John brings the Samaria narrative to a close by focusing on the success of the Samaritan mission. Verse 39 notes the faith in Jesus of mane Samaritans and explicitly attributes the people’s faith to the woman’s “testimony” (martyria). She, like John the Baptist, is a witness who brings people to faith in Jesus. Also like John the Baptist (3:30), the woman’s witness diminishes in importance when the Samaritans have their own experience of Jesus (vv.40-42). The Samaritans invite Jesus to stay with them, and he stays for two days (if. 40). The use of the verb for “stay” (menō) recalls 1:38 and Jesus’ meeting with his first disciples. To stay with Jesus is to enter into relationship with him (cf. 15:4, 7). Many more persons come to faith in Jesus as a result of this stay (v.41), and in v.42 those who believe acknowledge that their own encounter with Jesus supplants the woman’s word. This is the model of witness and faith in the Fourth Gospel: The witness that leads to Jesus is replaced by one’s own experience of Jesus.
The Samaritans’ acclamation of Jesus as the savior of the world (v.42) is the most sweeping christological confession yet encountered in the Gospel. Salvation may be from the Jews (v.22 b), but it is not limited to the Jews. Ethnic and religious distinctions that figured prominently in this text (vv.9, 20-22) are dissolved in this recognition of the universality of salvation available in Jesus (cf. 3:17). The Samaritans’ confession evidences the truth of Jesus’ words in vv.21-24; the hour has indeed come when neither this mountain nor Jerusalem will define the worship of God.12
Image credit: Samaritan Woman at the Well, Rudall30 | Dreamstime.com -ID 191658499
Father George, thank you for this. I have always loved the “Woman at the Well,” gospel readings. I loved the conversation between Jesus and the woman. Her faith in him and her being a disciple, in essence as she told others about him. I think it is beautiful — a conversion of the heart, for her and us!