“…Spirit and Life”: John 4:21-24

John 4:21-24

In discussing the “living water” (u%dwr zw=n) which Jesus gives (4:10-14, cf. the previous note), I mentioned that it is to be identified with the giving of the Spirit. This can be inferred from a number of passages in the Gospel (beginning with the earlier statement in 3:34), but it also is confirmed if we continue on in the discourse of chapter 4. Following the Samaritan woman’s (second) reaction in verse 15, there is a second exposition by Jesus in vv. 16-26, which takes the form of a mini-dialogue, and which may be characterized as a “Messianic dialogue”. The woman’s reaction continues the motif of misunderstanding, common to all of the Johannine discourses; she continues to think of this “water” in an ordinary (physical) sense, though perhaps now with a glimmer of its deeper meaning:

“(My) lord, give to me this water, (so) that I might not thirst, and would not (have to) come through (here) in (this place) to take up (water).”

The dialogue-exposition by Jesus, in response, may be outlined as follows:

  • Miracle—demonstration of Jesus’ (divine) foreknowledge (vv. 16-18)
    • Declaration by the woman:
      “I look (on and perceive) that you are (the) Foreteller” (v. 19)
      and statement relating to the role of the Messiah (v. 20)
      • Exposition by Jesus (vv. 21-24)
    • Declaration by the woman:
      “I see [i.e. know] that the Mashiaµ {Messiah} comes” (v. 25a)
      and statement regarding the role of the Messiah (v. 25b)
  • I Am saying—identification of Jesus as the Anointed One of God (v. 26)

As with several other episodes (and discourses) in the Gospel, a miracle, demonstrating Jesus’ God-given power, leads to an “I am” statement by which Jesus effectively declares his special status (and nature) in relation to God the Father. This is the framework for the dialogue in vv. 16-26, within which the portion spanning vv. 19-25 is, as I have already indicated, a kind of “Messianic dialogue”—with a central exposition by Jesus (vv. 21-24) flanked by two declarations by the woman. Each of these declarations has a Messianic significance.

There is some ambiguity regarding the first of these, as the word profh/th$ (“Foreteller”, i.e. Prophet), without the article, could mean either “a Prophet” or “the Prophet”. Jesus’ demonstration of foreknowledge in vv. 16-18 certainly would mark him as a prophet (lit. “foreteller”); yet the woman’s entire statement in vv. 19-20, taken as a whole (and in context) suggests that she believes that he might be the Prophet to Come—i.e. the end-time (Messianic) Prophet expected by the Samaritans. This Prophet-figure is derived from Deut 18:15-19, and the expectation of a “Prophet like Moses”, who would appear at the end time, was shared by many Israelites and Jews (cf. Part 3 of the series “Yeshua the Anointed”). A number of references to “the Anointed One” (Xristo/$, Christ/Messiah) in the Gospels may refer to such a Prophet-figure, rather than the more familiar Davidic Ruler figure-type. Similarly, there are specific references to “the Prophet”, especially in the Gospel of John (1:21, 25; 6:14; 7:40), which would seem to confirm this. Jesus is specifically identified as the Prophet of Deut 18:15ff in Acts 3:22-23.

In the second declaration (v. 25), the woman apparently uses the term M¹šîaµ (j^yv!m*), transliterated in Greek as Messi/a$ (and translated by the Gospel writer as Xristo/$, “Anointed One”). There is some question whether, at the historical level, a Samaritan would have used this title. According to (later) sources, the Samaritan “Messiah” had the title Taheb, presumably related to the root bWv (šû», Aramaic bWT, tû»), “turn (back), return”, and thus meaning either “the Returning One”, or “the One who returns/restores (things)”. For the Samaritans, this figure would have been related to the Messianic Prophet figure-type (from Deut 18:15ff), and not the Davidic Ruler type with its origins in Judean (Jewish) royal tradition. There is some thought that the Taheb was expected to restore true/proper religion for humankind, and this would seem to be reflected by the woman’s statements in vv. 20 and 25b. The sharp divisions between Israelites/Jews and Samaritans were both ethnic and religious in nature, most particularly, with regard to the central sacred location—Mt. Gerizim vs. Jerusalem (i.e. Mt. Zion). The woman brings out this religious difference in v. 20, perhaps expecting Jesus (if he is the Prophet) to arbitrate or judge the question. Her statement is worth citing in full:

“Our fathers kissed toward [i.e. worshiped] (God) in/on this mountain, and (yet) you [i.e. Jews] say that the place where it is necessary to kiss toward [i.e. worship] (God) (is) in Yerushalaim {Jerusalem}.”

