This small group Bible study of John 4:1-19 contains commentary, outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

John 4:1-19 Bible Study Commentary And Discussion Questions


I. Jesus leaves Judea (1-3)
    A. The reason (1-2)
    B. The destination (3)
II. The “detour” (4-6)
    A. Through Samaria (4-5)
    B. Rested at Jacob’s well (6)
III. Encounter with the Samaritan woman (7-19)
    A. Jesus initiates the conversation (7-8)
    B. Her first question: surprise (9)
    C. Jesus strikes the point: He offers living water (10)
    D. Her second question: surprise again (11-12)
    E. Jesus offers living water again (13-14)
    F. The woman asks for it (15)
    G. Jesus shows himself to be a prophet and identifies her sin (16-19)

Discussion Questions

  • Why did the Pharisees knowing about Jesus’ baptizing so many people have to do with him leaving?
  • Why would he leave because of this?
  • Didn’t Jesus normally stand up to the Pharisees and even condemn their practices? Why is here different?
  • What do you know about Samaria?
  • What does the phrase “had to pass” tell you?
  • How was the relationship between the Jews and the Samaritans?
  • Jesus did minister mostly to the Jews: but how did he treat those who weren’t Jews?
  • What time of day is the 6th hour?
  • What do we learn about Jesus in verse 6?
  • What do you think about verse 7? Is there anything significant there?
  • What can we learn about Jesus’ attitude?
  • Who approached who?
  • Can we learn anything else? About evangelism?
  • One of the key aspects about evangelism is breaking barriers. What are some ways we can break barriers with those around us in order to have chances to share the gospel with them?
  • What is the likelihood others will approach you to start conversations where you can share the gospel with them?
  • What was the Samaritan woman’s reaction? How did she perceive Jesus’ request? What does this tell us about Jesus’ intention?
  • How did Jesus answer her question in verse 10?
  • Did she understand?
  • What is a good thing to assume about unbelievers as we share the gospel (assume they don’t understand until they demonstrate understanding)?
  • How did Jesus answer her second question?
  • Does this teach us anything about how to deal with people when we are sharing about God with them?
  • What do we learn from verses 15-16?
  • Why didn’t Jesus give her the water when she asked for it?
  • What is he doing asking her husband to go there?


John 2:4 – His time had not yet come (Jesus has a time for everything.)

1 Corinthians 10:33 – Paul was all things to all men. (Break down barriers. Jesus broke down an ethnic class barrier.)

Matthew 10:5 – Go to the lost sheep of Israel. (Skip)

John 6:35 – Jesus is the bread of life. Never thirst. Come to Him.

Revelation 22:1, 22:17 – The water of life is flowing in heaven. It is free to any who come.

Isaiah 40:7-8 – The grass withers and fades, but God’s Word endures forever.

Matthew 24:35 – Heaven and earth will pass away, but God’s Word will not.

Luke 18:18-23 – Jesus strikes to the heart of the rich man’s problem.

Galatians 3:28 – There is neither slave nor free. All are one in Christ.


In India there is a group of people in the lowest caste called “untouchables”. They have all of the lowest positions in society. They are the “outcasts”. No one cares for them. Worse than that, they are scorned and hated by the higher up castes. People use them for menial and dirty tasks that no one else wants to do. It is virtually impossible to break out of this stereotype. They are basically stuck their whole life. They have grown to mistrust others. Yet of all the Indians they tend to be very open to the gospel. Christians have found ways to show love and kindness to them and become accepted by them.

Every society has its “untouchables”, people who are considered lower than others because of color, education, appearance, language, position, etc. As believers, we are called to reach out to them and share the gospel with them. In today’s lesson we will look out how Jesus dealt with one of the “untouchables” of His day and so better learn how to reach all kinds of people with the gospel, including those who are outcasts.

Verse by Verse Commentary

I. Jesus leaves Judea (1-3)

The Pharisees had learned that Jesus became more popular than John the Baptist. His ministry was expanding, as we learned in the last chapter. Before they had sent out “spies” to and observe John’s ministry (Matthew 3:7). They were likely planning to the same thing in order to keep tabs on Jesus’ ministry. Jesus therefore decided to leave that area. Jesus wasn’t scared of the Pharisees. He often condemned them and responded to their testing questions. John 2:4 says that His time had not yet come (referring to the crucifixion). What we can learn from this verse is that there is a time for everything (Ecc 3:1). Evidently it wasn’t the right time for Jesus to begin confrontation with the Pharisees. Most of His confrontation with them came about when He went to Jerusalem in order to minister. There it would be hard to minister without drawing their attention and conflict coming about it. So it seems like Jesus desired to avoid needless confrontation. If it was necessary He would deal with it (2 Timothy 1:7: spirit of timidity). If it would distract from His ministry, He chose to skip it.

