Monday, November 14, 2011

The Gospel According to John - 11 (Jesus and the Sychar Conversation)

John 4:1-27 ~ Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2(although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), 3he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. 4And he had to pass through Samaria. 5So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8(For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” 16Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 or you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22You worship what you do not know we worship what we know, forsalvation is from the Jews. 23But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”  27Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?”

According to the Word of God, there is no child of Adam who may not come freely and boldly to the Lord Jesus Christ and in Him find a glorious salvation. Yes, not all men will be saved, but all men may be saved. This implicates that no one will ever be barred from Christ because of his sex, intellect, education, race, nationality, wealth, or social position.

Today we get to just such an example of this principle, when Jesus visited the well at Sychar. Up till now, Jesus had been at work in Judea where He attended the wedding in Cana. He also performed His first miracle in Judea at this same wedding, when He changed water into wine. From the wedding Jesus and His disciples went down to the south of Judea where He taught and His disciples baptized many people.

Now here in chapter 4 which is quite a lengthy chapter, Jesus went to Sychar, a town in Samaria. One of the reasons why Jesus left Judea for Galilee might be because He wanted to avoid a popularity contest between Him and John the Baptist.

The necessity for Jesus to pass through Samaria was not absolute, because strict Jews, like the Pharisees, disliked the Samaritans so intensely that they avoided their territory as much as possible. The fact that v.4 tells us that Jesus had to pass through Samaria, points to a compelling divine necessity – Jesus had come as the light of the world (9:5) and because He is the light of the world, it was imperative that this light shine to others than only the Jews. Jesus had therefore a divine appointment with someone or maybe more than one person in Samaria.

At the end of His journey, He arrives at a piece of land that Jacob gave to his son Joseph many centuries ago and Jesus  stopped and sat down beside the well, called Jacob's well, because He was tired of the trip. While resting there, He sent His disciples away into the town to buy some food.

We see in v.6 that it was about the sixth hour. The 6th hour would probably have been about noon, reckoning from daybreak.

While Jesus was sitting at the well, a woman arrived there to draw some water. We must understand that it was an unusual time for a woman to come to a village well for water. Perhaps the Samaritan woman had a sudden need, or perhaps she did not care to meet other women of the community. In consideration of her general character, the other women may have shunned her, because this woman was a woman with a bad reputation.

Jesus said to this woman, “Give me a drink” (v.7). She in turn, replied with amazement and said, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?”  As I've already mentioned, there was a bitter hatred between the Jews and the Samaritans and to drink water from the hand of a Samaritan was thought unclean by the Jews.

Jesus, however, had no such prejudice. Why not? Because He was more interested in winning the woman, than in winning an argument and what is more, Jesus came to save people from every tribe and language and people and nation (Rev.5:9).

In response to her comment, Jesus said, If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water (v.10).

We all know the words of John 3:16 by heart ~ For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. In other words, Jesus is God's gift to the lost world, but this woman had no idea of the truth that we know so well from John 3:16.

Something that we must pay attention too, is Jesus' use of the expression living water. In ordinary usage of that time, people would refer to running water that comes e.g. from a spring or a stream in the hills, as living water. This running- or living water was preferred for purposes of purification. It was living water that took away defilement and made acceptable worshippers out of unclean people.

Jesus, however, is giving the expression a deeper meaning than that, because the living water that flows from within the believer is later explained in terms of the Holy Spirit (John 7:38-39), and something similar is required here. Jesus is speaking of the new life that He will give, a life connected with the activity of the Spirit. In short, Jesus does not refer here to water that quenches one's physical thirst. No, He refers to the saving water of eternal life.

It is very interesting to note how Jesus leads this woman at the well and we can learn a lot from Jesus in this regard in our efforts to evangelize people. Throughout the encounter one can see how Jesus, slowly but surely, brings this woman to an understanding. And as He does so, He regularly holds out before her, something desirable; something she desperately needs.

As in the case with Nicodemus, she misunderstood Him, because she took His words literally, but His words were not literally. He was using the circumstances at hand to teach her who He was and what He could do for her – not what she could do for Him – He spoke of the greater thirst for salvation and how He could satisfy it.

In verse 13 and 14, Jesus points out that liquid water must be drunk often, but living water becomes an eternal perpetual spring from within. Still this woman is very ignorant, because in verses 11 and 12 she asked Jesus how it is possible that He can draw water without a rope or bucket, and second, is He greater than the patriarch Jacob, because Jacob gave this well to them?

Verse 15 shows that she still doesn't get it. She is still thinking of literal water, but she was most probably thinking of a kind of miracle water which will quench your physical thirst forever once you've drunk some of it.

