MINISTRY IN SAMARIA
Therefore you will joyously draw water from the springs of salvation. (Isaiah 12:3).
Samaria. In 721 B.C. the Northern Kingdom of Israel finally collapsed under the onslaught of the armies of Assyria. A large portion of the Hebrew population was deported into captivity. In the years that followed, refugees from other Assyrian conquests were resettled in this area so that they eventually began to intermarry with the surviving Hebrew population.
In 586 B.C. the Southern Kingdom of Judah fell to the Babylonian armies of Nebuchadnezzar and now these Jews also suffered a deportation to a foreign land. However, the Babylonian Empire declined quickly in the years that followed and its fall came in 539 B.C., brought about through the conquests of Cyrus the Great.
Under Cyrus and his Persian Empire, the Jews were allowed to return to the land of Judah and rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. When the Samaritan population offered to help in this rebuilding program, they were refused. This sparked off a feud that was to last for the next 500 years.
In the years that followed, the Samaritans built their own temple on Mount Gerizim and instituted their own priesthood. They rejected all of the Old Testament except for the Torah and they claimed to have a copy of the latter which was older than any possessed by the Jews. The Jews responded in kind, fanning the flames of prejudice. In 128 B.C. John Hyrcanus, the Hasmonean King of Judah, destroyed the temple at Gerizim. On another instance, the Samaritans sneaked into the temple and left a dead pig on the altar, thereby polluting that sacred place.
The Roman conquest of Palestine did nothing to quell the hatred between the Jews and the Samaritans. By the first century A.D. the Jews considered the Samaritans to be even lower than the Gentiles, for they were not even permitted to proselyte to Judaism.
It is upon this scene that we open our study of John 4. It is the story of a Jew breaking the barrier of 500 years of prejudice. It. is the story of the incident which occurred at Sychar.
THE DEPARTURE FROM JUDEA
1 When therefore the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were), 3 He left Judea, and departed again into Galilee. 4 And He had to pass through Samaria. (John 4:1-4).
As we come upon John 4, we find Jesus still within the territory of Judea. His Early Judean Ministry is drawing to a close. He has been in Judea since the Passover and now the winter is approaching. He has been growing steadily in popularity as many of the followers of John the Baptist now come to Him. It is this fact that now precipitates the following events.
1. A Popular Ministry: Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (4:1).
This factor had been the basis of John s discourse to his disciples in the last chapter. John had rejoiced that people were coming to Jesus instead of to him. John’s disciples had responded with jealousy over this fact. The Pharisees probably had mixed emotions.
Without a doubt, the Pharisees had turned against John when he denounced them as a brood of vipers (Matthew 3:7). Therefore, they would be glad to hear that he was now declining in popularity. However, the sudden rise of Jesus, the fact that He had John’s full endorsement, and His actions in clearing out the temple were sure to alarm the Pharisees. As a result, Jesus leaves the area. We see this in verse 3.
2. A Strategic Departure: He left Judea, and departed again into Galilee (4:3).
Why did Jesus leave Judea? It is implied here that the reason He left was related to the Pharisees and their attitude to His growing popularity. This is not to say that Jesus was afraid of the Pharisees or their opinions. However, it was not a part of His plan to bring the conflict between Himself and the Pharisees to a head at this time. His hour had not yet come. At the proper time, He will return to Jerusalem and again take up the conflict with the Pharisees of Judea.
3. A Necessary Route: And He had to pass through Samaria (4:4).
Samaria lay midway between Judea in the south and Galilee in the north. Anyone traveling between Judea and Galilee would naturally pass through Samaria.
However, the Jews held the Samaritans in such low esteem that they always made it a point to make a long detour around Samaria by taking either the coast road along the Mediterranean or by crossing the Jordan River and traveling along the east bank and then recrossing once they had passed by Samaria.
Jesus held no such prejudices. Thus, He takes the direct route through the province of Samaria. And yet, when we are told the He “had to pass through Samaria,” I cannot help but think that there is more here than merely a geographic necessity. After all, other Jews who traveled between Galilee and Judea did not HAVE TO pass through Samaria.
Perhaps there was another reason that Jesus had to pass through Samaria. I think that it was because He had a divinely appointed meeting to attend. He had an appointment with a woman by a well.
The Lord has some appointments for you this week. I don’t know what they are, and neither do you. But He does. And, when He takes you through Samaria, distasteful as that may be, you keep in mind that it is the Lord who has made the appointment.
STOPOVER AT SYCHAR
So He came to a city of Samaria, called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph; 6 and Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. (John 4:5-6).
