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Part Two Session Five


 Women in Ministry


In past lessons we have seen that Jesus honored women and even called them to be His disciples. Today we’ll look at the question of women in ministry based on the story of the Samaritan woman from John 4:1-42 and follow up in the next lesson with further evidence on this subject.


In this lesson we will see:


1. How Jesus deals with cultural taboos (prohibitions)

2. What revelations make this story particularly important

3. Whether limiting the ministry of women is scriptural

4. The fruit of one person’s witness


A Samaritan Woman Meets Her Messiah John 4:1-42


1 Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John 2 (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples),3 He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. 4 But He needed to go through Samaria. 5 So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.


7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give Me a drink." 8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9 Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?" For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. 10 Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water." 11 The woman said to Him, "Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? 12 "Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?"


13 Jesus answered and said to her, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 "but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life." 15 The woman said to Him, "Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw."


16 Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come here." 17 The woman answered and said, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You have well said, 'I have no husband,' 18 "for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly." 19 The woman said to Him, "Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 "Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship." 21 Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 "You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 "But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." 25 The woman said to Him, "I know that Messiah is coming" (who is called Christ). "When He comes, He will tell us all things." 26 Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am He."


The Whitened Harvest 


27 And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, "What do You seek?" or, "Why are You talking with her?" 28 The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, 29 "Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?" 30 Then they went out of the city and came to Him. 31 In the meantime His disciples urged Him, saying, "Rabbi, eat." 32 But He said to them, "I have food to eat of which you do not know." 33 Therefore the disciples said to one another, "Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?" 34 Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. 35 "Do you not say, 'There are still four months and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! 36 "And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.  37 "For in this the saying is true: 'One sows and another reaps.' 38 "I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors." The Savior of the World.


39 And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, "He told me all that I ever did." 40 So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of His own word.

42 Then they said to the woman, "Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world."


One of the first things that should catch our attention in this story is verse 4, “But He needed to go through Samaria.” Normally a Jew would go miles out of his way to go around Samaria. The Samaritans were considered to be inferior on religious and ethnic grounds. They acknowledged only the five books of Moses as God’s inspired word and were not permitted to worship in Jerusalem. Because of their gentile blood, the Jews considered them ethnically inferior. But here Jesus says he “needs” to go there.Since we know that He only did what He saw the Father doing, Samaria must have been God’s chosen path.


Let’s look at the scene. It was noon when they arrived at Jacob’s well. Jesus remained behind while the disciples went into the city to buy food. A Samaritan woman came to draw water in the heat of the day—not the usual time. Jesus startled her by asking that she give him a drink. The fact that Jesus' action was out of the ordinary, is shown in her reply, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?" Remember their culture. Jews do not speak to Samaritans--certainly Jewish men do not speak to Samaritan women. For a Rabbi not only to speak, but to ask for help, is unheard of.


But it gets worse. He not only speaks with her, he steers the conversation into a theological discussion. To this rejected woman who has had five husbands and is now living with another man, Jesus reveals that He is Messiah. This declaration was not to Nicodemus, a teacher in Israel, nor to His disciples, but to this Samaritan woman.


At this point the disciples come back. They wonder, but don’t ask, about what He’s doing talking with a Samaritan woman. She realizes her moment is over and can’t wait to tell everyone what she has heard. She even leaves her waterpot as she heads for town.  Jesus does not try to stop her, nor tell her to be quiet about what she has heard. Instead he begins to talk with the disciples about fields white for harvest and reaping what others have sown.


Meanwhile the woman hurries toward town. She begins to spread the news to everyone. Most Bibles say she told the “men” but the word translated “men” is anthropos which means people—she told everyone about the prophet who told her “all she had ever done” and claimed to be the Messiah. She must have done a good job because the people of Sychar responded by immediately starting for the well to see for themselves. The disciples had been in the city to buy food, but it is not recorded that they told a single soul about Jesus, but scripture notes that “many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’"


The woman publicly proclaimed Jesus and He offered no word of reproof. What is a minister, an evangelist, a teacher but one who proclaims Jesus? If He did not object, how can we? Tradition has blinded the eyes of many well meaning Christians and kept the feminine half of the church veiled and silenced. It is time for the truth to be shouted from the housetops. God does not restrict women and neither should we! Could it be that this woman’s ministry laid the groundwork for the great revival in Samaria recorded in Acts 8:4-8?


Jesus went out of His way to meet with this woman. This is the longest conversation with an individual recorded in scripture. Did you notice that Jesus was the seventh man in her life? Seven is the number of completion and perfection. We are limiting our focus to the fact that He not only taught her but also approved of her functioning as an evangelist, but a multitude of lessons can be taught from this passage.


The immediate result of this woman’s ministry is stated in verse 42 by John who was an eyewitness to much of what happened. “Then they said to the woman, ‘Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.’" They, like we, had to know Him for themselves, but she pointed the way. This declaration of faith came because Jesus had proclaimed truth to a woman who took what she had learned and “ministered” it to anyone who would listen.




1. Have you ever felt that God led you to go somewhere or do something? If so, would you give an example and tell what happened?


2. Think about your own life. Are there cultural traditions that might keep you from witnessing to someone? This is a question to help us find our own hearts—no need to respond unless you want to.


3. Why do you think Jesus ignored tradition to speak with this woman?


4. In verse 28 we are told that the woman left her “waterpot” and went back to the city. The Lord never puts in details without a reason. Why do you think it was included? Don’t be afraid to respond on this one. There’s no right or wrong answer as the scripture does not say, but there must be a reason or John would not have said it.


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