“The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw” (John 4:15).
During the days of Christ, the state of Palestine was geographically 120 miles long from North to South. There were three definite divisions to the land: Galilee (North),
Samaria (Middle), and Judea (South).
Jesus did not want to become engaged in a controversy about baptism with the Pharisees so He left the southern territory of Judea to move north to Galilee (John 4:3). The quickest way from Judea to Galilee led through Samaria. The journey could be completed in three days. Unfortunately, some devout but self-righteous Jews preferred a long way from Judea to Galilee which was to cross the Jordan, go up the Eastern side of the river thereby avoiding Samaria, re-cross the Jordan north of Samaria and enter Galilee. Jesus was devout but He was not self righteous. In matchless grace the Lord chose the most direct route for He “must” go through Samaria. Why must the Lord go through Samaria? From a divine perspective Christ had to go through Samaria because there was a precious soul that the Father has given to the Son. There was a sheep that needed to be brought into the spiritual fold. The Good Shepherd must go and find His sheep so that not one of them is lost.
On the way to their new destination in Galilee, Jesus and His disciples came to the town of Sychar. Just short of Sychar, the road to Samaria forks. One branch goes northeast to Scythopolis. The other goes west to Nablus. At the fork of the road there stands what is called Jacob’s Well.
This piece of land has a long history for it had once been purchased by Jacob (Gen. 33:18, 19). On his deathbed, the land was passed on to Joseph (Gen. 48:22). When Joseph died, centuries later, his body was eventually brought back from Egypt and buried in Palestine near Jacob’s Well (Josh. 24:32).
The well itself was more than one hundred feet deep which meant that no one could get water from it unless they had something to draw the water with. When Jesus and the apostles came to the fork in the road, it was midday and the Lord was tired. He was weary and thirsty from traveling, for Jesus was true humanity. Sending His disciples on to buy some food in a nearby Samaritan town, Jesus sat to wait for their return. But the Lord also sat to wait for a particular woman He knew would soon be coming to the well.
In the fullness of time, according to a divine timetable established in eternity past, while the Lord was sitting on top of the well, there did come a woman of Samaria to draw water.
Why the woman came at noon time is a great mystery, from a human perspective. It has been suggested that this woman was a moral outcast and the woman of Sychar drove her out. The women of the village would not let her draw water at the same time that good women gathered to visit and get water.
Perhaps that is the case but it is only speculation. What is more certain is that Jesus was going to visit with this woman and by so doing, establish several great facets of His own character (John 4:7-9).
First, Jesus was true humanity. It is possible to lose sight of the humanity of Christ by the honor and glory given to Him which He richly deserves. But Jesus was a true man.
He was hungry.
He grew tired.
He needed sleep.
Jesus was able to weep and know sorrow and heartache.
When He was cut, Jesus bled.
When He was in sorrow, His heart knew the pain of great anguish.
Jesus Christ was true humanity.
Second, Christ was full of tender sympathy. In a day and age of violence the world needs someone to demonstrate sympathy.
A man put up a sign in his yard that read: “Puppies for Sale”. Among those who came to inquire was a young boy. “Please, Mister,” he said. “I’d like to buy one of your puppies if the don’t cost too much.”
“Well, son, they’re $25.” The boy looked crushed.
“I have only got two dollars and five cents. Could I see them anyway?”
“Of course. Maybe we can work something out,” said the man. The lad’s eyes danced at the sight of those five little balls of fur. “I heard that one has a bad leg,” he said.
“Yes, I’m afraid she’ll be crippled for life.” “Well, that’s the puppy I want. Could I pay for her a little at a time?”
The man responded, “But she’ll always have a limp.” Smiling bravely, the boy pulled up one pant leg, revealing a brace. “I don’t walk good either.”
Then, looking at the puppy sympathetically, he continued, “I guess she will need a lot of love and help. I sure did. It’s not so easy being crippled.”
“Here, take her,” said the man. “I know you will give her a good home. And just forget the money.”
The Lord was a man of great sympathy, reflected in the fact He was a breaker of social barriers. There was much hostility between the Jews and the Samaritans. Jesus came to remove the barriers.
Historically the Samaritans had become a mixed people. Their story began c. 721 BC, when the Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Almost overnight the whole population was transported to Media (2 Kings 17:6). Into the same district the Assyrians brought other people from Babylon (2 Kings 17:24). The purpose was to interbreed the races so that purity of blood line would be lost along with national identity.
In time racial purity was lost. Assimilation took place. However, a small Jewish population did manage to survive the attempts at intermarriage and lose of national identity, and during the days of Ezra and Nehemiah these exiles returned to Jerusalem.
One immediate project of the returned exiles was to rebuild the shattered Temple. The Samaritans offered to help in this sacred task but were rejected (450 BC). A bitter spirit was initiated which grew more intense with time. The Samaritans established their own rival Temple on Mt. Gerizim which was in the center of the Samaritan territory.
In 129 BC, John Hycanius, the Jewish general and leader, led an attack against Samaria and destroyed it. The temple on Mt. Gerizim was torn down. The hatred between the Jews and the Samaritans intensified. Now Jesus was trying to do what most Jews would not do, and that is to talk to traditional enemies thereby breaking down social barriers.
There was another social barrier that Jesus crossed that day and that was to talk in public to a woman. Normally, a Rabbi would not greet women in public. A strict Pharisee would shut his eyes when a woman came near thereby earning the title, “the bruised and bleeding Pharisees” because they crashed into walls and objects in houses. Jesus was more than willing to break down the social barrier of speaking to women in public.
The course of the conversation between Christ and the woman at the well went through six stages.
The conversation began when Jesus made an opening comment. “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” (John 4:10).
