Some Thoughts on John's Gospel: Chapter 4

John 4
Jesus Himself did not baptize, because He was presented as the Messiah to the Jews; and knowing that He was rejected, and that He must take His true character as Savior-God, He did not baptize for a thing that should pass away. His disciples baptized, but with the baptism of John. As a prophet, Jesus followed the same preaching as John. He preached that the kingdom was near. Our Evangelist, John, has given us the ministry of Jesus, exercised in Jerusalem, while the others give us that which He fulfilled in Galilee.
Jesus leaves Judea because the Jews would not receive Him-His heart aggrieved at seeing their rejection of Him. He leaves, therefore, in pure righteousness, this place of religious pride, to betake Himself among the " poor of the flock," and passes through Samaria, where He presents Himself simply as the Savior of sinners. It is there He commences His public ministry, as we have said. Remark now, it is observed, that Sychar was near the possession of Jacob, which shows that the Samaritans were in the territory of Israel, though they had a false worship in opposition to that which was offered at Jerusalem. The Jews were right in keeping aloof from them, not wishing to mix with the Samaritans, because it was according to the mind of God to testify against the false worship, and in favor of the truth that God had committed to their trust. But Jesus could visit Samaria, because He was on the ground of grace towards all men indiscriminately.
Jesus arrives at the well, wearied everyway; and there we see in Him the real Man, undergoing all human weakness. And precisely in these circumstances, and at the very well, He meets with a poor sinner-the Samaritan woman who had been familiar with the passions of this world; for truly sin is the companion of man. She, in consequence of her conduct, was isolated from the society of this world-she was ashamed of being found with the other women. The sixth hour corresponds with our noon, and the evening was the ordinary time of the women going to draw the water. Jesus (marvelous to say!) is found in the same external circumstances. He had been driven away by the Jews, and still more isolated than the woman in this world, not because of sin, but because of His holiness and faithfulness. And thus these two persons, who were, as it were, the two extremes, are found in the same place, drawn there at this hour by such different motives.
Then, indeed, He who had created the water abases Himself to the point of seeking a little water from this woman. " If thou knewest the gift of God!" If she knew that God is not there as on Mount Sinai, surrounded with thunderings and with fire, Jesus is here the gift of God, and God is a giver, and such for the greatest of sinners. In Jesus God gives, not demands, as He did with the law. It is not a question of what man is, or of what he should be. Jesus brings with Him all that is needful for man. It is only sinners who are found in company with the Savior. " If thou knewest ... thou wouldst have asked of him." That is, if she had known that God had come down so low to meet men, she would then have had confidence and liberty to ask Him anything! The knowledge of Jesus produces this confidence, because by nature sin has made as distrustful of God. Water is eternal life by the Holy Spirit. Water for Israel, in the wilderness, is only a figure of that which we have who believe.
But the poor woman is full of her misery, and knows not how to lift herself above it. Such is the natural man who understands not the things of the Spirit. This is the way always, so that Jesus is obliged to take another way with her-that is to say, by her conscience, which every man has. And when the conscience is convicted, then the spiritual intelligence comes into existence. The woman replies, "I have no husband," which words, in confessing one part of the truth, hides another part of it. Jesus touches her conscience. Such is the power of the Word of God, which strikes the conscience, penetrates into it, exposes the evil there, and the effect is that one knows that God has been there. The Word of God is a two-edged sword that penetrates deeply into the soul, and nothing can resist it.
The woman then perceives that He is a prophet. But still she seeks to avoid the effect of this question, and wishes to reason on worship. This opposition affords opportunity to Jesus to reveal the new relationship established between God and man. From henceforth God sets everything aside not only the false worship on their mountain, but also the true at Jerusalem, with which God had proved if the flesh-the natural man-could worship God with forms and outward ceremonies. But all was in vain. And now that God is fully revealed in His Son, it is necessary that worshippers be adapted to His own nature. God is a Spirit and must be worshipped in Spirit and in truth. It is necessary, therefore, that worshippers worship Him according to what He is. The Father Himself seeketh such worshippers: if He puts on one side this new worship needful for God, on the other the grace of the Father seeks the worshippers.
