Drew Craig, Belfast, N. Ireland
A meditation on John Chaper 4
The route that He took
'He (Jesus) left Judea, and departed into Galilee, and he must needs go through Samaria’, John 4. 3, 4.
This was a divine ‘needs be’. It was not a geographical necessity but a moral one. Reverently speaking, the Lord had no other choice. It was the constraint of sovereign grace. The performing of God’s eternal decree demanded it. It was His will that the Samaritans should hear the good news about the kingdom and that they would hear it from the lips of His beloved Son. There were chosen souls that He must bring to the Father. We remember the Lord’s words ‘other sheep I have, which are not of this (Jewish) fold: them also I must bring’, John 10. 16. We shall never appreciate the gospel or pray correctly for its progress unless we understand that God is the first cause in salvation.
The place where He rested
‘Cometh he . . . near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well’, John 4. 4, 5.
What a journey it was, not just the physical day to day walking north and south in the land, but the journey from the manger to the cross!. This was a significant place for Him to rest. In his New Translation, J. N. DARBY points out that the Egyptian name, Zaphnaph Peniah, given by Pharoah to Joseph, could be translated ‘sustainer of life’ and ‘saviour of the world’. All that remained of Joseph’s body were a few bones, his saving work long since past. But now Jesus, God’s Son, ‘Saviour of the world’, journeys to that place where, for all eternity, sin would be dealt with and humanity offered, in grace, salvation full and free.
The question He asked
‘There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith under her, Give me to drink’, John 4. 7.
This was no accidental meeting; God’s hour had struck when she was to meet her Saviour. The Lord was at the well first. When it comes to salvation He is always first! I am reminded of the famous text, ‘All that the father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I shall in no wise cast out’, John 6. 37. The question we need to ask is ‘Was He physically thirsty?’ It would seem from verse 34 that He was not physically hungry and by the same token, both food and drink to him were spiritual. He was thirsting to give this woman ‘living water’. In His foreknowledge He knew there were many Samaritans to be saved. And the refreshment he had in mind was to minister His grace to needy sinners. She would have to receive before she should give.
The discussion that followed
In the subsequent discourse the Lord is weaning her away from the physical to the spiritual. He tells her about ‘living water’. He excites her by saying that she would never thirst again. ‘Give me this water that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw’, she said. How is He going to get her mind off the physical and on to the spiritual. He does it through deity! For this One, sitting on this well, is more than man. He is God in flesh. He knew her past life intimately, He knew she had had five husbands, (most unlikely they were all dead!). He knew, presently, that she was living in adultery! But He also knew that she was thirsty to fill and satisfy her parched and hollow life. So He put the finger of deity on her conscience and asked her to call her husband! The question, like an arrow, stabs her to the heart, so she perceiving Him to be a prophet answers truthfully, ‘I have no husband’, v. 17. It is a solemn thought to be constantly overseen by Omniscience. The all seeing, all knowing God who knows us intimately; our downsittings and our uprisings, see Ps. 139. 1.
At this point, faced with the searching eyes of the Prophet, she seeks to recover lost ground by changing the subject! A common ploy used at times by us all! She launches out on a completely new but controversial subject; worship, v. 20
Any topic that will ease the convicting of sin will be used, so she settles for an argument on the ‘place’ of worship. Perhaps we should pause here and reflect on our attitude to worship. The Lord was concerned about getting her to the person to be worshipped more than the place. The presence of Christ on earth was changing the method and manner of worship It would no longer be the tabernacle, the temple or Mount Gerizim but the glorious person of our beloved Lord Jesus Christ. A new order of things was about to be established. Not now the Old Covenant – Jehovah, but the New Covenant – the Father. It is no longer that Gerizim is the wrong place and Jerusalem the right place, but rather it will be where the Father and the Son are. It will be ‘where the two or three are gathered together in my name’, Matt. 18. 20. To worship Him spiritually is to give God the homage of an instructed and enlightened mind and an affectionate heart. To worship truly is to worship the Lord according to the truth, that is the revelation in His word that He has given of Himself.
What was the conclusion of the discussion? ‘Come’, she said, ‘see a man, that told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ (Messiah), v. 29. What a lovely sequel, the physical superseded by the spiritual! Once there is a clear perception of Christ in the soul, once He is the centre of our thinking, the natural and fleshly loses its value. The love of Christ constrained her! For her to live was Messiah!
The rebuke He administered
‘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’, John 4. 35.
Now, instead of being faint and weary the Lord is full of vigour and energy even though He had eaten no natural food. His ‘meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work’, v. 34. The disciples, on the other hand, also, could not see past the physical. Now it was their turn to be taught a lesson on spiritual food; reaping a harvest for God. He is saying to them, ‘Open your eyes, can you not see what I see? - Samaritans who need ‘living water!’ To the disciples Samaria was a most unlikely place to work in and harvest for their Master. As far as they were concerned there was a cultural problem with the Samaritans. They were ‘halfcast’. It was not appropriate yet to bring them the good news of the kingdom. I believe their Master was frustrated, perhaps even angry, as He saw their lack of spiritual perception. He might have said to them ‘I have just ploughed a field, sowed a seed and reaped a harvest, sitting on a well’. The Samaritans, He might have continued, ‘are, not only ripe, but overripe for a spiritual harvest’. The fields which He observed, were not worldwide fields (although we so often interpret them as such). They were Samaritan fields, not across the seas, but just down the road, between the hills of Judea and the plains of Galilee. What a stinging rebuke. The conclusion of His assessment is clear, a mission, not of a week or a month but just two days,‘ And many more believed on him, because of his own word’, v. 41.
In the Lord’s work of propagating the gospel I have come to believe that if the conditions are right, fields that at first appear difficult turn out to be not as difficult as they first appeared.