Conversation with the Christ

Posted: January 12, 2015 in John
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John 4:1-26, “Conversation with the Christ”

It was the most unlikely of conversations.  Who could have imagined the Jewish Messiah talking with a woman from Samaria?  It’s difficult to even come up with a comparison.  In one sense, it would be like the modern Israeli Prime Minister having a conversation with a random Palestinian deep in the heart of the West Bank – but the Messiah is on a far higher level.  The Messiah having a conversation with ANY human is astounding (humans may as well speak with ants, as God would speak with humans), but a conversation with this particular human is really striking.  She was the least likely of people to whom the Messiah would speak, and yet she seems to have been precisely the human whom the Messiah sought out.  Jesus wanted to save this woman of Samaria, and He went out of His way to have a conversation with her.

One aspect about the gospel of John that is unique is the number of conversations that is shown.  Whereas Matthew centers Jesus’ words primarily around His formal sermons (discourses); John shows far more general interactions with people.  One such conversation was just shown in Chapter 3 when Jesus had a face-to-face with the Pharisee Nicodemus.  In fact, the conversations with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman provide quite the contrasts.  One took place in the heart of Judaism (Jerusalem); the other took place in the heart of Samaria.  One was with a respected religious ruler (THE teacher of Israel); the other with a (seemingly) random woman.  One conversation was expected (two rabbis conversing); the other was downright scandalous.  Yet each conversation was equally amazing, and each ultimately had the same subject: how to receive everlasting life.

The need of the Pharisee and the need of the Samaritan woman was exactly the same, even if neither one of them realized it.  Both needed to be saved by the grace of God through faith in the Messiah.  One thought he was assured of seeing the kingdom of God simply because he was a Jew; Jesus showed him his need.  The other thought she was assured of being excluded from the kingdom because she was a Samaritan; Jesus showed her the gracious invitation of God.  Jesus offered to save both of them through faith, even though each had their own obstacles to overcome.

Whereas Nicodemus had a mental block to understanding Jesus, the Samaritans seems to have had a moral block.  She approached Jesus first with skepticism, and perhaps even with a bit of mockery.  At the root of it was her sin, which Jesus gently exposes.  Everything Jesus said to her was said with deliberate intention.  He came to give her living water, and help her understand her need for it.  He came to bring her to faith, and that’s exactly what took place.

John 4:1–26
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.

  1. The Lord” in vs. 1 is Jesus, and many manuscripts have Jesus’ name there instead of His title.  Obviously to John writing decades later, Jesus IS the Lord.  John may have had Jesus’ divine knowledge in mind here, in that Jesus was fully aware of the conversations of the Pharisees regarding Himself.  Remember that Jesus had left Jerusalem in order to go and baptize elsewhere in Judea.  Apparently word of Jesus’ ministry success not only reached the disciples of John the Baptist, but the Pharisees as well (who were primarily centered in Jerusalem).  Jesus would later have many confrontations with the Pharisees, but He wasn’t looking for any at the time.  He had his own timetable & sovereign plan in mind, and so He hit the road to “Galilee” in order to stick to it.
    1. One issue that becomes perfectly clear in all of the gospels (especially the gospel of John) is that Jesus was perfectly in control of His surroundings.  It may appear that chaos swirled around Him, but it never controlled Him.  Jesus would not be taken apart from His will, nor would the plan of God be short-circuited in the slightest.  Jesus was in control.
    2. God is still in control, even in the apparent chaos of our own lives…
  2. The apostle John provides a bit of clarification in vs. 2 over what he wrote earlier in 3:22: “After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He remained with them and baptized.”  Jesus oversaw the ministry of baptism, but it was His disciples who actually did the baptizing, and not Jesus.  This didn’t remove Jesus from the daily ministry, so much as demonstrate His wisdom.  Can you imagine the pride that might have developed in some who were personally baptized by Jesus?  No doubt it would have turned into a stumbling block or point of personal idolatry.  Jesus truly loves us, but He also knows the wickedness of our hearts.  He called the people to be baptized in repentance, but He wasn’t going to give them something extra to repent over.
  3. In any case, Jesus left Judea (the region surrounding Jerusalem), with His destination as Galilee (where He spent the bulk of His ministry, as shown in the Synoptic gospels).  There’s a bit of land in-between, which is the whole context of Chapter 4…

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.

