is not obvious that Jesus was obliged to go through Samaria – unless you have
you find Sychar, you will see that it’s at the intersection of two valleys.
One is a river valley coming out of the hills; the other is a rift valley,
running almost north and south. Going up the rift valley was part of the
shortest time path for returning to Galilee. Having just cleansed the Temple,
Christ was looking for the shortest time path.
problem, however, is that this path takes you right through the middle of
Samaria. The Samaritans and Jews of this time had an enmity which rivals that
of Jews and Arabs today. Jesus Himself used this fact in portraying his angel
of mercy to be the Good Samaritan – knowing that his audience would take more
astonishment from it.
providence of God
Christians will use the phrase, “divine appointment.” By this they mean an
apparently chance meeting in which God provides special circumstance and
activity. Older generations would use the word, “providence,” a term no longer
is a sense of connectivity in this story as well. The well is said to be
Jacob’s well. The idea would have connected both Jews and Samaritans to their
ancient history. It might even be said to carry a certain sense that great
things happen at the well the great man dug.
look at the Scripture:
Joh 4:5-6 NIV
So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob
had given to his son Joseph. (6) Jacob's well
was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well.
It was about the sixth hour.
is the mark of the strong that they may be truly gentle. Here the creator of
the universe walks our planet, and is hot, dusty, thirsty and tired.
Augustine, commenting on this passage, tells us that “the strength of Christ
created you, the weakness of Christ created you anew.” It is a common theme in
the Bible that God, perfect in power, is also perfect in love, and therefore
deals with us in our weakness, not His strength.
is also a mark of his humanity. He did not float through this world without
footprints; He partook fully of our human nature. He knows how we feel; He’s
been there and done that.
may also note the comment about the sixth hour. John, using Roman reckoning,
tells us this encounter happened at noon. In Palestine no one goes out to the
well at noon; it’s too hot. No one, that is, except a social outcast. But in
this we may take heart: if Christ will speak to a Samaritan, a woman and an
outcast from even that society, just who is He unwilling to touch?
woman as a figure of the church
is possible to view this entire encounter as a picture of Christ and His
church; the church, obviously, being represented by the woman. This might just
give us another way to look at this passage, and yield insights of its own.
Joh 4:7-26 NIV
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, "Will you
give me a drink?" (8) (His disciples had
gone into the town to buy food.) (9) The
Samaritan woman said to him, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman.
How can you ask me for a drink?" (For Jews do not associate with
Samaritans.) (10) Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift
of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he
would have given you living water." (11)
"Sir," the woman said, "you have nothing to draw with and the
well is deep. Where can you get this living water? (12)
Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it
himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?" (13) Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this
water will be thirsty again, (14) but whoever
drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him
will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (15) The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this
water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw
water." (16) He told her, "Go, call
your husband and come back." (17)
"I have no husband," she replied.
Jesus said to her, "You are right when you say you have no husband. (18) The fact is, you have had five husbands, and
the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite
true." (19) "Sir," the woman
said, "I can see that you are a prophet. (20)
Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where
we must worship is in Jerusalem." (21)
Jesus declared, "Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship
the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. (22)
You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for
salvation is from the Jews. (23) Yet a time
is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in
spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. (24) God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship
in spirit and in truth." (25) The woman
said, "I know that Messiah" (called Christ) "is coming. When he
comes, he will explain everything to us." (26)
Then Jesus declared, "I who speak to you am he."
seeker at noon
the woman saw herself, Christ saw her first as an object of pity. She is an
outcast among outcasts, her every move criticized. Could our Lord have been
unmoved by her plight? She is not only to be pitied, she is one who is ignorant
of the truth. That’s most of us before the church; wandering, outcast from
God’s love by our own doing, just trying to get by somehow.
is a fact: Christ introduces Himself here in a way that claims some importance
– in terms of “if you knew.” But it’s not a claim delivered in arrogance; just
delivered in mystery. It’s not until he gets down to personal detail that she
begins to have some idea of who He really is. It is a mark of the love of
Christ: he not only loves all of us, he loves each of us.
knows quite well she doesn’t have a husband – so why does he ask her to go get
the man? Perhaps He is teaching us about His relationship to the church. The
church is pictured as the bride of Christ – and in submission to Him. (That
latter is still in the Bible, last time I checked.)
the woman as the seeker of truth; she has no one in authority over her. She is
liberated – and lost. She’s had five husbands, and now one live-in, and none
of them have been the “right answer.” That’s the seeker, coming to the
church. I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see.
are a prophet
He is. But that’s not all he is. This is a typical misunderstanding by the
newly created church member. It’s human to be that way; you typically don’t
understand anything completely the first time.
may also see in this section the defensiveness she has about her sin. She’s
trying to change the subject from her sin to what appears to be empty
theology. It’s typical of Christ’s response that He comes back with an answer
which pulls her back to the point. It also gives her greater insight of God.
It’s a growth process.
is a simple summary of evangelistic preaching:
time is now – not later, now.
is the Christ, the Messiah.
you want into His kingdom, you must enter in spirit and truth, not ritual
in the church
to serve, as the Scots would have it. Despite her reputation, she starts
spreading the good news. But see one thing: she doesn’t hide her sins, or
pretend that they are irrelevant. In fact, her testimony is the stronger for
her sins, a phenomenon we see even today.
Joh 4:27-42 NIV
Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a
woman. But no one asked, "What do you want?" or "Why are you
talking with her?" (28) Then, leaving
her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, (29) "Come, see a man who told me everything I
ever did. Could this be the Christ?"
(30) They came out of the town and made their
way toward him. (31) Meanwhile his disciples
urged him, "Rabbi, eat something." (32)
But he said to them, "I have food to eat that you know nothing
about." (33) Then his disciples said to
each other, "Could someone have brought him food?" (34) "My food," said Jesus, "is to do
the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. (35)
Do you not say, 'Four months more and then the harvest'? I tell you, open your
eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. (36) Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now
he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be
glad together. (37) Thus the saying 'One sows
and another reaps' is true. (38) I sent you
to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you
have reaped the benefits of their labor."
(39) Many of
the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony,
"He told me everything I ever did." (40)
So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he
stayed two days. (41) And because of his
words many more became believers. (42) They
said to the woman, "We no longer believe just because of what you said;
now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior
of the world."
woman is a beginner at evangelism; see, however, what the beginner should be
is full of zeal for Christ – she leaves the water pot there. There is no
sense of “wait until I have watered my livestock.”
does not say, “See the Christ.” She says, “see a man who told me
everything…” She testifies to what she knows; theology later.
then asks her hearers, “Could this be the Christ?” In short, she
testifies and then asks them to make up their own minds.
clear that the disciples aren’t clear on the subject, but the lesson Christ
wants them to learn is zeal. He personally disdains food; the will of the
Father is more important. Man does not live by bread alone.
they finally get the question in edgewise, Jesus gives them the view they
should have. They see a woman, a Samaritan and an adulteress – three strikes.
He sees Samaria as ripe for the harvest. They see slim opportunities; He sees
fields in need of workers. Sometimes we just don’t recognize what we’re
might see ourselves as not able to harvest; but see what this woman has done!
Her evil reputation actually works for her in the kingdom as well as the
community. No one would have believed her if she began to talk about how she
was sanctified; but for her to admit her sins – and that Jesus knew them all –
is a very different attitude. This is credibility – if you can stand being
honest about yourself.
other Samaritans? They take it personally. They take her up on the offer to
“come and see.” Then there is no need for her further testimony, for they have
met the Master. Meet the Master – and never be the same again.