Teacher’s overview of Lifeway “Explore the Bible”: John 4:11-26 “But Whoever Drinks”

A brief overview for Sunday School teacher and Bible study leaders, of Lifeway’s “Explore the Bible” lesson of John 4:11-26, for Sunday, January 8, 2023, with the title, “But Whoever Drinks.” (A video version of this overview is available on YouTube at:

INTRO:  I’ll be teaching the young adult SS class at First Baptist Angleton starting this week. Let me tell you how I plan to begin our class. We’re going to have a “welcome back to Sunday School” breakfast & snacks to open class, and as we eat, I’ll ask everyone: “As we start this New Year, what are some of your goals for 2023?” (You can call them “resolutions,” or some people don’t like that word; you can call them “commitments,” or “goals,” or whatever — but what are some things you feel like God wants you to do in 2023?)  Have some ready to share personally, and ask your group to share as well. 

(EX: I lost a bit of weight the last 3 months, and I’d like to continue that in 2023, and get down to my goal. I’d also like to emphasize reaching and discipling younger adults in our church — hence this class! — as well as reach out to some new neighborhoods that are being built here in Angleton.) That’s me — you share what’s on your heart, and let your group share theirs.

THEN you can say: these are all good goals, and God has some things in His word that should be goals for ALL of us. Our passage for today shows us one: that we should let God use us to reach out to people, like Jesus does here in John 4, in the story of the Samaritan Woman.  

Now, many of you didn’t had class at all the last couple of weeks, because they were Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. So how do you handle our study of John in light of that? You have a couple of options:

— you could just skip what’s behind and pick up at John 4 for this week; that would work. Sadly, the negative of that is that you would have skipped one of the greatest chapters in the Word of God, John 3, including perhaps THE greatest single verse in the Bible, John 3:16! Do you really want to do that? 

— A second option would be to give a “summary/recap” of where we’ve been in John so far, and go ahead and include some of both John 3 and 4 for this week. 

— and/or just do John 3 this week, and “punt” John 4 to next week, and be a week behind until you find a lesson you can skip, and catch up. (I DO have an overview for John 3 that I posted for last week if you’d like to look at it; there is SO much there!)


Whatever option you choose, I would definitely do a “recap” of John so far, just to re-acclimate everyone after the holidays. Do something like this:

— In John 1 we saw the Person and Work of Christ: in His Person He is fully God (:1 “the Word was GOD”!) and fully Man (:14 “the word became flesh”).  In His work, He is “the lamb of GOd who takes away the sin of the world” (1:29). 

Then Jesus called His first disciples.

— In Chapter 2 He performs His first “sign” — remember that’s the first of the SEVEN SIGNS that form the “backbone” of the structure of John 1-11. The 7 are all listed on my overview of John 2. Then Jesus cleanses the Temple of those who were taking advantage of people there.

— Chapter 3 is about the famous encounter with Nicodemus, where Jesus tells him “You must be born again.” We are born again by FAITH, Jesus said, a great example being the serpent in the wilderness, and how Israel “looked and lived,” and perhaps THE great verse of the Bible, John 3:16, which teaches salvation through faith in Christ.  

This brings us to our current chapter for the week, John 4, where we find Jesus’ encounter with The Woman At The Well.

Let’s get into the text:

— :6 ??? You might ask your group: “What do you find interesting about this verse?”??? 

(That Jesus was “wearied from His journey.” That might sound odd, that the Son of God, would be “wearied” from His journey. But once again this re-emphasizes His FULL HUMANITY like we saw in Chapter 1:14, “The Word became flesh.” That Jesus got TIRED is a sign that He was a REAL MAN, not just “appeared” to be a man, or was “spirit only,” as some have taught down the centuries.

??? You might ask your group: “Can you think of OTHER examples in Scripture that show us that Jesus was a REAL, 100% flesh and blood Man???

(Examples include: that He was BORN of a woman, as we just celebrated at Christmas;  that He ATE (and as we saw a couple of weeks ago, He ate FISH Luke 24:42 says!); He got thirsty (as implied here in :7, where He asks the woman for a drink, and when He said on the cross “I thirst;” when He was pierced, blood came out of His side; etc. You and your group can think of others.)

It is important that we believe that Jesus was 100%, “fully Man.” “He HAD to be made like His brethren,” Hebrews 2:17 says, in order to save us.  I John 4:2 emphasizes how important this is when it says: “every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does NOT confess Jesus is NOT from God.” SO THIS IS A BIG DEAL, the Bible says. We need to believe that Jesus was “fully Man,” 100% man, so that He could die for us.  And this example here in :6 shows us that He truy WAS a real Man!

Then :7 says “There came a woman of Samaria to draw water.”