  1. [MAP]  It’s interesting that John writes that Jesus “needed to go through Samaria.”  Although Samaria lay between Judea and Galilee, there was another possible route to the north.  It may have taken a bit more time to cross over to the Jordan river and travel through the land of the Gentiles, but many Jews preferred that to having to come in contact with Samaritans.  It may have been necessary that Jesus travel through Samaria if He wanted to take the shortest road to Galilee, but it wasn’t impossible to do it another way.  What would have been impossible outside of Samaria was reaching anyone IN Samaria with the gospel.  If any Samaritans were going to come to faith in Christ, then someone needed to go to them with the message of Christ, and that is exactly what Jesus did.
    1. How will they hear without a preacher?  Romans…
  2. What sounds like a simple question of travel plans to our 21st century ears was actually quite a big deal to the people at the time.  It’s difficult for us to imagine the hostility that lay between the Jews and the Samaritans.  This would have been one of the last places a Jew would have wanted to go.  Something similar exists today in the modern Middle East, if an Israeli might be faced with the question of going through the West Bank, or around it.  Imagine having to travel (by foot!) through a region controlled by your enemies: people who wanted you dead, and people whom you despised and wanted dead as well.  It might cause you to think twice.  Those were exactly the people Jesus wanted to go to & reach.
    1. The gospel ought to cause us to rethink our prejudices.  The gospel is greater than any of our racial or social biases and boundaries.  It doesn’t matter what your neighbor looks like, or what background he/she has come from – God still wants that person to be saved and come to the knowledge of Jesus Christ.  It doesn’t even matter how barbaric another culture around the world might be – God would still rather the people in that culture be saved and radically transformed by the power of Jesus than to spend an eternity in hell without Him.
    2. What kind of person are you hesitant to approach on the street?  That person needs the gospel too.  You might be exactly the person to take to him.  The culture around us might be infected with racism and other prejudices, but the Church ought to stand apart from all of that.  In Christ, there is no Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free – and we could go on to add neither black, white, Hispanic, or anything else.  We are Christians – we are all sinners saved by the glorious grace of Jesus.  And that is enough.
  3. The area to which Jesus went had some historical significance, in that it was “near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.”  Upon returning to the land after his long time away working for his uncle Laban (and marrying his two daughters, their two concubines, and gaining 12 sons and at least one daughter), Jacob came to the town of Shechem, and bought some nearby land (Gen 33:19).  This land was later given to Joseph when Jacob was on his death-bed (Gen 48:22), and Joseph was later buried there (Josh 24:32).

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.

  1. If historical tradition holds, “Jacob’s well” is still there. [PIC]  Scripture does not record Jacob ever building a well (his father Isaac built many!), but it’s not unreasonable to assume that he did at some point.  The existing well is quite deep, over 90 feet down, and apparently had originally gone deeper, but was filled in with debris over the centuries.  It’s fed by a natural spring, and thus never runs dry.  An Orthodox monastery sits on the site today, and they maintain the well.
  2. By far the most interesting thing about the well is not that it was built by Jacob, but that it demonstrates something that seems so mundane: Jesus stopped there for a drink.  Jesus and the apostles had likely been walking for hours by this point.  We don’t know exactly where in Judea the group had begun walking from, but it’s a three-day journey from Jerusalem to Galilee, and around 15 hours from Jerusalem to Sychar (modern day Nablus).  Depending on the scholar, John’s time is interpreted either as 12 noon or 6pm, based on whether John was using the Jewish method or the Roman method to account the time of day.  Either way, we can easily imagine Jesus and the disciples pausing on their journey to rest a bit, and get something to eat and drink.
  3. What makes this significant?  Jesus needed to rest.  The Son of Man was not Superman.  Jesus is 100% God, but He is also 100% human, and He needed to eat, sleep, drink, and do everything else all of the rest of us do.  He could become weary from a journey, just like any of us would have been if we had been walking for several hours at a time.
    1. This is all part of the humility and miracle of the Incarnation!  How far was God the Son willing to go for you?  He was willing to weary Himself in a weak human body for over 30 years, and then submit that same body to physical torture, crucifixion, and death, in order that you and I might be saved.
  4. All of that sets the background.  This is where things start to get really interesting…

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.

