“Chapter 22: John 2–4,” New Testament Student Manual (2018)
“Chapter 22,” New Testament Student Manual
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin (1917–2008) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles declared: “The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of transformation. It takes us as men and women of the earth and refines us into men and women for the eternities” (“The Great Commandment,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2007, 30). In New Testament times, individuals felt the Savior’s transforming power when they heard His words or saw the miracles He performed. He turned water into wine (see John 2:1–11). He cleansed the temple so that it would be revered as His “Father’s house” (John 2:16). He healed a nobleman’s son who was on “the point of death” by uttering these simple words, “Thy son liveth” (John 4:47, 50). He invited Nicodemus to experience spiritual rebirth (see John 3:1–21). He helped the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well grow in her understanding until she recognized Him as the Christ (see John 4:5–29).
John 2:1–11 offers no specific interpretation of the meaning or symbolism of this first recorded miracle of the Savior’s mortal ministry—turning water into wine. There are, however, several possible lessons we can learn from it. Jesus Christ’s attendance at the wedding feast shows that He was not a social recluse; He participated in the normal social interactions of His day. His presence at a wedding demonstrates that He approved of marriage. Through His interaction with His mother, we learn the proper respect children should have for their parents as He complied with her request. The Master’s first recorded miracle manifested His power to change the elements from one state to another, thus attesting to His role as the Creator (see Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 1:135–36).
This manifestation of His power to effect change can help us understand how the Savior can change us from our carnal, fallen state to a state of righteousness (see Mosiah 3:19). We can also see how miraculous signs can confirm and increase the faith of those who are willing to believe in Jesus Christ (see D&C 63:9–11). The Joseph Smith Translation makes this clear by changing “his disciples believed on him” to “the faith of his disciples was strengthened in him” (Joseph Smith Translation, John 2:11).
At the wedding in Cana, there were “six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece” (John 2:6). According to Jewish tradition, vessels made of stone retained their ritual purity, while ceramic vessels could become ritually impure. A “firkin” was about nine gallons (34 liters), so the six pots could have held between 100 and 160 gallons (about 380 to 600 liters).
There are many references in the Bible to the evils of drunkenness and strong drink (for example, see Proverbs 23:20–21; Isaiah 5:11–12; Ephesians 5:18). These verses do not specifically forbid the use of alcohol, but they do condemn overindulgence and drunkenness. In our day, the Lord has revealed the Word of Wisdom, which does forbid consumption of alcoholic beverages (see D&C 89:4–7). We should avoid judging the people of earlier dispensations by the commandments the Lord has given us in our day.
The Savior’s response to His mother may seem abrupt as it reads in the King James Version, but both the Joseph Smith Translation and the Greek version indicate that He spoke with respect. Elder James E. Talmage (1862–1933) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained: “The noun of address, ‘Woman,’ as applied by a son to his mother may sound to our ears somewhat harsh, if not disrespectful; but its use was really an expression of opposite import. … When, in the last dread scenes of His mortal experience, Christ hung in dying agony upon the cross, He looked down upon the weeping Mary, His mother, and commended her to the care of the beloved apostle John, with the words: ‘Woman, behold thy son!’ [John 19:26]. Can it be thought that in this supreme moment, our Lord’s concern for the mother from whom He was about to be separated by death was associated with any emotion other than that of honor, tenderness and love?” (Jesus the Christ, 3rd ed. , 144–45).
The Joseph Smith Translation also helps us understand that Jesus not only asked His mother what she wanted Him to do, but He also expressed willingness to do it: “Woman, what wilt thou have me to do for thee? that will I do” (Joseph Smith Translation, John 2:4 [in John 2:4, footnote a]). The question “What have I to do with thee?” essentially meant “What do you want me to do?” The Savior’s words to His mother can be seen as a subtle, tender way for Him to tell her that while His hour had “not yet come” (John 2:4), He was now making the transition from being the son of Mary to fulfilling His role as the Son of God.