The exact location of Sychar has been the object of some controversy. Jerome stated that the name Sychar is a corrupted form of Shechem, the ancient Canaanite city which lies half a mile from Jacob’s well.
It was an old city, even in the days of Jesus. It had been a city in the days of Abraham. The city lay astride the mountain pass which ran between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizirn. As Jesus and His disciples came up to Jacob’s well, they found themselves standing at the entrance of a narrow valley. To the left was Mount Gerizim, rising over a thousand feet above the valley. It was here that the Samaritans had once built their temple. Up ahead lay the city of Sychar, resting at the foot of the mountain. Further away and to the right rose Mount Ebal, stretching even higher than Mount Gerizim.
It was here that Joshua had gathered the Israelites after the capture of Ai. On Mount Ebal they had offered burnt offerings to the Lord. Then, Joshua had directed half of the congregation to stand on Mount Gerizim and read the blessings of the Law while the other half stood on Mount Ebal and read the cursings of that Law. Later, it was Shechem that became the first capital of the Northern Kingdom when the nation of Israel divided.
1. A Wearisome Rest: Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well (4:6).
The distance from Jerusalem to Sychar was about 30 miles. The road ran up to Jacob’s well and, from there, it went on another half mile to Sychar. Evidently, Jesus and His party had decided to camp here by the well for the night.
2. A Timely Rest: It was about the sixth hour (4:6).
We have already noted that John s gospel account always uses the Roman way of reckoning time (compare John 18:14 with Mark 15:25). This would make it six o’clock in the afternoon. Jesus and His disciples had been a long day upon the road. They are tired and they are thirsty and they are hungry.
THE SAMARITAN WOMAN
7 There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give Me a drink." 8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.
9 The Samaritan woman therefore said to Him, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?" (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)
10 Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water." (John 4:7-10).
The scene is laid out before us. The sun is low in the late afternoon sky, casting long shadows around the well where Jesus sits. As He rests by the well, He watches His disciples walking up the road to Sychar where they have been sent to purchase the evening meal. As they approach the city, the pass someone who is coming the opposite way along the road. It is a woman of the city. On her head, she carries a waterpot.
Finally, she arrives at the well. She gives Jesus a cursory glance and notes by His dress that He is a Jew. She pays Him no further attention. Shifting her waterpot, she proceeds to lower it by a cord far down into the well. As she finally draws the vessel back up, now full of water, Jesus speaks to her.
1. A Simple Request: Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink” (4:7).
Jesus had been on the road with His disciples all day. Now, He is sitting beside a well, and there is water in the well, but He has no pot and no cord to draw the water from that well. The water is there, but it is out of reach.
The reaction of the woman is one of surprise. It is odd enough to see a Jew traveling through Samaria. It is also rare to see a Jewish man speak to a woman in public. But for a Jew to condescend to speak to a woman of Samaria and to request something of her was startling.
2. The Woman’s Surprise: The Samaritan woman therefore said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” (4:9).
The woman is plainly astonished that Jesus has asked her for a drink of water. She gives two reasons why his request surprised her.
• She is a Samaritan.
She is the product of 500 years of racial prejudice. All of her life, she has been looked on with contempt by the Jews.
• She is a woman.
It has been said that the Jewish rabbis used to thank God each day that they had been horn a. Jew, that they were free, and that they were not a woman.
Women in the ancient world were considered to he little better than livestock. It was considered in poor taste for a rabbi to speak with a woman in public, even if that woman were his wife.
Do you see what Jesus is doing? He is superseding the bonds of social customs. He is not concerned with the social taboos of his culture.
Have you ever stopped to wonder which social taboos Jesus might break if He were living in our culture and society? Would He be afraid to walk into a liquor store or a bar? Would He avoid coming into our church service wearing blue jeans and shirt sleeves? Would we find Him in the ghetto? Or perhaps in the company of the gay community? Would He be uncomfortable talking to a prostitute or a drug addict? No, I don’t think that He would. Jesus wasn’t trapped by social customs. And maybe we shouldn’t be, either.
3. The Existing Prejudice: For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans (4: 9).
It was almost unheard of for a Jew to use the same waterpot of a Samaritan. Normally, a Jew would have insisted upon separate water fountains, separate bathrooms, and that all Samaritans sit at the back of the bus.
4. A Knowledgeable Possibility: Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God” (4:10).
Whenever you see the word if in the New Testament, it can mean one of four things.
• First Class Condition. This is the condition of reality. (If, and it is assumed to be true). This is what Satan used when He was tempting Jesus: “If you are the Son of God (and I know that you are)...” (Matthew 4:3).
