Looking at the Light through John - Chapter 4

Stopover In Samaria

Those who are in positions of influence, when they have "come up through the ranks" rather than inheriting the position, are generally clever individuals who immediately perceive a threat or challenge to their rank. Those who are humble and interested in good guidance and governance are willing to step aside when someone of superior ability comes along, but those who are driven by "position ambition" are going to try to destroy the challenge. John the Immerser was challenge enough for the Jewish hierarchy, but the entrance of Jesus on the scene provoked an instantaneous reaction as the scribes and Pharisees moved into "damage control" mode.

As Jesus came into the lower Jordan, and His preaching was impacting the multitudes in Israel, the Pharisees began to flex their political muscle to put a ring of containment around the Christ. "When therefore the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and immersing more disciples than John (although Jesus was not immersing, but His disciples were), He left Judea and departed again into Galilee" (John 4:1-3).

The Bible is not a fictive account, containing kernels of truth, shrouded in legend and mystery. The locations mentioned are real, and it is possible to follow the geographical progression of events as recorded. Jesus stopped over at Samaria at Jacob’s Well, and a stone marker could be set at the location for interested pilgrims to read as they passed through, following the traces of the Lord’s path on this earthly ground.


The Promise of Living Water

The Lord Jesus was a man, a descendant of David through Mary. The Lord Jesus was also a prophet, bringing information to earth concerning Himself, the kingdom of God, and the age to come. As a man, He suffered the turmoil of inhabiting an earthly tent; as the prophet from Galilee, He revealed more good news about the promise of God.

Having led His disciples northward, He parked His weary carcass by Jacob’s Well at Sychar in Samaria while "the disciples had gone away into the city to buy food" (John 4:8). Though the Lord once walked on the water to demonstrate that He was the Christ, the Son of God, to the apostles, He in the flesh was not faster than a speeding bullet, nor did He leap over tall buildings in a single bound. Voluntarily emptying Himself to take the form of a bond-servant, Jesus subjected Himself to all the trials, temptations, and frailties of man. He could have sucked energy from the sap of the tree of life, but chose instead to allow Himself to be wearied and thirsty at Jacob’s Well.

The offer Jesus made to the Samaritan woman is now open to all. Anyone who knows that Jesus is speaking to him through the written or preached word and is willing to be humbly obedient in immersion, will receive LIVING WATER. "For the promise," proclaimed Peter on Pentecost, "is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord shall call to Himself" (Acts 2:39).



Those Who Will Never Thirst

Jesus promised the apostles that the Holy Spirit would guide them into all truth and bring to their remembrance all that He had spoken to them. While some skeptics look at this concept with a "Yeah, right!" negative attitude, it is clear that the truths unfolded before the eyes of a very astounded set of apostles as the Spirit guided the development of the church as recorded in the book of Acts. Buttressed by the previously and intelligently written Old Testament, truly the things which eye had not seen, ear had not heard, and which had not entered into the heart of man were now revealed through the inspired preaching and teaching of these men. The gospel according to John (as it is now styled), written after Matthew, Mark, and Luke, seems designed to focus on events not recorded in the other accounts and therein to bring the teaching of Jesus concerning the Spirit to the fore.

At Jacob’s Well in Sychar, Samaria, such a conversation is recorded by John. While Jesus had been waiting at the Well, a Samaritan woman came to draw water. After the Lord asked for a drink, the exchange led to Jesus’ offering her "living water" if she knew who was speaking to her, if she knew the gift of God, and if she would ask for it.

"Whoever" is the word Jesus used. Jew, Gentile, male, female, slave or free — it makes no difference to the gracious King — the offer is open to all who would obey Him. To never thirst — is this your experience, my friend? Does that Artesian well flow, or are you one of the ones still trying to satisfy a dry gullet with the materialism of modern Western Civilization?



Progression from Curiosity

The Lord Jesus was a master at working His contacts. Those who follow Him to fish for men would do well to pay attention to His methods and approaches. The Lord aroused the curiosity of the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well by instigating a discussion on living water. Intelligently reeling her in, the Master Fisherman then produced a craving for something spiritual and moved her to conviction of her personal sin.

