1-4. (a) How does Jesus skillfully teach a Samaritan woman, and with what result? (b) How do his apostles react?
THEY have been walking for hours. Jesus and his apostles are trekking northward, heading from Judea toward Galilee. The shortest route—a journey of about three days—takes them through Samaria. As the sun nears its zenith, they approach a small city named Sychar, where they stop for refreshment.
2 While his apostles go to buy food, Jesus rests by a well outside the city. A woman approaches to draw water. Jesus could choose to ignore her. He is “tired out from the journey.” (John 4:6) It would be understandable if he just closed his eyes and let this Samaritan woman come and go unnoticed. As we saw in Chapter 4 of this book, the woman would likely expect any Jew to treat her with disdain. Yet, Jesus strikes up a conversation with her.
3 He opens with an illustration, one taken from the woman’s daily life—indeed, from this very moment. She is here to draw water; Jesus speaks of life-giving water that will quench her spiritual thirst. Several times, she raises points that are potentially controversial.* Jesus tactfully sidesteps such issues and keeps the conversation on track. He focuses on spiritual matters—pure worship and Jehovah God. His words have far-reaching effects, for the woman relays them to the men of the city, and they too want to listen to Jesus.—John 4:3-42.
4 Upon their return, how do the apostles feel about the remarkable witness that Jesus is giving here? There is no sign of enthusiasm on their part. They are surprised that Jesus is even talking to this woman, and evidently they say nothing to her. After she leaves, they keep urging Jesus to eat the food they have brought. However, Jesus says to them: “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” Puzzled, they take his words literally at first. Then he explains: “My food is for me to do the will of him that sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:32, 34) Jesus thus teaches them that his main work in life is more important to him than eating. He wants them to feel the same way about it. What is this work?
5. What was Jesus’ lifework, and what will we consider in this chapter?
5 Jesus once said: “I must declare the good news of the kingdom of God, because for this I was sent forth.” (Luke 4:43) Yes, Jesus was sent to preach and to teach the good news of God’s Kingdom.* Jesus’ followers today have the same work to do. It is vital, then, that we consider why Jesus preached, what he preached, and what his attitude toward his assignment was.
Why Jesus Preached
6, 7. How did Jesus want “every public instructor” to feel about sharing the good news with others? Illustrate.
6 Let us consider how Jesus felt about the truths he taught; then we will discuss his attitude toward the people he taught. Jesus used a vivid illustration to show how he felt about sharing with others the truths Jehovah had taught him. He said: “Every public instructor, when taught respecting the kingdom of the heavens, is like a man, a householder, who brings out of his treasure store things new and old.” (Matthew 13:52) Why does the householder in this illustration bring things out of his treasure store?
7 The householder is not simply showing off his possessions, the way King Hezekiah of old once did—with painful consequences. (2 Kings 20:13-20) What does motivate the householder? Consider an illustration: You visit a favorite teacher in his home. He opens a desk drawer and pulls out a couple of letters—one of them yellowed with age, the other newer. They are letters that he received from his father—one of them decades ago when the teacher was but a boy, the other in recent times. His eyes gleam with pleasure as he tells you how much he values these letters and how the advice they contain has changed his life and could help you. The letters are clearly treasured by the teacher, holding a cherished place in his heart. (Luke 6:45) He shares them with you, not to boast or to profit in some way, but to benefit you and to convey to you a sense of their worth.
8. Why do we have good reason to feel that the truths we learn from God’s Word are treasures?
8 The Great Teacher, Jesus, had similar motives in sharing God’s truths with others. To him, those truths were treasures beyond price. He loved them, and he was eager to share them. He wanted all his followers, “every public instructor,” to feel that way. Do we? We have ample reason to love every truth we learn from God’s Word. We treasure gems of truth whether they are long-cherished beliefs or recent refinements. By speaking with heartfelt enthusiasm and maintaining our love for what Jehovah has taught us, we convey that love, as Jesus did.
9. (a) How did Jesus feel about the people he taught? (b) How can we imitate Jesus’ attitude toward people?