• Second Class Condition. This is the condition of unreality. (If, and it is assumed not to be true). This was also used by Satan in the temptations of Jesus when he said, “If you fall down and worship me (and I know that you will not)...” (Matthew 4:9).
• Third Class Condition. This is the condition of potential. (If, and maybe it is true and maybe it is not). This is used in I John 1:9 where we are told, If we confess our sins (maybe we will and maybe we will not).
• Fourth Class Condition. This is the condition of rarity. (If it is so, but it probably is not). This is very rare in the New Testament. It is only used a handful of times. One such time in when Peter speaks of Christian persecution: But EVEN IF you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. (1 Peter 3:14).
When we look at these examples in our English translation, it is not always easy to tell the different types of clauses apart. But in the Greek language, each one has a separate form. When Jesus says to this Samaritan woman, “If you knew the gift of God.” He is using the second class condition: If you knew the gift of God, but you
Notice what Jesus is doing. He is pointing out this woman’s need. She lacks knowledge about God. But that is not all. She is not even concerned in that fact that she lacks knowledge about God.
You know a lot of people like that. They don’t know God. They know that they don’t know God. They don’t care that they don’t know God This woman has shown no interest in God. And so, Jesus is going to say something that will arouse her interest. He does this by mentioning something called “living water.”
Now, I want to ask you a question. To what does this “living water” refer? It is mentioned again in verse 14, but this still does not tell us exactly what it is. Nowhere in this immediate context is "living water" defined. To determine its identity, we must look forward to John 7 :38-39.
He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, “From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.” 39 But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:38-39).
This time, the living water is identified. It refers to that Spirit which would one day be given to the followers of Jesus. It refers to the Holy Spirit.
11 She said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water? 12 You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?”
13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water shall thirst again; 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (John 4:11-14).
This woman initially makes the same mistake that Nicodemus did. She fails to realize that Jesus is speaking of a spiritual concept. Just as Nicodemus looked for a natural birth rather than a spiritual birth, she is looking at the water in the well instead of the Living Water of God.
Deliberately came to Jesus by night
Came to draw water and met Jesus
Misunderstands Jesus when He speaks of a new birth
Misunderstands Jesus when He speaks of living water
A ruler of the Jews
An outcast from the Samaritans
In spite of their differences, the two had this much in common. They both needed Jesus.
She looks at Jesus and all she sees is a man who does not seem to have the ability to obtain water for himself. Jesus is not equipped to obtain water. The water from the well is beyond His reach. He has no bucket and no line. Only the woman has the means of obtaining water for Him. If He is to obtain water, then He must rely on her to give it to Him.
What this woman does not realize is that she is also in need. There is a living water which she does not have the ability to obtain for herself. She is not equipped to obtain this living water. Only Jesus has the means of obtaining it for her. If she is to obtain water, then she must rely on Jesus to give it to her. She must TRUST in Him. However, she does not yet realize this. She does not really know what Jesus is talking about.
1. A Question of Greatness: You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You? (4:12).
Why does she bring up Jacob? What does she expect to accomplish by bringing Jacob into the picture? She is a Samaritan. The Jews looked down upon the Samaritans as being half-breeds. And now the woman is saying, “Jacob is our father.” The Jews hated to admit that Jacob was the father of the Samaritans. But she does not stop there.
“Not only is Jacob our father, but he gave us this well and he drank of this same water that we drink of every day and which You can only partake of by asking for my help.” Do you see what she is trying to do? She is trying to get Jesus mad. She does not really understand what Jesus has said, so she will get Him mad and that will change the subject.
2. An Answer of Need: Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water shall thirst again” (4:13).
Jesus does not get angry. Instead, He proceeds to explain the difference between the water of the well and the living water that only He can provide.
The water of the well is inadequate to give lasting relief from thirst. You can drink today and you will still get thirsty tomorrow. It is like the little boy who came home from his first day at school. His mother asked, “Well, how did you do?” Nonchalantly, he replied, “Not so good; I have to go hack again tomorrow.”
The water of the well is inadequate to give lasting relief from thirst. However, the living water which Jesus provides is eternal. Once provided, it can never be taken away.
There is an observation that we ought not to miss. It is that yesterday’s drink will not suffice for today. How often do we depend upon yesterday’s drink? Maybe it was an answered prayer, or a good feeling that you got. Maybe it was when you witnessed to someone or walked down an aisle. I m not saying that it was not real. Maybe you really did get close to God. But that does not matter because yesterday’s drink will not suffice for today.
You need more than just a one-time drink. You need to partake of that which will become a continuing source of water. And that is what Jesus offers.