The synoptic Gospels relate that Jesus cleansed the temple after entering Jerusalem during the last week of His mortal life (see Matthew 21:12–16; Mark 11:15–18; Luke 19:45–48). The account in John 2:13–22 may refer to the same event, which John decided to relate early in his Gospel, or it may refer to an earlier cleansing of the temple that occurred near the beginning of Jesus’s ministry. Differences in language between John’s account and the others suggest that there may well have been two cleansings, the second of which so enraged the chief priests and scribes that they sought to destroy Jesus (see Mark 11:18; Luke 19:47; Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:636).
When the Savior entered the temple, He encountered a chaotic display of “stalls of oxen, pens of sheep, cages of doves and pigeons. … Crowded on every hand were the tables of the money-changers who, for a profit, changed the Roman and other coins into temple coins so that sacrificial animals could be purchased” (Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:137–38).
President Howard W. Hunter (1907–95) discussed the Savior’s resolute actions to cleanse the irreverence and worldliness surrounding the temple:
“Love of money had warped the hearts of many of Jesus’ countrymen. They cared more for gain than they did for God. Caring nothing for God, why should they care for his temple? They converted the temple courts into a marketplace and drowned out the prayers and psalms of the faithful with their greedy exchange of money and the bleating of innocent sheep. Never did Jesus show a greater tempest of emotion than in the cleansing of the temple. …
“The reason for the tempest lies in just three words: ‘My Father’s house.’ It was not an ordinary house; it was the house of God. It was erected for God’s worship. It was a home for the reverent heart. It was intended to be a place of solace for men’s woes and troubles, the very gate of heaven. ‘Take these things hence;’ he said, ‘make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.’ (John 2:16.) His devotion to the Most High kindled a fire in his soul and gave his words the force that pierced the offenders like a dagger” (“Hallowed Be Thy Name,” Ensign, Nov. 1977, 52–53).
One way we can emulate the Savior’s attitude toward the sanctity of the temple is by keeping ourselves worthy to enter the house of the Lord, as Elder Richard G. Scott (1928–2015) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught: “Before entering the temple, you will be interviewed by your bishop and stake president for your temple recommend. Be honest and candid with them. That interview is not a test to be passed but an important step to confirm that you have the maturity and spirituality to receive the supernal ordinances and make and keep the edifying covenants offered in the house of the Lord. Personal worthiness is an essential requirement to enjoy the blessings of the temple. Anyone foolish enough to enter the temple unworthily will receive condemnation” (“Receive the Temple Blessings,” Ensign, May 1999, 25).
When Jesus cleared the temple, His disciples remembered a prophecy recorded in Psalm 69:9, “The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up” (John 2:17). This scripture teaches that Jesus’s “zeal”—meaning His fervent love—for His Father and His Father’s house had aroused in Him a righteous indignation that the temple was being used as a house of merchandise.
After the Savior cleared the money changers from the temple, some of the leaders of the Jews asked Him to show them a sign to prove He had the power to force those who were desecrating the temple out of His Father’s house. Jesus’s answer seemed to refer to the physical temple, but President Russell M. Nelson explained that the Savior was actually speaking about the power to lay down His life and to take it up again:
“This great priesthood power of resurrection is vested in the Lord of this world. He taught that ‘all power is given unto me in heaven and in earth’ (Matthew 28:18). …
“This power he subtly proclaimed when he said unto the Jews:
“‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. … But he spake of the temple of his body’ (John 2:19–21).
“The keys of the Resurrection repose securely with our Lord and Master. He said:
As a member of the Sanhedrin, Nicodemus occupied a position of political, social, and religious influence and power (see John 3:1; Bible Dictionary, “Nicodemus”). From other scriptures we learn that Nicodemus appears to have been sincere in the questions he asked Jesus (see John 3:1–9). For example, Nicodemus spoke in defense of the Savior to the chief priests and Pharisees, for which he was ridiculed (see John 7:45–52). After the Savior’s Crucifixion, Nicodemus assisted Joseph of Arimathea in burying the Lord’s body, contributing expensive burial ointments and spices (see John 19:38–42).
