here and he cleanses the temple after making a scourge of small chords, he drove them all out of the temple. Who is the all those who are selling oxen and sheep and doves and the changers of money sitting. So this is a huge money making operation for the sages and their families and friends and they’ve got plenty of places down in the market off of Temple Mount to exchange the money and to sell the animals. But they’ve now brought these people up into the Temple Mount, probably in the porticos of the court of the Gentiles and they’re now selling probably at an elevated cost to these Jewish people, pilgrims who have come from around the Mediterranean region to Jerusalem. They’re now basically ripping them off, charging exorbitant amounts of money and Jesus goes in and drives them all out of the Temple.
So Jesus doesn’t say, hey, it’s a real problem that animals are being bought and sold and used in temple worship. That isn’t the issue, it’s where it’s happening. And how it’s happening. So Tyler was talking about if you’re a Jew living up in Capernaum, where Jesus is from, are you going to really carry a lamb all the way from Copernum 70, 80 miles to Jerusalem? It’s a lot of work. So you’d sell the lamb in Capernaum, you’re going to get your local coins, you’re going to go to Jerusalem. But the coin system there is different. And so there’s an exchange rate. If you’ve ever traveled internationally, there’s always an exchange rate, and the banks will charge you a bit of money for giving you the local currency. Well, who controls the exchange rate? It’s the Sadducees and these temple priests. And so everybody is required by the Mosaic Law to bring sacrifice. And so they kind of under religious obligation to engage in this exchange. And, yeah, they’re often getting financially ripped off. That money is being used to build really fancy homes in Jerusalem for a few people. And the poor of the land are seeing their money being drained away as they try to worship God.
You mentioned these interesting connections to the Israelites. In Egypt, we have the plague of the blood where the water was turned to blood, and then you have Passover. What’s also interesting is that God takes the Israelites out of bondage and brings them to Mount Sinai. Think about that as a temple, and there he wants to purify them. He wants them to engage in sacrifice so they can enter into his presence. And where does Jesus go right after these two major? The water being turned into blood and Passover. He’s at the temple, and he is concerned that the temple service and the temple environment has been polluted so that people cannot enter into the presence of God. You have all these telltale signs that are connecting the reader back into the Old Testament story to say, God is once again at work and he will purifies people and have a holy nation.
So notice this little subtle detail in verse 16 when he’s cleansing the actual temple, casting them out. He says, Take these things hence make not my Father’s house and house of merchandise. In John’s Gospel, Jesus cleanses the temple at the very beginning of his ministry. Here this first passover in the Synoptic Gospels, jesus cleanses the temple at the very end of his ministry, either on Palm Sunday or the day after, depending on whether you like Matthew or Mark’s timing, and we’ll talk about that later. So three years apart, you get two tellings of the cleansing of the temple. In the later version, he doesn’t talk about the temple as his Father’s house anymore. He talks about it as my house. That’s interesting in that it’s kind of this covenantal process of if you look at your soul, you are a child of God, but if you become a child of the covenant, you become an adopted daughter or son of Jesus Christ. He now claims you. He would now say my house, not just my father’s house, when referring to us being the temple of our God in a beautiful symbolic sort of way. So watch as he takes this one step further.
In verse 19, Jesus answered and said unto them, destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. And so the Jews are so confused. They’re saying, wait, it’s been 46 years in the construction. We’ve had 1000 priests, 10,000 workers, 1000 wagons have all gone into the construction of this huge monumental temple and you’re going to destroy it and raise it up in three days? I don’t think so. And John gives you the clarification in verse 21, but he spake of the temple of his body. This is an important point that Paul is going to pick up this theme when he says to the Corinthian, saints, know ye not, ye are the temple of our God. So all this cleansing experience that we’re talking about, it’s not just cleansing brick and stone and mortar. It’s not cleansing a building. That is the ultimate goal of God. It’s cleansing you and it’s cleansing me. That’s what his real mission is. And this purifying of the big temple is simply an object lesson for what Jesus is trying to do with you. If we let him in, he’s the one who does the cleansing. It’s not my job to clean my own temple because I can’t.
