On to the next section of John! (John 4.27-42), which is really a continuation of the event at Jacob’s well outside of Sychar, this time the entire village is affected by Christ because of the Samaritan woman’s testimony.
The thing that struck me as I worked on translating the Greek into English [I try to do this on every passage, not because I’m a scholar—I’m a Marine after all!—but because it makes me slow down and really observe the text, and it brings some nice surprises, as is the case in this passage] is John’s use of the little phrase “because of the word” [διὰ τὸν λόγον]. He uses it two times in this passage and it’s use is VERY significant. Indeed, I’d argue that it unlocks the meaning of the passage.
First, John writes: “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony [διὰ τὸν λόγον τῆς γυναικὸς μαρτυρούσης], “He told me all that I ever did.”” (John 4:39, ESV). We kind of miss the point in the ESV because for smoothness of translation, the ESV leaves out “the word.” A literal translation of this same passage would be, “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the word of the woman’s testimony.” Indeed, this is almost how Young’s Literal Translation puts it: And from that city many believed in him, of the Samaritans, because of the word of the woman testifying. The little Greek word διὰ is “a marker of a participant constituting the cause or reason for an event or state” (Louw-Nida). In other words the REASON that many believed was as a result of the words of the woman, as a result of her testimony.
Then look what John writes just a few verses later: “And many more believed because of his word.” (John 4:41, ESV). This time the ESV doesn’t leave out “the word,” in the Greek it looks like this: “καὶ πολλῷ πλείους ἐπίστευσαν διὰ τὸν λόγον αὐτοῦ,” (John 4:41, NA27).
Compare the two verses, the reason that the Samaritans believed [in Christ as the Messiah!] was first of all because of the word of the woman testifying and then (subsequently) because of his (Christ’s) word.
The active agent, or we might say immediate cause, of the people from Sychar believing in Christ was the word through the woman and then the word through Christ himself. It took the word proclaimed for the people to believe.
If you think back to the prologue to the entire book in John 1.1-4 where John carefully presents the Word who was in the beginning with God and was God; we now have that same Word proclaiming the word so that Samaritans believe in him.
Belief in Jesus as the Messiah comes through the word being proclaimed. It might be the testimony of someone who has been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, or it might be through the very word of Christ himself, I who speak to you, am he, but we believe through, because of, as a result of, the word being proclaimed.