Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), 3 he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. 4 And he had to pass through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.[a]
7 A woman from 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 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.[b] The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
As we move into chapter 4, I want you to hold on to the continuity of the gospel writer’s themes. One of the big themes, really in the first 3 chapters, was that of water. We’ve seen baptism, purification waters, water into wine, being born of water and spirit, and now here that theme of water continues as we see Jesus at a well of water discussing living water.
Verse 4: Why did He have to pass through Samaria?
A lot of people say that Jesus had to pass through Samaria, because He had a divine appointment there with the woman at the well, and it was providence pulling him through Samaria. As a Calvinist, I certainly would agree, because I believe that every appointment is a divine appointment. I believe all the writers of Scripture would assume that as well. I think the gospel writer’s intent in saying that Jesus had to pass through Samaria was mainly a geographical statement, though we of course would not deny providence. People often say that the Jews always went the long way around Samaria because they hated the Samaritans so much. While some did, many Jews, despite the hatred, passed through Samaria. Afterall, the disciples had no problem going into the town to buy food, and they weren’t attacked or thrown out.
Who were the Samaritans and why the animosity?
After Solomon’s reign, Israel splits into two kingdoms. The northern region established a capital that developed the name “Samaria.” This northern kingdom was taken captive by Assyria in 722 B. C. Most of the tribes of Israel were removed out of that area. However, there was a good amount of Jews who were left there in what would be known as Samaria. Not only that, but other non-Jews were brought into that region. So, they then began to intermarry as you can imagine. Eventually, the Jews who were in captivity returned to that area and of course tensions arose because the other Jews there had intermarried, and then would become known as the Samaritans. Eventually the Samaritans there stopped worshiping at Jerusalem, and established their worship at another mountain. They also considered only the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, to be the Word of God, and rejected the rest of Scripture. So they were heretics, and they intermarried with the other nations, which they were not to do. So, there was great conflict between the Jews and the Samaritans for these reasons. Understanding this helps us understand the significance of Jesus conversing with this Samaritan woman, who, as we will see next week, was not only a Samaritan woman, but an adulterous one at that.
The Woman Arrives, verse 7
I like what A. W. Pink says, “She chose this hour because she expected the well would be deserted. But, in fact, she went to the well that day, at that time, because God’s hour had struck when she was to meet the Savior.” You can try all you want to avoid Jesus, by avoiding His people, avoiding church, things of that nature, but when the divine hour strikes, you can be alone no longer. Jesus is there, for He seeks out His own. And He does not fail to find that which He seeks.
When Jesus tells the Woman to give Him a drink, I believe He has more than simply physical water in mind. We recognize that Jesus is speaking of Spiritual Living Water in all the surrounding verses, but leave this one just to mean physical. But this also has an underlying spiritual intent. If Jesus is telling the woman to give Him a drink of spiritual water, it is clear that she could not do so. Jesus is showing the woman that she has nothing to offer Him. He is showing her, her need. Jesus did not just turn the conversation to a spiritual one in verse 10, but it started with His initial request. And when it is clear that she cannot give Him a drink of living water, Jesus has laid the foundation to offer to her what she lacks with what He only can supply.
Essentially this is like a law and gospel presentation here. He’s giving her the law, she is exposed as incapable of fulfilling it, and in comes the gospel: “I’ll give you, what I ask of you.”
This is such a wonderful model for evangelism that we do well to follow, practice, and implement.
If the Woman Knew, verse 10
I love what John Gill says, “…for such who truly know Christ, the worth and value of him, and their need of him, will apply to him for grace, as they have encouragement to do; since all grace is treasured up in him, and he gives it freely, and upbraideth not; and souls are invited to ask it of him, and take it freely…”
Don’t we, so often, act similarly to this? We’re so busy running around trying to take care of our own lives and handle all our problems on our own. We even come into church wanting to hear practical ways we can handle things in our life better, yet we are ignoring the well of life sitting right in front of us, in the bread and wine. If we really knew the gift of God in His Son Jesus Christ, we would be going to Him and asking Him for a drink, and throwing ourselves at His feet, receiving grace from His hand. The gift of salvation is not us serving and doing things for God, it is God serving and doing the greatest thing for us through Christ. Each and every one of us are weak and insufficient sinners, who have no hope of salvation apart from humbling ourselves to simply receive from Christ, and allow Him to give to us, and we simply receive from His hand. If you truly knew the gift of God, you would have asked Him for a drink, and He would have given it to you. He would give it you! He would not withhold it from you or tell you to try harder on your own. He would give it to you. Let Him serve you. Let Him give to you. You would if you knew.