When we are sharing the gospel and doing ministry we need to use discretion to know when to confront others and when to let things go and go out of our way to avoid it. There is a time to confront and correct (2 Tim 3:16: profitable for correction), but as we see from Jesus hear there is also a time to avoid confrontation. Can you think of some examples when it would be beneficial to correct others and some when it would not? We need to remember the goal is to reconcile others to God. If correcting their false beliefs or statements will help to do this, do it. But if it would distract and disturb genuine outreach it’s best to leave alone. Imagine that a person in your Bible study is hostile to the gospel. He keeps arguing and wants to prove you wrong. Likely it is better to gracefully put off His questions and get back to the point. Or suppose someone listening to it with good intentions says that they have seen God or had such and such a dream or something. Is it beneficial to say, “no, you didn’t see God and He didn’t talk to you in a dream!” Or suppose a leader or teacher has made it clear they don’t want you sharing the gospel. Is it helpful to go up to them and invite them to Bible study for the sake of boldness? What tests can we use to decide if something is beneficial?

  1. Ask yourself if correcting a person or going into the “danger zone” will be beneficial for God’s kingdom and all of those around.

  2. Ask yourself if it will distract from the message you want to teach.

  3. Ask yourself if the person asking questions is sincere.

  4. Ask yourself if you want to correct this person from prideful reasons because he has challenged you.

II. The “detour” (4-6)

Verse by Verse Commentary

So they passed through Samaria. Notice the words used: they “had to pass through”. It conveys the idea that it wasn’t the most preferable route, probably because of the bad relationship between Jews and Samarians. Discuss this aspect more in verse 8. Yet they went through anyway.

This land was in the same area that Jacob inhabited over a thousand years before and which he gave to Joseph. This well had seemingly become a religious and even superstitious relic to the Samaritans, who supposed that it had some special power or they it would convey a special blessing or allow them access to God. It is interesting that it is at this place where Jesus tells this woman the truth and where she can get true spiritual water.

Notice in verse 6 that Jesus was “wearied” from His journey. This is clear support that Jesus was 100% man inside and out, a “real” person. He wasn’t just God appearing as or looking like a man. He WAS a man. It is sometimes difficult to understand how the properties of Jesus as God and human interacted, but there are many statements in Scripture that support both. They are both true.

The sixth hour could refer to 6 AM, if counted by the Roman method, or 12 noon if the Jewish. Noon is the likely interpretation considering they had been traveling, Jesus was tired, and the disciples went in to the city to buy food.

  1. People who have superstitious beliefs, spiritual ancestors, or appear to be blessed spiritually still need to be reached with the gospel (notice how the entire time the woman refers to her ancestors or the location as spiritually important).

  2. Jesus was 100% human and didn’t just appear to be human.

III. Encounter with the Samaritan woman (7-19)

There came a woman of Samaria. This was a double no-no for Jesus to communicate with. Men didn’t stoop to teaching women in that day and place. They were considered inferior and of such a low quality that it wasn’t worth the time to teach them and they didn’t deserve it. A famous rabbi said it was more worthy to burn the Scripture than teach it to a woman. But this woman was also a Samaritan. These were the hated enemies of the Jews. Hundreds of years before the people in this area had formed the Northern Kingdom. This kingdom was conquered (because of its spiritual failings) and exiled. The people who lived there during the time of Jesus were a mixed breed, part Israelite, part other pagan nations. They had asked to help the Jews build part of the temple hundreds of years before and were rejected. This fueled the bad blood. They were considered ethnically and morally inferior and outcasts. This certainly would have created controversy for Jesus to minister to them, but in this case (unlike before with the Pharisees) He did it. What is the difference?

Jesus was not afraid of controversy as long as it was for the sake of the kingdom. Also, this woman was considered an untouchable. Jesus had to find a way to start up a conversation and share with her without ridiculing her or appearing as if He was looking down on or oppressing her. Quite a challenge for a Jew!

He started off breaking barriers right away by simply talking with her! It was a simple sentence, but she was shocked. Evidently, by talking to her and asking her favor Jesus was doing something that no Jews would have done. They probably wouldn’t have even acknowledged her existence! In a very simple gesture, Jesus showed His willingness to talk to this lady. This helped to break down the barrier. This really seemed to touch her.

Also, notice who talks to who. Jesus was the one who started the conversation. He took the initiative. He went outside of a normal person’s comfort level, humbled himself, and was willing to take the scorn of others in order to reach this woman.

Key Lessons

Lesson 1: Going to a group of “untouchables” may raise an outcry from the more elite. The untouchables may even be shocked and view you with some mistrust. But this possible conflict is worth it because it is beneficial for the kingdom of God.

Lesson 2: Are there any “untouchable” or comparable groups in your country? Perhaps children of mixed marriages, minorities, people of a religious group or social class, beggars, dirty people, etc.? Are there low groups that will embarrass you to reach out to? Brainstorm on this. Then brainstorm on possible ways to reach out these groups. Think of some specific applications.

