36: The Savior of the World (John 4:39-42)
36: The Savior of the World
“They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.’” (John 4:42)
“Savior of the world.”
This is the only time that John uses this phrase in his gospel. He only uses it once more in all his writings and that is in his first letter chapter 4 and verse 14.
“And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.” (John 1:14)
The Angels proclaimed the coming of a Savior to the shepherds.
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)
The angel told Joseph that Jesus would save people: “you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 21)
The very name Jesus means “Jehovah is salvation”.
Jesus Himself said that He had come to save. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)
After He ascended into heaven, the apostles preached Jesus as the Savior.
Acts 5:31 “God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.”
Paul once gets close to the same phrase that John uses when he proclaims in 1Timothy 4:10: “For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.”
“Soter pas anthropos” in the Greek, Savior of all people. It is close, but no one else uses the phrase that John uses.
So John’s phrase is unique to him. A title only he gives Jesus to add to the many titles he has given to Him in the first 4 chapters of his gospel.
The Savior of the World. “Soter kosmos”.
The title Savior was given by those in the ancient world to deities, princes, kings, and in general to men who had really helped their countries in significant ways.
In the Book of Judges, God raised up men and women to “save” Israel from their troubles.
This is God speaking to Gideon: “And the Lord turned to him and said, ‘Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?’” (Judges 6:14)
The people kept falling back into sin, which brought them judgment from God and trouble from other nations. But then they would turn to the Lord and cry out to Him and He would raise up another savior for them.
“ After Abimelech there arose to save Israel Tola the son of Puah, son of Dodo, a man of Issachar, and he lived at Shamir in the hill country of Ephraim.” (Judges 10:1)
In the days of the Kings, when they cried out to God to deliver them from trouble, even those who weren’t walking in the ways of God, He sent them a deliverer or a savior. “Therefore the Lord gave Israel a savior, so that they escaped from the hand of the Syrians, and the people of Israel lived in their homes as formerly.” (2Kings 13:5)
This is what the Samaritans called Jesus. A savior. Someone who had come to set them free from the things that bound and oppressed them. And with what joy they must have called Him that. This makes Jesus their Savior. But, unlike their Jewish neighbours, who seemed bent on keeping Jesus for themselves (if they wanted Him at all), these Samaritans wanted to share Him with everyone. They celebrated Him as the world’s Savior.
They came to this conclusion after spending two days with Him. “Many” of them believed as soon as they first heard the woman’s testimony. But after two days of having Jesus live among them, “many more” believed.
“Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word.” (John 4:39-41)
John tells us that “many more believed because of His word”. In the Greek it is “because of His Logos”. He is the Logos, the Word and His words are life and light. They bring hope and truth and pierce people’s hearts in a way that opens them up to receive Him. When they receive Him, they do not just receive a good man with good teachings, or even a healer and miracle worker, someone who can sort out the bad things in their lives. No, these people listened to the words of Jesus and received Him for who He really is, which is what they (and all of us really need), a Savior.
Jesus’ words are the life changers. The Logos is the Word of God and the words of God are like a sharp two edged sword.
John records a vision he had of Jesus years after He had ascended to heaven in Revelation 1:16: “In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.”
The sword of God comes from the mouth of the Word of God to cut down the lies of the enemy and deliver us from the bondage to our own sinful thoughts and actions. That is how these Samaritans were saved. This is how Jesus became their Savior. His words cut through the lies and deceits of their lives and culture and brought them out into truth and life. This is how Jesus fights for our freedom. His words set us free.
In Ephesians 6:17 & 18, Paul encourages us that we can wield the same sword with our own mouths to defeat the lies of the enemy:
“and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.”
That verse implies that, to some degree, we are responsible for our ongoing freedom. We need to wield the sword of the Word of God ourselves and, in prayer, cut down those lies and strongholds of thinking that will continue to try and hold us in bondage. However, even if we are responsible to some degree for our own ongoing freedom, we certainly cannot save ourselves at any time. The reason we can grow in fighting for our own freedom is only because we have received the Savior of the World into our lives in the first place and then have not only listened to His Word but have embraced it, memorized it, meditated on it, so that the sword of the Lord does not just cut into us, but it begins to come out of us.
