We continue in the Gospel of John chapter 4. The story of Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the well of Jacob. Studying the scripture closer you will find a deeper understanding of this encounter with this woman. Part 2
Just as with Nicodemus and spiritual birth, now Jesus is speaking to someone else, in this case about water, using this as an earthly metaphor for spiritual life. And like Nicodemus, Jesus addresses this woman who is captive in a false religious system of worship, a false religion. He’s calling her to know the true God, to seek the truth and put aside the myths and false creeds. Jesus says she’s missing an important opportunity because she lacks two things. Notice these two things He says are holding her back from knowing the truth. Things that are closely related.
First, she doesn’t know the gift of God. What is this gift of God? We know Jesus is on the topic of eternal life. Therefore, we must assume He’s talking about the gift that leads to eternal life. Paul explains that to us in Ephesians. Samaritan Woman
Ephesians 2:8-9 (NKJV)
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
If she had known the grace of God manifested through the gift of faith, Jesus says, then she could have recognized Jesus. Ironically, she had just mocked Jesus because He had asked her for a gift of water from the well and Jesus says she should have been the one asking Him for the gift.
Secondly, Jesus says if she had known to whom she was speaking. If she knew Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God. If she had known His true identity, which clearly she doesn’t at this point. She would have been interested in entirely different things. If you know you’re talking to the One Who can grant you salvation, then no matter how that conversation starts, you are going to turn it to the question of eternal life, aren’t you? If you knew this is the One, the only One Who can make a difference if I go to heaven or if I go to hell. I’m guessing no matter where it starts you are going to end up on a conversation about heaven. Or so you should. Samaritan Woman
Knowing Christ is the Messiah is only possible with the gift of faith. So by God’s given gift of faith in the heart, we come to understand who Christ is and by our understanding of Who He is, we seek Him. Men cannot find the Truth, the Bible says, in their own power. It’s as if you and I were placed in an infinitely large room filled with boxes but with absolutely no light in that room whatsoever. And in one of those boxes is a treasure you want to find. Unless and until the light in that room is turned on, you have no hope to find the right box. Even if you happened to cross the box that held the treasure, you would more likely stumble over it than you would be actually to know to open it and see what was in it. And that’s what the Bible has to say about the Gospel. Paul says in 2 Corinthians chapter 4 verse 3 –
2 Corinthians 4:3-7 (NKJV)
3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age (Satan) has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. 5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Cast Down but Unconquered
7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.
Notice that, the same God who spoke light into existence in Creation is also the One Paul says Who shines, so to speak, in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in Christ. It is by an act of the gift of God through the Spirit that our hearts are illuminated to the knowledge of Who Christ is. We need that Light from God in order to find that treasure of eternal life. Because that light is delivered in the form of earthen vessels, first and foremost in Christ Himself, then through His ambassadors, it’s designed to defeat the pride of men. It leads to moments like this when this woman is stumbling over Jesus because He doesn’t look like a Messiah. He doesn’t fit the expectations of a Messiah. Who is going to expect to meet a Messiah walking a dusty road in the middle of Samaria? That’s not the way He is supposed to come. Not at least to the human idea to the sense we are looking for. Samaritan Woman
The woman is arguing with Jesus, the Creator, over rules and cultural prejudices rather opening that treasure that is standing before her. Which is why He begins by saying, you know if you only knew the gift of God and if you knew Who was standing here before you, things would be different. But the woman isn’t on Jesus’ wavelength, yet… she’s still having an earthly conversation that misses Jesus’ point. Look where she goes next:
John 4:11-12 (NKJV)
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?”
She hears Jesus’ words about living water, and she assumes He’s talking about the literal moving water, the fresh water. To her unopened ears, it would sound as though Jesus was offering to draw water from this well or from another well perhaps that is superior to this one and improve her situation concerning the water. Then she notices that Jesus doesn’t even have anything to draw water with. And this well in Samaria, this particular well where they are standing near Sychar is still there today. You can go tour it. It is over 75 feet deep which for that region, particularly in ancient times was very deep. She is remarking on the fact, He isn’t going to do much good without a way to draw the water, mocking Him in the process. She is a bit perplexed by what He is offering. She’s not done with her insults, she mocks Him again by saying, You’re not greater than “our” father, Jacob. Jacob was probably one of the most important figures in Samaritan theology. He was even greater than Abraham or Moses for that matter. He was their link to true Judaism. In the Bible, Abraham is associated with the land of Judea, which reminded the Samaritans of their enemies in Jerusalem. And Moses was the link to the Jewish law, which the Samaritans had to completely change in order to fit their preferred view of the world. So, to them, Jacob was king in Samaria.
So the woman reminds Jesus, you are not greater than our father, Jacob. Notice she puts that word “our” in there. Take note, this degree of pride always accompanies man-made religion. Like all Samaritans, this woman lived with a religious chip on her shoulder. She is always primed to defend her faith, her religion against any accusation, particularly one coming from a Jew. Every relic, every acre of sacred land, every symbol was important and worthy of defense in this religion. That is the heart of every religious system that is constructed without the gift of faith, without the knowledge of Christ truly. People generally defend man-made religious systems even when the truth is against them. Even when it is self-evidently against them. Because the alternative would be to concede that their religion is based on lies. Their pride and ego, in fact, their very identity is at stake.in that conversation. This woman is blindly defending her culture and history. At least she is trying to do that, certainly. Because that’s what man-made false religion leads to. Pharisaical piety. A mindset that says we are right because it is our view.