This serves as the immediate basis for the exposition by Jesus in vv. 21-24. If she expects Jesus (as the Prophet) to explain/resolve this religious difference, it may be parallel to her statement in v. 25b regarding the role of the “Messiah” (Samaritan Taheb): “…when that (One) should come, he will offer up a message to us (about) all (thing)s”.

Let us now turn to the central exposition by Jesus, examining briefly, but carefully, the main statements. His initial statement in verse 21 is a direct response to the religious differences (between Samaritans and Jews) mentioned by the woman:

“Trust me, (my dear) woman, that an hour comes when (it will) not (be) in/on this mountain, and not in Yerushalaim {Jerusalem} (either), that you will kiss toward [i.e. worship] the Father”.

This declaration essentially abrogates and removes the religious-cultural differences between Samaritans and Jews, as represented by the central difference regarding the place for worship. It is presented from an eschatological point of view—”an hour comes”, i.e. in the future. At that time, worship will transcend specific (sacred) places, etc, rooted in ancient ethnic and religious traditions. For the present—that is, at the moment when he is speaking with the woman—it would seem that Jesus recognizes (and even affirms!) the religious differences (v. 22). He appears to speak from the Israelite/Jewish standpoint, which represents the “correct” religious tradition, expressed in the Johannine (dualistic) vocabulary of “knowing” vs. “not knowing”—i.e., worship done in ignorance, without true knowledge. He even goes so far as to state that “salvation” comes “out of the Jews”—that is, out of the Jewish milieu and religious heritage (in which Jesus was born).

If Jesus seems to confirm the religious-cultural distinctions in v. 22, he eliminates them again, repeating (even more forcefully) his statement in v. 21:

“But an hour comes, and now is, when the true kissers toward (God) [i.e. worshipers] will kiss toward [i.e. worship] the Father in (the) Spirit and (the) Truth—for (it is) even (that) the Father seeks these (very sorts of people) kissing toward him.” (v. 23)

I have translated the verb proskune/w literally, according to its probable fundamental meaning—to kiss (kune/w) toward (pro/$) someone, i.e. as a gesture of adoration, homage or respect. The ancient symbolism of the expression came to be used in the more general and abstract sense of “worship, adoration”, etc. However, I think it is worth preserving the sense of the action underlying the idiom. At any rate, what Jesus characterizes as true (a)lh/qino$) worship is said to occur, not in a specific place, but, rather, “in (the) Spirit and Truth” (e)n pneu/mati kai\ a)lhqei/a|).

Yet when and how will this true worship take place? Jesus has modified the eschatological orientation of v. 21; instead of saying “an hour comes”, he states: “an hour comes, and now is [kai\ nu=n e)stin]”—that is to say, it is here now, in the present. This is another example of the “realized” eschatology expressed numerous times in the Johannine discourses of Jesus. Believers experience now, in the present, what traditionally would be experienced by the righteous at the end time (in the Age to Come). The basis for this realized eschatology is trust in the person and work of Jesus. The Johannine Christological theme of Jesus (the Son) making God the Father known to believers is very much central to this passage. Worship in the Spirit, which is the only true worship (“in the Spirit and Truth”), can only be realized through the gift of the Spirit. Jesus (the Son) gives the Spirit, which is given to him by the Father (3:34-35)—the ultimate source of the Spirit is God the Father. Jesus expresses this clearly enough in the concluding verse 24:

“God (is) Spirit, and the (one)s kissing toward [i.e. worshiping] him, it is necessary (for them) to kiss toward [i.e. worship] (him) in (the) Spirit and Truth.”

We cannot truly worship God, who is Spirit, unless we are in the Spirit. This is not a temporary, charismatic phenomenon, but an essential and permanent condition—it is the very Life (eternal, divine Life) given to us by Jesus (the Son) from the Father.

