“Jesus replied, ‘Everyone who drinks some of this water will be thirsty again. But whoever drinks some of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again, but the water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up to eternal life.’”
Water in the desert—life itself! When I visited Israel, our guides constantly exhorted us to drink water because of the heat. We carried water wherever we went and had large bottles on the bus to re-supply our small bottles as needed. We found that many ruins contain cisterns dug out of the rock to hold a supply of water for people in a land which has little. There are still visible remains of huge aqueducts built to take water to ancient cities, where it would have been impossible to live otherwise. This is the land in which Jesus painted the picture of Himself as the Giver of living water.
At the end of John 1 we saw Jesus travel with a few of John the Baptist’s former disciples from Judea to Galilee, the area where He was raised. Although we are focusing on the picture of Jesus as the Giver of living water this week, we do want to pick up the story in John 2 because it recounts Jesus’ first sign. Tomorrow we will look at the story that communicates our snapshot for this week.
Read John 2:1-12.
1. What was the occasion of Jesus’ first sign? Summarize the story.
I have put a chart at the end of the study so you can keep track of the various signs as we go through them. Fill this one in now. We looked at all the signs in this gospel quickly in Week Two Study and considered the purpose of signs. John always uses the term signs rather than miracles. A sign points to something else, to some other truth. Burge says, “The signs are not merely acts of power and might, they unveil that God is at work in Jesus and indeed is present in Him.”8
2. In our first lesson we looked at the Prologue (Jn. 1:1-14). We said that it introduces many of the themes of the book. How do you see this first sign relate to truths about Jesus in that introductory section?
Diamonds in the Word: Because our study is not a comprehensive look at John, I’ll give the sections that we skip as optional assignments. Read John 2:13-22 and consider what you learn about Jesus, His authority, and His message to the Jewish leaders through His actions in this passage. Feel free to consult any commentaries on this section only.
Read John 2:23-25.
3. What do these three verses suggest about the purpose of the signs that Jesus gave? What do they suggest about people?
4. Sharing question: As we consider the story of the wedding in Cana, we see Jesus’ concern over people and their situations. This wasn’t a major illness or a death or a lack of food or shelter. Yet, Jesus showed His care and concern to meet the needs of the hosts. Share about a time when you saw Him come to your aid in something small and you were awed by His care and concern for you.
5. Responding to God: Go to Jesus with whatever is concerning you, whether it is large or small. Ask Him to come to your aid in whatever way is best for you and for others. Give Him that concern and trust Him with the answer. Write down your prayer or thoughts below.
Diamonds in the Word: If you want to read the entire book as we go, read John 3 before you go on to John 4. If you have time after you have done the rest of the week’s study, you may want to come back and read your commentaries on John 3.
Read John 4:1-42.
6. Good reporters know that they must answer the basic questions related to a story: who, what, where, when, why, and how. Either write down each question and answer it, or write this story up as a newspaper article. What would your headline be?
7. Write down everything that Jesus told the woman about living water. Just use the words of the text.
8. In light of all that Jesus said about living water and in light of what you know about water, why do you think Jesus used the picture of water to explain who He is and what He does for people?
Over and over in John we see people respond to Jesus with confusion about what He is saying (e.g., Jn. 2:18-22; 3:3-10), and this is true of this woman. Even his disciples were confused by what He told them in Jn. 4:30-34. As we go through John, note how often people misunderstand Him. When you feel confused about Jesus and His teaching, remember that often that happens because we are thinking on a physical level while He is teaching us something spiritual.
9. Sharing question: What attracts you to the snapshot of Jesus as the Giver of living water? Why? If possible, share with your group a story of a time when He revealed Himself in your life as the One who gives you living water.
10. Responding to God: Go back through the list you made in #7 of the qualities of the living water that Jesus gives. Use that list as the basis of your prayer of thanksgiving. Write your poem or prayer below. Or maybe you would prefer to draw a picture of Jesus giving you that living water.
Review the story in John 4:1-42.
Diamonds in the Word: Go to at least one Bible resource and read background about the Samaritans and their beliefs.
11. Jesus eventually led this woman to the basic issue of her need. She was a sinner who needed God to come into her life and become as necessary to her as water in a dry land. Read Rom. 3:9-18, 23. What do you learn about her and about yourself?
12. As Jesus led this woman through this conversation, He eventually revealed who He was. Explain the process by which they arrived at that revelation (4:16-26).
13. Sharing question: What can we learn from this conversation about sharing Jesus with others?
14. Our culture likes to say that faith is about sincerity, that it doesn’t matter what we believe. Every belief is as valid as the next one. How do Jesus’ words about worship argue against that perspective (4:20-24)?
15. Responding to God: Ask God to lead you to worship in spirit and in truth. Give up any false notions of who He is, and express your willingness to worship Him as He truly is. Often we make God in our image rather than accepting what He reveals about Himself in the Scriptures.
Review John 4:1-42.