The task is too huge. I can’t do it, but he can. My job is to let him in. So are you noticing the pattern in John chapter two? Things that are dirty or being done inappropriately or that are unclean in one form or another, jesus comes into the story and they end up pure, they end up fixed, they end up clean.
What’s fascinating here is the people that miss it back in verse 18 and answer the Jews. Now when you see this phrase here, you probably should insert the Jewish leaders because unfortunately, over the years, people have wanted every last Jew in the world to be responsible for what a few Jews did. And they said, what sign ShoWest thou see that thou DOST these things? So we saw earlier in verse eleven this beginning of miracles or this beginning of signs or symbols. So the Jews are wanting a sign or a symbol. They want to understand what’s going on. They’re seeking to try to understand Jesus’s identity. And they’re missing all these references. It’s about being cleansed. And so he’s like, I’m going to give you a sign, you’re not going to understand it at all. But sign of resurrection, he doesn’t use those words, but it’s another similar sign about his identity. So they’re asking about his identity, but they’re really not that interested in knowing the truth because they’ve missed all these other signs and symbols.
So as we close this first episode for this week’s study, it’s our hope, it’s our prayer that each of us will learn to trust Jesus more, not by just listening to other people, but by coming unto Christ and hearing him and following the things that he gives us to do so that we can learn from our own experience to trust him and in the process, watch him as he cleanses that which was unclean because of what we’ve done. Whether it be in a temple setting or whether it be in this water to wine setting or for us in a sacrament setting. Know that he lives and know that he loves you and we leave that with you. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
And I’m Tyler.
This is Scripture Centrals. Come follow me. Insights, part two of John, chapter two, chapter three and chapter four.
So in this second episode this week, we’re going to cover the story of Nicodemus and the woman at the well in chapters three and four. In part one, we did the water to wine in John chapter two, and he’s brilliant.
We were talking about this. He doesn’t always tell us what he’s doing, but the way he’s laid this out from an instructional standpoint, you have two chapters back to back, and if you’re just kind of reading quickly, you might not see that. If you took the time to compare and contrast, all sorts of amazing insights pop out and we’ll spend some time talking about these and you’ll probably find others.
So as Taylor pointed out here, you’ve got these two polar opposite individuals in these two chapters back to back, and it’s one flowing story from John’s account in his Gospel. So I’ll just get this started and then let’s talk through this. You have Nicodemus, who is a man woman of the well being, a woman, he’s a Jew, she is a Samaritan. They don’t like each other. They’re opposites.
What time of day is it?
He comes to Jesus at night. So Nicodemus is the one who comes. Jesus on his way home from the Passover celebration down in Jerusalem. He’s headed back home to the Galilee. And on the way, instead of taking the Jordan River route, so here’s Jerusalem, here’s Nazareth and Capernum. He’s headed home to Capernaum. Instead of taking the longer, more difficult Jordan River Valley route, he takes the shorter, direct route through Samaria. That’s going to cut multiple days off of your trip, and in the process stops here at Cycar at this well. Jacobs well. So he does most of the journeying and comes to this woman in the middle of the day, and we’ll talk more about that.
So this is important. Nicodemus comes to Jesus and Jesus finds the woman at the well. Nicodemus finds Jesus, jesus finds the woman.
So we could do the arrow the other way. Jesus goes to her. Nicodemus happens to be a pharisee. And if you were to do a public opinion poll in the first century among these people about his righteousness, he would rate likely very high because he’s zealous for keeping the law. And that’s just how people see it, as a very righteous individual. And how would the people in Psychar look at the woman that meets him at the well?
That she’s kind of a religious outcast. She’s a sinner, so not somebody that people would want to be hanging around.
So you can keep this list going and going and going. There are all kinds of contrast, thrott a few more. Sure.
