Imagine being stranded in a desert, the sun beating down on you relentlessly and your tongue so dry that it’s nearly glued to the roof of your mouth. You’re desperate for even the smallest drop of water, and just as you think all hope is lost, you glance into the distance and you spot a flowing stream. You rush to it in joyful anticipation, and as you lower your hands in to scoop out some cool fresh water, you find out that it was merely an illusion, and you almost drank a handful of hot sand instead.
Would it surprise you to learn that this scenario is playing-out every single day for people all across the world? Today we will be studying the encounter that a certain woman had at a well, when she encountered a man that she wasn’t expecting, and found a treasure she never even knew existed.
Our scripture today is going to start with John 4:3-10:
“He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee.
And he must needs go through Samaria.
Then comes he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, 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: and it was about the sixth hour.
There comes a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus said to her, Give me to drink.
(For his disciples were gone away to the city to buy meat.)
Then said the woman of Samaria to him, How is it that you, being a Jew, ask drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.
Jesus answered and said to her, If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that said to you, Give me to drink; you would have asked of him, and he would have given you living water.”
Here we see Jesus stopping to rest at a well, but let’s remember that there are no insignificant details in the Bible. Everything that the Holy Spirit records in the scriptures is there to show us something about Jesus. So let’s take a deeper look at these verses.
In verse 3 we see Jesus returning to Galilee, mainly for two reasons at this time… there are more people that need to hear Him, and also because of His rising popularity in Judea, He would soon have to confront the religious leaders, but He knew that this was not His time yet, so He chose to withdraw.
Verse 4 tells us something very interesting, that Jesus “must needs go through Samaria” – a double-imperative. Jesus has a really important reason for going through Samaria. Now it is true that the road through Samaria was the shortest route to get to Galilee, and it is also true that the Jews would avoid this road because of the hatred between the Jewish people and the Samaritans. Even so, Jesus needed to go through, and this need was not because of the travel time being saved, but because there were people in Samaria who needed to hear Him, as we will soon see.
Continuing on in verses 5 and 6, the Bible describes the place and time where Jesus stopped to rest, and the details here offer a lot to the scenario. Jacob’s well was a landmark, a lot of notable things happened at this place. Sychar is another name for Shechem, the place were God first appeared to Abram and renewed His promises to Abram and His descendants in Genesis 12:7. It was also the place where Joshua made a covenant with Israel, and the famous phrase was uttered “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” in Joshua 24:15.
Also in verse 6, we can see that Jesus was wearied from His journey. This is an important detail because there are those who say that Jesus was still immune to human frailties even while He walked on the earth, but no my friends, we can see here that He experienced all the things that we do as humans… including being tired. He was acquainted with all of our human weaknesses, yet without sin.
We further see in verse 6 that it was about the sixth hour. This translates to about 12pm noon, the beginning of the hottest period of the day. It was unusual for a woman to come out at this time to draw water. Typically they would come out earlier to avoid the heat, and they would also not come alone but in groups. This tells us that the woman who comes to meet Jesus is a social outcast.
Now look at verse 7, here comes the woman at this strange hour, and Jesus spoke to her. He was the One who initiated the conversation. Just as with each of us, we never reach for God first, but He always reaches for us. It was even more unusual because Jesus was a Rabbi, and rabbi’s would not speak to women in public, and also considering the animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans, it was also highly odd for Jesus to ask a Samaritan for something or even accept a drink from one.
Verse 8 tells us that this was a personal meeting. When you have an encounter with Jesus, it will always be personal. No distractions, just God and you. This is the preferred way in which God desires to talk with us, in a personal setting with no outside influences, but we often do not give Him the time.
Next we see in verse 9 that the woman was caught off-guard by the behavior of Jesus, both by His request and by His willingness to talk with her. As we already know, it was unusual for several reasons. Remember also that this woman came out to draw water at this time because she was a social outcast. She was not expecting anyone to talk to her, let alone a Jewish rabbi! And why did Jesus engage her in conversation? Look at verse 10…
Jesus says something that to our human minds seems strange at first. He shifts the conversation from asking the woman for a drink, to now demonstrating that there is a source of water greater than what she thinks. This is the part that most people get confused. Many believers feel that in order to be accepted by God, they must serve Him, when in truth, He wants us to drink from Him, because we can only truly bear good fruit for service when we are filled with Him. It is His Spirit within us that enables us to serve – It has nothing to do with being accepted by God. Jesus did not ask this woman for a drink because He was thirsty, He asked her for a drink to expose her own lack – to show her that in reality, she has no drink to offer Him, and in doing so He could then offer her the true water of Himself.