Jesus however, now gets personal and He tells her to go and get her husband and return to Him. His request to call her husband was both proper and strategic. Proper, because it was not regarded as good etiquette for a woman to talk with a man unless her husband was present and strategic because it placed her in a dilemma from which she could not free herself – Jesus knows the sinful life she has been leading, because Jesus knows what is in people. This commission of Jesus puts the whole matter on a level that deals with this woman's sin and sinful lifestyle. She tells Jesus that she has no husband. That was because she has either been living with five men who were not her husband, and now with a sixth, or she had gone through a series of unbiblical divorces. Jesus answers her again in v.17-18, by saying ~ You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 or you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true. Jesus' reply is devastating. It shows that His knowledge is beyond that of any ordinary person and she gives expression to this conviction by calling Him a "prophet". She was either referring to Jesus as "prophet" because she thought that He had special insight into people, or she was starting to recognise that Jesus was the Christ. The Samaritans acknowledged no prophet after Moses other than the one spoken of in Deut.18:18 ~ I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. For her to speak of Jesus as a prophet was thus to move into the area of Messianic speculation.

The woman started an argument in v.20, by referring to the Samaritan's fathers, but Jesus avoided the argument by giving a very quick and accurate response to the question:
·           In v.21 Jesus indicates that the debate between Gerizim and Jerusalem is only marginally important, since both places will soon be obsolete – obviously He referred to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 A.c.
·           In v.22, Jesus comments on the inadequacy of Samaritan worship.
·           Finally, Jesus defines carefully what is coming and what is even now dawning on the earth – v.23-24 ~ But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”  By this, Jesus wanted to describe something of the dynamic and life-giving character of God – God is not limited to any one place; He is Spirit; He dwells everywhere and therefore cannot be confined to one place nor conceived as a material being. People cannot therefore dictate the "how" or the "where" of worship. No, the important thing is not where men worship, it is how they worship. It is clear from Jesus' answer to the woman, that the Old Testament system of worship was temporary and typical, and that its time had run out – God is about to make a drastic change!

In v.25, the woman, who had some knowledge of the truth in spite of her sin and in spite of the Samaritan religion being restricted to the Pentateuch alone (the first five books of the Old Testament) says that all these things will be made clear when the Messiah comes. With this response she confessed her ignorance and at the same time expressed her longing when she said ~ I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things. This was the last straw for her in finding God, to which Jesus replied, I who speak to you am he (v.26). Jesus led her gradually, to think of Him as someone different, a prophet and, then, as the Christ – she acknowledges Jesus as the Messiah!

At this dramatic moment of disclosure, the disciples returned from the town with provisions. They too were surprised to find Jesus talking to a Samaritan – let alone speaking to a woman, but they were hesitant to raise the question with Him.

5.    CONCLUSION  [2]:
Let me ask you this simple question. What do you need to do when you are lost? You need to find the way back. And what do you need if you are unable to find it? You need a Saviour. Imagine yourself without a sure direction, without the necessities of life, without any confidence in the future. What do you do? You look for one who can save you and show you the way home.

That is what Jesus came to do. He came to show a fallen, rebellious race, a race composed of people like Nicodemus, the woman of Samaria, you and me, the way home to God our heavenly Father. Of course, there is one great difference between the salvation that Jesus brought and the salvation that might be brought to someone merely lost in the woods. In the second case, the way need only to be shown. In Jesus' case, the way had to be made, as it was, by His death. Jesus died for you in order that He might bear all the judgement and wrath of God that should have fallen on you because of your sin.

Will you come to Him? There is no other way. The Bible says that God's righteousness, which is by faith in Jesus, is offered "to all" – but only to those who truly believe (Rom.3:22).

Let me ask another question. What happens when a spring comes bubbling through dirt? The answer is: It produces muddy water. Is it the spring's fault? No! The fault lies with in the dirt that has been pushed on top of it. Does this describe your life? Are you a Christian who has run from God, trying to cover over His presence, but instead only had your life filled with muddy water? If this does describe you, why don't you allow the Lord Jesus Christ to remove the dirt and purify the spring of His life within you?

Let me warn you that you cannot go your own way indefinitely. You will never get away with that. God must be true to His character, and God says that in His holiness He is determined to perfect the image of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, within you. If God were to allow you to go any way you want and make a success of it, then He would be a liar when He says that Jesus Christ is the only way, the only truth, and the only life. God is no liar. So He will make a mess of your life, a ruin of your life, if He wants to, until you come to the point where you will let Him perfect that work in you He began when you first tasted of the Lord Jesus.

Will you yield to Him? If you do, He will satisfy any longing that you may ever have had. He put it there in the first place. And He will do with you that which is pleasing in His sight and which will bless others.

Message brought by Kobus van der Walt at VAAL TRIANGLE Baptist Church (Vereeniging) – Sunday morning 13 November2011
[2]  Acknowledgement to James Montgomery Boice for thoughts in conclusion.