The General Authorities of the Church have spoken often on the doctrine of being “born again.” Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught: “We begin the process of being born again through exercising faith in Christ, repenting of our sins, and being baptized by immersion for the remission of sins by one having priesthood authority. … Total immersion in and saturation with the Savior’s gospel are essential steps in the process of being born again” (“Ye Must Be Born Again,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 21).
President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency confirmed:
“We were born again when we entered into a covenant relationship with our Savior by being born of water and of the Spirit and by taking upon us the name of Jesus Christ. …
“Latter-day Saints affirm that those who have been born again in this way are spiritually begotten sons and daughters of Jesus Christ (see Mosiah 5:7; 15:9–13; 27:25). Nevertheless, in order to realize the intended blessings of this born-again status, we must still keep our covenants and endure to the end. In the meantime, through the grace of God, we have been born again as new creatures with new spiritual parentage and the prospects of a glorious inheritance” (“Have You Been Saved?” Ensign, May 1998, 56).
To be born again requires both our own effort and “divine power,” and for most of us, this happens over time rather than all at once, as Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained:
“It was Jesus who stated that entry into the kingdom of God requires that one be born again—born of water and of the Spirit (see John 3:3–5). His teaching about a physical and a spiritual baptism helps us understand that both our own action and the intervention of divine power are needed for this transformative rebirth—for the change from natural man to saint (see Mosiah 3:19). …
“You may ask, Why doesn’t this mighty change happen more quickly with me? You should remember that the remarkable examples of King Benjamin’s people, Alma, and some others in scripture are just that—remarkable and not typical. For most of us, the changes are more gradual and occur over time. Being born again, unlike our physical birth, is more a process than an event. And engaging in that process is the central purpose of mortality” (“Born Again,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2008, 77–78).
Elder Robert D. Hales (1932–2017) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles provided insight into the Savior’s teaching that we enter into the kingdom of heaven when we are baptized of water and of the Spirit (see John 3:3–5):
“When we are baptized by immersion by one with the proper priesthood authority and choose to follow our Savior, we then are in His kingdom and of His kingdom. …
“At baptism we make a covenant with our Heavenly Father that we are willing to come into His kingdom and keep His commandments from that time forward, even though we still live in the world. …
“When we understand our baptismal covenant and the gift of the Holy Ghost, it will change our lives and will establish our total allegiance to the kingdom of God. When temptations come our way, if we will listen, the Holy Ghost will remind us that we have promised to remember our Savior and obey the commandments of God. …
“By choosing to be in His kingdom, we separate—not isolate—ourselves from the world. Our dress will be modest, our thoughts pure, our language clean. The movies and television we watch, the music we listen to, the books, magazines, and newspapers we read will be uplifting. We will choose friends who encourage our eternal goals, and we will treat others with kindness. We will shun the vices of immorality, gambling, tobacco, liquor, and illicit drugs. Our Sunday activities will reflect the commandment of God to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. We will follow the example of Jesus Christ in the way we treat others. We will live to be worthy to enter the house of the Lord” (“The Covenant of Baptism: To Be in the Kingdom and of the Kingdom,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 7–8).
The Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–44) taught about the Savior’s words in verses 3 and 5, which speak of “seeing” and “entering” the kingdom of God: “It is one thing to see the kingdom of God, and another thing to enter into it. We must have a change of heart to see the kingdom of God, and subscribe the articles of adoption to enter therein” (in History of the Church, 6:58). When a person “sees” the kingdom of God, the Holy Ghost has caused the person to have a mighty “change of heart” (see Alma 5:14). Then the person must participate in the ordinances of the gospel in order to “enter” the kingdom of God.
The Savior’s teaching to Nicodemus in John 3:5 makes clear that the ordinances of baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost are necessary if we are to progress toward eternal life: “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Many Christians do not believe that ordinances such as baptism are necessary, but gospel ordinances have always been essential in the true Church of Jesus Christ. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “Being born again, comes by the Spirit of God through ordinances” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 95). President Boyd K. Packer (1924–2015) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles declared: “Good conduct without the ordinances of the gospel will neither redeem nor exalt mankind; covenants and the ordinances are essential” (“The Only True Church,” Ensign, Nov. 1985, 82). President Packer further taught: “Ordinances and covenants become our credentials for admission into His presence. To worthily receive them is the quest of a lifetime; to keep them thereafter is the challenge of mortality” (“Covenants,” Ensign, May 1987, 24).