You should look at who’s asking and answering questions. Nicodemus is asking most of the questions here. It’s Jesus with the woman answering. You might ask in which episode, who seems to figure out who Jesus is and who seems to stay confused about who Jesus is? And it’s fascinating. If you really just map this out and create like a spreadsheet and do this with a few of your friends or loved ones, you’ll probably find 20 or 30 really incredible parallels that are packed in. And by the way, we’ll say this again, from a teaching and learning standpoint, comparison and contrast are a powerful way to teach. And John just does it naturally and doesn’t even tell us. And it would have been helpful for some of us who maybe I know somebody had to point this out to me at one point. I’m like what? Now that I see it’s so obvious, I wish John would have said, hey, reader, I want you to compare and contrast the next two stories. And I just wasn’t smart enough to figure it out.
Yeah, so the the other the final thing that I would like to kind of put on our list here is and Taylor kind of touched on this already, it’s the amount of time that it takes to be convinced that Jesus is the Christ. Nicodemus is going to drop out of our story largely until the very end of Jesus’s life three years later. In John’s gospel, john is the one who introduced you to Nicodemus. He’s going to complete the story of Nicodemus where this individual, this pharisee, this man who’s zealous for keeping the law, is going to be present at the crucifixion of Jesus Christ after he dies. And he is the one who helps Joseph of Arimathea take the body of Jesus off the cross quickly, wrap it and put it in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb for burial. Touching a dead body makes one ritually impure, and in John’s account, that’s the evening when you’re going to now be partaking of the Passover meal. It tells us that potentially nicodemus has been working on this conversion process for three years, but he seems to have arrived after three years. I love this story. The woman at the well seems to take her once they get going in their conversation, about three minutes.
Now, that’s an exaggeration just to try to keep it three and three. It’s probably a little bit longer than that, but the point is, she’s very responsive to what Jesus has taught, and he’s more sensitive. He wants to think about this and stew over it. Now, with that foundation, you could then say on a scale from this bookend over to this bookend, on a scale from Nicodemus to the woman at the well, every one of us falls somewhere on that scale. And I think John’s message to the world is that Jesus is the Christ. He’s your savior, he’s your redeemer, and it doesn’t matter where you are on this scale. To me, that’s one of the 30,000 overviews of these two chapters as we look at them in comparison and contrast at a high level. Now let’s dive in and go into chapter three and look at some of the specific teachings and experiences that he has with Nicodemus. You begin in chapter three with Nicodemus coming to him at night, and you can almost picture the look on Nicodemus’s face. He’s so confused. He says, we know he calls him Rabbi. We know that thou art a teacher, come from God, for no man can do these miracles, these signs that thou doest except God, be with him.
And you noticed he didn’t ask a question, but his statement is drenched with questioning. How are you doing this? Who are you and where are you from? And instead of answering his question directly, notice what Jesus response is. Verily. Verily, which in the Greek is amen. Amen. Or we would say amen. I love how Jesus begins with two amens. Frequently in his speech, I say unto thee, accept a man be born again. He cannot see the kingdom of heaven. So this is a really important distinction. If a person isn’t born again, they won’t be able to see the kingdom of heaven. Nicodemus is going to be listening with typical Jewish perspectives. His ears are tuned to interpret things very literally in that day. So when he hears Jesus say this, his response is, how can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb and be born? He’s a little confused, and Jesus response in verse five is, verily, verily. I say unto thee, accept a man be born of water and of the Spirit. He cannot enter into the kingdom of God. Do you see the difference?
The first one was just born again. The second one is born of water and of the Spirit. And what is the outcome? That person can now enter the kingdom of God. So if you do a quick compare and contrast between verse three and five, you might say, well, this is just a more detailed way to say the same thing. He said in verse three, the prophet Joseph Smith, when he was preaching a sermon on one occasion, his text was John, chapter three. And he he taught a beautiful distinction between these. He said, when a person hears the gospel of Jesus Christ, preached for the first time, something happens in the heart, there’s a slight rebirth that takes place. It’s as if you’re born again. You experience things you’ve never experienced before to that degree, and you recognize something. The way we might say it is you see the kingdom of God on the earth and you say, Whoa, there’s the kingdom, and here’s me. I’m not part of it. I want to be a part of it. So how does one enter the kingdom of God on the earth? By being born of water and of the Spirit.