March 26: Luke 9:51-56

Luke’s account of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem begins with Lk 9:51-56. As previously noted, Luke gives more prominence to this journey than the other Gospels, using it as the setting for all of Lk 9:51-19:27 (nearly ten full chapters), during which he places considerable teaching by Jesus, including a number of famous parables found only in Luke, as well as material found in different locations in Matthew. Let us consider these introductory verses in more detail.

Luke 9:51-56

Verse 51 provides the narrative setting, and displays several clear signs of Lukan composition. Two phrases in the first clause are particularly noteworthy:

    • “the filling together of the days”—the verb being a passive infinitive of sumplhro/w (“fill together, fill up”), with the prefixed element sun- functioning as an intensive (i.e. “fill up completely”). The expression “fill up the days (or the time)”, using the simpler verb plhro/w (or the related plh/qw/pimplhmi), is an idiom found frequently in Luke-Acts (Luke 1:23, 57; 2:6, 21, 22; 21:21, 24; Acts 2:1; 7:23, 30; 9:23; 24:27). The phrase in Acts 2:1 is nearly identical with that here in Lk 9:51. It is a temporal phrase, indicating that a specific set time is approaching—”in the filling together of the days” (i.e., as the time was approaching).
    • “of his being taken up”—the noun a)na/lhyi$ (occurring only here in the NT) is derived from the verb a)nalamba/nw (“take/receive up”), used specifically for Jesus’ departure (“ascension”) to God the Father in Acts 1:2, 11, 22 (also Mark 16:19; 1 Tim 3:16); in Lk 24:51 [MT] the similar verb a)nafe/rw (“carry up”) is used. Here in Lk 9:51 it refers to all the events which will take place in Jerusalem, up to and including the ‘ascension’. In this regard it functions similarly to e&codo$ (“way out”, i.e. departure) in 9:31.

If the first clause establishes the temporal and dramatic setting, the second clause sets the narrative in motion:

“he firmly set (his) face to travel into Jerusalem”
au)to\$ to\ pro/swpon e)sth/risen tou= poreu/esqai ei)$  )Ierousalh/m

The definite article before the infinitive specifies the travelling—i.e., “…to the journey into Jerusalem”. For the use of the verb sthri/zw in Luke-Acts, cf. Lk 16:26; 22:32; Acts 18:23. Here the expression may be derived from LXX Ezek 6:2; 13:17; 14:8.

In verse 52, we find an allusion to Malachi 3:1 as set in Gospel tradition: John the Baptist is the Messenger (Elijah, cf. Mal 4:5-6) who prepares the way for the Lord’s (i.e. Jesus’) coming. This is expressed in Mark 1:2-3 par, as well as Lk 1:17, 76ff; 7:27 par. Note the parallel:

Mal 3:1 [LXX]:
“…I set out forth [i.e. send out] from (me) [e)caposte/llw] my Messenger [a&ggelon]…before my face [pro\ prosw/pou mou]”
Luke 9:52
“and he set forth from (him) [a)pe/steilen] messengers [a)gge/lou$] before his face [pro\ prosw/pou au)tou=]”

From the standpoint of the Gospel narrative (and tradition), the disciples take over the role of “Messenger” from John the Baptist—cf. Luke 7:28 par; John 1:35-37; 3:28-30. Moreover, they go specifically “to make (things) ready” [e(toima/sai] for Jesus. Consider the development of Mal 3:1 in this respect:

    • The original Hebrew—the Messenger turns (and faces) [hn`P*] the way, the use of the causative stem perhaps carrying the sense of turning things/people out of the way (i.e. clearing the way).
    • The Greek LXX—the Messenger “looks upon” the way, using the verb e)pible/pw, with the sense of paying close attention to something, showing concern/respect for it, examining it, etc.
    • Mark 1:2; Lk 7:27 pars—the Messenger “prepares” the way, that is, equips it for use, supplies/furnishes what is necessary, etc. The verb is kataskeua/zw (an intensive form of skeua/zw).