Jesus Questioned, verse 11-12
Here, Jesus is questioned. One of these questions is quite profound, and it does not get enough attention. She asks: “are you greater than our father Jacob?” Some people will say that she is asking these things mockingly and some say she’s asking genuine questions. We don’t know. There isn’t any real indication in the text. So we can just take the question at face value, as it seems Jesus does. So, “are you greater than our father Jacob?” In other words, she’s asking, “Do you have a better place to draw water? This well was good enough for Jacob, and are you too good for this water? Do you have better water than this?” This of course is precisely what Jesus would have her ask. She has fallen right into His apologetic hands. “Are you greater than our father Jacob?” “Well, now that you mention it…”
Jesus, Greater than Jacob, verse 13-14
What Jesus says in verse 13 and 14 is the answer to the woman’s question in verse 12, “are you greater than our father Jacob?” In short, the answer is yes! Let’s see why.
When Jesus talks about “living water” He is not making up something new. He is using terminology familiar to the Old Testament (although the Samaritans rejected the prophets, Jesus does not give up that ground for his authority. He stands on it, despite their rejection of it. Because it’s authority is not dependent on its acceptance. This is a great example for us, in standing on God’s word as authority in apologetics and evangelism. We don’t give it up, just because someone does not accept it). So what prophet spoke of living water? There’s multiple places, but I’ll just give you one. Jeremiah 2:13, God says, “…for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”
Jesus is saying, “I give living water, that you have rejected for broken cisterns that hold no water!” If you want this living water, throw out your broken cisterns and pots and vessels! The idea of the term “living water” is that of flowing water, an ever flowing spring of water. Which, as the woman is thinking more carnally here, that is what she would of thought of. “Jacob gave us this well. And it was good for him. Where is this spring of water you speak of? Are you greater than our father Jacob?”
Jesus answers by contrasting what they [Jesus and Jacob] have provided. Jesus doesn’t just say yes, but He demonstrates how He is better than Jacob.
Contrast Jesus and Jacob
Let’s take a moment and contrast Jesus and Jacob.
- Jacob provided a well, Jesus provides a spring.
- If you drink Jacob’s water, you will be thirsty again. If you drink Jesus’ living water, you will never thirst again.
- Jacob’s water, sustained temporary life. Jesus’ water gives eternal life.
- Jacob’s well was given to a man, Joseph, Jacob’s son, who brought a great temporary salvation. Now One comes and sits on the well who gives eternal Salvation.
I want to pause for a moment of application here, considering the fact that this well was handed down from Jacob to his descendants all the way through this day where Jesus Himself drinks from it. Jacob’s well prepared the way for the Savior to come to his straying descendants. So Jacob bought this piece of land, has this well, and hands it down and it is still there when Jesus comes along. What if Jacob never bought the land? Whatever Jacob never made the well? Or didn’t pass it down? Parents, what you do today matters. The foundation you lay for your children will not only affect them one way or the other, but it could affect your great great great great great great great great grand kids. The foundation and legacy of faithfulness you leave today can be used by God in future generations unknown to man. How is a legacy built and passed on? You’re no one special. How does someone who lives a quiet normal life leave a foundation and legacy to affect unknown future generations? By faithfulness in the little things. By Dads faithfully leading family worship on a regular basis. By mom’s faithfully changing diapers. By faithfully cooking. By faithfully praying and singing. By being faithful to do those things when no one is looking. It doesn’t seem like anything special in the moment, but it is and it’s all working together. Jacob didn’t do anything special. He just gave what he had to his son. He had a well so he gave his son the well.
The Puritans who first came to North America and settled the first colonies, they had a biblical worldview that was so thick, that even though it has been long since America has had any semblance of being a Christian nation, in many ways, we are still experiencing some of the benefits of Christianity, that was laid down as a foundation by those first puritans, because they had such a thick Christian worldview. If you set out to run your home with a thoroughly thick Christian worldview, as you should, let it be so thick, that generations and generations cannot escape it.