This is baptism and confirmation of receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, the gate whereby one enters into that covenant path with him. And it’s this beautiful answer to the question that Nicodemus first posed to Jesus. Not in question format, but in this statement. Jesus is basically saying, nicodemus, you’re going to see some things, and if you want to enter the kingdom of God on the earth, you have to be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, then this covenant connecting journey can really begin for you at a whole new level than what you’ve experienced before. He’s not discounting all of the spiritual experiences Nicodemus has had previously. We don’t need to do that with people. We can assume that God has been good to everybody to one degree or another. They’ve recognized it and invite them to bring all that good that they have and see if we can add to it. That’s how President Mormon B hinckley invited us to share our messages. And then he says verse six that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. And so then his response marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again because you’ve got your physical birth taken care of.
You don’t need to be reborn physically, you need to be reborn spiritually so that you can be a new creature in the Spirit.
So here’s this Master, this Elder of Israel, who knows the scriptures he’s taught to people. And to be fair to Nicodemus, we often look at him and say, this guy clearly doesn’t get it. Let’s just give him a break. We have hindsight 2000 years, we have access to the Scriptures, and we also have access to this conversation that he had not yet been through. But he’s a little confused. He apparently doesn’t understand the distinction between body and spirit. For whatever reason, his scripture study, the Old Testament, did not make that clear to him about what Jesus is trying to teach. So we have the benefit of this conversation. So Nicodemus says in verse nine, how can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, art thou a Master of Israel? And know us not these things truly. Truly, or amen? Amen. I say unto thee, we speak, that we do know and testify that we have seen and you receive not our witness.
So he’s basically saying, look, you’re listening with physical ears, with ears of the flesh, and we’re talking a totally different language. We’re speaking things of the Spirit and we’re telling you what we know and you’re not listening, you’re not getting it. You’re missing the point. So verse twelve tells you, if I have told you earthly things and you believe not, how shall you believe if I tell you of heavenly things? And then he gives these beautiful object lessons.
So it’s fascinating. What he chooses, Jesus focuses on. And it’s Moses. So for the Pharisees, their most revered prophet is Moses. So here’s Jesus, the great teacher. He’s speaking in context, he understands his audience and he knows that for Nicodemus to help him, that Jesus should tell a story or use symbols from Moses that will help Nicodemus see the larger principles Jesus is trying to convey.
So he picks it up in verse 14 with and as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have ever or eternal life. Rather, that is the precursor to the most famous Christian verse in all of the Bible across the world, verse 16. So when you see it in that context, keep in mind Jesus is referring to Himself as the Son of man, symbolically lifted up by Moses as this serpent. And now he gives this most famous of all famous verses. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Are you seeing the physical and the spiritual with Moses out in the wilderness? If you just look to the serpent on the pole, it would save your physical life. And now he’s saying to Nicodemus, if you look at the Son of man who was sent by God to be raised up, if you look to Him, you’ll have everlasting life, you’ll have eternal life. And then he clarifies verse 17 for God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
Jesus did not come to curse and condemn, he came to save. But what we have to do is initially believe in Him. And if you don’t look what he says, he that believeth on Him is not condemned. But he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And Joseph Smith adds this line which before was preached by the mouth of the holy prophets, for they testified of me. Now he’s making it very clear for Nicodemus so that he can’t we’re not speaking in code anymore, it’s me, Nicodemus, that they are all talking about.
It’s important to look at where the question marks show up in this text. At this point, Nicodemus has not asked a question of verse nine, he essentially goes silent. In fact, this story will conclude a few more verses. We don’t hear any more from Nicodemus, so we don’t know if he ends with saying, this totally makes sense. We do know that three years later he seems to have been converted. So this is an interesting story that Jesus takes the time where there’s so much confusion to provide, more explanation, more instruction. I find it fascinating. It just concludes with, so did Nicodemus walk out into that dark night understanding the light that he had just experienced?