Nicodemus could not at first understand the Savior’s teaching that individuals must be born again in order to receive eternal life (see John 3:4). As recorded in John 3:6, the Savior taught him that spiritual things must be learned through the Spirit. President Marion G. Romney (1897–1988) of the First Presidency explained that Nicodemus had not yet been born of the Spirit, so he “lacked the perception that comes from the Spirit. He simply could not understand that Jesus was saying there are two sources of knowledge, two different processes of learning—one through the normal senses of the flesh, the other through the voice of the Spirit” (“Receiving and Applying Spiritual Truth,” Ensign, Feb. 1984, 3).
The Savior further described the process of learning spiritual things by comparing the process to the blowing of the wind (see John 3:7–8). Of this teaching, President Romney said: “The Master was here affirming that the knowledge to be obtained through the gift of the Holy Ghost—the rebirth of which the Lord had spoken—is just as sure and certain to us as the wind that blows, even though we cannot see it. The Lord was teaching Nicodemus that the process of learning about things from the Spirit is real, even though the Spirit’s workings cannot be understood by those who have not been born again” (“Receiving and Applying Spiritual Truth,” 4).
After the Savior explained these truths about being born of water and the Spirit, Nicodemus still wondered at them and said, “How can these things be?” (John 3:9). Jesus responded by saying, “Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?” (John 3:10). The truths the Savior was teaching were taught in Old Testament scriptures, and Nicodemus should have been familiar with them.
The Savior spoke to Nicodemus about “earthly things”—like birth and the wind—in order to lift his understanding toward “heavenly things”—like conversion and the Spirit (John 3:12). Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, while serving as president of Brigham Young University, pointed out that this pattern of the Savior’s teaching can be seen throughout the Gospel of John. For example, after teaching Nicodemus, the Savior traveled to Samaria, where He taught the Samaritan woman about “living water” to help her understand His true identity as the Messiah, and He used his disciples’ midday meal to help them understand the need to do His Father’s will (see John 4:7–38). Elder Holland taught that in each such instance, the Savior was using everyday things to lift the eyes of His followers to “higher purposes, loftier meanings, more spiritual sustenance. …
“… It becomes clear that this same lesson is taught by the Savior again and again. Jesus spoke of TEMPLES and the people thought he spoke of temples. (John 2:18–21.) He spoke of BREAD and the people thought he spoke of bread. (John 6:30–58.) And so on. And these were not merely parables in the allegorical sense of multiple applications of a single saying. They were in every case an invitation to ‘lift up your eyes,’ to see ‘heavenly things’—specifically to see and understand Him. But they are also repeated manifestations of his willingness to meet people on their own terms, however limited that understanding, and there lead them on to higher ground. Ultimately, if they would, it would lead them beyond time and space altogether, into eternity” (“Lift Up Your Eyes,” Ensign, July 1983, 12–13).
As the Savior continued to teach Nicodemus, He expressed important truths about His redeeming mission, particularly as recorded in John 3:14–17. He used the symbol of the serpent that Moses had raised in the wilderness to teach about His Crucifixion and Atonement. As Israel had looked to the symbol of the serpent in order to be healed from the bites of poisonous serpents, so the Jewish people were encouraged to look to their Redeemer, who would be lifted up on the cross, and they would live because of Him (see 3 Nephi 27:13–14). The serpent was a symbol of Jesus Christ, who was Jehovah in premortality.
President Dallin H. Oaks quoted John 3:16 to affirm that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is the ultimate expression of Heavenly Father’s love for us: “There is no greater evidence of the infinite power and perfection of God’s love than is declared by the Apostle John: ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son’ (John 3:16). Another Apostle wrote that God ‘spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all’ (Romans 8:32). Think how it must have grieved our Heavenly Father to send His Son to endure incomprehensible suffering for our sins. That is the greatest evidence of His love for each of us!” (“Love and Law,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2009, 26).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–85) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that John 3:16 “summarizes the whole plan of salvation, tying together the Father, the Son, his atoning sacrifice, that belief in him which presupposes righteous works, and ultimate eternal exaltation for the faithful” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:144).