The woman was startled. She knew the rules of society. Why did this man say something to her? But her surprise was only temporary and the statement of Christ was received in the wrong sense. With slight sarcasm in her voice the woman responded, “Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?” (John 4:11).
The point was well taken if Christ was speaking only about physical water. But Jesus was not to be put off. With loving patience, He restated His spiritual point in an even more vivid and forceful way. “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: 14 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” (John 4:13-14).
Ah, the mind of the unregenerate is dull of understanding. The carnal mind cannot comprehend spiritual truths apart from divine illumination. Though the gospel seed is being planted, Christ is still misunderstood for “The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw” (John 4:15).
Since the carnal mind is fleshly, to the flesh Jesus will go to bring the soul to salvation. The Lord will use any and every means to penetrate the veil of spiritual darkness. Therefore, “Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither” (John 4:16).
The woman suddenly paused in her work and looked at Jesus. Who was this man who knew so much about her? She was both amazed and curious as she resumed drawing the water. Her mind was sharp and clever as most unbelievers tend to be when confronted with their true inner selves.
“The woman answered and said, I have no husband”. (John 4:17). Her tone was not polite. It was sharp and short. Gone was the sarcasm. Present was burning shame in her cheeks.
“Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: 18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly” (John 4:17b-18).
With these words a spiritual stiletto cut into the heart of the woman for the “Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).
In a blinding moment of grace God the Holy Spirit convicted and converted this woman bringing regeneration to her soul. A new spirit took possession of the woman as the woman saith unto Jesus, “Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet” (John 4:19).
Finally, the truth is revealed by God and is discovered by the soul so that salvation come to the heart (John 4:21-24, 26).
Like Nicodemus, who went through a similar process, the woman at the well finally realized that she was speaking to the promised Messiah who would one come to take away the sins of the world. But also, like Nicodemus, the woman at the well did not at first understand. When Jesus spoke of living water (John 4:10), the woman thought He meant “fresh water.” That was understandable because the Jews did consider fresh water to be living water, or water not found in stagnant pools.
The Jews also used the term for water in a spiritual sense. Some spoke of the thirst of the soul for God. They knew that such soul thirst could only be satisfied with spiritual living water.
Listen to the Psalmist as he says, “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God” (Psa. 42:1). Hear the prophet Isaiah cry out, “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price (Isa 55:1).
The problem with the woman at the well was not language but understanding. She was thinking normal thought while Jesus was thinking and speaking spiritual thoughts. The communication barrier between the two was real, and only the Holy Spirit could remove it.
It is important that we understand this process. In the act of witnessing, we can grow frustrated with the conversation. We will talk of spiritual truths and discover the response is with natural understanding. The fault is not in the gospel. The problem is sin.
Sin has darkened the mind of the natural man (John 3:20).
Sin had dulled the understanding.
Sin has put a veil over the heart which is why the believer must earnestly ask the Lord to do what man cannot do, and that is to give new life so that the gospel can be understood. It was the promise of the Old Testament prophets that the Messiah would provide living water as only God can do. “They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun smite them: for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them” (Isaiah 49:10). “For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light” (Psalms 36:9).
The heart of all God’s people must want living water and ask for the living water “The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw” (John 4:15).
When living water is asked for it shall be received. The woman at the well received living water. We know this for a fact because it was not long before the woman was witnessing to others of her great discovery. She had found the Messiah. “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” 30 Then they went out of the city, and came unto him.” (John 4:29-30).
Let the church tell the world that any soul can receive living water when there is first a sight of the true self, and when there is a sight of Christ and His work of redemption. Both things must happen.
But be careful, for there is danger along the way. When the woman at the well had a true glimpse of herself (John 4:18), she was willing to do the following.
First, she was willing to flatter the Lord. John 4:19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. Spiritual flattery can damn the soul. Spiritual flattery might say today, “I appreciate you sharing your Christian faith. But, I believe there are many ways to heaven and all religious points of view are equally valid.” That is spiritual flattery that is designed to disarm the soul from closing with Christ.
Second, the woman at the well was willing to find refuge in the faith of others even at the point of distorting history. Notice John 4:20 “Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.”
The Samaritans taught that Abraham offered Isaac on Mt. Gerizim. They believed that Melchizedek appeared to Abraham there and that Moses offered a sacrifice to God (Deut. 27:4).
The woman at the well was willing to offering a sacrifice for her sins or do good works to cover her bad behavior. However, Jesus would not let the woman stay in her terrors. She must be made to see that true worship is not selective. It accepts the whole counsel of God.
True worship is an informed worship.
There is reason for the hope that is within us (1 Pet. 3:15).
True worship is not superstitious.
It is not bound to animals, or to people, and places, and relics but is offered to God who is Spirit.
It is possible to worship and to put faith in a church, a ritual such as communion or the Lord’s Supper, a creed or confession.
Nevertheless, these will not save. Christ is to be the object of faith,T and God is to be worshipped.
Happily, in the end, according to sovereign grace, the woman at the well understood. Her heart was opened to spiritual realities. Before her sat her Lord and Master, her Sovereign and her Saviour. Oh, what a glorious moment that was.
Her heart was healed.
Her soul was set free.
The burden of sin rolled away.
She could not wait to share Christ with others (John 4:29)
and neither should we.
“Like the woman at the well I was seeking
For things that could not satisfy:
And then I heard my Savior speaking:
‘Draw from my well that never shall run dry”‘.
Fill my cup Lord,
I lift it up, Lord!
Come and quench this thirsting of my soul;
Bread of heaven, Feed me till I want no more
Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole!
There are millions in this world who are craving
The pleasures earthly things afford;
But none can match the wondrous treasure
That I find in Jesus Christ my Lord.
Fill my cup Lord,
I lift it up, Lord!
Come and quench this thirsting of my soul;
Bread of heaven, Feed me till I want no more
Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole!”