Yeah, he he’s he started back in verse two, coming to Jesus by night. And notice in verse 19 it says, this is the condemnation that light is coming to the world, and men love darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. If I’m doing bad things, I don’t want light shining on it. I want to do it secretly in a corner where nobody can see me. And then verse 20 says, for everyone that doth evil hate the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deed should be reproved. So again, as Taylor said, we don’t know the outcome at this point for Nicodemus, as he walks back into that dark night with an awful lot to think about and to process, with Jesus’s statements about being born again. And born of the water of the spirit. The wind listing where it bloweth, where it listed in verse eight, the serpent analogy and Jesus’s statement of God loving the world. Jesus has given him enough material to really chew on for some time. So in the last part of chapter three, very beginning part of chapter four, it talks about John the Baptist. And there are some people complaining, saying, who’s doing baptizing?
In one account, it makes it sound like Jesus doesn’t, and another makes it sound like he does. The Joseph translation in the back of your Bible clarifies that Jesus is indeed baptizing. Some people, but not as many as his disciples are baptizing. And now we come in verse three where it says, he left Judea. So that’s Jerusalem when he was down there for the Passover. And Nicodemus had that experience down in Jerusalem, and he leaves Judea and he departed again into Galilee, and he must needs go through Samaria. Joseph adds this idea that he saith unto his disciples, I must needs go through Samaria. So there’s an intentionality here. So when he gets there, you come to Jacob’s well. And Jesus was wearied, and he sat thus on the well. And it was about the 6th hour. Keep in mind, in a first century Jewish context, we start measuring our hours of the day based on sunrise. So in the summer, it’s going to rise early in the morning, and in winter it’s going to rise later in the morning, and in the spring and fall, it’s going to be somewhere in the middle range.
So the 6th hour means that the sun has now been up for 6 hours. It’s right after Passover, so we’re around spring equinox, and so the sun is going to be up just over 12 hours, which means it’s about high noon, the zenith. The zenith of the sun. This is not the ideal time for a woman to go from the city out to the well to get water and then take it back to the city. Tradition would hold that most women would come out in dawn and dusk times. It’s a little cooler, it’s a lot more social. It’s an opportunity to collaborate and talk with people.
Yeah, you’d go in groups. She seems to be alone. Mary, I just tell you, in the ancient world, if women on their own alone were under threat, it was a dangerous time. And so this woman is kind of taking her life into her own hands, going out in the middle of the day. And again, it’s high noon, means we have all the slight compared to Nicodemus, where it was at night and he’s confused. Here we have a woman who gets it. She recognizes Jesus, she sees his identity, she can’t contain herself. I just love how this ends.
This is great.
You’re going to go tell everybody I’m getting ahead of myself too, because I just love how the story ends, but this is great.
So let’s set the stage for that incredible outcome. Jesus puts himself in a position where it’s going to be exceptionally awkward for her, getting her out of her comfort zone. He sat thus on the well. So he’s right at the opening of this well, she can’t help but come really close to him to draw her water. And as she comes, Jesus saith unto her, give me to drink. And at this point she’s going to give the cultural response because his disciples have gone to the city. So it’s just him and her, a very uncomfortable, awkward cultural setting for her, even today.
It’d be awkward.
And verse nine says, then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, how is it that thou, being a Jew, ask us, drink of me which am a woman of Samaria, for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. Can you notice how she starts with this interaction? The first way she refers to him is as a Jew. And if a Samaritan is saying that this is not going to be a term of endearment or a title of respect, they do not like each other. And so Jesus’s response is, if thou knewest the gift of God and who it is that saith to thee, give me a drink, thou wouldst have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. Living water is moving water. It’s alive. A well is the total opposite of that. It’s dead water, it’s buried. You have to get it out of the ground to bring it to light. So the woman saith unto him, sir. So notice this progression right before your very eyes, watching this woman interact with Jesus. Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. From once, then hast thou that living water.
You’ve told me you’re going to give me this living water if I asked, well, how are you going to get it? You’re clearly not greater than our Father Jacob, who gave us this well. If only she knew at this point to whom she was speaking, right. Jesus answered and said, whosoever drink us of this water fell thirst again. You’ll notice as a latter day reader of this text, harkening back to what he told Nicodemus the difference between things of the flesh versus things of the spirit. Look, if you drink this water, you’re going to get thirsty again, but if you drink the water I offer you, you’ll never thirst anymore. And he tells her that whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst, but the water that I shall give him shall be in him. A well of water springing up into everlasting life.