The wording of John 3:22 suggests that the Savior performed baptisms, while John 4:1–2 seems to suggest that He did not. The Joseph Smith Translation resolves this apparent discrepancy and adds pertinent information about the evil designs of the Jewish leaders:
“When therefore the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John,
“They sought more diligently some means that they might put him to death; for many received John as a prophet, but they believed not on Jesus.
“Now the Lord knew this, though he himself baptized not so many as his disciples;
“For he suffered them for an example, preferring one another” (Joseph Smith Translation, John 4:1–4 [in the Bible appendix]).
As recorded in John 3:25–36, John the Baptist testified to some of his followers about the Savior’s mission, teaching that he was not the Christ and that Jesus Christ was much greater than he.
President Thomas S. Monson (1927–2018) quoted verse 28 and then observed that John the Baptist’s testimony and example of humility bore witness of the Savior and can be a model for us: “All of us living in the world today need points of reference—even models to follow. John the Baptist provides for us a flawless example of unfeigned humility, as he deferred always to the One who was to follow—the Savior of mankind” (“Models to Follow,” Ensign, Nov. 2002, 60). As recorded in John 3:29, the “bridegroom” represents Christ, and the “friend” represents John the Baptist. John the Baptist’s humility and selflessness are well expressed in the statement, “He [the Messiah] must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
John bore powerful testimony of the Savior, as the Joseph Smith Translation helps to clarify: “For God giveth him not the Spirit by measure, for he dwelleth in him, even the fullness” (Joseph Smith Translation, John 3:34 [in John 3:34, footnote b]). God the Father did not give His Son a portion of His Spirit, but rather the fulness.
To better understand the account of Jesus teaching the woman of Samaria at Jacob’s well (see John 4:1–42), see the information about Samaria under the section “The New Testament Setting” and the commentary for John 4:19–24.
Because of increased persecution in Jerusalem from the chief priests and Pharisees, Jesus left Judea for Galilee, traveling through Samaria to a city called Sychar. Being tired and thirsty, he sat down on Jacob’s well at “about the sixth hour” (John 4:6), which was about noon. Women customarily gathered at the village well in the morning and late afternoon to get water and to socialize. The Samaritan woman who went to the well and spoke with Jesus may have come at this unusual time to avoid the women of the village, who may have shunned her as a sinner (see John 4:16–18). Jesus conversed with the woman, teaching her that He was the Messiah, even though Jews customarily had no contact with Samaritans and rabbis did not ordinarily talk to single women. Even Jesus’s disciples “marvelled that he talked with the woman” (John 4:27), but Jesus did not consider Samaritans to be outcasts.
The woman listened to the Savior’s words and gradually developed a testimony that she had found the Messiah. The progress of her testimony can be seen by the titles she used for Jesus: “a Jew” (verse 9), “sir” (verses 11, 15), “a prophet” (verse 19), and finally “the Christ” (verse 29). From her experience, we learn that Jesus’s presence had converting power for those who would humbly listen to Him.
Jacob’s well was on the land that Jacob, the father of the twelve tribes of Israel, had settled after he returned from working for Laban in Padan-aram in Mesopotamia (see Genesis 33:18). Jacob bequeathed this land to his son Joseph.
The Savior told the Samaritan woman that He could offer her “living water” that would be “a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:10, 14). The phrase “living water” is used throughout the scriptures to refer to the Savior (see Jeremiah 2:13; Zechariah 14:8; Revelation 21:6; 22:1; Alma 42:27; D&C 63:23).
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin quoted the Savior’s words in John 4:14 and then taught that “drinking deeply of living waters” will bring us great happiness:
“Fully understood and embraced, the gospel of Jesus Christ heals broken hearts, infuses meaning into lives, binds loved ones together with ties that transcend mortality, and brings to life a sublime joy. …
“The abundant life is a spiritual life. Too many sit at the banquet table of the gospel of Jesus Christ and merely nibble at the feast placed before them. They go through the motions—attending their meetings perhaps, glancing at scriptures, repeating familiar prayers—but their hearts are far away. If they are honest, they would admit to being more interested in the latest neighborhood rumors, stock market trends, and their favorite TV show than they are in the supernal wonders and sweet ministerings of the Holy Spirit.
