In John 4:10, Jesus has an encounter with a Samaritan woman at a well. He asks her for a drink, and she is surprised that a Jewish man would speak to a Samaritan woman. Jesus responds to her surprise by saying, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
There are a few key things to understand about this verse:
1. The gift of God refers to eternal life through Jesus
Throughout John’s gospel, he emphasizes that Jesus is the giver of eternal life. For example:
– “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
– “For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (John 6:33)
– “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” (John 11:25)
So when Jesus refers to the “gift of God” in John 4:10, he is referring to the gift of eternal life that comes through believing in Jesus. As the Son of God, Jesus has the power and authority to give eternal life to those who believe in him.
2. Jesus is identifying himself as the giver of eternal life
By saying “If you knew…who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,'” Jesus is identifying himself as the giver of eternal life. The Samaritan woman did not yet understand that the man she was speaking to was the divine Son of God. Jesus hints that if she knew his true identity, she would have asked him for living water.
So Jesus is equating the “gift of God” with his own identity. As the Son of God who would lay down his life and rise again, Jesus has the power to offer the blessing of eternal life to all who come to him by faith.
3. Living water represents eternal life
When Jesus refers to “living water,” he uses an image that would have been familiar to his listeners. In the Old Testament, water is often used as a symbol for spiritual blessing:
– “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” (Isaiah 12:3)
– “My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (Jeremiah 2:13)
Flowing, fresh, living water is contrasted with stagnant cistern water. When Jesus offers “living water,” the imagery indicates that he provides what will truly quench spiritual thirst – eternal life.
4. The gift of eternal life comes by asking Jesus
An important implication from this verse is that the gift of eternal life through Jesus is received by asking him for it. Jesus says, “you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
Asking expresses dependence, desire, and faith. Jesus encourages the woman (and all people) to simply come to him and ask to receive the eternal life that he alone can give. This demonstrates that eternal life is not earned or merited, but simply received as a gift by coming to Christ in faith.
So in summary, John 4:10 teaches that Jesus alone is the giver of the gift of eternal life, the living water that forever quenches spiritual thirst. This eternal life is received simply by asking Jesus and trusting in him.
5. Jesus offers eternal life freely to all
It’s significant that Jesus chose to reveal these truths to a Samaritan woman who was an outcast in her society. Most Jews avoided contact with Samaritans. But Jesus initiates a conversation with her, accepts her, and offers her living water.
This demonstrates that the gift of eternal life through Christ is available to all, regardless of gender, ethnicity, background, or social standing. Jesus came to save people from every tribe and nation (Revelation 5:9). Everyone who asks in faith may receive the saving water that Christ alone provides.
The encounter with the Samaritan woman illustrates the universal scope of Jesus’ offer of salvation. John 4:35-42 shows that many Samaritans came to believe in Jesus as the Savior of the world based on the woman’s testimony.
By crossing ethnic boundaries, Jesus showed that the living water of salvation is for all people – Jews, Samaritans, Gentiles. Everyone who realizes their need and asks Jesus in faith will be saved by the matchless gift of God.
6. The background of living water in the Old Testament
As mentioned earlier, the concept of “living water” would have been familiar in Jesus’ day based on Old Testament background:
– The book of Jeremiah used the metaphor of broken cisterns versus fresh living water to contrast relying on God versus relying on idols (Jeremiah 2:13). God is the source of true spiritual life.
– Isaiah 55:1 invited people to come buy “wine and milk without money and without price.” This is likely alluding to the covenant blessings God wants to give freely.
– Ezekiel 47 described a river of life-giving water flowing from the temple in a vision. The trees on the banks produced fruit every month and leaves for healing the nations (Ezekiel 47:12). This looked ahead to spiritual life and flourishing.
So the image of fresh, clean, abundant, life-giving water was a familiar one from the Old Testament. When Jesus offers “living water” to the Samaritan woman, he is claiming to fulfill these Old Testament themes and promises.
7. Water in John’s gospel
The Gospel of John includes several important passages involving water, in addition to John 4:
– John 2: Jesus turns water into wine at the wedding in Cana, his first sign.
– John 3: Jesus tells Nicodemus one must be born of water and the Spirit to enter God’s kingdom.
– John 5: The pool of Bethesda where the sick hoped to be healed when the water was stirred.
– John 9: The man blind from birth whom Jesus heals by having him wash in the pool of Siloam.
– John 13: Jesus washes the disciples’ feet as an act of love and service.
In each case, the water points to spiritual renewal, cleansing, and new life through Christ. So living water fits as a metaphor in John’s gospel for how Jesus provides eternal life.
8. The background of living water in Samaritan culture
It’s also significant that Jesus chose the image of living water when speaking to a Samaritan woman. The Samaritans accepted only the Pentateuch (Genesis-Deuteronomy) as Scripture. In their Bible, the image of water is closely tied to Israel’s story:
– The crossing of the Red Sea during the Exodus (Exodus 14)
– Water from the rock during the wilderness wanderings (Exodus 17, Numbers 20)
– Water of the Jordan when entering the Promised Land (Joshua 3)
These passages emphasize God’s miraculous provision of water to sustain his people physically and spiritually. So living water would resonate with the Samaritan woman as a picture of God’s spiritual blessings.
9. The background of wells in the Old Testament
In addition, the setting of Jesus’ conversation with the woman is significant. Wells were meaningful places in the Old Testament where important encounters occurred:
– Abraham’s servant found Rebekah as a wife for Isaac at a well (Genesis 24)
– Jacob met Rachel at a well and later rolled the stone from the well to water her sheep (Genesis 29)
– Moses met Zipporah at a well and later rescued her sisters who were being driven from the well (Exodus 2)
The theme of a well as a place where one meets a future spouse recurs in these stories. So Jesus, the divine bridegroom, revealing himself to the Samaritan woman at a well fits this motif. He offers her the blessing of eternal life with God as her true husband.
10. The source of living water
Where does the living water that Jesus offers come from? Jesus explains the source later in John’s gospel:
“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”‘ Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:37-39)
The Holy Spirit is the source of the living water who fills and satisfies believers. The Spirit could not be given until Jesus had died, rose again, and ascended to the Father. But through Christ, the gift of the Spirit is available to bring converts into new spiritual life.
11. Salvation as a gift
A final important point about John 4:10 is that it emphasizes salvation as a gift. Jesus makes it clear that he himself is the gift: “If you knew the gift of God.” And the living water is graciously given simply by asking Jesus:
“Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)
We can do nothing to earn the blessing of eternal life. It comes solely by God’s grace, not our works. All people need to do is recognize their thirst and ask Jesus sincerely to save them. Salvation is a gracious gift, bringing blessings we could never obtain ourselves.
In summary, John 4:10 is a profound passage where Jesus offers eternal life to all who ask him. He alone provides the living water that brings complete spiritual satisfaction. This water represents the Holy Spirit who comes to dwell in all who put their faith in Christ. The gift of God is available to all people regardless of background and may be received simply by asking Jesus from the heart. This living water is a free gift of God’s grace, welling up into eternity.