Growing In Revelation
This chapter outlines the progression the Samaritan woman takes in recognizing Jesus as the Messiah. The woman starts by addressing Jesus as “thou, a Jew” (verse 9) to “Sir” (verse 11) to “I perceive that thou art a prophet” (verse 19) to fishing to see if Jesus will respond to her mention of her belief in a Messiah (verse 25). When he affirms that he is indeed the Christ, the woman leaves her waterpot to go back into the city and tell everyone that she has found the Messiah. When they hear Jesus in person, they are all converted to him and believe he is the Christ (John 4:42).
This story is applicable to teenagers in several ways. First, it is good to recognize that her identification of Jesus as the Messiah did not all come at once. As she engaged him in conversation, little by little, she came into greater understanding as to whom she was speaking to. Teenagers understand this concept. They are working through their questions regarding matters of faith, pressing forward through their experiences, and trusting in the Lord to guide them through these challenging years. Not everything is spelled out for them. They learn to trust the Savior, their parents, and their leaders to teach from the wellspring of truth and experience that they possess.
Joseph Smith put it this way:
The nearer man approaches perfection, the clearer are his views, and the greater his enjoyments, till he has overcome the evils of his life and lost every desire for sin; and like the ancients, arrives at that point of faith where he is wrapped in the power and glory of his Maker, and is caught up to dwell with Him. 1
A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon. . . . And thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus. 2
The Samaritan woman had an experience “growing into the principle of revelation”, and so must the youth of the Church. All of us have experiences where we come to learn spiritual truths by the power of the Holy Ghost. It is good to recognize that Jesus identified himself as the Christ. This chapter is one example of this.
C.S. Lewis said:
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him [Jesus]: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be a God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic-on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg-or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that choice open to us. He did not intend to. 3
Meeting Our Needs
Another important truth taught in John 4 has to do with human needs and what it means to be mortal. The Savior was alone at the well because he sent his disciples away to obtain food. It was time for lunch (John 4:6-8). The woman was at the well to get water. Both had real human needs. When the Savior offered the woman “living water”, he was not speaking about water, rather he was inviting the woman to believe in him so that she would have all her needs met- particularly her spiritual needs.
The psychologist Abraham Maslow wrote a paper in 1943 in which he analyzed what motivates us. Maslow spent much of his time studying those who achieve great things in order to better understand human needs and motivation. He proposed a hierarchy of needs that helps to explain human needs. This diagram helps us to see that we all have a desire to attain basic needs before moving on to achieve greater needs. Brigham Young made this pronouncement:
“Prayer is good, but when baked potatoes and milk are needed, prayer will not supply their place.” 4
In other words, to reach our higher needs, to eventually make the changes in the world we are capable of making, our most basic needs must first be met. What Jesus is offering the Samaritan woman and all of us is this: through him, all of our innermost needs can be fulfilled. We can live, love, and leave a legacy as we live the teachings of Jesus. We can change the world through good in positive ways more effectively by following in the path he has designated than in any other way. We spent time in class illustrating this truth through examples of real life situations faced by the Saints in our time. It was a great class discussion, with all of us recognizing the relevance of the words of Jesus to the Samaritan woman in John 4.
1. History of the Church, 2:8.
2. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith (1976), 151.
3. C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, pp. 55-56.
4. Brigham Young, Deseret News, 10 Dec. 1856, cited in Eugene England, Brother Brigham Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1980, p. 175.