Summary: The man at Jacob's well, and in the Temple: the sign of Jonah, and the testimony of the Queen of Sheba.
2. GREATER THAN JACOB
A woman of Samaria came to a well to draw water, alone, “at about the sixth hour” (John 4:6). Perhaps her neighbours disapproved of her style of life, and she felt compelled to collect her water at a time separate from the other women. Whatever the reason, she was to have a one-to-one encounter with our Lord Jesus Christ which would change her life, and that of her community, for ever.
The disciples had gone to the city to buy food, and Jesus was resting by the well. By His appearance, the woman could tell that this stranger was not a Samaritan: so, imagine her surprise when suddenly He spoke to her! After all, the Jews had no dealings with their neighbours in Samaria, nor men with women.
Jesus asked the woman for a drink. Considering who Jesus is, it is incredible that He should ask any of us for anything! The woman said to Jesus, “How is it that you ask me…” (John 4:9) - in effect: “Of all the people that you could have asked, why ask me?”
Jesus turned her question on its head: if she only knew who He is, she would have asked Him for living water! The woman at the well asked, “Are you greater than our father Jacob?” Again, the inference is that the answer to the question is “Yes”!
*The woman at the well was preoccupied with debates about the right place to worship God, which was an area of contention between the Jews and Samaritans. Whilst not allowing her error about the place of worship - for the Jews were in the right (John 4:22) - the Lord explained the spiritual nature of true worship (John 4:24).
As Jesus taught elsewhere, one greater than the Temple was here…
3. GREATER THAN THE TEMPLE
The priests in the Temple were permitted to “profane” the Sabbath, when they offered sacrifice and went about their other duties on that day. Yet, said Jesus, “a greater than the Temple is here” (Matthew 12:5-6). The earthly Temple was temporary, as implied in Jesus’ words to the disciples as He left the Temple for the last time (Matthew 24:1-2).
Jesus did not come to abolish the sacrificial system, but to fulfil it, and to offer Himself as the supreme and final sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 9:25-26). When Jesus’ work upon the Cross was finished, the veil in the Temple was rent in two, from the top to the bottom (Matthew 27:51). Although the Temple rituals continued for a transitional period, the need for sacrifice had been met in His death.
He is none other than the One who inhabits the Temple (Matthew 23:21) - for who else could be greater than the Temple?
4. GREATER THAN JONAH
A demon-possessed man - who was physically both blind and dumb - had been brought to Jesus, and He had healed him (Matthew 12:22). In their continuing malice against Jesus, the scribes and Pharisees asked for a sign (Matthew 12:38). What had the religious leaders just seen if not a sign, both of Jesus’ authority, and of the presence of the kingdom of God amongst them?
Jesus granted them a sign. It was the sign of the prophet Jonah. Just as Jonah was three days in the belly of the whale, so Jesus would be three days’ dead in a tomb. Just as Jonah came out of the belly of the whale alive, Jesus would rise from the dead. The tomb could not hold Him, and death would lose its sting.
Continuing to relate the history of Jonah, theirs would be a sign of judgment. The men of Nineveh who had repented at the preaching of Jonah would rise in judgment against them, because the scribes and Pharisees refused the preaching of one greater than Jonah.
5. GREATER THAN SOLOMON
Likewise, the Queen of the South testified against the perversity of their unbelief. She had travelled many dangerous miles to hear the wisdom of Solomon, yet now a greater than Solomon was here in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.
*The ignorant Gentiles believed the prophet Jonah, and the Queen of Sheba sought out the wisdom of King Solomon, yet the Scribes and Pharisees - the religious leaders of the day - failed to recognise Jesus as their expected Prophet and King!