  1. So the disciples have left Jesus for a few minutes as they went to go buy some lunch/dinner (it was easier to carry money for the journey than packs full of supplies), and that leaves Jesus alone at the well.  While He’s there, another lone person comes to draw water: a woman from the town.  That’s when Jesus does something that looks perfectly normal to us, but would have been virtually scandalous at the time: He asks her for a drink. 
  2. Take just a moment to imagine the scene at the time.  Here is a Jew (most likely looking like a Jewish rabbi) alone in the middle of Samaria.  He’s approached by a lone woman who normally would have come with others, or at a time when others were also at the well.  He speaks to the woman – something that rabbis would rarely do even with their own wives in public.  He goes so far as to ask something of this woman: an act of compassion, of which He would have seemed to have no right to ask.  And on top of it all, He was a Jew and she was a Samaritan.  The Jews hated Samaritans & Samaritans hated the Jews.  They had started out as one family & one nation, but once the northern kingdom of Israel had been conquered by the Assyrians, their racial purity was bred out.  Along with being racially mixed, their faith had become corrupted.  From the very beginning of the division between northern & southern kingdom (Israel vs. Judah), Israel had been embroiled in idolatry – but after they were assimilated by Assyria, it became much worse.  They adopted syncretism, adding the worship of foreign gods along with the corrupted worship of what should have been the true God.  By the time that the Jews returned from their own Babylonian captivity, the Samaritans had their own form of worship, and they actively worked against the Jews when the Jews were rebuilding Jerusalem.  At one point, the Samaritans had even built their own temple on Mt. Gerizim (which comes up in Jesus’ conversation), which had been destroyed by one of the Jewish kings of the Maccabean period.
  3. So with all of that in mind, we can imagine how scandalous it would have seemed for Jesus to ask this woman for a drink.  The woman (who’s never named) immediately picks up on it and even calls Him out.  Most Jews thought even the land of Samaria was defiled, and refused to eat and drink there out of fear that they would make themselves unclean.  And here this Rabbi is, directly asking her for a drink.  It was a shock!

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.”

  1. What the woman understood to be unusual wasn’t the half of it.  If she thought a Jewish rabbi asking her for a drink was shocking, just imagine what she would have thought if she knew who Jesus truly is!  Jesus uses her dismay at the situation to immediately transition to spiritual conversation.  There’s no doubt that Jesus was legitimately tired and needed a drink, but we cannot help but wonder if Jesus hadn’t come to this specific place at this specific time for this specific woman.  He had not only come for a drink, but He had come to quench someone else’s thirst – a thirst she may not have even known that she had.
    1. This is the compassion of Jesus.  He came to seek and to save the lost.  He sought us out, just as He sought out this woman.  He offered to quench her thirst, and He offers to quench ours as well…
  2. If she had only known – if she had only known what? “The gift of God.”  The “gift” was right in front of her eyes.  The gift was Jesus.  The gift was the privilege of conversing with the Son of God.  This was scandalous in ways she would never know.  It wasn’t just that a Jewish rabbi was initiating a conversation with a Samaritan woman.  It was that the Holy God was initiating contact with a sinful human.  He had something far better to offer her than she had to offer Him, and she didn’t have a clue what was going on.  Technically, Jesus didn’t even need her to get Him something to drink.  If He could have commanded the stones to become bread (as Satan tried to get Him to do during His temptation), then surely Jesus could have commanded water to spring up from the ground.  In an act of sheer grace, He was inviting her to interact with Him.  If she would respond to His invitation, she would receive something far more than she could imagine: “living water.
  3. To the woman, “living water” didn’t necessarily have to have a spiritual connotation.  The term was often used to describe running water, or water that bubbled up from a spring (such as the water that is in Jacob’s well).  Jesus is inviting her to something spiritual, but she hasn’t caught on yet.

