When one interprets the Scriptures, one needs to be careful with numbers because in the course of biblical interpretation, people have gone a little…ahem…overboard in their interpretation of how the Scriptures use numbers. However, one cannot avoid the fact that numbers often are used in a significant way. To overlook this because of the over-interpretation of numbers, is to allow the pendulum to swing far away from where it should be.
John uses the number seven numerous times in his gospel. Indeed, he uses the number so many times that we cannot escape the fact that he means for us to see the significance. Seven is used in the Scriptures as the number of perfection. How does John use the number seven in his gospel?
- He records seven signs performed by Jesus
- He records seven discourses of Jesus
- When Jesus feeds the the 5,000, he does it with five loaves and two fish
- There are seven “I am” sayings of Jesus in John
- There are seven witnesses to Christ
- Seven times the water/life theme is repeated
What does that have to do with this passage? John records Jesus speaking to the woman at the well seven times (vs. 7,10,13,16,17,21,26). The seventh thing that he says to the woman? “Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”” (John 4:26 ESV).
The seventh and last thing that Jesus speaks to the woman, the thing that ends the conversation and sends her running back to Sychar to tell others that she has found the Messiah is Jesus saying for the first time in John’s gospel, “I am [the Messiah].”
John constructs his narrative so it points the reader to this claim in verse 26. Everything hinges upon it. It is the most important point of the passage. John does not want the reader to miss it, so he constructs the dialogue in such a way that we are led inevitably to Jesus’ statement.
John means for us to see ourselves as this Sycharian woman and hear Jesus say to us, “I who speak to you, am he.” I am the Messiah. I am the one for whom you are waiting, or not waiting, or avoiding, or from whom you are fleeing. It’s all the same. I am the answer to your existence; I am the hope of your life; I am your satisfaction, joy, and purpose.