Then They Came to Jesus
Then They Came to Him
By Mark E. Hardgrove, Ph.D., D.Min.
Text: John 4:1-30, NKJV (YouTube Video vv. 5-34)
1 Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John 2(though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples), 3 He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. 4 But He needed to go through Samaria.
5 So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.
7 A woman of 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.
9 Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?" For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.
10 Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water."
Aren’t you glad that it isn’t some Pope somewhere, or some Grand Poobah, or council of religious elites who decides whom God can call and use to expand His kingdom? If I had to be related to someone, or know someone, or had to have had the right pedigree or college degree before I could be used of God to preach the gospel, then I would not be here today. I know the ditch from which I dug, and the rock from which I was hewn. I didn’t have any connections. I wasn’t related to anyone who was positioned in ministry to give me opportunities. I was like Joshua, the son of (Nun) none, but God chose me, He called me, and He has allowed me to do things, go places, and accomplish more in my life than I could even think or imagine.
Jesus is like that. Jesus finds the underdogs of the world, the people that others have discounted and pushed to the side, and Jesus uses them to do great things in the kingdom of God. The apostle Paul said it like this:
For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence. (1 Cor 1:26-30, NKJV)
In our text we see Jesus with someone who is the least likely candidate to be chosen to do anything of significance in the kingdom. In chapter 3 Jesus had been speaking with Nicodemus. Nicodemus was the most likely candidate. He was a Rabbi, a Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin Council, and yet we see Nicodemus come in the dark, and leave in the dark.
Nicodemus appears again during the trial of Jesus, where he tries to provide some defense (Jn. 7:50), and after Jesus has been crucified he brings spices to anoint the body of Jesus after the crucifixion (19:39), but we never see Nicodemus bringing anyone to Christ.
In contrast to Nicodemus, in chapter 4 Jesus encounters someone who is the diametric opposite of Nicodemus. We don’t know her name, but she was a woman and a Samaritan. The Jews despised the Samaritans and tried to avoid much interaction with them. Jesus meets this woman in the open at noon, and not at night. She brings a village to Jesus, whereas Nicodemus doesn’t appear to have brought anyone to Jesus.
No one else would have chosen her. The disciples of Jesus certainly wouldn’t have thought about using a Samaritan woman as an evangelist. The people of her own village, who knew her history and her reputation, wouldn’t have chosen her, but the thing that matters most is that Jesus chose her.
JESUS WENT TO HER
It is important to note that Jesus went to this woman. Most of the time the masses came to Jesus, but this account indicates that Jesus is compelled to go to this one woman. John said that Jesus needed to go through Samaria. There were other ways to get from Judea to Galilee, and often Jews avoided Samaria by taking the longer route around the region, but the text seems to indicate that Jesus was being directed, led by His Heavenly Father, if you will, to take this route, at this time, on this day.
We need to be sensitive to those divine appointments that God may be setting up for us. Have you ever felt like everything that could go wrong, did go wrong, and you are delayed in your trip, or you found that you are forced to go a different route, or go to a different store than you intended? Could it be that God is arranging your day to create a divine appointment? Could it be that He is putting the pieces into place so that you end up sitting in the waiting room beside that person, or standing in line at Walmart beside that woman or that man?
I cannot imagine how God must feel sometimes when we are struggling against what He’s doing and getting angry as He is trying to bring us to that place and time where the river of life within us intersects with that man or woman who is thirsting to know that God knows their name, that He loves them, and desires to draw them to His heart.
Jesus had divine encounters with other women in the Gospels, but in most cases they came to Him. In the case of the woman with the issue of blood, she sought Him out, and she pressed through the crowd to touch the hem of His garment. Then there was the Syrophoenician woman, a Gentile who went to the house where Jesus was teaching and begged Him to deliver her daughter from demonic possession. Another time a woman of ill-repute came into the house of the Pharisee, washed the feet of Jesus with her tears and wiped them with her hair.
In each of these encounters the women came to Jesus, but here it appears that Jesus is compelled to go to this one Samaritan woman. This is a divine appointment and it is an example of Jesus leaving the ninety and nine sheep to go find the one lost sheep.