3. A Continuing Supply: But the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life (4:14).
We have already noted that a comparison of John 7:38-39 indicates that this “living water” refers to the Holy Spirit. This is further seen in the Old Testament Scriptures. Jeremiah records the words of the Lord that were spoken to him in a message for the Northern Kingdom, including that land which eventually became known as Samaria.
For My people have committed two evils:
They have forsaken Me, the FOUNTAIN OF LIVING WATERS,
To hew for themselves cisterns,
Broken cisterns, that can hold no water. (Jeremiah 2:13).
O Lord, the hope of Israel,
All who forsake Thee will he put to shame.
Those who turn away on earth will be written down,
Because they have forsaken the FOUNTAIN OF LIVING WATER, even the Lord. (Jeremiah 17:13).
In these verses, it is very obvious that the fountain of living water is a reference to the Lord. Now Jesus is stating a new principle. It is that anyone who partakes of these “living waters” shall become a source of water himself through which others might also come to eternal life.
This Samaritan woman does not yet know it, but she is going to be the key to a vast revival within the village of Sychar. It will be through her testimony that eternal life will come to the people of that town. She is going to become a well of water springing up to eternal life.
JESUS CHANGES THE SUBJECT
15 The woman said to Him, "Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty, nor come all the way here to draw." 16 He said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come here."
17 The woman answered and said, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You have well said, 'I have no husband'; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly." (John 4:15-18).
The woman’s response shows that she is still missing the point. She says, “Mister, if you will give me this water that you ve been telling me about. I can save myself a daily trip to the well. I can have running water in my own house.” She is still thinking in terms of literal water. She is thinking to herself that maybe Jesus is claiming to have some magical kind of water. It also seems possible that she is not sincere in her request from Jesus. Perhaps she is merely mocking what she deems to be an impossibility.
In any event., it is obvious that she has failed to see the supernatural implications of the offer of Jesus. Therefore, she is going to experience a little of that supernatural power.
1. Call for a Husband: He said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here” (4:16).
Suddenly, Jesus changes the subject. He has been speaking of living water, and she has misunderstood. Now, He changes the subject. Why does He do this? 1 think that the answer is twofold:
First, He wants to show her that she has a need. He wants to make her realize and come face to face with the fact that she is a sinner and that she needs a Savior. He has told her about living water, and now He is going to make her thirsty. He has told her about life, and now He is going to point out the deficiency within her own life. He is going to show her that she has a need.
God is in the business of putting His people into holes so deep that they cannot possibly get out without His help.
Do you have a need right now? Do you feel as though you are never going to see the light of day? I have good news for you. That is God’s hole. He is teaching you how to believe in Him.
The second reason that Jesus has in bringing up the subject of this woman’s husbands is that He wishes to demonstrate that He is fully able to provide for her need. And so, He will give her a demonstration of His power.
2. Admission of Absence: The woman answered and said, “I have no husband” (4:17).
Notice that there is no "Sir" found in verses 11 and 15. In the Greek, she says only three words: Ouk ecw andra -- I have no man. She is uncomfortable. Jesus has hit just a little too close to home. She wants to get off this line of communication as soon as possible. Little does she expect what Jesus is going to say next.
3. Adulterous Indictment: Jesus said to her, "You have well said, 'I have no husband'; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly." (4:17-18).
The woman already knows that she is hiding behind a mask. She has given a portion of the truth. But she is evading the whole truth. And now with just a few words, Jesus strips away her mask.
“You have well said...” She has really said a mouthful. She has made the understatement of the year. She has no husband. Actually, she does not have five husbands.
And the one whom you now have is not your husband (4:18). There is an interesting emphasis in the original Greek text. The word YOUR (su) is emphatic by position. The indication is that the one whom she is living with now is someone else’s husband.
I want you to notice what Jesus did not do. He did not condemn her. He did not tell her was a terrible sinner she was. He did not need to. She knew that she was guilty and now she knew that He knew it, too.
I also want you to notice that Jesus will not tell her to stop living with this man. Her sin is not the issue. Jesus is the issue. Her sin in living with this man is only a part of her problem, hut Jesus is the answer to all of her problems. Once she has dealt with Jesus, then He will deal with her sins.
Sometimes we get it backwards. We want a person to stop doing this and stop doing that and then, come to Christ. Christ says, “You come just the way you are, and then I will bring about a change in your life.”
This woman has a lot of needs. But her most immediate is that she needs to believe in Jesus. Therefore, Jesus now moves to reveal Himself to her as the promised Messiah.
AN ATTEMPTED DIGRESSION
19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.”
21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father. 22 You worship that which you do not know; we worship that which we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:19-24).