The Lord was the Master Teacher and Preacher. Step by step He led this lady into a deeper and deeper discussion for her benefit, and thus planted the seed of spiritual revolution in the ground of Samaria.



Seeking True Worshipers

Seven centuries before the Lord Jesus walked the earth as a descendant of David, God had the Assyrians carry the northern nation of Israel into captivity. Other nationalities were brought in to replace those who were dispersed, and some Levitical teachers were returned to teach the people about Jehovah; this admixture of peoples became the Samaritans. The Samaritans eventually built a facsimile of Jerusalem’s temple on Mt. Gerizim near Sychar and Jacob’s Well, established their own priesthood, and worshiped at this false temple instead of in Jerusalem.

Jesus asked the Samaritan woman for a drink from Jacob’s Well, and in the ensuing discussion forced her to at least conclude that He was a prophet. This prompted a question in her mind about the proper place for worshiping God, and she posed her question as a statement: "Our fathers worshiped God in this mountain, and you [Jews] say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship" (John 4:20). Our Lord followed with the only teaching there is recorded in pages of the New Testament on the subject of worship under the terms of the new covenant.

The Father in heaven was not and is not messing around. Out of all the peoples of the earth, the Almighty in His mercy is seeking for those who will in all honesty spiritually prostrate themselves perpetually before Him. All the rest will be consigned to the eternal fires and darkness. The emphasis of Him who knows all things is that those who worship God "must worship Him in spirit and truth."



Worshiping and Serving God

Men have their plans for planet earth. Some want to stop all evidences of civilization and return everyone else to a primitive, subsistence-level lifestyle. Some want to conquer the earth and subjugate its population. Some just want to have a nice home and a quiet neighborhood and for other folks to leave them alone. But the real question is, "What are God’s plans for planet earth?" Most of earth’s current citizenry have no clue as to what God’s real purpose was in creating earth and letting man subdue it. Hence God sent His Son into the world with His message, pre-figured by the Old Testament and explained in the New.

Jesus is eminently qualified, then, to testify as to what God’s purpose for the creation and mankind is: God is seeking those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23,24)! Properly understood, the gospel is a winnowing mechanism the Almighty uses to separate the wheat from the chaff and to produce partakers of the divine nature who desire to, who can, and who will worship Him as He asks, in Spirit and in truth.

Carnal man cannot nor will not worship God "in spirit." Hence he substitutes "in the physical realm" for "in spirit" and retreats to calling things such as the Lord’s Supper, prayer, and singing "worship" in spite of the fact that the New Testament calls them "service." God is seeking only those who will worship "in spirit and truth." Who will honestly and sincerely answer His call?



What Sustained Jesus

The apostles returned to Jacob’s Well, having purchased food during their excursion into the town of Sychar. Upon their return, they were astonished that He had been carrying on a conversation with a Samaritan woman, but were hesitant to ask Him what He wanted from her or why He would deign to speak with her. When the disciples arrived, the woman took her cue that her private conversation with the Lord was over, went into the city, and got all the folks excited to go and to meet the celebrity she had discovered.

The Lord of the Harvest is intensely interested in the harvest. During the days of His flesh, He was sustained in His tremendous output of activity by His drive to accomplish the Father’s will in saving the lost. His character has not changed, and He still sustains His body, the church, in the drive to seek and save the lost sheep.



Early Reception in Galilee

Jesus scurried out of Judea when the Pharisees got wind of how many people the Lord was having His disciples immerse in the Jordan. Instead of traveling along the Jordan to reach Galilee, He and His disciples went up into the hill country and proceeded north through Samaria. After spending two days in Sychar, He continued northward into the higher elevations of Galilee, where the reception of Jesus by the Galileans is recorded in the gospel according to John.

Jesus began His concentrated effort in Galilee with a powerful miracle wherein the subject to be healed was not even present. If the royal official had been able to get word that Jesus had simply come out of Judea into Galilee, then the news of this miracle would certainly spread throughout the region. "This is again a second sign that Jesus performed, when He had come out of Judea into Galilee" (John 4:54).