JESUS SPOKE TO HER
At about noon, Jesus was in Samaria at the well known as Jacob’s well. It was about a three day walk from Judea to Galilee, and this was the half-way point, about one and half days into the journey. The sun was beating down and Jesus was tired, thirsty, and hungry. He sat by the well and sent His disciples to into the city to get some food.
As He was sitting there a woman came to the well to draw water. In that culture carrying water was considered women’s work. So it wasn’t unusual for Jesus to see a woman coming to get water from the well. For, example in Genesis 29, Jacob was sitting by a well at high noon when Rachel came to draw water for her father’s sheep.
As the Samaritan woman was drawing, Jesus spoke to her. He asked her to give him a drink. She was astonished that this Jewish man would even speak to her [Illustrat: Bloody Pharisees], much less be willing to drink from the same vessel that she used. But Jesus said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”
The phrase “living water” literally means “running water,” which devout Jews viewed as superior to standing water. So the woman responds by noting that Jesus doesn’t have anything to draw water with, and well is deep, in fact it is about 100 feet deep. So she asks, “Where then do You get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and livestock?”
Un fact, Jesus was greater than Jacob. Jesus is the second Jacob, if you will, establishing a new people of God under a new covenant. He chooses twelve Apostles and He creates a spiritual Israel where there are no racial distinctions, gender barriers, or socio-economic separation. Paul tells us Jesus is the second Adam, who gets it right this time. According to the writer of Hebrews, Jesus is the second Moses, giving us a new covenant, a better covenant, an everlasting covenant that is not based on the blood of rams and goats, but upon the spotless Lamb of God who dies once and for all. Likewise, Jesus is the second Jacob, but He’s a greater, or a better Jacob coming to fulfill the law, not to destroy it.
The Physical Focus
However, this woman is thinking only in the natural and physical at this point. Much like Nicodemus, who responded to Jesus’ assertion that you must be born again, by asking how a man could enter the womb and be born a second time, this woman is focused on the physical rather than the spiritual. Isn’t that the way most of us are? Jesus is trying to take us to a spiritual level, but we can’t get our eyes off the physical.
We are focused on the how loud the music is, or what the temperature in the building is, or the sound of a baby crying, or the all motion and commotion around us that we never truly enter into that realm where real worship happens. Jesus is speaking about spiritual things, but this woman is focused on the physical.
Jesus kicks it up a notch (“Bam!”) by adding some obvious spiritual metaphors. He says in verses 13 and 14, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
Her response is, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” He has spoken of water springing up into everlasting live, but she still can’t get her mind out of the physical and onto the spiritual.
Sometimes we are just spiritually dumb. I meet so many people who act like and talk like God isn’t speaking, or that there is no evidence of God’s presence or power at work in the world today. Yet the Psalmist said (19:1-3)
1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.
2 Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech nor language
Where their voice is not heard.
God is still speaking and deeps calls to deep, and have ears to hear, but don’t. We have eyes to see, but we won’t.
Illustration: Metro-Station Washington, DC, world-class violinist Joshua Bell played Bach for about 45 minutes on a 3.6 million dollar violin. About 20 people stopped to listen and gave a total of $32. Earlier he had played in a sold-out theater in Boston at $100 a seat. No one realized that this was a world class musician, or that they were hearing music in the subway that others had paid hundreds of dollars to hear in a theater.
Sometimes we are so busy with life, as we rush here and there, that we don’t see the handiwork of God and or hear the voice of God. We are God’s workmanship, we are His masterpiece, created in His image and likeness, the apex of His creative activity, and yet sadly we live most of our lives blithely unaware of the presence of the Master. Isaiah asks, “Shall your handiwork say, ‘He has no hands?’” (45:9).
There are spiritual truths being spoken and revealed to us every day, but too often we are missing them. We are like this woman standing face to face with God, and yet powerful truths, life-changing revelation, and faith building Word is whipping past us like the wind and we we’re missing those transformational moments when God is ready to drop a rhema word into our spirit.
Jesus is very patient with this woman. He starts with where she is, but He sees potential in this woman and He isn’t going to give up on her. She He kicks it up another notch with a bit of supernatural insight that takes her to another place in her encounter with Him. In verse 16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” Jesus already knew, through spiritual insight and revelation, that this woman had a history that caused her shame in her community. That’s why she went alone to well in the heat of the day.
The woman said, “I have no husband.” She wasn’t lying, but she wasn’t telling the whole truth either.