What do you do when you are being confronted with your own sinful life? If you are like most people, then you do what this woman did. You change the subject.
1. A Flattering Comment: The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet” (4:19).
Notice that this time, she prefaces her remark with a title of respect: “Sir” (kurioV). But she goes further than this. She reasons that Jesus must he a prophet.
Clearly, she has been embarrassed and shaken up by His insight into her lifestyle. But now, she has a sudden idea. She will change the subject. Jesus seems to he a man of God. Therefore, she will get Him involved in a theological argument. That way, they can talk about something else besides her and her five husbands and that one that is not her husband.
2. A Samaritan Issue: Our fathers worshiped in this mountain (4:20).
The Samaritans had been worshiping on Mount Gerizim for hundreds of years. It was here that they had built their own temple, the ruins of which still lay at the top of the mountain.
“And you people say that is Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship” (4:20). By saying, “You people,” she is referring to Jesus as a representative of the Jews. No doubt, the woman expected Jesus to begin a long dry dissertation about the merits of the temple in Jerusalem as opposed to Mount Gerizim.
When you speak to an unbeliever, he invariably brings up the question, “Well, what about the man in Africa?” This is a smoke screen question. It has nothing to do with his own life, and so it is non-threatening.
Jesus does not allow people to hide behind smoke screens. Notice how He deals with this woman.
3. A Promise of Relocation: Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father” (4:21).
The woman had expected Jesus to tell her that she must go to Jerusalem to worship. He does not. Instead, He makes a prophecy. She has just said that He is a prophet, so now He will prophesy.
Up to this point, the proper center of worship has been located at the temple in Jerusalem. This is the place that was chosen by the Lord. It has been the proper place of worship.
But you shall seek the Lord at the place which the Lord your God shall choose from all your tribes, to establish His name there for His dwelling, and there you shall come. 6 And there you shall bring your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the contribution of your hand, your votive offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock. (Deuteronomy 12:5-6).
Jerusalem was the place that God had ordained as the official meeting place between Himself and mankind. However, Jesus says that there is corning a time when that will change. There is coming a time when the local center of worship at Jerusalem will pass away.
4. An Ignorant Worship: You worship that which you do not know (4:22).
The religion of the Samaritans had been born out of a rejection of the truth of God. The Samaritans had rewritten the Torah to make it fit with their own beliefs. They flatly rejected the rest of the Old Testament Scriptures. Therefore, their religion could not fail to be anything else but error. They had turned away from God to worship a god of their own making.
Notice that Jesus uses the neuter gender to speak of the object of their worship (You worship THAT which you do not know). This is significant. Because God was not truly known to the Samaritans, He was impersonal rather than personal.
Do you think of God as an impersonal force? “The force be with you” made good science fiction, but it just is not true. God is not an “it.” He is the One who created personality is Himself a personal being.
5. A Heritage of Salvation: We worship that which we know, for salvation is from the Jews (4:22).
The Jews were God s chosen people. This does not mean that every Jew enjoyed a close relationship or a thorough understanding of God, but if such was the case, it was his own fault because he had failed to heed the Scriptures which were his birthright. Every Jew that did partake of that birthright knew who it was he worshiped.
6. True Worshipers: But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth (4:23).
Notice that the local center of worship in Jerusalem had not yet been abandoned. The sacrifices were still being offered. The daily prayers were still taking place. And yet, there has been a change. This place of worship is no longer exclusive. Something has happened. There has been a change. This change is such that the importance is no longer to be determined by where it takes place, but rather whether it is in "spirit and truth."
Worshiping "in spirit" is seen in contrast to worshiping "in Jerusalem. It is not the outward location that is going to be important, but the inner relationship with God. ]t will not be the physical, hut the spiritual which we he accepted.
Worship in "truth" is seen in contrast to the error of the Samaritan religion. It is not enough to have good intentions. Sincerity is never any substitute for truth. There were many Samaritans who were sincerely wrong.
Thus, Jesus takes the entire matter of location of worship and lifts it up to a higher plane. In doing so, He is fulfilling the prophecy of Malachi.
“For from We rising of the sun, even to its setting,
My name will be great among the nations,
And in every place incense is going to he offered to My name,
And a grain offering that is pure;
For My name will be great among the nations,” says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 1:11).
Malachi promised that there would come a day when incense and grain offerings would be offered, not only in the temple, but throughout the world. This prophecy looked forward to the coming of the kingdom. This means that, as Jesus announces the hour of spiritual worship, He is indicating that the kingdom has been coming and is now at hand.