9 Jesus also loved the people he taught, as we will discuss more fully in Section 3. Prophecy foretold that the Messiah would “feel sorry for the lowly one and the poor one.” (Psalm 72:13) Indeed, Jesus cared about people. He cared about the thoughts and attitudes that drove them; he was concerned about the burdens that weighed them down and the obstacles that hindered them from grasping the truth. (Matthew 11:28; 16:13; 23:13, 15) Recall the Samaritan woman, for example. No doubt she was greatly impressed that Jesus took an interest in her. His insight into her personal situation moved her to accept him as a prophet and to tell others about him. (John 4:16-19, 39) Granted, Jesus’ followers today cannot read the hearts of the people to whom they preach. However, we can take an interest in people, as Jesus did; we can let our concern for them show; and we can tailor our words to meet their particular interests, challenges, and needs.
What Jesus Preached
10, 11. (a) What did Jesus preach? (b) How did the need for God’s Kingdom arise?
10 What did Jesus preach? If you were to seek the answer by examining the teachings of many churches that claim to represent him, you might conclude that he proclaimed some kind of social gospel. Or perhaps you would get the impression that he advocated political reform or that he stressed personal salvation above all else. However, as previously noted, Jesus said plainly: “I must declare the good news of the kingdom of God.” Just what did that involve?
11 Remember, Jesus was present in heaven when Satan first challenged the rightness of Jehovah’s sovereignty. How it must have pained Jesus to see his righteous Father slandered and accused of being an unjust Ruler who withholds good from His creatures! How hurt God’s Son must have been when Adam and Eve, the future parents of humankind, gave heed to Satan’s slander! The Son saw that the human family was infected with sin and death as a result of that rebellion. (Romans 5:12) How thrilled he must have been, though, to learn that his Father would one day set matters straight!
12, 13. God’s Kingdom will set straight what injustices, and how did Jesus make the Kingdom central to his ministry?
12 Above all else, what needed to be set straight? Jehovah’s holy name needed to be sanctified, cleared of every trace of reproach heaped upon it by Satan and all who have sided with him. The rightfulness of Jehovah’s sovereignty, his way of ruling, needed to be vindicated. Better than any other man, Jesus understood these vital issues. In the model prayer, he taught his followers to ask first for his Father’s name to be sanctified, next for his Father’s Kingdom to come, and then for God’s will to be done on earth. (Matthew 6:9, 10) God’s Kingdom, with Christ Jesus as its Ruler, will soon rid the earth of Satan’s corrupt system and confirm Jehovah’s righteous rulership for all time.—Daniel 2:44.
13 That Kingdom was the theme of Jesus’ ministry. All his words and all his actions helped to clarify what that Kingdom is and how it will serve Jehovah’s purpose. Jesus allowed nothing to sidetrack him from his mission to preach the good news of God’s Kingdom. In his day, there were pressing social issues, countless injustices, yet his focus was on his message and his work. Did maintaining such a focus mean that Jesus was narrow in his outlook, dull and repetitive in his approach? Far from it!
14, 15. (a) How did Jesus prove to be “something more than Solomon”? (b) How can we imitate Jesus in what we preach?
14 As we will see throughout this section, Jesus made his teaching both interesting and colorful. He appealed to people’s hearts. We might be reminded of wise King Solomon, who sought delightful words, correct words of truth, to convey the thoughts that Jehovah inspired him to write down. (Ecclesiastes 12:10) Jehovah gave that imperfect man “broadness of heart,” enabling him to speak about many things, from birds to fish to trees to beasts. People came from far away to hear Solomon speak. (1 Kings 4:29-34) Yet, Jesus was “something more than Solomon.” (Matthew 12:42) He was far wiser, with far more “broadness of heart.” When teaching people, Jesus drew on his superior knowledge of God’s Word as well as of birds, animals, fish, agriculture, weather, current events, history, and social conditions. At the same time, Jesus never showed off his knowledge in order to impress others. He kept his message simple and clear. No wonder people delighted to hear him speak!—Mark 12:37; Luke 19:48.
15 Christians today try to follow Jesus’ lead. We do not have his immense wisdom and knowledge, but all of us do have a measure of knowledge and experience from which to draw when we share with others the truths of God’s Word. Parents, for instance, may draw from their experience in raising children to illustrate Jehovah’s love for His children. Others may draw examples or illustrations from secular work, school, or their knowledge of people and current events. At the same time, we are careful not to let anything divert attention from our message—the good news of God’s Kingdom.—1 Timothy 4:16.