11 The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? 12 Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?”

  1. She’s still thinking of the physical, and perhaps even mocking Jesus a bit.  With the disciples gone, Jesus didn’t even have the typical leather pouch travelers would use to dip into a well to drink.  He had nothing physical on Him, other than the clothes on His back.  How could He even get to the “living water” of the well?  Even the patriarch Jacob had to have tools and supplies to dig deep when building the well.  Even Jacob and his sons needed buckets to draw up the water from the well.  Was Jesus “greater” than they?  Yes, absolutely. J  Jesus is infinitely greater than Jacob and his sons, and Jesus even knew Jacob and his sons – but the Samaritan woman understandably didn’t have any idea.

13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 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.”

  1. The woman had been pretty glib in her answer, and that may have put off many people.  It may have started an argument among others.  A typical Jewish rabbi wouldn’t have put up with that kind of treatment…but Jesus was no typical rabbi.  He doesn’t get offended by the woman’s answer, but rather continues to engage with her – not looking to win an argument, but win a person.
    1. It’s a good lesson for us in our own attempts at evangelism.  It’s easy to get caught up in the weeds of a person’s arguments and objections.  Be careful not to lose sight of the bigger picture.  Our mission as believers in Jesus is to show Jesus to others; not to convince them to agree with us on every minor theological or practical point.  Once they come to faith in Jesus, then God will deal with those other areas in His own time.  We don’t need to get offended or be put off; we just need to be patient as we continually point them to Christ.
  2. Jesus continues the conversation, telling her that He wasn’t talking about physical water, but spiritual water.  Like Nicodemus’ misunderstanding about being born twice, so the Samaritan woman had misunderstood Jesus’ teaching about living water.  Jesus had something far better to offer the woman than an 8oz drink of pure natural spring water; He could give to her a spiritual water that would spring up eternally within her.
  3. That water wasn’t offered only to the woman; that same water is offered to all who come to faith in Jesus.  John 7:37–39, "(37) On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. (38) He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (39) But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified." .  If ANYONE thirsts…  Do you thirst?  Respond to the invitation of Jesus!  Drink deeply of the waters that He promises to provide.  You will receive the new birth of the Holy Spirit, and you will be filled with His love and His power.  Jesus truly satisfies every spiritual need that we have.  We lack communion with God; Jesus gives it.  We lack forgiveness from sin; Jesus grants it.  We lack the promise of life; Jesus guarantees it.  When we believe upon Jesus, we too “will never thirst.”  He satisfies every need that we have.
    1. As incredible as this invitation is, please keep the context in mind.  Jesus never once promises to be our eternal butler, granting us every wish we may desire.  He never says that we will never have times of sorrow, or promises a life of ease.  He only promises that we will never thirst.  The person who doesn’t know Jesus lives in a spiritual desert – a wasteland.  Other religions or forms of spirituality cannot fill the role that only Jesus can fill.  To be sure, people may think they are satisfied.  Many people who are dying of hunger no longer have hunger pains because their bodies have gone into a survival mode.  They may not feel hungry, but their own bodies are being devoured from the inside-out.  It’s the same way with people lost in false religion or self-satisfaction.  They may not feel spiritually thirsty, but they are.  Jesus alone quenches that thirst, giving us what we truly need to have eternal life.  That’s what Jesus offers to everyone, and that’s what anyone can experience.

15 The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”

  1. Still she misunderstands Jesus, and perhaps she’s still a bit skeptical & mocking.  It’s difficult to know what was truly in her mind with these words without hearing her tone of voice & we need to be careful not to read that back into her words.  Whatever her motive, it’s clear that she still doesn’t understand Jesus.  Her thoughts are still on the physical.  If Jesus would give her this wonderful water then she’d never have to laboriously draw up water from the well again.

16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.”

