Our reading today begins with Jesus returning to Galilee from Judea (4:3). In order to do so, He chooses to take the direct route through Samaria (v. 4). We are told that this is near the field that Jacob gave Joseph (v. 5), likely a reference to Genesis 48:22. Jesus arrives at “Jacob’s Well” which was at the base of Mount Gerizim (v. 6). It was about noon, when the sun was at its highest point of the day. This is significant because nobody came out in the high heat of the day to draw water. That would be done early at sunrise or later at sunset. That the Samaritan woman (v. 7) came at this time shows what an outcast she was, and how ashamed of her sin she was.
Jesus sets up this encounter by sending His disciples into the city to buy food (v. 8). He asks her for a drink of water (v. 7) and the woman scoffs at the idea of giving a drink to a Jew (v. 9). But this isn’t about what Jesus wants from her. It is about what she needs from Him. In she only knew Who He was and what He could give her, she would have ask for life (v. 10). But the woman – a Samaritan at enmity with the Jews because of physical descent – is stuck thinking in physical terms (v. 11). She contends that Jacob is rightly the father of the Samaritans (v. 12). Jesus corrects her and explains that He is speaking spiritually, not physically (vv. 13-14). But the woman doesn’t understand (v. 15).
To explain what is really going on, Jesus tells the woman to get her husband and bring him to Him (v. 16). He is getting to the heart of her sin. She has no husband (v. 17) but is living in sin (v. 18). That Jesus knows this makes her think (like Nicodemus – see 3:2) that He is a prophet (v. 19), so she asks Him to settle a long standing dispute about worship. But she is still stuck on the physical. Should God be worshiped on Mount Gerizim, or the Temple Mount (v. 20)? Jesus tells her that physical location is pointless (v. 21). It is about Who one worships. And the Samaritans, contrary to what they believed, did not worship YHWH (v. 22). Jesus points out that “salvation is from the Jews.” Remember, the term “Jew” does not refer to Israelites, but to Judahites – those from the tribe of Judah (first used in 2 King 25:25 when there was no more Israel). Jesus is referring to the promise of salvation through Judah (see Gen 49:8-12, 2 Sam 7:12-13). He is talking about Himself.
This is further confirmed in verse 23. The time is now here because Jesus is now here. And with His coming, anyone who believes is a true worshiper of God and part of His spiritual people (see 3:16-17). Being a true child of God has nothing to do with physical descent, because God is spirit (v. 24 – see 1:11-13). So His true people are His spiritual people. The woman then counters what Jesus just said about the Samaritan’s worship, the Jew’s worship, and the spiritual worship of God’s true people. She says, in essence, “the Messiah will tell us the truth when He comes” (v. 25). But Jesus clarifies: He has come, and He is the One speaking the truth to her (v. 26). The woman then goes running into town (v. 28). Her encounter with Jesus has removed her shame. That the people heard her and came to Jesus shows that she was no longer an outcast (v. 30). Jesus has saved her.
The disciples come back and their focus is also on the physical. They tell Jesus He needs to eat – He needs physical sustenance (v. 31). When Jesus speaks to them of His spiritual sustenance (v. 32), they are still thinking physically (v. 33). They are just like the Samaritan woman. So Jesus explains: He is sustained spiritually through obedience to the Father (v. 34). He wants them to seek the same because time is short. They think there is plenty of time left before harvest comes and work begins (v. 35). But in reality, now that Jesus had come, harvest time was here! Those who gave the Word of God (the Old Testament prophets) are the sowers, the Apostles are the reapers (v. 36). The Word of God (both written and Jesus Himself) have prepared the way for the harvest, and the New Testament saints need to start reaping (vv. 37-38).
As a demonstration of what He is saying, we see that the woman’s testimony and Christ’s words reaped a great harvest (vv. 39-42). Do not lose sight of the fact that these are non-Jews who have produced fruit and been harvested. Jesus was now about to go back to Galilee – back to His own people (v. 43), and we already know He will be rejected by them (v. 44 – see Matt 13:57). That Christ is rejected by “His own people” is a microcosm of the Jews rejection of Him. The Samaritans’ faith is a microcosm of Gentile belief.