Now the other Old Testament passage applied to John the Baptist is Isaiah 40:3ff—the voice which declares “make ready the way of the Lord”. As with Mal 3:1, the Hebrew uses the causative (piel) form of hn`P* (“turn, face”); while both the LXX and the Gospels translate with e(toima/zw (“make ready”, imperative e(toima/sate)—the same verb used in Luke 9:51. In Mark 1:2-3, both OT references are combined, bringing together the verbs kataskeua/zw and e(toima/zw (“prepare…” / “make ready…”); the same combination is found in Luke 1:17, applied to John the Baptist. All of this simply reinforces the idea that the disciples are here fulfilling John’s role, as described in Mal 3:1 / Isa 40:3ff.

The disciples “prepare the way” before Jesus also in Luke 10:1, but more notably in the preparations made prior to Jesus’ (triumphal) entry into Jerusalem, as recorded in Synoptic tradition (Lk 19:28-34 par). In some respects, this provides an even closer parallel to Malachi 3:1, since the narrative depicts Jesus entering Jerusalem and coming into the Temple (19:45-48 par).

If Isaiah 40:3-5 is in mind in Luke 9:51-56, as seems likely (only Luke cites vv. 4-5, cf. Lk 3:5), then the narrative may also be illustrating the obstacles (Isa 40:4-5a) in the way—embedded within the phrase “…into a village of Samaritans” (v. 52). Here the “obstacles” and barriers are expressed in terms of religious and ethnic prejudice—i.e. between Jews and Samaritans (cf. John 4:9; Matt 10:5, and the general context of Lk 10:29-37; 17:11-19; John 4:1-42; 8:48; Acts 8:4-25). The precise history of the division and animosity between Jews and Samaritans remains uncertain, but the roots of it presumably go back to the different groups which settled in Palestine following the Assyrian/Babylonian exile (cf. 2 Kings 17:5-6, 24-40; Ezra 4). This prejudice and animosity is expressed two-fold in the narrative (verses 53-56):

    • Verse 53: on the part of the Samaritans—refusal to offer hospitality
    • Verse 54: on the part of the disciples—seeking revenge for this affront

The Samaritans’ refusal is based entirely on the religious/ethnic division: “they did not receive him because his face was (set toward) traveling to Jerusalem” (v. 53 [cf. v. 51]). However, it is the disciples’ (James and John’s) behavior in response which reflects an even more serious and egregious expression of prejudice (tending toward violence), all the more extreme in they way that their vengeance is couched in grand biblical imagery (echoing Elijah, cf. 2 Kings 1:10-12). The association with Elijah is made explicit in certain manuscripts of verse 54, which add “…even as Elijah did”. It is possible to outline verses 53-56 as a chiasm:

    • The Samaritans—refusal to offer hospitality (v. 53)
      —The Disciples—seeking revenge (v. 54)
      —Jesus’ response—lays blame upon them (v. 55)
    • Jesus’ response—travels into another village (v. 56) [Lk 9:4-5 par; cf. 10:5-11]

There is an interesting two-fold variant here in v. 55-56a (D Q Koine):

    • Verse 55—Jesus’ rebuke of his disciples is enhanced with a harsh declaration to them: “and he said, ‘You do not know of what spirit you are'”. This indicates that their desire for (violent) revenge/punishment on the Samaritans does not come from the Spirit of God, but from another (evil) spirit (cf. Mark 8:33 par, also Matt 5:37; 6:13).
    • Verse 56(a)—There is added a Son of Man saying by Jesus, similar to that in Luke 19:10 (cf. John 3:17): “For the Son of Man did not come to destroy the souls of men, but to save (them)”.

If original, this saying sets the “Son of Man” (identified with Jesus himself) in the context of suffering and sacrifice (with an emphasis on salvation). This would then be contrasted with the (Anointed) Prophet who brings judgment (cf. the reference to Elijah). In the same way, the Passion predictions—announcing the coming suffering and death of the Son of Man—appear to be offered (in part, at least) as an intentional contrast to the image and expectation of a glorious Messiah-figure. In Luke, the first Passion prediction follows Peter’s declaration of Jesus as “the Anointed One” (Lk 9:20, 21); the second Passion prediction follows the Transfiguration scene, where Jesus appears in glory with the Messianic Prophet-figures of Moses and Elijah and the voice from heaven declares him to be God’s “Son” and “the Elect/Chosen One” (Lk 9:30-35, 43-45). Before the Son of Man can appear in glory, he must first experience suffering and death.

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