  1. When Jesus tells the woman to go call her husband in vs. 16, He’s not putting her off; He’s actually engaging in what was closer to the cultural practice.  He’s been speaking with a female stranger for a while, and pushing some of the cultural boundaries.  The Samaritan woman certainly would not have been offended by Jesus’ request to go call her husband; she may have been wondering why Jesus hadn’t asked for her husband in the first place.
  2. That said, Jesus knew exactly what He was doing.  His request wasn’t meant to bring someone else into the conversation, it was designed to open the woman’s eyes to Whom she was speaking.  As God the Son, Jesus knew everything about her.  Jesus knew her far better than she even knew herself.  And Jesus knew what He needed to do to get her attention.  She needed a bit of a wake-up call, and a gentle exposure of her sin by the Son of God was exactly the prescription.
  3. Notice Jesus never condemns her in this.  He doesn’t gloss over her sin, or ignore it in any way, but He does reveal it for what it is.  Deep down, she seems to have known it too.  Her answers go from free-flowing banter to a short-clipped sentence.  She tells a version of the truth, but not the full truth, obviously desiring to keep some things unsaid.  Jesus brings her sin gently into the light so that it can be exposed and dealt with.
    1. That’s how God often uses His Scripture in our lives.  Two of the uses of the written word of God are reproof & correction (2 Tim 3:16), and this is often how it works.  We’re engaged in some sin, and perhaps we’ve even blinded ourselves to it, convincing ourselves that it’s not so bad.  And then we read something in the Bible that exposes it for what it is, and our consciences are struck.  That’s a good thing.  That’s the loving discipline of God.  The key is not to try to ignore it and build up guilt upon guilt, but rather respond to it.  Confess the sin, repent from it, and rely on the power and grace of God.
  4. As an aside, note that cohabitation is not the same thing as marriage.  Whatever reasons the woman had in the past for five marriages (be it her own fault, the fault of her husbands, or even death), the relationship she was currently in was not a marriage in the sight of God.  She was living with a man, but Jesus said “the one whom you now have is not your husband.”  Our culture downplays the need for marriage & tries to redefine marriage to be whatever we want it to be.  It doesn’t work that way.  God gave marriage, and God defines marriage.  God values marriage, as demonstrated by the fact that in the age to come, Jesus will be married to the Church.  We don’t have a right to redefine it (Jesus doesn’t marry Himself, nor does the Church marry the Church), nor should we pretend that marriage is “just a piece of paper.”  No – a wedding license is a piece of paper; a marriage is something that is instituted and given by God.

19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”

  1. Her sin gently exposed by Jesus, the woman finally starts to get of glimpse of Who Jesus might actually be.  He is indeed “a prophet,” though He is far more than just a prophet.  But at least by this point she’s starting to understand the gift of God to whom she’s speaking.  His revelation of divine knowledge was more than enough to do that.
  2. No longer does she ask about living water (nor does she desire to talk about her marriage situation), but she turns the subject to one of worship.  Many commentaries accuse the woman of trying to distract Jesus, by throwing out the proverbial “red herring,” and get the attention off of herself.  It’s certainly possible that this was her intent, but again, we need to be careful reading someone’s motives into the Scripture that aren’t specifically told us.  It’s just as possible that once she realized she was actually speaking to a real prophet of God, that she wanted to know the answer to a question that had been burning on her heart.  Obviously this issue didn’t come out of nowhere.  Perhaps she had been thinking about it for some time; perhaps she had just had a conversation about it with someone else.  We don’t know why she thought of the temple as a place worship, but she obviously had been thinking about it.  She needed some credible religious teacher to answer the question for her, and all of a sudden she realizes she’s speaking to a bona-fide prophet of God.  Why wouldn’t she ask the question?  It was the best time to do so.
  3. The question was a good one.  Sychar was close to Mt. Gerizim, the location of the earlier Samaritan temple that had been destroyed.  Mt. Gerizim is also mentioned in the Scriptures, as the place where the Hebrew covenant was supposed to be read when the Hebrews entered the promised land.  The blessings of God were to be read from one mountain (Mt. Gerizim), and the curses were read from another (Mt. Ebal) in a call-and-response.  As the religion of the northern tribes became corrupted, they departed from Jerusalem being the place of worship to Mt. Gerizim, which was situated in their homeland.  This was the tradition that had been passed down to all Samaritans, including the woman.  Of course she (and all the others knew) that the Jews worshipped in Jerusalem, and she wanted to know which place was correct.  Who was spending their time in incorrect worship: the Samaritans or the Jews?
  4. That’s a fundamental question.  Which way is the right way to worship God?  Despite what the Universalist Unitarians and others might say, not all religions can be right.  All say that a particular way to worship is the right way, and that means that all others must be false.  One way is the truth, which means that all others are a lie.  What good does it do to worship God in a lie?  You might claim that your worship is “spiritual,” but if it’s false, it doesn’t mean anything.  For instance, I can talk all day long to a photo of my bride.  I can whisper to it, even kiss the frame.  But my real bride has received nothing from that.  No matter how much the photo looks like my wife, it’s not really her.  To truly show her my love, I have to address HER; not any approximation – not any generic idea.  It’s got to be the truth, or it’s meaningless.  Likewise with worship.  We either worship God in truth, or we don’t.  Anything we offer up outside of truth is meaningless.  What does Jesus offer?  The truth.  John 14:6, "Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." .