Likewise, you and I have nothing that we can offer God, no amount of good works or self-effort can repair the taint of sin inside each of us. But there is a well of living water that can not only wash away the sin, but also satisfy us beyond our wildest dreams.
Let’s continue the story with verses 11-14 of this same chapter in John 4:
“The woman said to him, Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from where then have you that living water?
Are you greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?
Jesus answered and said to her, Whoever drinks of this water shall thirst again:
But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”
In verse 11, the woman demonstrates the weakness of human logic. The carnal mind can not perceive the things of God (1st Corinthians 2:14). The more self-occupied and self-centered we become, the more foolish we get, because true wisdom can only come from one source, and that is Jesus (Proverbs 9:10). Jesus was speaking of Salvation, the water of the Word and of His Holy Spirit which would be poured out upon all who are willing, but she was still thinking in earthly terms.
Then in verse 12, she further demonstrates her spiritual blindness by asking Jesus if He is greater than Jacob. Now keep this verse in mind, because as we continue, you will see a transformation in this woman as she continues to talk with Jesus and see more of Him.
Next we have verse 13. Everyone in the city had to come to this well to get water to satisfy their physical need, and Jesus uses the analogy of thirst to speak to the real root need inside each of us, and that is spiritual need. It’s very common for people to try and satisfy their needs with anything other than Jesus. We turn to God last, only after all of our own efforts fail. We trust in man more than God. If we have a need, we look to the world and other things and people to satisfy us rather than turning to God. We’ll touch more on this point later as Jesus reaches the heart-matter of this woman (and of each of us also).
Now in verse 14, Jesus Jesus compares and contrasts His water versus the water of the world. He says whoever drinks of the water which I give Him will never thirst again. Some may object to this and say,
“I tried Jesus, but I was still thirsty so I gave up and turned back to the world and my own pleasures and desires.”
But notice that Jesus does not say “whoever sips of His water”, He says “whoever drinks of His water”. This is not speaking of mere tasting, but of drinking and absorbing fully the water which Jesus is offering. Hebrews 6:4-6 carries a strong warning for those who merely sip or taste the water of Christ, and that’s another study altogether.
In addition, that word “drinks” used in John 4:14 also carries meaning of a continual action. In other words, you don’t drink of Jesus once and then leave Him on the shelf while you go about your own business… you continually drink of Jesus, absorb Him fully and incorporate Him into every area of your life. This is further spelled out as Jesus continues in the rest of verse 14… Because not only does His water completely satisfy us, but it also creates and becomes something inside us as well. It becomes a wellspring that we can continually receive from, and that ultimately gives us everlasting life. How then do we make use of this here on earth? The woman wanted the same answer, so let’s continue further…
“The woman said to him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come here to draw.
Jesus said to her, Go, call your husband, and come here.
The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said to her, You have well said, I have no husband:
For you have had five husbands; and he whom you now have is not your husband: in that said you truly.
The woman said to him, Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.”
Verse 15 shows us that the woman is now interested, she wants what Jesus is offering, but her human reasoning is still an area of stumbling because she still has her mind set on the physical realm.
Jesus doesn’t let that stop Him, and continues to move toward her real heart-issue.
In verse 16 Jesus makes a direct move to the root cause, and tells the woman to go call her husband. This is a calculated request in order to force the real issue to be exposed, Jesus is truth, and we can not hide anything from Him. We try to hide, and think that if we truly expose our ugliness to Him that He will reject us, but in reality, we can never hide from Him, and all He really wants is for us to come to Him honestly and openly – and it is our failure to be honest with Him and our attempts to hide and keep areas of our life from Him that truly can spell doom for us in the end – if we do not give ourselves to Him, He can not redeem us.
In verse 17, we see the natural carnal response of the woman and of every worldly person, to try and hide our flaws from Jesus. She tells Jesus that she has no husband, but Jesus knows that she is holding back. Likewise our natural response is to try and hide our flaws, to put our best angle forward and to cover ourselves with “good works” just like Adam an Eve tried to cover themselves with fig-leaves. But the truth of the matter is, if we come to Jesus touting our own self, He will expose us and bring us to the end of ourselves, but if we come to Him as we truly are, He will wash us and lift us up (Isaiah 40:4). Everyone stands equal before the LORD.