It appears she had wants in her soul; and when once the conscience was convicted by the Word of God, she recognizes Christ as a prophet, and Jesus says, " I, that speak unto thee, am he." If a soul can truly say I need Christ, then we can answer him with certainty you have Him; because, when God touches the heart, it is a proof that God is there to work this.
At this point the woman leaves her waterpot, symbol of the object of her pre-occupation before knowing Christ; but after having known Him, the waterpot no longer comes into her mind. Other things far greater occupy her mind and heart. And when the eternal things of God are the object of the heart, terrestrial things are no longer anything, or at best but accessories. She leaves the waterpot and goes to preach; and, full of Christ, she fears not to speak to all. " He told me all that ever I did." She is no longer ashamed to confess her past sins, for she has been in the presence of the Judge, and He has not remembered them to her.
The Lord had come, as we have said, tired in body and 'grieved in soul, to the well; but then He is comforted and refreshed with a food that the disciples themselves knew not yet. They did not yet know the secret that Jesus carried within Himself. The conversation with this woman was to Him a sign that the fields were white to harvest, notwithstanding His rejection. The secret meat of Christ is the salvation of the souls-that He found in the path of perfect obedience to His Father. The disciples had looked upon Samaria, not as a country ripe for harvest, but rather as an impure place.
How marvelous is the conduct of Jesus with this poor sinner. He has stooped so low, in order to inspire confidence and liberty in our hearts. He asked a little favor from the woman, in order that she, and we too, might be able to receive from His hands His gifts. He wished to drink a little of our water in order to invite us to drink of His living fountain, as He had once done to Abraham, from whom He was pleased to accept a little of his kid, to eat at the door of his tent, with a view of revealing to him His own eternal counsels (Gen. 23). He accepted a sojourn of two days amongst the Samaritans in order to taste the joy of the harvest.
Let us recapitulate this most precious subject. The Lord had presented to the woman the privileges of. eternal life, according to the power of the Holy Spirit. He had announced that God gave and did not exact, and that the water which He gave would be a fountain of water springing up to eternal life. He had shown that, to know that God has come down so low, inspires confidence in the heart, but the carnal man understands not spiritual things, and the restless woman cares not to be freed from her toil. Then the Lord works that which we need. In His love He makes His word penetrate into her conscience, saying to her, " Go call thy husband." The word convicted her conscience, and makes her feel that God knows all, and that she is now found in His presence. The woman understands that Christ was a prophet, because He brought the Word of God, which thoroughly exposed her.
Observe, that spiritual intelligence is formed through the conscience. Although there were wants in her heart, yet she was quite in a maze, as, is the case with many souls. Speaking of external religious things, of the mountain and of Jerusalem,-of worship true and false, the Lord makes her feel that it is not a question of any external worship, but that God had revealed Himself, and that therefore there was the necessity of spiritual worship; and further, that the Father in His grace, was seeking worshippers. This leads the woman to say that the Messiah, who was to come, would teach her everything. Then Christ fully reveals Himself.
Spiritual intelligence enters into man by the word-God is recognized by the word. The need of Christ is there seen where His name is known, and He fully reveals Himself. But He who has spoken from the beginning is this very Christ: and if the conscience has been convicted, He will be revealed; and the soul, freed from its anxiety, will receive power. The woman has gone to tell of Christ in the city, and has forgotten her waterpot.
The Samaritans, after having had Jesus with them for two days, tell the woman, " We have heard from himself and know," etc. They had digested the word from the Lord, and they were not contented with only hearing it only. And this is an important thing. The Word must be digested in the heart. As natural food, the Word becomes part of ourselves, and becomes our power and our life. Otherwise if it be but heard, it becomes a matter of memory, and not of power and of life.
The country of which He speaks (verse 44) is Judea. After two days so happily spent in Samaria, He goes into Galilee, where He finds, therefore, a faith inferior to that of the Samaritans. They receive Him only because of the things they had seen Him do in Jerusalem; and Jesus says to them, " Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe." The Samaritans had believed Jesus on His own word, but the Galileans believed on Him for the works.
Moreover, this kind of faith lowers the dignity of the Lord, or rather fails to apprehend Him in His true dignity. The Samaritans own Him as " the Savior of the world;" the Galilean nobleman but partly believes in Him as able to cure his sick child.