WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT THE STORY OF “THE WOMAN AT THE WELL” – JESUS TRIES TO EXPLAIN SALVATION

“Then cometh 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 cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.”
John 4:5-7 KJV


This story reminds me a great deal of what is taking place in the Gospels, which is especially clear in the third and fourth chapters of John’s Gospel.  He is a little too caught up in his position as a Jew, a Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin, and a renowned teacher of the Old Testament law. There is a kind of confrontation in the third chapter of John. Nicodemus is willing to acknowledge that Jesus is “a teacher who has come from God.”  yet he falls a little short of actually saying that Jesus is a prophet. When Jesus tells him that he will not make it into the kingdom of God as he is, without being reborn from above, he seems to try to get Jesus to change His course rather than to change his own. Nicodemus does ask questions, but there seems to be little progress toward genuine faith, at least so far. His questions do not convey a willingness by Nicodemus to change his thinking, but rather a resistance to what Jesus is saying. The same fundamental issues described in John chapter 3 are present in chapter 4. “The woman at the well” is a Samaritan, and Samaritans have their own distinct religion, a corruption of the Jewish faith. If the woman at the well is to come to a saving faith, she must change her course, just as Jesus required of Nicodemus. Both Nicodemus and the woman at the well must decide what to do with what Jesus has told them. Ultimately, this decision is based upon who they believe Jesus to be. In John chapter 1 informs us of our Lord’s deity, this chapter speaks also of His humanity, Jesus was tired. It was just about high noon, so that our Lord’s fatigue may have been partly related to the heat of the day. Weary from their journey, Jesus and His disciples come to a parcel of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. On this land, a mile or so from the city of Sychar, was Jacob’s well. It was a deep well, a hundred feet deep or so, fed by a spring. Other water was available in the area, closer to town, but this well may have provided the best water. It was at this well that Jesus sat down to rest. The Bible says, “There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.) Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.” John 4:7-9 KJV  Three things about this woman seem to put her at a distinct disadvantage. First, she is a Samaritan. Second, she is guilty of sexual immorality, and third, she is a woman. We have already commented about the way the Jews felt toward the Samaritans. We are not left in doubt about how the Pharisees would have dealt with such a woman.  In asking her for a drink of water, Jesus catches this woman completely off guard. Jews did not share eating or drinking utensils with Samaritans. The woman cannot help but inquire of Jesus why He would ask the unthinkable. Our Lord’s willingness to cast aside cultural barriers gets this woman’s attention. Then Jesus whets the woman’s appetite. It says in the Bible, “Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh 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.” John 4:10-14 KJV  Our Lord’s answer is far from what this woman expects to hear. Jesus does not explain how He can ask to drink water from her cup. Instead, He immediately seeks to show her that she is the one in need of “water,” and that the “water” He gives is vastly superior to the water she can give. Notice the elements of this revelation. First, our Lord moves from literal water (a drink of water) to a “spiritual” water, the salvation which our Lord offers this woman. Second, Jesus indicates to this woman that there is something of which she is ignorant. She knows neither the “gift of God” nor the identity of the One speaking to her. If she knew these things, Jesus tells her, she would be asking Him for a drink, and He would have given her “living water” to drink. The woman does not understand what Jesus is saying, but she does understand that He is claiming to be someone important, and to have something she would want if she knew who He was and what He could give her. Just as Nicodemus was confused as it says in the Bible, “There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:1-15 KJV  So if His water is truly better water than that which can be drawn from this well, then Jesus must at least think He is better than Jacob, who dug the well, used it to bountifully provide for men and flocks alike, and then gave it to his descendants, among whom this woman considers herself. Does Jesus dare claim to be better than Jacob? Jesus does not answer the question about being greater than Jacob quite yet. The Bible says, “The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.” John 4:15-18 KJV  If there is one thing this Samaritan is willing to admit she needs, it is water. That is why she comes out to Jacob’s well. Jesus asks her for some of this water, and then proceeds to inform her that He has better water, living water, water that produces eternal life, water that permanently quenches thirst. The woman is ready for this kind of water. And so she tells Jesus she would like some of His “water.” She obviously doesn’t really understand what this “water” is, but she is ready to accept some of it. She would gladly make this her last trip to Jacob’s well in the heat of the day. So Jesus instructs this woman to go and get her husband, and bring him back to the well. Jesus has now moved to the deepest level of this woman’s need, her need for cleansing