John then records the second sign of Jesus, also done in Cana (v. 46). The official is a Jew from Capernaum. When he asks Jesus to heal his son (v. 47), Jesus responds (v. 48). The “you” in this verse are plural. Jesus is admonition the Jews as a whole for their lack of faith. But this man believes (v. 50) and receives grace (v. 51-52) which increases his faith (v. 53). Even faith is a gracious gift of God.
John immediately jumps ahead to Jesus returning to Jerusalem for a feast (5:1). This is either the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) seven weeks after Passover, or John has jumped ahead a year to the next Passover (see 6:4). Jesus enters the city from the north through the Sheep Gate to the Pool of Bethesda (v. 2). It was believed (as explained if your Bible version contains verse 4, which is likely not original) that this pool had magical healing powers. This is why the sick were gathered there (v. 3). The invalid that Jesus addresses (vv. 5-6) doesn’t really answer Jesus’s question (v. 7). His faith is in a myth. He was relying on a lie for healing. He had been for most of his life. So Jesus shows Him the truth (vv. 8-9). John is drawing a correlation between this man’s false beliefs and those of the religious leaders. A miracle has just occurred. This man was healed by the power of God. And yet, the Jews are committed to their false beliefs (v. 10).
Jesus later finds the man in the Temple. It is likely that the man has never been in the Temple before. He may be there to give thanks to God and worship Him. That Jesus only now addresses his sin seems to make this likely (v. 14). The “something worse” comment is not saying this man was crippled because of his sin, it is speaking of the spiritual results of sin. This is the start of the persecution of Jesus (v. 16). But Jesus points out that while the Sabbath is a day of rest for man, God has continued working salvation to provide man spiritual rest (v. 17).
Jesus calling God His Father only makes the persecution worse (v. 18). So Jesus expounds His relationship to the Father. While the Father and Son are different persons, what One does, they both do (v. 19).1 Jesus is explaining that He is the means the Father works through (vv. 20-23, 26-27 – see 1:3, 14). What people believe about the Son is what they believe about God. Those Who hear the Son and believe in God will live (v. 24). These are the spiritually dead that are brought to life through Christ (v. 25). Note that “an hour s coming, and now is here.” This refers to Christ’s First Coming and the eternal spiritual life He gives to the spiritually dead. Then, “an hour is coming” when the physically dead (“all who are in the tombs”) will be given eternal physical life (vv. 28-29). This will be the Second Coming of Christ. The two are really One act of salvation.
In verse 30, Jesus tells the religious leaders that He does the Father’s will (v. 30). But He doesn’t want them to take His word for it (v. 31), because He is the One John the Baptist pointed them to (vv. 32-33 – see 1:19). Remember, they asked John is he was the Messiah because of what he preached, and John told them he pointed to the Messiah (1:20-27). Jesus is telling them that He is the Messiah so that they may believe (v. 34). And if John’s testimony was not enough then surely the miracle they are persecuting Him for should be enough for them to believe (v. 36). If they understood and believed the Old Testament, it would be enough (vv. 37-39). But they neither understood nor believed (v. 40).
Jesus then shines a light on their own hearts. Jesus didn’t bear witness to Himself using only words (v. 31). That is what the religious leaders did for themselves and each other (v. 44). They are willing to believe mere words of men (v. 43), but not the Word of God or the miracles! And the Law they claim to follow actually convicts them of their sin (v. 45) because the Law pointed to Christ (v. 46). Of course they don’t believe Jesus if they didn’t believe Moses (v. 47).