As believers, we need to be willing to reach out to “all creation”, not just our friends or those we feel comfortable around. Sometimes even simple gestures of kindness can really make an impact on others. Do not be a recluse and stick to yourself. Start talking to others. Look for small (and big) acts of kindness you can show to others. Look for opportunities to reach out. Practice building bridges and breaking down barriers to others, even ones who are hard to reach. Sometimes they might build the barrier higher or burn the bridge, but it is our duty to keep trying. 1 Corinthians 10:33.

Lesson 3 – He offers living water (10)

Jesus doesn’t beat around the bush. He doesn’t deal with frivolous issues. This master of evangelism starts sharing the core point of the gospel with this lady whom he had absolutely no connection to (but was enemies with in a sense) in his second sentence, and he skips her question in order to do it! The message in this verse:

  1. She is not right with God, “if you knew” (human’s problem)

  2. Jesus can help her become right with God, “He would have given you living water” (God’s answer)

  3. She is still responsible, “you would have asked him” (humans’ response)

I love how Jesus keeps His goal in mind. He doesn’t get off on tangents about the current political environment between the Jews and Samaritans.

Application – Whenever you are sharing with someone, ALWAYS KEEP THE GOAL IN MIND. They will probably do their best to sidetrack it and it is easy to start talking about Moses, the errors in the Da Vinci code book, their Christian’s friend’s hypocrisy, the difference between Catholics and Protestants, problems in the Medieval church, etc. Be as polite as possible, but stick to the point.

Revelation 22:1 – Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.

Revelation 22:17 – The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

Reflect – What is living water? Think of bread of life from John 6:35 and compare.

Isaiah 40:7-8 – The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.

It is the water that never withers or passes away. It quenches our spiritual thirst forever. There are a lot of miracle and holy waters, both figurative and literal. Only Jesus can give the real thing!

Her second question: surprise again (11-12)

The lady is confused. Even though she had some background information she didn’t truly understand spiritual things. She was thinking in the physical domain, while Jesus was talking in the spiritual domain. At the beginning her question is legitimate, but in verse 12 she starts going down another rabbit trail thinking how great Jacob is and how blessed they were to have the well.

Jesus handles her question masterfully. He refers to the well that she puts her hope in as being inadequate and then immediately gets back to the point that He offers living water. This verse is similar to 10. Then this living water will bear fruit in the life of the believer.

Lesson 1Do not assume people understand the gospel even after you share it the first time. I shared the gospel with a guy before and he agreed with everything I said. But after I finished he started talking nonsense, which showed he clearly didn’t understand. We need to make sure people really understand. Ask questions. Probe. You will be surprised how often people who seem to be mature believers have little idea what they believe (they will become an angel, their father is watching over them, everyone will end up in heaven some day, dogs are people too, etc.).

Lesson 2: Remember to not be distracted by questions. Get back to the point as fast as possible

Jesus strikes home her need as a sinner (15-19)

This woman is attracted by Jesus’ offer and wants what He has to give. Did Jesus say, “ok, you are saved”? No. He could see she wasn’t ready yet. Also He wanted to show that she was really a sinner, really needed His help, and had to change (This passage does show that sin needs to be confronted. Repentance and Lordship are necessary.). Jesus delves into her marital situation in order to show her need as a sinner following short of God’s, and even man’s (who allowed two or three divorces) standards.

At the same time, though He pointed out her sin, He didn’t rub it in. He wasn’t harsh or better-than-though (though He could have been). He was gentle and compassionate. Correct the opposition with gentleness.

Lesson 1Do not assume people really understand and are ready to believe once you have shared the second time, even if they express willingness to accept it.Keep asking questions to make sure.

Lesson 2: When you share the gospel you must cover sin, both theologically and personally. You must show the need for repentance. You must show the need for Lordship. If someone wants to follow Christ they must be willing to change their sinful habits. You won’t be doing them any favors by preaching an easy “just say this prayer and everything will be ok” belief. This could give someone false hope and security.

Main Points

  1. Be discerning about conflicts. Do not get wrapped up in any debates or controversies that are not worthwhile. You don’t have to answer every question, whether it is argumentative or sincere. Think about what will be best for that person and the people listening, about what will be best for the furtherance of the gospel. At the same time don’t be afraid of conflict that comes up when you are doing your job for God. Meet it with boldness.

  2. Think about what untouchables, people of low position or status, around you. James 2:9. God does not want us to show partiality or avoid these people. Go out of your comfort zone to reach out to others. Be friendly. Think about what small acts of kindness you can do to reach out and then share the gospel. These people need God and they are often open. Don’t be embarrassed or scared of what others think. Clothe the naked, feed the hungry, visit the sick, etc. Share with and accept all.

  3. Do not assume others understand the gospel even if they have been going to fellowship many times or you yourself have shared the gospel with them. Ask questions to make sure. Also, do not assume that you understand or have the living water! Look at and examine your own life!

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