We need to make sure we know about the Samaritans, which has implications all through this chapter as Jesus talks with this woman.

If you remember from our Old Testament studies, after King Solomon, Israel split into the 2 kingdoms, Judah, the Southern Kingdom, and “Israel”, the Northern Kingdom. The capital of the Northern Kingdom was the city of Samaria, so the Northern Kingdom would often go by the name, “Samaria.” The Northern kingdom followed their first king, Jeroboam, into idolatry, and they continued in idolatry their whole history. After generations of warnings by God’s prophets, the Northern Kingdom was carried away into captivity into Assyria in 721 B.C. The King of Assyria, as was his custom, took some people from other lands, and settled them in Israel/Samaria. These foreigners intermarried with the Israelites who lived there, and became known as “The Samaritans.”  These “Samaritans” were looked down on by the Jews, who cherished their “pure blood” and genealogies. 

John Lloyd Stephens was an American who was one of the first modern men to visit the Middle East in the early 1800s, and he actually encountered some Samaritans. He writes:

“About sixty families are all now remaining, and (they) still dwell in their ancient capital, at the base of Mount Gerazim, under the shadow of their fallen temple.” He said his Samaritan host “asked me many questions about the Samaritans in England (of America he had no knowledge ) … and told me  … they believed in one omnipotent and eternal God, the five Books of Moses, and a future Messiah, and the day of the Messiah’s coming to be near at hand; that they practiced circumcision, went three times a year up to Mount Gerazim, “the everlasting mountain,” to worship and offer sacrifice …”. (John Lloyd Stephens, Incidents of Travel in Egypt, Arabia Petraea, and the Holy Land, pp. 422-423)

In fact, there are STILL a very few Samaritans in Israel today, like there were in Stephens’ time. As Stephens said, they believed that they were to worship on Mt. Gerazim, instead of in Jerusalem, and in fact this will be a part of the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman later in this chapter.

But this gives us some knowledge of just WHO the Samaritans are, and what they believe. And it helps us to understand why the Jews despised them, and vice-versa. As :9 =, “For Jews have no dealing with Samaritans.”)

What is significant here is that JESUS REACHED OUT TO THIS SAMARITAN WOMAN!  That’s the application for US. As I Peter 2 says, we should “follow in His steps.” We should reach out to the “outcast” peoples around US, just like Jesus did.

I’d make the application SPECIFIC for your class. Ask them:
??? “Who might some of these groups be for US, TODAY, right HERE??? (Maybe an ethnic minority in your area: African Americans or Hispanics, or Asians, or whoever the minority is. OR those of other religious backgrounds: perhaps Muslims? Or Mormons? Or Catholics? Or others. Maybe the poor. Or the RICH! Or those of a certain occupation that’s not highly regarded in your community. Lead your group to discuss WHO they are, and how YOU and your group might mobilize to PRAY for them, and do something to help REACH them, for the Lord.)

Next you could look at HOW Jesus reached out here:

— As our teacher’s book points out, first, Jesus took the road THROUGH Samaria. He didn’t have to do that. Many Jews went around. But He purposefully went through it, so He might have the opportunity to share. Sometimes it’s good for us to put ourselves in positions where we have opportunities to meet and talk to people who need the Lord.

For EX: I know of a pastor who told his church staff: We have a Family Life Center, but I want you to join a local health club, so that you have opportunities to meet people who don’t go to our church. 

??? What are some other ways we can purposefully “put ourselves out there” to meet people for the Lord? (Get involved in the community; join a club; coach a kids’ sports team (they always need volunteers) etc., and purposefully look at it as an opportunity to build relationships for the Lord. 

— Then :7 says when Jesus saw this woman, He spoke to her. He initiated the conversation. He built a bridge to her by speaking to her, and asking her to do something for Him. 

Again, this is a good example for us. Just look to open a conversation with someone. This was the basis of an evangelism class a few years ago, called “Just Walk Across The Room.” The thrust of the class was, if you are at a party, or at a store, or an event, or whatever, “just walk across the room” and start talking to someone. If you start talking with them, God might open a door for you to witness or minister to them. But if you never even talk to them, the door will never open. So step one is: “just walk across the room” and talk with them! See what God might do!  

That is what Jesus did here.  And we should do that too. 

In :7-14 we see Jesus talking with this woman about the “living water” He has, that will satisfy her thirst forever. 

Jesus, of course, was a Master at engaging with people where they are. And again, we should try to imitate Him. Most of us could do better at making conversation with people. How can we do that?

ONE THING you might discuss with your group, is some “conversation starters” they could use in speaking with people, that might lead to spiritual conversations.

??? ASK THEM: “What might be some good ‘conversation starters’ for US to use with people today?”

