Richard Burridge: John Chapters 3-4

John 3:1-8. The Rabbi in "the dark" will later emerge into the light (John 7:50) and bury Jesus (John 19:39). Jesus says he must be "born again" which John deliberately makes Nicodemus misunderstand; Jesus means "Take it from the top" or "start again". He must be reborn in "water and the Spirit"; a very watery Gospel; Pneuma meaning breath.

John 3:9-15. Jesus refers to the bronze snake (Numbers 21:4-9) smashed by Hezekiah as an idol (2 Kings 18:4) but described in inter Testamental times as the symbol of salvation (Wisdom 16:6) which is how John uses it; this is linked with "lift up" which means exalts but also refers to the Cross; so Jews looked for healing to the snake as we look to Jesus.

John 3:16-21. One of the most beautiful passages of John. For all its shortcomings, the world - not the church - is the object of God's love; echoes Isaac (Genesis 22:2). We live with the son or perish; he comes to save not to condemn. The choice - as so often between light and darkness - is not in the eschatological future but now.

John 3:22-30. The ministries of John and Jesus were similar at first. John was arrested but his reputation persisted (Acts 19:5). In spite of complaints from his own followers, John insists that he is a forerunner and witness of Jesus. Just as there is a time for the best man to disappear, so John sees his time is coming. In Jewish tradition the best man's role ended when the marriage was consummated.

John 4:1-9. Jesus passes through the Samaritan village of Sychar (the Old Testament Shechem), land of Jacob, burial place of Joseph and later the capital of the Israel king Omri (c870 BC) who settled non Jews there. Jews returning from exile valued their purity and refused Samaritan help to rebuild the Temple (520 BC, Ezra 4:1-3) and built their own temple in c400 BC, destroyed in 138 BC by the Jewish leader, John Hyrcanus. Jesus sits by a well where a woman draws water, reminding us of Isaac and Rebekah (Genesis 24), Jacob and Rachel (Genesis 29:1-20) and Moses and Miriam (Exodus 2:15-21). The woman comes in the heat of the day to avoid others; there is a contrast between man and woman, Samaritan and Jew, Rabbi and sinner, the "one from above" with the lowest of the low. There is all the bitterness of division but Jesus asks for a drink.

John 4:10-19. Contrast the impurity of the woman with the cleansing, living water.

John 4:19-30. The woman asks where she can go for forgiveness and to worship but Jesus says the place does not matter, for the Taheb (for the Samaritans), Messiah (for the Jews) or Christ (for Greeks) will explain all. Then Jesus personalises it in the "I am" which repeats Yahweh (Exodus 3:14).

John 4:43-54. As with Cana, the official with the sick child has to  be persistent; Jesus has such authority that he only has to assert the cure.

Taken from:

Burridge, Richard: John: The People's Bible Commentary, The Bible Reading Fellowship, revised 2008, ISBN 978 1 84101 570 5.


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