At this point, the disciples appear. John tells us they were “astonished that he was speaking with a woman”, but they wisely kept their mouths shut. The Samaritan woman then left and went back to her village, where she told everyone about Jesus and asked them whether they thought he could be the Messiah. We’re told that “many believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.” Then they “left the city” and went to meet him.
Meanwhile, the text says that Jesus’ own disciples had gone “to the city” in search of food – in other words, they had gone off in the opposite direction, away from Christ, seeking sustenance in the lower realm, in Samaria, while the residents of Samaria were ironically coming upward, searching for sustenance in Christ. Now the disciples have returned and they urge Jesus to eat. But he says he has other food, food they know nothing about. Like the Samaritan woman, they take this literally and ask each other, ‘who gave him food?’ Jesus patiently tries to explain, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.” He then tells them not to think that someday ‘in the future’ the harvest will be ready. The harvest of this food is here now. Open your ‘eyes’, he says, “and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting.”
At this point the Samaritans arrive and ask him to spend time with them, and Jesus “stayed there two days”. After this experience 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 truly the Savior of the world.”
This is a major point that the Bible often makes but no one seems to hear it! Faith is not ‘believing what someone else tells us’. Belief is simply adhering to one conviction or another on thoughtless and inadequate grounds: perhaps because someone told us to believe it, perhaps because believing it makes us happy or comfortable, perhaps because it spares us the effort of thinking for ourselves. Faith, on the other hand, is the result of one’s own authentic experience of the reality of God. Faith is knowing, with absolute certainty, for oneself, from one’s own inner efforts and experience.