They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said: now we have heard for ourselves and we know that this man is the Saviour of the world.” (verse 42)
There are so many remarkable things in these few short verses:
(1) The Samaritans believe “because of the woman’s testimony” (verse 39). That they even listened to her in the first place is remarkable, given the ostracism she presumably experienced in that community. There must have been something immediately compelling about her testimony.
(2) The essential core of the woman’s testimony is: “He told me everything I ever did” (verse 39). Jesus had put his finger on the central pain of her life, telling her he knew of the rejection she had experienced at the hands of one husband after another, all five successively divorcing her and sending her on her way. He told her he knew of her present shame, in desperation living with a man apart from marriage. That the woman embraced this vulnerability before Jesus speaks volumes of the grace he communicated in the encounter.
(3) The Samaritans urge Jesus, a Jewish rabbi, to stay with them. This is so unexpected, given the intensity of ethnic animosity between Jews and Samaritans at the time. In our own day when racial tensions have once again come clearly into the light, the presence of a Saviour who bridges these divides is compelling.
(4) The harvest is progressive as people encounter Jesus. The account starts by telling us many Samaritans believed through the woman’s testimony. It continues by recounting that “because of his words many more became believers” (verse 41). As Jesus had said, the fields “are ripe for harvest” (verse 35).
(5) The Samaritan’s, drawn by the woman’s testimony of faith, enter into their own believing encounter with Jesus. They testify: “we have heard for ourselves” (verse 42). This is the necessary maturing of living faith, making faith their own.
(6) The Samaritans are the first to identify a key truth: Jesus is “the Saviour of the world” (verse 42). Although he came for the “lost sheep of Israel” (Matthew 15:24), these Samaritans have experienced for themselves that Jesus’ salvation is embracing of all. He had offered living water to a non-Jewish, needy woman. They themselves stood outside the circle of God’s chosen people, yet they knew the same gift was on offer to them, too. They received, and in so doing proved that this was One who was Saviour for all.
These Samaritans themselves are the beginning fulfilment of Jesus’ words that the fields “are ripe for harvest” (John 4:35). The setting is so unexpected, yet Kingdom harvest is taking place. If that’s the case, what could keep us from believing Jesus’ words right now.
The harvest is here.
Lord Jesus, all these years later, I rejoice in the wonder of the new birth these Samaritans received. Thank you for your grace. Praise you that you are indeed the Saviour of all. Thank you that this same grace has been extended to me. Please use me now to share the same good news, right here, right now. Amen.
Give thanks: Reflect on all those in your own circle who have received salvation from Jesus. Take 2-3 minutes and name one after another. Give thanks to the Lord of the harvest.