I just have kind of like my heart goes out to this woman. For many cultures and in many centuries, particularly in the biblical world, it was often the woman’s job to go get the water. And you got to think about, this water is very, very heavy. You take a gallon of water and carry it around for a little while, your arm is going to be pretty sore. And whatever way you have of carrying that water is also going to add to the weight. And typically, water was not easily accessible, so we don’t know how far away the well is from the city. It could be a couple of blocks, maybe half a mile. And so she’s going back and forth, taking care of her family with all the water. Think about all the water you use every day in your life and then ask yourself, would I be happy to go catch that gallon by gallon out of a well and carry back and forth? And so immediately, in her natural state, what does she want? Verse 15th, the woman saith unto him, sir, give me this water that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.
So she seems to be saying, I would love to be able to overcome this challenge of every day having to draw this water. And I want to point out for those of us who live in the modern day, the miracle of having easily accessible fresh water and overabundance. We don’t usually think about it unless there’s a drought. For them, it was an everyday reality. They had to think about water. We almost never do. But then the story gets even more pointed.
Yeah. Did you notice how up to this point, jesus has been trying to get her to ask? It’s as if he needs her to use her agency to allow him to then give her more of his gospel, more of his teachings. And so he’s been setting this up, and finally she did it. Finally she asked, sir, give me of this water. And so Jesus’s response is, go call thy husband and come hither. And then can you picture the look on his face as he’s waiting for her response? She says, I have no husband. And Jesus said under her, thou hast well said, I have no husband, for thou hast had five husbands, and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband. And that sets thou truly. But there’s a problem here. This is very awkward for this woman. In this setting, I perceive that thou art a prophet. At which point I don’t know whether she’s changing the subject or whether she’s saying, oh, I’ve got a prophet on my hands. Maybe I can ask one of my deepest heartfelt questions of this man or a combination of all of that, I don’t know.
She says, Our Father’s worshiped in this mountain. And you say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. And I love verse 21, Jesus faith unto her woman, believe me, the hour cometh when y shall neither in this mountain nor yet at Jerusalem worship the Father, ye worship ye know not what we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. So he’s making a very powerful declarative statement here that the Jews down in Jerusalem with the temple and the rights of authority, they have the rights for this worship. But then he goes on to say, but the hour cometh, and now is when true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeketh such to worship him. Did you pick up on the beauty of those two words, in spirit and in truth? It’s not in flesh. It’s not after the manner of men or the lies and deceptions of the world or of the devil. It’s in spirit and in truth that you’re going to worship him. And then he goes on to say, God is a spirit, which is a beautiful tie into Doctrine Covenant, section 93, where it refers to how man is spirit.
We are dual natured, so it connects us there. And the Joseph translation here says, for unto such hath God promised his spirit. And they who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth. So at this point, the woman makes a very profound statement. She saith unto him, I know that Messiahs cometh which is called Christ, and when he has come, he will tell us all things. And in our text here in verse 26, it says, jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto the am he. In the Greek, you get this interesting reality in English, I that speak unto the am he. But in the Greek there’s a two word phrase ego AMI, which means I am. And in the Greek text, those two. Words are together. What he basically said to her, she just said, when the Messiahs comes, when the Christ comes, he’ll tell us all things. And what Jesus just said to her is, I am the Christ. It’s the unspoken name. You’re not supposed to use this name. Yahweh. He’s referring to himself as the ultimate great I am. But the I and the Am are separated in English. So in your own scriptures, you may want to connect them again because that’s how they come to us in John’s Greek text.