Jesus’ Attitude Toward His Ministry
16, 17. (a) What attitude did Jesus have toward his ministry? (b) How did Jesus show that his ministry was the focus of his life?
16 Jesus felt that his ministry was a precious treasure. He delighted in helping people to see his heavenly Father as He truly is, unobscured by confusing man-made doctrines and traditions. Jesus loved helping people gain an approved relationship with Jehovah and the hope of everlasting life. He delighted in bringing people the comfort and joy of the good news. How did he show that he had such feelings? Consider three ways.
17 First, Jesus made the ministry the primary focus of his life. Talking about the Kingdom was his career, his lifework, his central interest. That is why, as we noted in Chapter 5, Jesus wisely kept his life simple. As he counseled others, he kept his eye focused on what mattered most. He was not distracted by a lot of things that he would have to pay for, maintain, and repair or replace as time went on. He lived simply so that nothing would needlessly pull him away from his ministry.—Matthew 6:22; 8:20.
18. In what ways did Jesus expend himself in his ministry?
18 Second, Jesus expended himself in his ministry. He devoted immense energy to it, walking literally hundreds of miles throughout Palestine, seeking out people with whom he might share the good news. He spoke to them in their homes, in public squares, in marketplaces, and out in the open. He spoke to them even when he was in need of rest, food, water, or a little quiet time with his closest friends. Even as he was dying, he continued to share with others the good news of God’s Kingdom!—Luke 23:39-43.
19, 20. How did Jesus illustrate the urgency of the preaching work?
19 Third, Jesus treated the ministry as something urgent. Remember his conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well outside of Sychar. Jesus’ apostles apparently did not see in that situation an urgent need to share the good news with others. Jesus said to them: “Do you not say that there are yet four months before the harvest comes? Look! I say to you: Lift up your eyes and view the fields, that they are white for harvesting.”—John 4:35.
20 Jesus drew that illustration from the season at hand. It was evidently the month of Chislev (November/December). The barley harvest would not come for another four months, about the time of Passover, on Nisan 14. So farmers did not feel any urgency about the harvest just then. It was still a long way off. But what about the harvest of people? Ah, many were ready to hear, to learn, to become Christ’s disciples and gain the marvelous hope that Jehovah held out to them. It was as if Jesus could look out over those figurative fields and see that they were white with all the ripe grain swaying gently in the breeze, signaling their readiness to be harvested.* The time was at hand, and the work was urgent! Consequently, when people of one city tried to keep Jesus with them, he replied: “Also to other cities I must declare the good news of the kingdom of God, because for this I was sent forth.”—Luke 4:43.
21. How can we imitate Jesus?
21 In all three ways just discussed, we can imitate Jesus. We can make the Christian ministry the primary focus of our life. Even though we may have family and secular obligations, we can show that our ministry comes first by having a zealous, regular share in it, as Jesus did. (Matthew 6:33; 1 Timothy 5:8) We can expend ourselves in the ministry, giving generously of our time, energy, and resources to support it. (Luke 13:24) And we can keep ever in mind that our work is urgent. (2 Timothy 4:2) We need to seize every opportunity to preach!
22. What will be considered in the following chapter?
22 Jesus also showed that he saw the importance of the work by ensuring that it would continue after his death. He commissioned his followers to carry on the preaching and teaching work. That commission will be the subject of the following chapter.
For example, in asking why a Jew addresses a Samaritan, she brings up the subject of the centuries-old feud between the two peoples. (John 4:9) She also asserts that her people descended from Jacob, a claim that the Jews of the day vehemently deny. (John 4:12) They call Samaritans by the name Cuthaeans to emphasize their descent from foreign peoples.
To preach means to proclaim, or declare, a message. To teach is similar in meaning but involves conveying a message in greater depth and detail. Good teaching includes finding ways to reach hearts in order to motivate students to act on what they hear.
Regarding this verse, one reference work notes: “Grain, when ripe, turns from a green to a yellow, or light colour, indicating that it is time to reap it.”