Jacob had no idea that the greater Jacob would one day come and sit on his well and offer living water to a straying and lost descendant. But He was faithful and far-sighted, looking in faith to that blessed day when the promised one would come and Jerusalem would flow with living waters.
Jesus and Jacob are not the only contrast in this story. There is also a contrast between Nicodemus and the Samaritan Woman that we ought to consider.
- The spiritual symbolism of divine truth was lost upon them. Nicodemus was thinking about physical birth when Jesus was speaking about spiritual birth; the Samaritan woman was thinking about well water, when Jesus was talking about living water.
- Both were alone with Jesus in conversation, perplexed at His divine speech.
- Both did not truly understand the Scripture. Jesus rebuked Nicodemus for being a teacher of Israel and not understanding these spiritual things. The woman did not know how Jesus could be greater than Jacob.
- Both were shown to be insufficient in themselves. Nicodemus could not re-enter his mother’s womb and be born again. The woman could not give Jesus a drink.
- Obviously Nicodemus was a man, and the woman was a woman.
- Nicodemus was a pharisee, a great teacher of Israel. The woman was a Samaritan, and an adulterous one at that.
- They each had different reasons for wanting to be alone. Nicodemus wanted to be alone because he had a dignified and righteous reputation. Being seen with Jesus could damage that. The woman wanted to be alone because she was shamed. Being with Jesus fixed that.
- Nicodemus met with Jesus in the dark of the night. The woman met with Jesus in the light of day. (Just as the darkness of night showed the spiritual state of Nicodemus, I think also the light of high noon, showed that spiritual light and understanding was about to come to his woman upon her meeting Christ).
- Nicodemus sought out Jesus to question Him. The woman stumbled upon Him.
My friends, it does not matter who you are, where you come from, what you have done or not done, your level of knowledge and intellect, Jesus Christ came for sinners. He came that the world through Him might be saved. There is no one too righteous that they do not have a need for Jesus, and there is no one too bad that they cannot be forgiven by Jesus.
Jesus sought this woman out. He initiated the conversation, and as we’ll see next week, He kept pressing the issue home, until the work was done. Jesus is the instigator here. The one who was despised and alone, Jesus sought out! He came for the weak, He came for the broken, He came for the big sinners – is that you?? I love how Matthew Henry puts it, “He is found of them that sought Him not.” In chapter 3 it seemed as if Nicodemus was seeking and searching, yet walked away having not found, at least at that point. But here, the Woman, who sought not Christ, found what she did not know she was looking for, for she had been found. She found what she did not know she needed. A willing Savior. A well of living water. She was content to return day after to the same old well that would not satisfy… until she was confronted and found out by Christ, who exposed here need and insufficiency, but fills it with Himself.
Isn’t that true of your life? If you’re a Christian you were weary and alone and needy and plagued by your sins… yet Jesus found you and gave you what you didn’t know you needed… You were once walking around with broken pots, in a hot desert with no water…lay down your busted pots and broken cisterns and come to Jesus Christ, the well and the water of life. The only One who satisfies. Nothing else does. That well you go to, you have to keep going back to it again and again and again, and it does not satisfy.
You are a Gentile sinner… Jesus asks you to give him a drink… You are exposed… If you knew Him, you’d ask Him… He would give it to you…He holds out living water to you, the waters of salvation, the waters of life, eternal life. He holds out to you Himself, to take of Him and drink deeply that you may live.
The image of drinking water is a great illustration of faith. Christ holds out to us Himself as living water. We take the cup and drink, trusting in faith that it is water, that it is not poisoned, that it truly will satisfy our thirst and longing, and give us immortality. By drinking from the well of Christ, we are putting our lives in His hands, showing trust, exhibiting true faith, believing Him to be true. Jesus uses our physical senses to teach spiritual truths. That’s how God made this world. It all testifies to Him. That’s what Jesus did, he related truths of living water, with the use of literal water to the woman at the well. So when we drink a cool glass of water, it is God reminding us that as satisfying as that is, we will thirst again, but He offers us living water.
We need Jesus more than we need water for our bodies. We’ll die once without H2O; we’ll die twice without Christ.