“Do you wish to partake of this living water and experience that divine well springing up within you to everlasting life?
“Then be not afraid. Believe with all your hearts. Develop an unshakable faith in the Son of God. Let your hearts reach out in earnest prayer. Fill your minds with knowledge of Him. Forsake your weaknesses. Walk in holiness and harmony with the commandments” (“The Abundant Life,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2006, 100). For additional insights into “living water,” see the commentary for John 7:37–39.
Toward the end of the sixth century B.C., the Jews rejected the Samaritans’ offer to help rebuild the temple in Jerusalem (see Ezra 4:1–10). Shortly thereafter, Manasseh, a priest from Jerusalem who had married the daughter of Sanballat, the Gentile governor of Samaria, was expelled from the priesthood. He then built a rival temple on Mount Gerizim in Samaria. This was the mountain referred to by the woman at the well (see Bible Dictionary, “Gerizim and Ebal”). During the Hasmonean (Jewish) revolt against the Seleucids in the late second century B.C., the Samaritans refused to aid the Jewish cause. Perhaps as retaliation for this lack of solidarity, John Hyrcanus, a leader of the Hasmonean Jews, destroyed the Samaritan temple on Mount Gerizim, and it was never rebuilt. The destruction of this temple added to the animosity that already existed between the Samaritans and Jews.
When the Samaritan woman came to understand that Jesus was indeed a prophet, she desired to know how she could worship. The Samaritan temple had been destroyed, Samaritans were not welcome in the temple in Jerusalem, and she did not know where she could worship (see John 4:19–20). The Savior taught her that true worship is not limited to a certain place; rather, it is a matter of knowing the truth about who to worship and of having one’s heart devoted to the true God. Though praying, singing, and scripture study are ways in which we frequently worship, Elder Bruce R. McConkie helps us understand that true worship consists in having a knowledge of the true God and in emulating the life of the Savior:
“Our purpose is to worship the true and living God and to do it by the power of the Spirit and in the way he has ordained. The approved worship of the true God leads to salvation; devotions rendered to false gods and which are not founded on eternal truth carry no such assurance.
“A knowledge of the truth is essential to true worship. …
“… If [a person] worships the true and living God, in spirit and in truth, then God Almighty will pour out his Spirit upon him. …
“… True and perfect worship consists in following in the steps of the Son of God; it consists in keeping the commandments and obeying the will of the Father to that degree that we advance from grace to grace until we are glorified in Christ as he is in his Father. It is far more than prayer and sermon and song. It is living and doing and obeying. It is emulating the life of the great Exemplar” (“How to Worship,” Ensign, Dec. 1971, 129–30).
One reason the Samaritan woman initially appeared to have been reluctant to accept Jesus as the Messiah was because the religion of her people had taught her things that were not true. In response, the Master Teacher turned her focus and allegiance to her Father in Heaven rather than to her ancestral fathers. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency taught that while all religions and family heritages have great value, our first allegiance should be to the Father of our spirits rather than to our earthly fathers:
“What, then, is the faith of our fathers? Is it the religion of our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents? …
“The faith of our Father in Heaven has been consistent since the beginning of time, even from before the foundation of this world. John the Revelator described a great war in heaven [see Revelation 12:7–9]. The issue was moral agency, as it is today. All who have ever lived on this earth were among those who fought against Satan and stood with the Son and the Father. Therefore, do we not owe our allegiance to God, our Heavenly Father? …
“I testify that the doctrine of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is the faith of our Heavenly Father. … God desires that all of His children receive it, irrespective of their background, culture, or tradition. True religion should not originate from what pleases men or the traditions of ancestors, but rather from what pleases God, our Eternal Father” (“Faith of Our Father,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2008, 75).