7. The Spiritual Nature of God: God is spirit (4:24).
Both the Samaritans and the Jews looked to a physical location where they went to worship God. Jesus now reveals that God is not confined to physical locations. God does not only live in Jerusalem. And God does not only live on Gerizim. Both the Jews and the Samaritans had a problem. They both had a limited view of God.
How is your view of God? What do you think God looks like? Is He a little like you, only bigger?
A father looked over the shoulder of his little boy where He was drawing a picture. “What are you drawing?” asked the father. “I m drawing a picture of God,” replied the boy. “But nobody knows what God looks like,” exclaimed the father. The little boy smiled and said, “They will when I am done.”
Have you drawn a picture of God? Do you think that God is a Presbyterian or a Baptist or a Charismatic? Do you picture God as a Republican? If you do, then you have not been worshiping the God of the Bible.
God is spirit. Therefore, the realm of His worship must be in accordance with His attributes. If God is spirit, then worship of Him must also he in spirit. If God is truth, then worship of Him must also be in truth.
THE COMING OF MESSIAH
The woman said to Him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.” (John 4:25-26).
This woman has just heard some amazing truths taught to her by Jesus. Now, it seems as though she is not certain whether she can believe what He has said. And so, with a note of yearning in her voice, she repeats something she has been taught in the past.
1. The Hope of Messiah: I know that Messiah is coming (4:25).
The Samaritans believed in the coming of a Messiah. They believed that One would come who would be a prophet like Moses. This was taught in the Torah.
Remember, the Samaritans rejected the entire Old Testament except for the Torah -- the first five books of Moses. Thus, they rejected all of the other Messianic prophecies. But they did hold to this one.
The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him. (Deuteronomy 16:15).
The Samaritan concept of the Messiah was one of a prophet and a teacher like Moses who would come and teach the people all things.
This woman has been listening to Jesus. He has been teaching her, although she does not understand much of what He says. But she knows that there is One who will declare all things and she knows that she will he able to believe what He teaches.
2. The Admission of Messiah: Jesus said to her. “I who speak to you am He” (4:26).
This is the first time that Jesus has revealed Himself to anyone as the Messiah. Andrew had come to this conclusion after spending a day with Jesus (John 1:41). Nathanael had declared Him to be the Son of God and the King of Israel (John 1:49). Nicodemus had stated that Jesus was a teacher from God (John 3:2). But this is the first instance which we have recorded in which Jesus declares Himself to be the Messiah.
Fascinating! Especially when we consider to whom He is speaking. Not to a Jew, but to a Samaritan. Not to a man, but to a woman. Not to a one who is religiously pious, but to one who is immoral and an adulteress.
There is a principle here. God’s revelation of Himself is not given out in proportion to how deserving you are, but in accordance with how gracious He is. We tend to think that God only reaches out to those who are good and pure and who never get ruffled or bothered by the mundane. We tend to think that God speaks to preachers and pastors because they are paid to be good while the rest of us are good for nothing. Not so! God realized that you could never be good enough, so He sent His Son who was good in your place.
THE RETURN OF THE DISCIPLES
At this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He had been speaking with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why do You speak with her?” (John 4:27).
At this point, the disciples return from Sychar. Notice their initial reaction at seeing Jesus speaking to this Samaritan woman. They marvel. They are amazed.
As we have noted, the Jews taught that it was in poor taste to speak to a woman in public, even if it were your own wife. And yet, these disciples show a strange reluctance to voice their surprise and their disapproval. They have been around Jesus enough to know that He is not bound by habit and custom.
That is not to say that traditions and customs and habits are in themselves a bad thing, but we should take care not to allow such things to bind us.
THE REACTION OF THE WOMAN
28 So the woman left her waterpot, and went into the city, and said to the men, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?” 30 They went out of the city, and were coming to Him. (John 4:28-30).
In the space of just a few minutes with Jesus, the life of this woman has changed. This change is seen now in her actions. There is a fascinating contrast to he seen between this Samaritan woman and Nicodemus, the Jewish leader who came to Jesus in the night.
An outcast from society
Actively sought an appointment with Jesus
She was sought out by Jesus
Serious in his attitude
Flippant and mocking at the beginning
No formal education
Religious and moral
A history of immorality
An unsaved sinner
An unsaved sinner
This contrast tells me something about .Jesus. He spoke to Nicodemus, a ruler in the nation of Israel, and He spoke to this woman from Sychar, an outcast from a nation of outcasts. He was interested in INDIVIDUALS. If He was interested in individuals, then He is interested in you.