21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.

  1. Whatever the traditions were that the Samaritans had in the past, Jesus tells the woman that everything was about to change.  Certainly God had chosen Jerusalem as the city in which His temple was built, but soon that would no longer matter.  The true temple of God was not one made by hands; the real temple of the Holy Spirit would be the Church – the people who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord.  We don’t go to a building in order to worship God; we can worship God wherever we happen to be.  The only reason we go to a building for worship is for convenience.  We need some place in order to meet corporately, and we are definitely supposed to gather together, not forsaking the assembly. (Heb 10:25)  A building is simply a location to do it, as would be a house, or a park, or any place large enough to gather.  But there’s nothing inherently spiritual about the location or the structure.  The Church is there when the people of God are gathered together.  WE are the Church; not the building.
  2. That’s what Jesus was communicating to the woman.  In the past, they had gathered together at a specific location for the true worship of God, but the “hour [was] coming” that all of that would change.  Jesus’ ministry was changing all of that, even as the two of them were speaking.  True worship of the Father was indeed necessary, but the location would soon no longer matter.
  3. Jesus does briefly address the fact that the Samaritans had gotten it wrong in the past.  They had worshiped, but they had done it in ignorance.  They didn’t know Who it was they worshiped, nor how to rightly worship Him.  When the God of the Bible became just another god among several gods, then they lost sight of the God of their forefathers.  Jacob may have built the well from which they drank, but they no longer worshipped the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  The truth of God’s worship had been preserved among the Jews, and was taught within the Jewish Scriptures (which the Samaritans all but ignored, apart from the 5 books of Moses).  The salvation that would come from the Jews would come through the lineage of David, and spread out to all the world…something that (again) was taking place at the very moment Jesus spoke with the woman.

23 But 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. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

  1. It wasn’t about a mountain – it wasn’t about a temple; it was about truth.  Those who truly worship God “will worship the Father in spirit and truth.”  Again, it doesn’t matter how sincere we might be in our preferred form of spirituality; if it’s not the truth, then it’s wasted breath.  I can pray to the pulpit all I want, but that pulpit can’t do anything for me.  I can pray to an idea in my head all I want, and dedicate my life to that idea, but in the end it’s just an idea.  If I want to worship God, then I have to be in a relationship with the true God.  I have to worship the true God as He desires that I worship Him.  That’s the only kind of worship that means anything at all.  Everyone worships something (an object, an idea, themselves); not everyone worships in truth.
  2. Those who worship in truth will worship in spirit.  As Jesus said, “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.”  People can know the true facts about the true God and never truly worship Him.  The vast majority of people in East Texas can tell you that Jesus is the Son of God crucified for sin and risen from the grave, but they do not worship Him.  The worship of God is far more than intellectually knowing the right facts about Him; it’s about engaging in true worship and true relationship.  We can know facts about virtually anyone just by googling their name; we won’t know them until we have a relationship with them.  We need a relationship with God, and God wants that relationship with us.  “The Father is seeking such to worship Him.”  Notice the present tense.  God didn’t just seek out some people for a while, settle upon the Jews, and stop seeking anyone else.  Most of the Jews at the time did not worship the Father in spirit and truth, and God was presently seeking out people to worship Him (even among the Samaritans!).
    1. God is still seeking people to worship Him!  That hasn’t changed.  God wants people to come into relationship with Him, and to worship Him in spirit and truth.  He wants all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.  He does not desire that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.  He’s seeking people today to worship Him.  For many here, God has already sought us out, and we know Him in spirit and truth.  For others, God is seeking you.  Will you respond?
  3. Why spirit & truth?  Because “God is spirit.”  Not that God is one of many spirits, but that God in His very essence is spirit.  The only physicality God has is when He reveals Himself to humans, and He ultimately chose to do so through the incarnation of Jesus Christ.  Otherwise, God is spirit, and thus He is invisible.  BTW – this is part of the reason for the 2nd Commandment (“you shall not make any graven images”).  God has no form, and thus no image can truly encapsulate the form of God.  The only image that is accurate is the one God Himself gave: the Lord Jesus.  Jesus is the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15), and thus we only worship God rightly when we go through Jesus; not through any other image, idea, or icon.