Jesus does exactly that in Verse 18. Jesus tells the woman the exact information that she didn’t want Him to know; the very thing she was trying to keep from Him. Now He did not do this to shame her, but her sinful life needed to be exposed and dealt with. She was trying to protect her self, and Jesus was showing her that her self needed to die. This brings us back to the opening of this study… each of us are in a spiritual desert, and there is one source of true water, and that is Jesus… but so many people choose to drink mirages full of sand instead of from Jesus. This woman was in need of love, as we all are, but instead of going to the one true source, Jesus, she went through a half-dozen men. She turned to people instead of God to fill a need in her life, and now Jesus was confronting the heart-issue. He had to bring her to the most important decision she will ever make: Does she desire her sinful-life, or the Savior?
Now in verse 19, we see a sign of progress, the woman now sees Jesus as a prophet, still not a full revelation of Jesus, but an improvement over her fully-carnal mind back in verse 12.
In closing, let’s conclude the story with John 4:20-30:
“Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and you say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.
Jesus said to her, Woman, believe me, the hour comes, when you shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.
You worship you know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship him.
God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
The woman said to him, I know that Messias comes, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things.
Jesus said to her, I that speak to you am he.
And on this came his disciples, and marveled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seek you? or, Why talk you with her?
The woman then left her water pot, and went her way into the city, and said to the men,
Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?
Then they went out of the city, and came to him.”
In verse 20, the woman now counters the uncomfortable topic of her five husbands and sin, by offering an argument about the proper place of worship, this is her flesh-nature trying to protect itself again. However Jesus is not distracted and He does not take the bait. He stays focused on saving her soul rather than winning an argument.
We see in verses 21 and 22 that Jesus fixes her thoughts back on what is truly important: knowing God. He tells her that she worships what she does not know. This is in reference to a Samaritan belief that Moses had an altar built on Mount Gerazim, which justified their worship there and in addition to that they mixed elements of different religions into their system of worship – and so they were worshiping what they did not know.
In verses 23 and 24, Jesus explains what true worship is: worshiping in spirit and in truth. Now this has manifold (multi-layered) meaning, but ultimately both point to Jesus. To worship in Spirit means under the direction and guidance of the Spirit (which is the words of Jesus, John 6:63). And it also means to stay focused on spiritual matters and not he distractions and trappings of this life.
To worship in truth means to worship according to the whole counsel of God in the light of Jesus Christ. If you are reading your Bible, but not seeing Jesus, then you are missing the point. Jesus says that He is the truth in John 14:6.
In verse 25, the woman – for the first time – demonstrates a slight glimmer of belief that the Messiah will come and teach her these things, and that slight glimmer of faith the size of a mustard seed is all Jesus needs.
In verse 26, Jesus reveals Himself to her. It doesn’t matter that she is a sinner. It doesn’t matter that she doesn’t understand everything. All that matters is that she was willing to let go of her pre-concieved ideas, her wrong beliefs and her self, and put her trust in Jesus. That’s all that is required for any of us.
Now verses 27 through 30 show the end result and the marvelous transformation of this woman. First in verse 27, we see that the disciples were also amazed to see Jesus talking with this woman. Even after walking with Him, they still did not grasp His true nature and character. It’s possible to be very close to Jesus distance-wise, but still miss Him. You can have Jesus all around you and still let Him slip through your fingers if you aren’t paying attention. We see here though that even though they are amazed at His behavior, no-one questioned Him regarding this woman, because it was a divinely orchestrated encounter… remember way back in verse 5 “He must needs go through Samaria”.
Verses 28 through 30 show the result of a genuine encounter with Jesus. This woman became an immediate evangelist. No Bible school. No three year course. Now I am not against Bible school at all. What I am saying though is that sometimes we put way too much confidence in a piece of paper called a certification, that is written by a man and is entirely man’s invention. The disciples of Jesus were many of them uneducated men.. but God specializes in qualifying the unqualified – and here we see this woman, with no training, and a social outcast on top of it all, doing what comes naturally, simply pointing people to Jesus… and she’s doing it because she had a genuinely wonderful encounter with Him that she wants to share. That is the natural response of someone who has been truly touched by Jesus Christ.
And in verse 30, we see that she was an effective witness. Someone who has been genuinely filled with the living water of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit will be an effective witness for Him, regardless of training, background or status. There are many people on platforms and behind podiums today who have degrees in the Bible but have no effectual power or business being there… even some that do not know Jesus at all! But to those whom God truly touches, they have the power to be effective witnesses for Him. And what is the key? Drink from the only water that truly satisfies. Forsake the sand-filled mirages and illusions of the world. Let go of what you have been clinging to in falsehood. Drink from Jesus and live.