So Jesus demonstrates supernatural power and knowledge in His response. He said, “You have well said, 'I have no husband,' for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly” (17-18). This isn’t something that a stranger would know, especially with such specificity.
We need to remember that when Jesus calls us to a task, to a ministry, or a role in the body of Christ, He already knows where we come from. He knows our history, our mistakes, our faults, and our failures. But He also knows our promise, our potential and our spiritual giftings. Jesus knew her past, but He was going to use her in the kingdom anyhow.
The Religious Realm
This woman knew that there was something different about this Jew. She knew that His words revealed a touch of the supernatural, but instead of going from the physical to spiritual realm, she goes instead to the religious realm.
There is such a thing as pure religion and undefiled, but then there is just religion. Religion is often nothing more than a placebo for the soul. We can think we are spiritual, just because we’re religious. But Scripture shows us that it is possible to be religious, to go through all the rituals and liturgy of religion and yet never enter into that spiritual realm where real worship happens.
She says, in verse 19, “I can tell that You are prophet.” She knows that Jesus has gotten some supernatural insight into her life, but instead of dealing with her own spiritual issues, she immediately begins to launch into religious debate.
There was a longstanding debate between the Jews and the Samaritans about where the legitimate place of worship should be. The Samaritans worshipped at Mt. Gerazim, while the Jews worshipped in Jerusalem. Maybe she was uncomfortable as to where the discussion of her past was going. Maybe she didn’t want Jesus delving any deeper into her story. But instead of dealing with her own issues, she wants to deflect the discussion from her own life and talk in much larger theological terms.
I’ve found that people would rather argue about religion than deal with their own spiritual issues. They would rather engage in a theological debate than look into their own soul and broken heart to talk about their hurts, their pain, their loneliness, and their own spiritual emptiness. So they come to church and engage in the religious calisthenics of Pentecostal worship, but they resist the tug of the Holy Spirit on their soul when the altar call is given, and they come thirsty and leave thirsty because they never drink the living water.
The Spiritual Realm
Jesus answers by basically telling her that it isn’t about which mountain you worship on because real worship is a spiritual thing. He says, “The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” He takes her to the spiritual realm and leaves her with nowhere to go in the conversation than to confront the truth that is looking her in the eyes.
So she says, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all thing.” She is now beginning to gain some spiritual insight into who she’s talking to. This isn’t just a Jew, or even just a prophet, but she begins to explore the possibility that Jesus is Messiah. She is on the precipice of a profound spiritual revelation, so Jesus pushes through over the edge. He says, in verse 26, “I who speak to you am He.” In other words, “I am Messiah.”
It was at that moment that the disciples of Jesus return and they are shocked to see Jesus talking to Samaritan woman, but no one challenged Jesus for doing so. The woman was so overwhelmed with the claim of Jesus, which she believes, that she left her waterpot and went back to her village telling everyone, “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” (29).
This least likely of candidates to be an evangelist for Jesus, leaves her burden behind, overcomes her shame and guilt, and goes throughout the city to tell the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did. Surely this is the Christ.”
What was the result? The city came to Jesus because Jesus chose a woman that others had rejected. She had been married five times. Some of them may have died, but it is likely that several of these husbands had divorced her. Maybe she was barren. There is no mention of children, and bareness was one of the reasons a man in that culture could divorce a wife. It may be that she had never born a child in the flesh, but she was certainly bearing spiritual children now.
Notice that Jesus’ disciples come back from the city with food, but no souls. The woman comes back with the city and the opportunity for Jesus to minister to the masses, which was spiritual food for His soul.
Where are we in this story? Are we Jesus? Are we responding to divine appointments and meeting people at their point of need? Are we crossing racial and social barriers to share the Gospel of Christ?
Are we the woman, feeling like not even God can use us; feeling like we’ve done too much, made too many mistakes, and live in shame?
If we are the woman, where are we in the conversation? Do we focus on the physical, or are we engaged in endless religious debates, or have we entered into that place where real worship happens, the place of spirit and truth?
And are we the disciples or the woman? Are we bringing the physical to Jesus and not the spiritual? Are we bringing tithes and offerings, baked goods and baskets, but no souls to these altars for salvation?
God is Spirit and true worshippers must worship Him in Spirit and truth.