25 The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.”

  1. If the woman was starting to get it before, she’s really starting to get it now!  You can almost hear the hope in her voice.  She knew she was speaking to a prophet, but perhaps she’s speaking to the ultimate Prophet.  Part of the Scriptures the Samaritans accepted was the book of Deuteronomy, which promised a prophet like Moses, who would speak to the people the words of God (Deut 18:18).  They knew this to be the Messiah, and they were waiting for this Prophet to come and teach them everything.  You can almost see the gleam in the woman’s eyes as she hopes aloud for the Messiah.  Could this Man in front of her be Him?  Yes!

26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”

  1. So clear is His answer!  There is no mystery, no secret, no hiding – He directly tells her that He is the Messiah.  This stands apart from so much of Jesus’ interaction among the Jews in Judea and Galilee, where He seemed to back away from direct mentions of His identity as the Messiah.  Jesus would often call Himself the “Son of Man,” which is a Messianic title, but it was still ambiguous enough to where some people might not make the connection.  Not so with this woman of Samaria.  To her, He unwaveringly takes the title of Messiah, directly affirming that He is the Prophet like Moses, the King like David, the Son of God in the flesh.
    1. Don’t miss the fact that He said this to a Samaritan woman.  Jesus wasn’t even this direct with Nicodemus!  It was to the least likely of all that Jesus clearly revealed His identity.  Jesus doesn’t always show Himself to the “religious” among us, but the least likely of choices.  He shows Himself to those who seek Him in spirit and truth.
  2. Jesus’ answer actually reveals more about the Messiah than what comes across in our English translations.  The text is smoothed out to “I who speak to you am He,” but it could be translated literally, “I am – the one speaking with you.”  The seven (or eight, depending on how you count) “I am” statements are well-known in the gospel of John.  In truth, this should be another one.  This is ground-breaking along the lines of His other famous statement of His deity to the Jews: John 8:57–58, "(57) Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” (58) Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”" .  Just as Jesus equated Himself with God the Father to the Jews in Jerusalem, so does He equate the Messiah with God to the Samaritan woman.  “I AM” was before her; the Messiah IS Almighty God.

Truly this was no ordinary conversation!  This was no chance meeting at the well.  This was the Son of God seeking and saving that which was lost.  This was the Holy God of Israel going to the least likely person in Samaria to bring her to salvation.  As she came to faith in Jesus, she would bring others to faith (as will be seen in the rest of Ch. 4) – God would continue to use this least likely of people in the most amazing ways.

How will God use you?  The rest of the chapter will show this woman passionately engaged in evangelism, but we get a glimpse of how Jesus Himself engaged people with the gospel here.  It began with a simple conversation, which turned into a spiritual conversation.  Jesus was intentional with what He said, but patient, gentle, and loving the whole time.  He let the word of God bring conviction, but He did not personally condemn.  He didn’t engage in argument; He just continually pointed back to the truth.

How does your evangelism match up?  Perhaps you haven’t been intentional about it at all…you can start.  Perhaps you’ve let yourself get caught up in arguments…you can stop.  Beloved, one of our greatest privileges is to help point other people to Jesus Christ.  We’ve already been sought out by God & have drunk of His living water – now we can help others do the same.  Let’s do so in the model of Jesus.

God is still seeking people to worship Him in spirit and truth.  Have you responded?  Have you recognized Jesus as that source of life & truth?  Have you drunk of the waters that He offers, and humbly given your life to Him in faith? You can.  The invitation is open.  You may believe that you are the least likely of all people to become a Christian; none of that matters to Jesus.  He offers to save you, just as He offered to save that Samaritan woman, and all the world.  But you need to respond to Him in faith.  You need to let Jesus deal with your sin for what it is (He already knows about it anyway), and then surrender your life to Him, trusting Him as God.  He will give you those life-giving waters; all you need to do is ask.


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