(Some might be as simple as: “Where do you go to church?” Or “Do you have a spiritual/religious belief?” Or this New Year, you could ask how they hope their life will be different in 2023 or what their goals are for 2023, like we started class with. Or it could be as simple as asking: “How has your week been?” — and then LISTEN for God to give you an open door!) You/your group can think of others you’ve heard or used.

I had a sweet man from our church tell me after Sunday’s message, that he was so disappointed that God had given him an opportunity to share with someone last week, but he missed it, and did not share. I was grateful that he took that seriously, and I prayed with him that God would give him more opportunities to share this week.

??? ONE question you could ask your group here, in light of this, would be: “Have any of you had an opportunity like Jesus did, to speak to someone, or minister to someone, but missed it?” We ALL probably have! Share some of those — and then either here, or at  the end of class, be sure to PRAY that God would give you all the vision to see the chances to share, and also the courage and grace to DO IT when you see it, this week, with people like the Samaritan Woman around YOU!

Then something VERY IMPORTANT happens in :15-18. The woman seems to want the eternal life Jesus offers her — and some people would have jumped right on that and gotten her to “pray a sinner’s prayer right then — but Jesus does something very important something first. He confronts her with her SIN. 

He specifically says in :16 “Go call your husband and come here.” WHY did He do that? Because He knew “you have had 5 husbands, and the one who you have now is not your husband.” She’d been very immoral, and was now living in sin. And Jesus could NOT “just overlook” that. 

There’s some good lessons for us here:

— sometimes we have to say the HARD THINGS to people. Often, we just want to be “nice,” and encouraging, and “positive,” etc., but there come times when the people of God need to speak some difficult things into people’s lives:

— No, it’s NOT ok to live with your boyfriend

— NO it’s NOT good with God if you just pick your own gender

— NO “gay marriage” is NOT just another godly way to love.

— No, it’s NOT good not to be bitter towards that person. 

— No, how you’re handing that parenting situation is NOT right!

And so on. If you really love someone; if you are really a “friend,” there will come times when you have to speak some HARD TRUTH into their life — and if you don’t, you don’t really love them, and you are not a true friend.
Jesus loved this woman, and He told her the truth. There are times when we need to do the same thing too.

— Another lesson is that in genuine salvation, a person has to repent of their SINS. Salvation isn’t just “love God and Jesus and go to church.” The whole reason for the Gospel is that we have SINNED. We are all sinners by nature and by choice. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” If a person does’t know they’ve sinned, they don’t have any reason to think they need a Savior. They MUST be made aware of their sin.

I often mention this in regard to children. Many parents/grandparents will ask, “How do I know if my child is ready to be saved?” Well, the #1 factor is: do they know they’ve sinned? If they know they’ve sinned then they are accountable to God, and they need a Savior. But if they don’t know what sin is, or don’t think they personally have sinned, then they aren’t ready. They must know they’re a sinner, to need a Savior. 

— Again, this emphasizes again the importance of repentance. We’ve talked about this several times in our lessons, but repentance really is “the missing element” in many religious circles today. It was the heart of the message of Jesus, and John the Baptist, and Paul, and Peter — but it’s omitted in many presentations of the Gospel today. Jesus did not skip it here. He didn’t just say “Pray this prayer.” He made sure the woman faced up to her sin — and was ready to turn from it — when He shared the gospel with her. We need to do the same thing too, and include the prerequisite of repentance when we share the gospel. 

Then in :19+ the woman does something we come across often: the “distraction technique.” Jesus had just caught her in her sins, so she attempts to “change the conversation”: “Well, what about where we are supposed to worship: this mountain (Gerazim) or in Jerusalem?” It was a controversial, divisive question between the Jews and Samaritans.

??? You might talk with your class about some of the “distraction techniques” people use today when you are trying to witness to them — perhaps some from yours/their experiences:  “What about the heathen in Africa?”  “Why does a good God allow evil in the world?” “I knew a man who was supposed to be a Christian, but he ….” And so on. Surely your class had heard many. 

What do we do when we encounter these? Do what Jesus did: give a brief answer, then get back to the REAL topic: Jesus says in :24, “those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and truth.” It’s not about Jerusalem or Gerazim; worship God from your heart; that is what it’s all about. 

Then the woman tried to put Him off in :25, “I know that Messiah is coming … when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.”  She was trying to say, “Well, one we’ll know …” and use it to put Him off and procrastinate. 

But Jesus didn’t let her. He said; “I who speak to you am HE!” —
In other words, I AM THE MESSIAH — and He put forth His claim for her to believe.  