The Greek text of John 4:24 contains no article before the word spirit. Thus, the Greek phrase can also be understood to mean “God is spirit,” or “God is spiritual.” The Apostle John also wrote that “God is light” (1 John 1:5) and “God is love” (1 John 4:8), but these statements do not mean that God is only light, or that God is love and nothing else. Neither do we understand the statement that “man is spirit” (D&C 93:33) to mean that man is only spirit and nothing else. In the same sense, John 4:24 does not mean that God is only spirit. From latter-day revelation, we know that “the Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit” (D&C 130:22).
In the context of the Savior’s teachings about true worship, the statement in John 4:24 can be seen as commentary more about the nature of worship than the nature of God. Since God is a spiritual being, people must worship Him “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24), not merely through outward rituals performed at certain locations (see John 4:20–21).
The Joseph Smith Translation gives a clearer understanding of what the Savior was teaching: “For unto such hath God promised his Spirit. And they who worship him, must worship in spirit and in truth” (Joseph Smith Translation, John 4:26 [in John 4:24, footnote a]). Elder Bruce R. McConkie quoted this passage and then taught:
“There is no salvation in worshiping a false god. It does not matter one particle how sincerely someone may believe that God is a golden calf, or that he is an immaterial, uncreated power that is in all things; the worship of such a being or concept has no saving power. Men may believe with all their souls that images or powers or laws are God, but no amount of devotion to these concepts will ever give the power that leads to immortality and eternal life. …
“But if he worships the true and living God, in spirit and in truth, then God Almighty will pour out his Spirit upon him, and he will have power to raise the dead, move mountains, entertain angels, and walk in celestial streets” (“How to Worship,” Ensign, Dec. 1971, 129).
Jesus testified to the Samaritan woman that He was the Messiah—the first recorded instance in the Gospels of Jesus announcing who He was. “I that speak unto thee am he,” Jesus declared (John 4:26). The pronoun “he” was absent in the original text; Jesus simply said, “I Am” (John 4:26, footnote a). By using the expression “I Am,” Jesus was declaring that He is Jehovah. For more on the significance of the term “I Am,” see the commentary for John 8:53–58.
After the Samaritan woman had tasted of the “living water” from the Savior, she “left her waterpot” (John 4:28) and went to invite others to partake of the “living water” that He offered. As a result of the woman’s testimony, “many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him” (John 4:39). Then, as these people saw the Savior and heard His words, their testimonies of Him deepened (see John 3:41–42). Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin explained that we should also strive to help those around us find the living water of the gospel:
“When the crowd of curious Samaritans arrived to see and hear the man who had proclaimed himself to be the Messiah, … their initial curiosity matured into testimony. They declared, ‘We have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world’ [John 4:42].
“These latter days are a time of great spiritual thirst. Many in the world are searching, often intensely, for a source of refreshment that will quench their yearning for meaning and direction in their lives. They crave a cool, satisfying drink of insight and knowledge that will soothe their parched souls. Their spirits cry out for life-sustaining experiences of peace and calm to nourish and enliven their withering hearts.
“… Let us work with all our heart, might, mind, and strength to show our thirsty brothers and sisters where they may find the living water of the gospel, that they may come to drink of the water that springs ‘up unto everlasting life’ [D&C 63:23]. …
“As at Jacob’s well, so today the Lord Jesus Christ is the only source of living water. It will quench the thirst of those suffering from the drought of divine truth that so afflicts the world” (“Living Water to Quench Spiritual Thirst,” Ensign, May 1995, 18–19).
The account of the nobleman who approached the Savior in Cana is recorded only in the Gospel of John (see John 4:46–54). This nobleman manifested significant faith in the Savior in at least two ways. First, although his home, Capernaum, was about 20 miles (32 kilometers) away from Cana, he made the journey to implore the Savior for His help. Second, when the Savior assured him that his son would live, the nobleman “went his way,” trusting the Savior’s word (John 4:50). Elder Bruce R. McConkie noted: “Though he was in Cana, Jesus gave the command and the nobleman’s son, some twenty miles away in Capernaum, was healed. By the power of faith the sick are healed regardless of their geographical location. God is God of the universe; his power is everywhere manifest” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:159).