16. What was the woman’s testimony about Jesus (4:28-29, 39-42)? How did the other people who heard her respond?
17. How does this account between Jesus and the Samaritan woman help John accomplish his purpose in the book (Jn.20:30-31)?
18. What do you learn from 4:31-38 about doing God’s work and about sharing with others about Jesus? What are some ways that a believer can “sow” into another person’s life? (Think beyond sharing the gospel.)
Diamonds in the Word: Look up other New Testament references to sowing, sow(s), sowers, reaping, etc. Write down any insights you gain.
19. Sharing question: In general, are you a sower or a reaper? Are you praying right now that you may be a sower in a friend’s life? Who is it? As this week’s prayer request, ask your group to pray that you will sow in a particular way in that person’s life.
20. Responding to God: Take time to pray for that person right now and pray that God will use you as a friend who sows. Ask for a specific way to do that this week.
I have had comments from past studies that indicated that some of you don’t understand why you read the same verses over again. There are a couple of reasons that I ask you to do that. First, we must understand the Bible in its context or we may misinterpret it. To reread is to review the context. Second, the more we read a passage, the more insights God can give us. I am always amazed when I read something in the Bible and don’t remember ever having read it before! There are just days when the Holy Spirit shines a light on a verse and I see it in a new way. So as you reread this passage in John, pray that God will show you something that you haven’t seen the last three days.
Review John 4:1-42.
Today we want to look at some other passages that use the picture of water.
21. Compare how the water in the following verses relates to the water Jesus offered the woman in Jn. 4. (You may need to read some of the surrounding verses to get the context.)
a. Rev. 21:6
b. Rev. 22:17
22. The Old Testament uses a snapshot of water to warn the people. What warnings does Jeremiah give and how would using the picture of water help them understand the warnings?
a. Jer. 2:13
b. Jer. 17:13
Diamonds in the Word: Go to your resources and find out what you can about the background of the book of Jeremiah. What was happening among the people of Israel religiously and spiritually?
23. How can Christians be guilty of the things for which Jeremiah warned the Israelites? How would that manifest itself?
Read the rest of the chapter, John 4:43-54.
24. What sign did Jesus do in this case? How did this sign differ from the previous one with the wine? Think about what it showed about Jesus that was a bit different. Write down your insights. (Don’t forget your chartJ)
25. Sharing question: Think about Jesus and the amazing signs that we have seen so far. Think about what it means to forsake that kind of God. Share with your group where you have sought to have your needs met anywhere other than by Jesus. Write down one thing you will do to avoid that in the future.
26. Responding to God: Write down your confession if you find that you have sought what you need anywhere else other than in Him. Believe that God forgives completely!
Kay graciously gave us her story of coming to believe in Jesus. It is a reminder to us all that God loves us no matter where we are or what we have done, and it is an encouragement to faithfully pursue friendships with those who need Jesus.
Two questions I get asked all the time are: “Where are you from?” (Texans typically use the more direct form, “You’re not from here, are you?”), and, “If you graduated from high school in Hawaii, how did you end up at the University of Tulsa?” (a legitimate question since when I chose Tulsa University I didn’t even know where Tulsa is—in fact, I wasn’t really clear on where Oklahoma is).
I grew up in an East Coast Navy family, meaning we lived in several different places along the East coast while my dad served in the Navy. Overall, we had a fairly normal, routine life—at least compared to all my friends whose dads were also in the military. My dad was gone most of the time and my mom raised 3 daughters and ran the household. To the best of her ability, she instilled in us a sense of good morals and strong work ethic. As a young child I learned to strive for achievement and try to do the right thing.
However, as I entered my teenage years life became more difficult and confusing. My efforts toward academic success became an obsession and I began to rely heavily on my own ability to reason and figure things out. I entered the stage of doubting everything my parents taught me. Lacking any foundation or authority for the morals I’d been raised with, what was “good” and “right” became for me a matter of my opinion verses my parents’ opinion, and I was pretty confident that I could figure things out for myself. It was about this time, as I was beginning my junior year in high school that my family moved from the extremely conservative and structured environment of Northern Virginia to the laid-back and liberal culture of Hawaii.
Suddenly everything changed. In this world, academic success and alcohol were no longer mutually exclusive. “Good” kids did things I’d always been told were bad and would lead to failure. But they weren’t failing. I was introduced to alcohol on a school field trip. Over the next few years, though far from being an alcoholic, drinking impaired my judgment on several occasions and I ended up making some very poor decisions. By the time I graduated from high school my life was a mess. On the outside everything looked great—I had good grades, good friends (though my mom would dispute that assessment), and a good part-time job. To my sisters I was the “golden child,” the one for whom everything was always easy and turned out right. But on the inside I was in turmoil. My mother was barely speaking to me because of some of my friends and the choices I’d made. I was generally angry, depressed, and rebellious even though deep down I still wanted to do the “right” thing. I just wasn’t sure I knew what that was anymore.