God’s word reveals the truth, of course, and because that truth comes by way of
a gift, the gift of God. By its very nature, it excludes prideful boasting by those who know the truth. In fact, you’ve probably seen this pattern within the church. Of course, we are not immune to pride even though we know the truth. We can become very prideful about having accepted the Gospel, of all things. They were smart enough or born in the right place and at the right time to know the truth of the Gospel and they look down at those who reject it. Forgetting they gained nothing of their own power, it was entirely a gift of God they were saved. Paul says it in a couple of places.
Romans 3:27-28 (NKJV)
27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.
1 Corinthians 1:27-31 (NKJV)
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 (insignificant) 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. 30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— 31 that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 4:7 (NKJV)
7 For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?
We certainly work diligently to defend the truth every bit as much as those trapped in false religious systems defend what they believe. I am not suggesting we have any less desire to defend. But our defense doesn’t (or shouldn’t) be focused on saving face
or protecting our pride. As Paul says, what do we have that wasn’t given to us by God anyway? We didn’t figure this out on our own, and neither should we expect to argue someone else into accepting the truth. We are messengers, and the power of our message is self-evident to those who are being saved. And it is veiled to those who are perishing. The message of salvation isn’t designed to sound sensible to human
intellect or pride. It is designed to sound foolish and therefore, shame the pride of men who think they can find God in their own power, by their own devices. Consider it, the message that saved you and I is the message that says a criminal crucified long ago is the secret, the power of God to get us into heaven. At face value, it makes no sense. The person who receives the Gospel is showing evidence they have received the wisdom of God by means of the Spirit. Such that, something that sounds foolish to humanity has suddenly become the power of God in their heart. That’s the proof of it, that you would accept the foolish message.
The question in our current scenario is whether this woman is going to receive that wisdom or not. To this point, she’s simply defending the Samaritan perspective as a
matter of pride. And she’s arrogantly insulting Jesus in the process to make the worst of it. She ends by asking Jesus if He is greater than Jacob? This is such an ironic insult because it’s exactly true. Yes, Jesus is so much greater than Jacob, He made the man. He is the God of Jacob. Jesus’ response graciously ignores her insult and just continues on teaching on the meaning of living water.
John 4:13-14 (NKJV)
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.”
Jesus points to the water in the well and says, you know if you rely on this water you have to keep coming back. Physical water can only provide temporary satisfaction. No matter how often you drink of it, sooner or later you get thirsty again. But of course, what Jesus is talking about here goes far beyond the physical. He’s speaking of how man-made religion cannot satisfy the soul’s longing to be reconciled with God. No matter how often this woman sacrifices at that temple on Mt. Gerizim, or no matter how often she prays to her idols or how often she tithes or how much she gives. None of those things are going to take away the guilt of her sin. None of those things are going to leave her satisfied. She can come back over and over and over again, her guilt is going to remain.
No human ritual or human work can achieve what only comes by the gift of God. Eventually, her doubts return, her fears of death return and as you get older they only get more pronounced if you don’t know the Lord. Nothing in this world will satisfy those things. Because rituals do not cancel out spiritual debt nor do they fill that spiritual emptiness every unbeliever has. But Jesus gives her a better way. He says, first, the one who seeks has to come to Jesus. You have to come to Jesus for this water. You don’t come to a physical well, obviously. You don’t come to a relic, you don’t come to a cross. I know we use that in our songs and I get why we mean that. But we don’t come to a cross, we come to the man on the cross. We come to Christ. And that’s an important distinction, I think. Because in some places you talk to people who don’t know the Lord but they come out of a religious system in which relics are key. You say you have to go to a cross, you are just reinforcing perhaps a relic mindset there. You need to turn it to the person of Christ. You come to the person of Christ because our faith must be in Him and His death and in His resurrection. So first you come to Him.
Secondly, what Jesus is offering, He says is everlasting. Not a temporary solution, not a partial solution. You are never going to have to seek it a second time. His solution satisfies because it addresses the very cause for our seeking: that is, it removes the penalty for sin. In that way, we are reconciled Paul says to God forever, so we will never want for anything again. Thirdly, once the Spirit takes up residence inside us, which happens at that moment of faith, He becomes a wellspring. Imagine a supply of water in the ground coming up under such force that you cannot contain it. I imagine the rock at Horeb must have looked something like that in the Exodus. It couldn’t have been contained and it just overflowed. That’s the picture of Christ as Living Water. That process in us spiritually speaking is a movement of the spirit in us to change us from within so that even as we have been saved by the work of the Spirit in our heart, we become sanctified by that work. That work starts to move outward in the sense of who we are to the world, looks different day, to-day, to-day. As what’s going on inside us changes who we are. That is the sanctifying process of the Spirit living in us. That’s the wellspring of eternal life
“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”
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