from sin. To do this, He gently exposes sin in her life. He does so by telling her to bring her husband. She chooses to conceal her sin by giving Jesus an answer that is factually truthful, but functionally dishonest. She tells Jesus she has no husband. Jesus reveals His omniscience by informing the woman that she is technically correct, she does not have a husband. She has had five husbands, and the man she is now with is not her husband. Either way, Jesus has told this woman enough for her to correctly conclude that He has divine knowledge. He is, at a minimum, a prophet. She reasons from what He has told her that He could go on to tell her virtually everything she has ever done. Her sexual sins may be only the “tip of the iceberg,” but she is convinced He knows the whole iceberg. And she is right! The Bible says, “The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” John 4:19-24 KJV  Now her true “thirst,” her real need, is self-evident. I think this woman is eager to hear what Jesus has to say, and more eager than ever to have some of this “living water.” She perceives that Jesus is a prophet, and tells Him so. Nicodemus seems to “clam up” when Jesus gets too close to his sin, but this woman seems to “open up,” to want to know more. If Samaritans wish to be saved, they must forsake their system of religion and turn to a salvation that is “of the Jews.” It is “of the Jews” in that the Messiah is a Jew. It is “of the Jews” in that it is the fulfillment of God’s promises to the Jews, through His Word given to the Jews. Just as Nicodemus could not see the kingdom of God through adherence to the traditions of the Pharisees, so this woman cannot see the kingdom by following the religion of the Samaritans. The Bible says, “The woman saith unto him, I know that Messiah cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.” John 4:25-26 KJV  The woman is neither ignorant of the Samaritan faith nor of the Jewish faith. She makes the connection between our Lord’s words about worshipping “in spirit and truth” and the promised Messiah. She realizes that somehow when the Messiah comes, He will clear up these matters. He will reveal the truth about how men must worship God. I do believe that by the end of our Lord’s stay with these Samaritans, not only this woman, but most of the people of Sychar, believe in His name for salvation. At this point, I simply wish to emphasize that our Lord brings this woman to the point where she understands that she is a sinner, in need of salvation, where she understands that her Samaritan religious system cannot save her, and that salvation comes only through faith in Jesus as the promised  Jewish Messiah. Then the Bible says, “The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith 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 unto him.” John 4:28-30 KJV  These verses depict the final step in the process of salvation, the sharing of one’s newly-found faith with others. Then in the Bible it says, “And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her? In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat. But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat? Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. 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. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.” John 4:27,31-38 KJV  The best reading one could give the disciples’ words would be something like: “Jesus, You’re tired, and You need to regain Your strength. Please eat because You need the nourishment if we are to continue our journey.” Once again, our Lord’s response to His disciples’ prodding is not what we expect. Instead of speaking of literal food, He talks of spiritual “food.” Our Lord’s response to His disciples sets down some very important principles, principles which not only governed His life and ministry, but which should guide His disciples as well, and we are to be included among such “disciples.” Our Lord’s most essential “food” is doing the Father’s will by completing His work. The same thing happened in the Bible here, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?” John 2:19-20 KJV  The holy spirit makes us holy, not our own fleshly works.  The holy spirit sets us apart, not our own fleshly works.  Before we can be holy and acceptable unto God, we must become the temple of God.  We must be born again through belief in the destruction of the temple of God (the body of Jesus), and his rebuilding (the resurrection of Jesus Christ).  Are you a Christian, or are you just religious? If you take the words of our Lord seriously, there is a great difference between those who are religious and those who are reborn from above. Nicodemus was as lost as the Samaritan woman at the well. Hell will be populated by many people who are “religious,” who have trusted in their religion to save them, rather than trusting in Christ alone. There will be many in hell who trusted in their works to get them to heaven, rather than in His work, the work of our Lord Jesus Christ and the cross of Calvary. He came down from heaven, and He was lifted up on a cross to bear the penalty of your sins and mine. He was raised from the dead and exalted to the right hand of God. He offers to us His righteousness and His life. If you trust in Him, rather than in yourself, you will be reborn from above, and thus you can be assured that you will see the kingdom of God. So why not today open up your heart to Jesus Christ, because He is the One that died on the cross and shed His blood and paid the penalty for your sins so you could have that free gift of eternal life. Amen

By: Jeff Ellinger

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