So think about that for a minute. In John’s gospel, the first person to whom Jesus proclaims his divinity as the Lord God Jehovah, the great creator of heavens and the earth. The first person in John’s gospel that he bears that testimony to happens to be a woman of Samaria currently living with her 6th husband, who is not her husband, as an outcast of her society, she’s an she would be a nobody in their culture. And Jesus went out of his way to find her. That gives me hope. It gives me hope that God sees us for who we can become, not for who we happen to be today or this year, that he can work with us and get us to a certain point to become what we were destined to become as children of God, children of the covenant, and as disciples of Christ. So at that point where the disciples come back out of the city and they’re marveling that he talked with the woman, why is he even talking with her? Oh, if only they knew. He was doing a lot more than talking with this woman. He was bearing his divine witness of his true identity to this woman.
And you’ll notice in verse 28 it says the woman left her water pot and went her way into the city. And then we’ll pick up the rest of the story there. She left her water pot, she came out to the well to get water, and she’s walking home realizing that Jesus is the Christ. What began a few verses ago. Jew, sir, a prophet. She now recognizes him as the Messiah, the Christ. And she goes into the city and she saith to the men of the city, come see a man which told me all things that ever I did. Is not this the christ? And so they went out of the city and came unto him. She becomes his first missionary, in essence, among the Samaritans. And he’s going to spend days with them and teach them, and they’re going to believe and have marvelous experiences with Jesus, sharing his gospel with them.
Yeah. Verse 39 gives this beautiful summary and many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him. For the saint of the woman which testified, he told me all that ever I did. Such a simple witness, you have to understand the ancient world. In the ancient Israelite world, women, their testimony was not allowed in court. And here John is saying this woman’s testimony convinced all these men. So it’s all this upending of expectations. So we have to ask ourselves in our time, is Jesus working with me in ways that are unexpected? Does he work through other people that perhaps is unexpected to share messages with me that maybe I’m not expecting? Now, Jesus does lots of expected things, but one of the beautiful messages is god will work. His work. It will be marvelous and wondrous. And he will often use people that we perhaps hadn’t expected to share with us and to convince us and to teach us and testify. And this unnamed woman of Samaria, we have no idea who she is. And she plays this core role of helping all of us, thousands of years later, seen the identity of Jesus. We get to vicariously be with her and watch as she learns that Jesus is not only a Jew or a man or a sir or just a prophet.
He is the Christ who gives all of us living water.
In verse 41 it says, and many more believed because of his own word. I love this idea that this woman becomes this planter of the seeds, her testimony. Many believed on Him because of her testimony alone, but many more believed because of their interaction directly with Christ. When they get to interact with Him and feel of his power, it changes them. And verse 42 said unto the woman now we believe not because of thy saying, for we have heard Him ourselves and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world. Can I be so bold as to suggest that that is the ultimate desire of every leader in the Church, from the very highest positions down to the very simplest? Callings is to invite people to come unto Christ so that they can say, I believe, not just because you told me to, but because I’ve heard Him for myself. I have experienced the power, the love, the mercy and the grace of Jesus Christ myself. You no longer need to convince me of anything. Now we can walk this covenant path together and try to get others to get on the path and take steps forward, because we have tasted of Jesus goodness and his mercy and his grace.
As we conclude today’s discussion, we hope you feel the beautiful light we can see when we compare and contrast two different stories, two people who eventually became disciples of Jesus Christ. We hope you feel the hopefulness. It doesn’t matter where you are on the trajectory. Are you more like the Samaritan woman? More like nicodemus. We all have a place with Jesus. He invites us in. We can learn from these ancient disciples to be curious, to ask good questions, to let our souls ponder on the words that Jesus shares. And then, like the good Samaritan woman with alacrity, go forth and tell people. I have found him. Share with people. Let them know of your love and the joy you have had in your life because you have felt the everlasting waters of of Jesus’salvation in your life.
Thank you for spending time and effort to seek this Jesus and to try to discover his power and his teachings and his mercy in your life. And we leave that with you. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ. Amen. Please know that you’re loved.
Come, Follow Me Insights
What is the symbolism of the Savior turning water into wine? How can we relate it to our own lives?
How should we teach about the Savior’s incredible interaction with Nicodemus?
What can we learn from the Savior’s first two miracles and sermons?
Read the handout here.
John Hilton III
What can we learn from Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well?