Salvation begins with hearing and receiving the Word of God.
When the Samaritans heard His words, they knew that they were not just listening to their Savior, or even the Savior of their region, but they were listening to the Savior of the world. The Savior of the “kosmos”.
But what did they need saving from? A threatening army? Destructive weather patterns? The oppression of their enemies?
The woman at the well knew she needed a savior from herself and the destructive patterns of her life. She knew she needed someone to help her put things right with God so that she could connect with Him and become a true worshiper. She needed a savior from her sin and the destructive consequences of that sin in her life. That’s the sort of savior she and her townspeople needed. A personal Savior for their own sins.
I don’t know what the culture is like where you live, but here in Winnipeg, Canada, it can sometimes seem that people feel no need of a Savior. Healer? Yes, sometimes. Friend? Yes, sometimes that too. Counsellor and helper? Yes, that as well. Someone to meet their physical needs? Yes, that is often the reason people coming looking for Jesus. But a Savior? Not so much. There seems to be little deep conviction of sin, or fear of judgment, which is what we need if we are to know our need of a Savior.
As we have talked about this, we have recognised our need to pray for that conviction of sin on our culture. But these Samaritans recognized their need of a Savior by listening to Jesus’ words. Maybe we need to be looking at what we are preaching as well as what we are praying. Maybe we need to look at how we share the gospel with others. If there is no deep conviction of sin, then people may come to Jesus for all sorts of reasons, but they will not come to truly love and appreciate and serve Him. A number of the pastoral issues I deal with, would be less of an issue if they had come to a real deep conviction of sin when they were saved.
It must be noted that Jesus brought this woman to a recognition of her need of a savior not by brow beating her with the truth, or preaching a “hellfire” sermon at her. It wasn’t that Jesus was necessarily against that as a strategy. John the Baptist had clearly warned people to get themselves right with God before it was too late. But Jesus led this woman to repentance in the most gentle and yet direct way.
The woman at the well was gently and kindly exposed as a lost sinner who needed saving. Whatever Jesus said to her Samaritan neighbours had the same effect. Not only did they recognize that they needed saving but that Jesus was the Savior, for everybody.
And, again, let’s not miss the flow of where the Holy Spirit through John is taking us here. The chapter before Jesus has had to explain this concept of the world needing saving, and Him being the saviour that the world needs, to Nicodemus.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16-17)
Jesus is having to take this leader of Israel, this Pharisee learned and devoted to the Old Testament scriptures, this “teacher of Israel”, back to the beginning, to the womb of God’s heart and purposes for this world. He has to show Him that the world needs a savior and that God so loved us that He send His One and Only Son to be that savior, because God wants the world not to be condemned but to be saved. By the time He has finished explaining this to Nicodemus, we are not clear that he understands what Jesus is saying to him.
But here, one chapter later, we have the outworking of what Jesus was saying. A sinner in need of a savior, who brings the news of that saviour to a town of sinners who needed a savior. After two days the town knows what Nicodemus struggled to see despite all his learning, that Jesus really is the Savior. And they are Samaritans from the town nicknamed “drunken”. They knew they were sinners that needed saving from their sin and all its consequences.
These Samaritans had been given the message over generations that they were outside of the reach of God’s love and purposes, becasue they were outside of the covenants God made with His people Israel. Jesus Himself had told the Samaritan woman “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22). Yes, salvation is from the Jews. The Savior was a Jew Himself. But salvation was never just meant just for the Jews, even though they would hear about it first. Salvation was never meant just for one exclusive group, of any sort. Jesus did not just come for “His own” (John 1:11), He came for all. He came for the world. And anyone can be saved through Him.
“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13).
The Holy Spirit really wants us to get this message through John’s gospel: Jesus is the Savior, the Savior of the world.Posted on: June 11, 2018Peter Todd