So, that’s the answer to the question, “You’re not from here, are you?” Now on to how I ended up in Tulsa, OK. The surface answer is that I filled out the form on the SAT to allow any college or university who wanted to contact me. Tulsa sent me an application which was relatively short and didn’t require a lot of essay writing, so I filled it out and sent it in. I also applied to other schools, but when Tulsa responded with a scholarship offer my parents’ minds (if not mine) were made up. I enrolled in their College of Arts & Sciences to pursue a math degree without ever visiting the school or knowing anyone who was going or had ever been there. The deeper, and I think more realistic, answer to the question is that Tulsa is where God wanted me to introduce me to His Son and my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I just didn’t know it yet.
When I went to Tulsa it wasn’t like I was looking for God. In fact, if anything I was running away from Him, but since I didn’t really believe in Him anyway, I didn’t give it that much thought. But then there was my roommate, Evelyn—a quiet, somewhat shy Christian girl from Arkansas. If she’d known me then, I’m sure I would have been her mother’s worst nightmare as a roommate for her daughter. Evelyn and I were in a philosophy class together along with several other Christians and it didn’t take them long to figure out how lost I was. For the first time in my life I was surrounded by Christians and in response to challenging ethical questions they didn’t just give their opinions, they supported their arguments with what the Bible says. I wasn’t shy about telling them how silly I thought their arguments were and so what if they had a book telling them they were right—what made their book better than any other? I think I became their project. I know Evelyn spent a lot of time on her knees praying for me. Still, I turned away every person who came to my door to talk with me about God. I rejected every invitation to join Evelyn in going to church or on outings with her “religious” friends. But nothing deterred them. Evelyn continued to pray and invite. Others continued to knock on my door. After talking with a friend about all the problems I was having in my relationships at home, she said, “Wow, Kay, that’s really rough. Do you mind if I pray for you?” I responded, “Sure, I don’t think it will help but if you do, knock yourself out.” She started, “Dear God, thank You for my friend Kay and thank You that You love her and You care about the problems she’s having….” Up until then I’d always thought of Christians as part of an exclusive club of people who thought they had all the answers and believed anyone who didn’t agree with them would go straight to hell. Through my friend’s prayer and compassion, Evelyn’s patience and prayer, and the consistent efforts of the others no matter how rude I was to them, I began to see that they had something that I wanted (needed), and they really wanted to share it with me. God started breaking through.
Over the next several weeks I talked a lot with Evelyn and my other friend, Sarah. One day I opened a Bible to the table of contents and asked Sarah, “What’s Genesis about?” She answered. “What’s Exodus about?” She answered. “What’s Leviticus about?” She answered. I continued down the table of contents and she patiently answered until I got to about Job and then she said, “Kay, let me just tell you the whole big story. The entire Bible is about God’s great love for mankind, man’s sinful rebellion and rejection of God’s love, and God’s gracious forgiveness and reconciliation with man through His Son Jesus Christ who died a painful death on the cross in order to pay the penalty for our sin and then rose again to prove He is God and that His sacrifice in our place was accepted by His Father.” That was the first time in my whole life I had heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. I started to see the trouble and turmoil I was having as a result of my sin against God who, I began to understand for the first time, really loved me.
I heard the gospel again a week or so later when I finally accepted one of Evelyn’s invitations to a “religious” event. It was Harvest Week for all the campus ministries. Being one of the uninitiated, I didn’t realize that “Harvest Week” meant “harvest me.” There was a hayride, hot chocolate, and a gospel presentation complete with a challenge at the end: “If God is beginning to show you that you’re a sinner in need of a Savior, take this opportunity to accept His offer of forgiveness through His Son Jesus Christ. Don’t just sit there. Stand up and acknowledge Him.” I knew I’d heard the truth. I knew God was drawing me to Him. Yet many of the people I’d criticized, made fun of, and turned away were also sitting in that small audience. What would they say if I stood up? Would they have an “I told you so” attitude? Would they treat me the same way I had treated them? It didn’t matter. I was compelled to stand up, and I did. I felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. And, to my surprise, I was surrounded by people who were happy for me and rejoicing with me.
Some things changed right away for me. I began reading the Bible and learning more about God’s grace, love, and forgiveness. I learned that there is such a thing as absolute right and wrong and that good morals are based in God’s Word, but without Him I’m powerless to live them out. No wonder I’d been having such trouble.
Other things took a lot longer to change. Some relationships improved, others got worse, and several just faded away. It took a long time for God to weed some sinful habits and patterns out of my life—a long time for me to allow Him to do it. It took even longer for me to regain my mother’s trust and respect. And my life hasn’t always been easy. A year after I graduated from college my dad died of cancer. I worked for several years under a very demanding and demeaning boss. I still sometimes struggle with being too focused on achievement, leading to frustration and discouragement. But now I talk to God about it, knowing that He cares about me personally. He carries me through the difficult times. He’s replaced broken relationships with strong, healthy ones. Most of all, He’s given me forgiveness in His Son and hope for the future.