The woman’s excitement and enthusiasm seems to indicate that she believed the testimony of Jesus about Himself. Do you remember what it was like when you first met Jesus? You probably did not know a whole lot about Him. You had not learned all of the doctrines of salvation. You did not know the difference between justification and sanctification. But you did know that Jesus loved you and that He had done something special for you. And, because you were excited about this new faith, you wanted to share it with someone else. That is the way this woman felt.
1. A Manifested excitement: So the woman left her waterpot (4: 28).
She was so excited that she even forgot the reason she had come down to the well in the first place. She had come to get water from the well. She left with a source of spiritual water springing up inside her which was to quench the thirst. of many who lived within her city.
2. A Targeted Audience: So the woman. . . went. into the city, and said to the men (4:28).
Notice that she went and told the MEN of the city what had happened. Why didn’t she go to the women? I think that it was because the women of the city would have nothing to do with her. Remember, this was a woman who had gone through five different marriages. Now she is living with a man who is someone else’s husband. This woman had made the rounds. She probably knew most of the men in town, And this is why she was most likely hated by the women.
3. A Knowing Testimony: Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done (4:29).
I bet that this shook up some of the men. They probably knew of quite a few of the things that she had done, but I doubt if they wanted anyone else to know of them. I can imagine some of them thinking, “I had better get down there and see if this character has been saying anything about me.”
Still others are prompted by a question that the woman asks. “This is not. the Christ, is it?” (4: 29). I think that this woman was already convinced in her heart that Jesus was truly the Messiah. But notice how she approaches the men. She does not run in and proclaim that she has found the Messiah. They probably would have retorted. “What does a woman like you know about the Messiah?”
Instead, she is very subtle. She knows how to handle men. She asks a question. And that is not all. She asks it is such a way that it seems to expect a negative answer.
Do you see what she has done? She has avoided all opposition or retort. The only response that the men of the city can take is to either ignore her or else come and see for themselves.
There is a principle here that will help you when you are telling others about Jesus. It is that you will never get anywhere by arguing. We have not been called to go unto all the world and argue for the sake of the gospel. We have been called to he witnesses. Our job is to point people to the person and work of Jesus. “See for yourself,” she says. And we need to say that, too.
4. A Moving Response: They went out of the city, and were coming to Him (4:30).
This is the response of her testimony. They come to see for themselves. Notice the tense. The Greek text uses an imperfect tense, indicating a continuous action. They started coming and they kept on coming.
THE REACTION OF THE DISCIPLES
31 In the meanwhile the disciples were requesting Him, saying, "Rabbi, eat." 32 But He said to them, "I have food to eat that you do not know about." 33 The disciples therefore were saying to one another, "No one brought Him anything to eat, did he?"
34 Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work. 35 Do you not say, 'There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest '? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. 36 Already he who reaps is receiving wages, and is gathering fruit for life eternal; that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. 37 For in this case the saying is true, 'One sows, and another reaps.' 38 I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor." (John 4:31-38).
Now the scene shifts back to Jacob’s well. The disciples are sitting around the well with Jesus, not realizing the impact of what is going on at this very moment back in Sychar. Instead, they are concerning themselves with another problem. Jesus is not eating.
They have just finished walking all the way up to Sychar and all the way back so that He could eat and now He says that He is not hungry.
1. An Alternate Nourishment: He said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about” (4:32).
Jesus is speaking of food in a spiritual sense. He hungers to do the will of His Father. That desire has been met by the conversion of the woman. It is about to he met even further by the conversion of an entire town.
The disciples do not see beyond the physical. Maybe Jesus has already eaten. Maybe someone gave Him a candy bar and spoiled His appetite.
2. An Accomplished Task: My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work (4:34).
The word "accomplish" is the aorist active subjunctive of telieosw, meaning “to complete or finish.” There is a work of God that Jesus has come to complete. He has come to earth to do a certain work. It will not be completed until Jesus goes to the cross. It will he there that He will call out that one word which forever seals our salvation: Tetelestai. It is finished.
The disciples viewed the work of God as something that would take place at some time in the future. They thought that the Messiah would come with a conquering kingdom, driving out the Romans, and then it would be time to begin the work of God.
We often fall into a similar error. We think that the work of God is something that you do on Sunday morning. Such is not the case. The work of God is not future. The work of God is NOW.
3. An Erroneous Reckoning: Do you not say, “There arr yet. four months, and then comes the harvest?” (4:35).
There were two harvest seasons in Palestine. This first harvest took place around March and April. This seems to be the harvest to which Jesus is alluding.
On their travel northward from Judea, Jesus and His disciples have passed many farms with their crops just beginning to sprout. But the harvest is not as far off as the disciples have anticipated. You see, they never thought that a spiritual harvest could take place while traveling through Samaria. If a harvest was to take place, then it would have to be in Judea or in Galilee.