Chapter 6 begins at the next Passover (either a continuation of chapter 5, or jumping ahead in time). John here records the feeding of the 5,000 (6:1-13). The details of the miracle itself agree with the other Gospel accounts (Matt 14:13-21, Mark 6:32-44, Luke 9:10-17). It is what happens after the miracle that only John records. First, the people see this miracle and believe that Jesus is “the Prophet.” Once again, we see these people (like Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman) initially believe Jesus to be a prophet. That He is “the Prophet” is a reference to Deuteronomy 18:15-18, where God promises a prophet like Moses that will speak His words. This is what Jesus just claimed to be in 5:19-47. Second, the people want to make Jesus king “by force” (v. 15). They believed Him to be the Messiah, but their idea of the Messiah. They wanted Him to win physical victory over their physical enemies. We again see the misunderstanding of the people. They thought in physical terms. So Jesus withdraws from them.
Next is the record of Jesus walking on the water (vv. 16-21). This is also recorded right after the feeding of the 5,000 in two of the other Gospel accounts (Matt 14:22-33, Mark 6:45-51). John adds here that the boat miraculously made landfall across the sea (v. 21). The crowd that was fed knew the disciples left without Jesus (v. 22), so they go looking for Him (v. 24). When they find Jesus on the other side of the sea, they are confused as to how He got there (v. 25). Now, you would think that after seeing Him feed 5,000+ people with almost no food, Him miraculously being on the other side of the sea would be easy to believe. And that is Jesus’s point. They did not see the miracle for what it was, but only saw the results – the physical provision (v. 26). Here, they marvel at a seemingly physical impossibility – that He got across the sea.
So Jesus wants them to get their eyes off of the physical and onto the spiritual (v. 27 – see 4:32, 34). This is again speaking about obedience to God, which is why they ask what they must do to obey (“be doing the works of God” – v. 28). Jesus says that obeying God is believing in Him (v. 29 – see 3:36). But the people want to see more miracles, as in, they want to be fed again like Moses fed the people (vv. 30-31). But Jesus tells them that it wasn’t Moses that gave them bread, but God (v. 32). And He did it to point them to Jesus, the true spiritual bread (v. 33). But they are still thinking physically and want more food (v. 34).
So Jesus clarifies for them. He is the food that gives life (v. 35), they just can’t believe it because they are thinking in physical terms (v. 36). But even more, they are not of the elect (v. 37) Who Christ came to save (vv. 38-39). Only by looking to Him can one receive the eternal spiritual life He gives, and the physical life He will give (v. 40 – see 5:25-29). But the physical follows the spiritual, not the other way around. That is not what the people wanted to hear (v. 41). And what do they do? They look at Who Jesus is physically (v. 42). They cannot see past the physical.
Jesus again points out that what He is saying is only for the elect (v. 44). Jesus then quotes Isaiah 54:13 and says “they will all be taught by God” (v. 45). Who is the “they?” It is God’s children (see 1:12-13). God has sent the Son for just this purpose (v. 46 – see 1:14)! He is the bread of life (v. 48), but not just physical life. The bread God provided through Moses was physical and temporary (v. 49), what God provides in Christ is spiritual and eternal (vv. 50-51). Christ became physical in order to provide this spiritual life.
And the Jews are still thinking physically. Like Nicodemus didn’t get the spiritual nature of the birth from above (3:4), this crowd does not get the spiritual nature of the bread from above (v. 52). And if they do not live by what God has provided through Christ coming in the flesh, they will die (v. 53). But if they do, they will live spiritually, and then physically (v. 54). Those who believe will be united with Christ (v. 56) and the Father (v. 57) and live forever (v. 58).
But the people – those who had declared themselves His disciples, even! – couldn’t understand (v. 60). Jesus then asks them, if they can’t believe now while He was in the flesh and in their very presence, how will they believe when He is gone (vv. 61-62)? They are so stuck on the physical, yet even while He was right there physically, they couldn’t believe. So He tells them what He told Nicodemus: they need the Spirit to understand the spiritual (v. 63 – see 3:6). But they do not believe (v. 64). Jesus is speaking here of those not of the elect, including Judas Iscariot (vv. 64-65). So many of the people abandon Jesus (v. 66). So Jesus asks the Apostles if they are going to leave, too (v. 67). But they believe (vv. 68-69). At least eleven of them do (vv. 70-71).
1 This is what is known as the “Inseparable Operations” of the Trinity. Basically, what One member of the Trinity does, They all do.