19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. 21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23 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. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. 25 The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. 26 Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.
27 ¶ And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her? 28 The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, 29 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.
31 In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat. 32 But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. 33 Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat? 34 Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. 35 Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. 36 And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. 37 And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. 38 I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours. John 4:31-38 (KJV)
The stronger part of today’s lectionary text is not in complete context, so I have added the introductory verses for further clarification. The Bread and Water of the Lord is sourced at a far more exalted Fountain than our wells and tables of earth. Even earlier in this passage from John 4, the Lord asked the woman to give Him water. This was not only intended to establish a friendly rapport, but to introduce a mild covenant.
In the custom of the East, to partake of the courtesy of a drink from the enemy, the recipient cannot be treated otherwise than as an honored guest.
Sometimes, I want to revisit that old well of my grandmother’s in Dawnville, Georgia, to taste that cool refreshing water. It is not simply the water that I desire, but the simpler and more innocent days that existed in that country then. I am not alone in this sentiment. We see that David experienced the same: “14 And David was then in an hold, and the garrison of the Philistines was then in Bethlehem. 15 And David longed, and said, Oh that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate! 16 And the three mighty men brake through the host of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem, that was by the gate, and took it, and brought it to David: nevertheless he would not drink thereof, but poured it out unto the LORD. 17 And he said, Be it far from me, O LORD, that I should do this: is not this the blood of the men that went in jeopardy of their lives? therefore he would not drink it. These things did these three mighty men. 2 Sam 23:14-17 (KJV)
In our Gospel text today, we find our Lord Jesus Christ resting by such a well of water that is still common in the Middle East. Every adobe village has a well outside the gate where the women gather at sundown to draw water, either by a bucket let down into the well, or else walk down a corridor to an open stream that has been dug out for them. I have witnessed these women many times sauntering around those wells with animated talk (and most likely, gossip).
In the prelude to today’s text, we find that it was no accident that our Lord met this woman of less that stellar repute at Jacob’s Well. In fact, it had been decided in eternity past that He would have this appointment in Samaria: “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.” John 4:4-5 (KJV) The Lord had a reason for making this more tiresome journey through the rough country of Samaria, and that reason was for this Woman at the Well, and the many villagers who came to believe on Him through her testimony and their own personal witness to His teaching. He searches out diamonds among the rough, unhewn stones of the world. The great Christian professor and author, Dr. James Stalker of Scotland, illustrates fittingly the woman who met our Lord at the Well that day in Imago Christi:
Discovery of the African Diamond Mines. — “I have heard that one of the diamond fields of South Africa was discovered in this wise. A traveler, one day, entered the valley and drew near to a settler’s door, at which a boy was amusing himself by throwing stones. One of these stones fell at the stranger’s feet, who picked it up, and was in the act of laughingly returning it, when something flashed from it which stopped his hand and made his heart beat fast. It was a diamond. The child was playing with it as a common stone; the peasant’s foot had spurned it; the cart wheel had crushed it, till the man who knew saw it and recognized its value. ” The story often comes to my mind when I am thinking of the soul. Was it not the same careless treatment the soul was receiving when Jesus arrived in the world and discovered that soul … In every child of Adam whom He called He perceived the diamond. The rags of the beggar could not hide it from His eyes nor the black skin of the savage, nor even the crimes of the evil doer.”
There are several spiritually significant points to our Lord’s resting by Jacob’s Well outside Sychar. The first is the request the Lord made of the woman: “Give me to drink.” vs 4:7 The woman was astonished at this request from a stranger of the Jews. Why? It is because the Jews considered the Samaritan’s to be a fallen race of people and unclean. No self-respecting Jew would drink from a dipper from which Samaritans drank. There is something else significant about our Lord’s request for water: He did not need to request such a favor as He could have spoken the water into existence as He had spoken the water in the jars to be changed into wine at Cana of Galilee; but the Lord knows that we learn by all our senses. Experiential learning may often trump that which comes by way of hearing only. He gives us a hand in serving, and He does not judge our persons by race or reputation. His mission is to change souls from lost to found as much as to change water into wine.
There were several astonishing truths that the Lord taught the woman in the brief encounter by the Well.
1. That He was the promised Messiah; “I am He who am speaking to thee.”
2. That He was Himself God: By revealing to the Samaritan woman the hidden secrets of her conscience, He manifested His omniscience.
3. That He is full of grace and truth: The living water which Jesus gives is His divine doctrine and grace – not the water to be found 80 feet below the ground in that well at Sychar. His doctrine and grace give supernatural and eternal life to the soul, which, without grace, is dead and in a state of mortal sin. The human soul thirsts for truth and happiness, and our Lord satisfies this thirst by His doctrine and grace.
4. That His Love abounds to sinners: In spite of His exhaustive travels, He took time to linger by Jacob’s Well to save the soul of a woman of whom even her own people had little regard.
5. That the coming to terms with the Lord of a single sinner may lead to the salvation of multitudes.
6. That the world will be surprised at our love and concern for fallen man: “And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her?”John 4:27 (KJV) She was not, in the mind of the disciples, a woman worthy of the Master’s company. Little did they realize that neither were they, or any others.
The disciples prevailed upon the Lord to eat, but He surprised them yet again: “I have meat to eat that ye know not of.” The wisdom of God does not make sense to the world. We seldom can comprehend the beauty that transcends the divine laws and principles of Heaven. Do you remember when you were very young that you became so engrossed in playing games outdoors with your friends that you literally forgot to eat. Mom would come to the door more than once and call you to the supper table – and with each call, her voice grew more emphatic. What was this meat that the Lord had to eat which the disciples knew not of? It was that joy of the Shepherd who searches out His lost sheep (it was His even if lost) and returns rejoicing. That was the bread of the Lord upon which His soul and Spirit thrived!
The poor disciples were bewildered at His saying. “Who gave the Lord bread to eat?” they wondered. “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.” My wife often calls me in late afternoon to ask me to come home for dinner; however, I may be in the midst of writing something that I value more than my dinner concerning the truth of some biblical truth. I do not want to lose the joy of the moment until I get all reduced to writing. That does not come close to the bread for which our Lord craved; but it is as close as this mortal can come to understanding it.
We think of harvests to come in each due season. Sure, there must be ground breaking, planting, weeding, watering, etc.; however, every season with God is harvest season. The tassels of the fruit-laden wheat is forever white and bowed down for reaping. The work of the harvester is never done while seed-time and harvest remain. Paul counsels us “1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” 2 Tim 4:1-4 (KJV)
I am somewhat taken aback by Paul’s counsel above, for it seems that we have already come upon that day when the church itself will no longer abide sound doctrine, that teachers and preachers are sought out who will satisfy the itching ears of many for a ‘different and worldly’ Gospel. Maybe so, but not as long as there remains thousands of faithful to the Lord in the land. We might conduct ourselves as courageously as the naval gunners aboard the Battleship Bismarck whose crew continued firing their naval cannons into the sky as that great vessel began to list and go under the cold waters of the North Atlantic.
In what season of your Christian walk are you, my friend? You will note that, though Christ was resting beside the Well, His heart was active to reach the woman’s heart to reveal His Person; and is every season a time of harvest and refreshing, or perhaps a time of sharing as we rest beside the Wells of Living Water.