We tend to think that way, too. We go to church to "do the work of God" and we neglect the work of God that is going on in our neighborhood and in our workplace and in our homes.
4. A Ready Ripening: Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest (4:35).
Jesus tells them to look on the fields . He is not speaking of nearby farmland. He is talking about Sychar. By this time, people are beginning to flock from Sychar down to the well where Jesus sits with his disciples. All along the valley between the two mountains, white figures can be seen approaching. The fields are literally white with this spiritual harvest.
5. A Prepared Fruit: I sent you to reap for which you have not labored (4:38).
The Samaritan woman has been in Sychar doing the work of the sower. She has been planting the seed. The disciples have been in Sychar, but they planted no seeds. They have not labored at all. And yet, they are going to be involved in the work of the harvest.
As they stand by the well, the fields between them and Sychar are white with Samaritans who are coming out to see this One who told the woman “all things.”
This is often the case in the spiritual realm. One may do the work of planting the seed, and another may reap in the harvest. There should he no jealousy involved. Rather, they both rejoice as the fruit is gathered for eternal life.
Back in the early 1970's, I had the opportunity to share the message of the gospel with a young agnostic student at Florida Atlantic University. I showed him many of the evidences of the Bible and why he could trust it as the word of God. We talk about Jesus and His death and His resurrection. He admitted that he needed a Savior. hut when I asked him if he would like to place his trust in Christ, he said that he wanted to wait and to think about it.
I went back to see him several weeks later, hut he had moved away. I thought to myself, “John, you blew it with that fellow. He was so close, hut he never committed himself to Christ.” Two years later, I happened to be visiting a Christian coffeehouse in Boca Raton and a man came running up to me. grabbed my hand, and started shaking it. to and behold, it was this same student whom I had talked to two years earlier.
He told me how he had thought about Christ following our conversation and that, within a few weeks, a man had walked up to him and asked him if he wanted to receive Jesus. That is all it took. He came to Christ and was now a leader within this Christian coffeehouse ministry.
Do you want to know something? I did not get a bit jealous over the fact that it was another man who led this student to Christ. I do not even know that man. But one day, we are going to meet, and then we will rejoice together.
THE REACTION OF THE PEOPLE OF SYCHAR
39 And from that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, "He told me all the things that I have done."
40 So when the Samaritans came to Him, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of His word; 42 and they were saying to the woman, "It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world." (John 4:39-42).
We have seen the reaction of the Samaritan woman to the testimony of Jesus. We have seen, the reaction of the disciples as they speak to Jesus. And now, we shall see the impact that Jesus has upon the lives of the Samaritans of Sychar.
1. A Reaction of Faith: From that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him (4:39).
This was the result of this woman’s testimony. Hearing her declaration motivated them to come and see Jesus for themselves. After coming to Jesus and hearing His words, they believed in Him. But that. is not all. Once they believed, they now began to experience a great desire to learn more about God and His plan. And so, they ask Jesus to remain in the area with them.
2. A Desire for Fellowship: They were asking Him to stay with them (4:40).
The use of the Greek imperfect tense indicates that they continued to ask Him until He finally consented to remain for a time. This is one of the signs of a Christian. A Christian is one who desires to spend time with the Lord.
3. A Time Together: And He stayed there two days (4:40).
We do not know all of what happened during these two days. We are not told of any miracles that were performed. We are not given any eloquent sermons from this period. Rather, it seems as though this was a time of teaching as the sower and the reaper worked together to gather a great harvest.
Thus ends the early ministry of Jesus. It had begun a number of months earlier on the banks of the Jordan River when He came to be baptized by John. In those months there had been relative obscurity. The masses of the people did not know Him. During that time, He had gathered a few disciples about Himself.
Then had come the Passover. In the temple in Jerusalem, Jesus had made His first public appearance. It marked a dramatic beginning to His ministry. In the months that followed, His ministry began to grow as the people of Judea came and heard and were baptized.
Now, as opposition from the Pharisees has increased, Jesus and His disciples leave Judea and return to Galilee. It will he here that Jesus begins the next phase of His ministry.
But on the way to Galilee, another harvest is waiting to be taken in. It is the harvest of the Samaritans. These are the outcasts of Judaism. They are barred from the temple in Jerusalem. They are considered unclean by the Jews. And yet, there is a great harvest.
Perhaps this is a foreshadowing of what is to come. The message of the gospel has been offered to the Jews first. But the Jews rejected it. So now, it is taken to the Gentiles and we have become partakers of the promises of God.