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Least amongst the Best
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John 4:1-26
When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,) he left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee. And he must needs go through Samaria. Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour. There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.) Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: for thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.

In tracing out the life of our blessed Lord Jesus Christ, we find it of great interest to note the way He dealt with different souls whom He interviewed. A great many books have been written on personal work for Christ, but there is no book in the world that is more helpful on that line than this gospel of John. There are so many different records of those with whom the Lord Jesus Christ had conversations that we get a marvelous unfolding of His wonderful wisdom in opening up the Word of God to needy souls. One of the loveliest is this interview with the Samaritan woman.

We are told that the Pharisees were making much of the fact that Jesus was baptizing and making disciples. It was reported that His followers were outnumbering those of John. When He heard that, because He did not want anything that looked like rivalry, He left Judea almost immediately and went to Galilee. Actually, we read that Jesus Himself did not baptize but left that to His disciples.

An orthodox Jew would cross the Jordan near Jericho and make his way up through Perea, and then cross back near the Sea of Galilee in the north. But the Lord Jesus Christ did not take that route. A stern legalist would not go through Samaria. But the Lord Jesus Christ took that direct road because of the very fact that He was anxious to meet these poor Samaritan sinners that He might reveal the truth to them. “He must needs go through Samaria” (v. 4). Long before the creation of the world it had been settled in the counsels of eternity that He was to meet a poor, sinful, Samaritan woman that day. He could not forego that appointment. So He went until He came near the city of Sychar, and there by Jacob’s well He stopped. We read, “Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour” (v. 6). The time here is not the same as in the Synoptic Gospels. The sixth hour was high noon. It was an unusual thing for people to go out at the noon hour to draw water.

But there sat the Lord, waiting to meet a thirsty soul, and we are told, “There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water” (v. 7a). I can visualize that scene. My wife, daughter, and I sat on the curbing of that very well and we looked off to the city of Sychar and, farther away, to the city of Shechem, and it was so easy to imagine that woman coming down the road, her water pot on her head, and Jesus waiting to meet her. He sat, wearied, at the well. He had become tired, seeking for sinners! What wondrous grace that He, the eternal God, should have so linked Himself with our humanity that He should know what pain and weariness and toil meant!

She knew that He was a Jew by the ribbon of blue that went around the border of His robe. At once all her being would be stirred with indignation. What business did He have sitting there on their well? She probably said to herself, “If he dares to say anything insulting to me, I will give him back as good as he gives.” But oh, how surprised she must have been when He looked up very kindly and said, “Give me to drink” (v. 7b). She knew that the ordinary Jew would have dashed the cup to the ground even if she had offered it, and here was a Jew asking drink of her. But she said, “How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria?” (v. 9a). And then John puts in a little word of explanation. I do not think she said these next words, but the Spirit of God put them in that we might understand, “For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans” (v. 9b).

Note the answer of our blessed Lord: “If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water” (v. 10). What a wonderful revelation concerning the gift of God! Do you know the gift of God? Do you know that salvation is the gift of God? Do you know that eternal life is a gift? Do you know that God is not a merchantman seeking to bargain with people, but God is a Giver, offering everything freely? It is so hard for people to understand that, and so they have devised all kinds of ways and means whereby they hope to earn salvation and thus to win, at last, a place in God’s heaven. My dear friend, the God of this Bible is too rich to sell His salvation to anyone, and if He put a price on it in any degree comparable with its value, you and I are altogether too poor to purchase it. But, thank God, it is a gift. “If thou knewest the gift of God.”

How do you receive a gift? Suppose you wanted a Bible and you came to me and I said, “Let me give you this one.” Then you put your hand in your pocket and said, “I only have twenty-five cents.” “My dear friend,” I would say, “I don’t want your money. I am offering this to you as a gift.” What would you do? You would take it, I trust, and go away saying, “This book was given to me as a gift.” So it is with God’s salvation. You cannot do anything to earn it. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph 2:8-9). Have you come to Him and received His gift? “If thou knewest the gift of God.”

But notice also the other word, “and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink.” How little she recognized who it was. Who was it? The Son of God. We read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Joh 1:1). “The Word [became] flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (v. 14). There He was, God and Man in one blessed, glorious person, but she did not understand that. She had no conception of who He was. He, on His part, did not try to amaze and astound, but He simply opened up in a wonderful way His stores of grace.

She looked at Him doubtfully and said, “Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou this living water?” (4:11). The well, as it is today, is about 78 feet deep. I saw them letting a candle down into it, and they dropped it until it had gone down 78 feet. And the woman said, “The well is deep, and you have nothing to draw with.” “From whence then hast thou this living water?” She was thinking only of that natural water. He was thinking of spiritual water. The well is deeper by far than that well in Samaria. It is as deep as the heart of God with its infinite love and affection. The water that He would give was to be drawn from the depths of God’s love itself.