That’s our ultimate goal too: just set Jesus in front of them. The ultimate answer is Jesus. He died on the cross to pay for our sins so that whoever will repent of their sins and trust Him would be saved.  If you share that, then the rest is up to them. And as we see in this passage, that message DID touch that woman, and she was saved — and a whole town as well. 

And God can do the same thing with us, too — IF we are faithful to engage people and share with them, like Jesus did here. It’s a great lesson for us as we start this New Year, on one of the most important goals God has for us this year: reaching out to people, and sharing Christ with them. 

OK, we’ve got some great lessons coming up in John; it’s a good way to start the New Year in God’s word! I hope this brief overview has been helpful to you. If you write something in the Comments below, I’ll be sure to pray for your and your group by name this week.

(In 1978 Robert Caro and his wife Ina moved to the Texas hill country to live for three years, to explore the boyhood home of Lyndon Johnson for a book on the President he was writing. While there the Caros talked to a number of elderly women about what it was like before Johnson brought water and electric power to the area.)
Some of those interviews contained moments of revelation—of shock, really. A woman with whom my earlier conversation had been stilted and unrevealing, this time suddenly blurting out, ou’re a city boy. You don’t know how heavy a bucket of water is, do you?” Walking over to her garage, she brought out an old water bucket to which a long length of frayed rope was attached, I walked partway down a slope to a well that was covered the wooden boards. Pushing them aside, she handed me the bucket and told me to drop it in. It dropped quite a way: When it seemed full, she told me to pull it up, and I felt how heavy it was and thought of how many buckets she — mostly she alone, her husband working in the fields or with the cattle all day, her children working beside him as soon as they were old enough, no money on Hill Country farms or ranches to even think of hiring a hired man — had to pull up every day. I found a 1940 Agriculture Department study of how much water each person living on a farm used in a day: forty gallons. The average Hill Country family was five people. Two hundred gallons in a day, much of it hauled up by a single person.
And then they had to get the water to the house. It was another eIderly woman who asked me, “Do you want to see how I carried the buckets?” I suppose I nodded. Walking over to her garage, pulled up the door, and there was her yoke. I don’t know I will ever forget that woman-old and frail now, but her shoulders were thin, and her arms, too, you felt, had always been in—standing there in front of that heavy bar of wood.”
(Robert A. Caro, Working, Introduction, p. xvii)

Per my licensing agreement with Lifeway:

– These weekly lessons are based on content from Explore the Bible Adult Resources. The presentation is my own and has not been reviewed by Lifeway.

– Lifeway resources are available at: goExploretheBible.com  and: goexplorethebible.com/adults-training

– If you have questions about Explore the Bible resources you may send emails to explorethebible@lifeway.com

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, features the text of my sermons, book reviews, family life experiences -- as well as a brief overview of the Lifeway "Explore the Bible" lesson for Southern Baptist Sunday School teachers.
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7 Responses to Teacher’s overview of Lifeway “Explore the Bible”: John 4:11-26 “But Whoever Drinks”

  1. Jerrie Parrish says:

    Thank you for your amazing comments. I love how you bring discussion into Sunday School and how we can share and learn from each other. Happy New Year! Thank you!

  2. Steve Emmons says:

    Thank you pastor. After missing the past two weeks of Sunday School for the holidays it is very helpful to get back and your ideas for the return encouraged me. Thank you.

  3. biruhanetgir says:

    Thank you Brother

    Sent from Outlook for Androidhttps://aka.ms/AAb9ysg ________________________________

  4. Josephine Brown says:

    Thank you so much for your weekly commentary on the Scripture! It’s always a great help to me as I prepare to teach the adult class in our small church.
    We have been without a pastor for over a year although our Director of Missions is doing a wonderful job as interim. Please pray for God to send us the godly man He has prepared for us.
    May the Lord richly bless you in this new year!

  5. Angela K Butler says:

    I could not bring myself to skip the third chapter of John; it is just too powerful, so for now, I will be a week behind. I stumbled across your site many months ago and look forward to reading your ideas and suggestions, always finding a tidbit or more to add to my lesson. Thank you for taking the time to write these out every week. It blesses me personally and it is exciting to think of believers all over the country reading and studying the same passage of scripture. Praise God.

    • Shawn Thomas says:

      Amen Angela; I can see why one wouldn’t want to skip John 3!! As a pastor I would be totally ok with a class being a week behind for a while in order to fit that in! God bless you as you lead your group. I was praying for you this weekend. And thank you for the kind words; I’m so thankful that the overview is helpful to you. And YES that is indeed a neat picture of so many uniting around the word! We do need to remember we are part of something much bigger than ourselves, that God is doing in the world!

  6. Lizzi-beth Spence says:

    Thank you for this awesome leader prep session!

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