But she inquired, wonderingly, “Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?” (v. 12). Jesus might have said to her, “Greater than Jacob! My poor woman, did you ever read in the first book of Moses the story of your father Jacob, as you call him. How one night he had sent his family and flocks across the ford, and he was bowed in prayer alone when there came to him a mysterious personality with whom Jacob struggled all night. Then the unknown one said, ‘Let me go, for the day breaketh,’ and Jacob said, ‘I will not let thee go, except thou bless me’“ (Gen 32:26). Jesus might have said to the woman, “Do you remember that story? Well, I am the One who met Jacob there in the darkness and overcame his stubborn will.” But I am afraid that if He had told her that, she would have shrunk from Him, thinking that He was insane. Instead of alarming her, He sought to reach her heart and conscience.

Without replying directly to her question, Jesus answered and said, “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again” (Joh 4:13). How well she knew that! Had she not time after time attempted to quench her thirst from that well, only to thirst again? And that may be said of everything that this scene offers as a palliative for the longings of the human heart. You may try everything that the world can give, but you will be unsatisfied still. Oh, I wish I could persuade some needy soul to take these words home to his heart, “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again.” No one has ever yet found satisfaction in the things of the world. They cannot satisfy a heart that has been created for eternity.

“Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (vv. 13-14); or, literally, “a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” What does He mean by that? Those who receive the message of His grace, who believe the revelation that God has given of Christ in this Word, will be born anew. This fountain of living water will spring up within, and they will find a satisfaction that none have ever been able to find in the things of earth.

Well, the woman, listening, finds her heart going to Christ. She feels He means what He says, so she timidly asks, “Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw” (v. 15). She has not understood anything yet but the natural. The spiritual is hidden from her still. But the Lord Jesus Christ has won her confidence, and this is a great thing. When that has been won, there is something else needed, that is, to reach the conscience. So the Lord, assured that He has won her heart, undertakes to grapple with her conscience.

He overlooks her remark and says, “Go, call thy husband, and come hither” (v. 16). I can imagine she dropped her head, and with the color mantling her face, exclaimed, “I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: for thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband” (vv. 17-18). He drives the truth of her guilty past and sinful present home to her soul. She stands there, greatly moved, and for a moment does not know what to say. Who is this that could put His finger upon the black spot in her life? He looks so kind and considerate, and yet He has done the very thing that has stirred her conscience to the very depth.

She blurts out, “Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet” (v. 19). A prophet is one who speaks for God. She realizes that this Man, who has never met her before, yet knows all about her sin, who knows all the evil of her life, He must be a God-sent prophet. It was as though she exclaimed, “I perceive that I am a sinner.” “Our fathers worshipped in this mountain [Mt. Gerizim]; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship” (v. 20)-I do not think she ever finished the sentence. She was ready to go into a long discussion, but I believe a question had been raised in her mind. Where should she go to meet God with a sin offering? The Samaritans said, “Upon Mt. Gerizim.” But the Jews said, “Oh, no, that will not do. That temple God does not own. If you want to meet with God, go to Jerusalem and prepare your offering in the temple. There it will be accepted, and there you can worship Jehovah.”

I do not suppose that this age-long difference meant much to her at the best, but now she sees she is a sinner and wants to get right with God. Where shall she go? She wants to know God that she may worship Him and receive forgiveness from Him. And Jesus said, “Woman, believe me, the hour cometh when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him” (vv. 21-23).

What did He mean? He was declaring that the hour had come when God is putting to one side all earthly sanctuaries. It is not a question now of going to either place. You can meet with Him anywhere and everywhere if you are ready to take your right place before Him, to confess your sin and own your guilt. Then you can lift your heart to Him in worship, recognizing Him as your Father, for the moment you confess your sins He forgives. And so you can be a worshipper, for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. He has not left it to you to seek Him first, but He is seeking you, and you can find Him anywhere if your heart is honest before Him. “They that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth” (v. 24).

While He was speaking she had been thinking, “I wonder, could it be that this strange man, whom I have never seen before, is really the promised Messiah? He speaks as no man has ever spoken before. I wonder if it could be He?” And aloud she exclaims, “I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things” (v. 25). Oh, there were so many questions, and she says, “I wonder, could this be He? Some day He is coming, and when He comes He will make all the dark things light and the crooked things straight. When He comes He will tell us all things.” And Jesus says, “I that speak unto thee am he” (v. 26). Then what happened? Did she start asking questions? Did she spread out all her perplexities? No, she had not a question to ask. She took one look into those wonderful eyes of His and every question was answered! She said in her heart, “Oh, this is He!” Her soul had found God in Christ. The effects of that is told us in the verses that follow. Am I speaking to anyone who has never found Him? Let me tell you, you need not seek Him anywhere else. He is waiting to reveal Himself to you if you will come to Him as a confessed sinner and trust His grace.

- Harry Ironside
 
Loyal
Remembering who the Samaritans were why they were held by Jews apparently as worse even than other non-Jews [gentiles], brings this even closer to our hearts as the Holy Spirit speaks to us.

In other places we see where Jesus let it be known that while He has come specifically to the Jews, He did not treat all of the non-Jews [gentiles] like dogs. There was once was with a Roman Centurion whose servant He healed [Matt 8:5-13] and another time was with a Syrophenician woman whose daughter He healed [Mark 7:25-30]. Both times Jesus acknowledged their great faith, something He saw too little of among the Jews.

And this Samaritan woman? Jesus came to the Jews, but He let it be known by His actions as well as His words that God would not ignore any believing heart... even among the gentiles and Samaritans.
 
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