As we continue on in our series through John’s gospel we’ve come to John 4, where our passage for today is 4:1-15, follow along as I read it.
A Weary Savior (4:1-6)
Upon entering the passage in v1-6 we find out the details of how Jesus came to be in Samaria. v1-3 tells us Jesus wanted to leave Judea after finding out that the Pharisees knew how large a following He had gained through His disciples ministry of baptism. Reading this quickly may give you the impression that Jesus was afraid of the Jewish leaders, and didn’t want to get into a public debate over His ministry or His disciples baptizing. But I don’t think that is what’s happening here. Jesus wasn’t at all afraid of the Pharisees, no. He desired to leave Judea when He heard this news because He didn’t want to begin publicly clashing with the Pharisees until the time was right, because once He began, it would only be a matter of time before they delivered Him over to Pilate to be crucified. So off He goes because His hour had not yet come (John 7:30).
The land at this time was separated into three distinct sections, Judea in the south, Galilee in the north, and Samaria in between them. So in order to get back to Galilee, v4 says Jesus “…had to pass through Samaria.” And while traveling through Samaria they stopped around the sixth hour (which is around noon) by Jacob’s well in the town of Sychar because v6 says Jesus was wearied from the journey. Did you catch that detail when we read through the text just now? Jesus was weary from the journey? The eternal Son of God is tired? Here we’re reminded that though Jesus is true God He is also true Man, and in His humanity He experienced true fatigue. Though we may have a bit of trouble grasping that Jesus being fully God as well as fully Man truly grew weary, something of this hits us as completely understandable. We were told in v1 that Jesus’ disciples grew to a number greater than John the Baptist, and with an increase of disciples comes an increase of demands on the discipler. And when the demands increased on Jesus, you can expect that Jesus in His humanity grew physically, mentally, and emotionally weary. I don’t know about you but my best naps are Sunday between services. By the time I get home I’m worn out. So for Jesus, couple the demands placed on Him with Him being in a region largely made up of desert, and then remember it was the hottest time of the day, we can surely understand why He’s weary. So here is Jesus, weary, sitting down by Jacob’s well in Sychar.
Before this passage even begins really we have something to learn from this. Jesus, who will soon present Himself to be the source of living water, here, is sitting beside a well of water with massive historical significance. Two wells are present here, one physical and one spiritual, one temporary and one eternal, one lesser and one greater. Jacob’s well, great as it is, pales in comparison to the Well of Living Water. The scene is now set, and from meeting the Well of Living water who is sitting by Jacob’s well will change everything for one Samaritan woman.
A Thirsty Savior (4:7-9)
One of the reasons the gospel of John is so rich is because John shows Jesus encountering all kinds of people from all walks of life. We’ve just seen a large exchange between Jesus and an upright ruler of the Jews named Nicodemus in chapter 3. Here in chapter 4 we see Jesus having another large exchange but this time it’s with a Samaritan woman. In v7 we’re introduced to her. We don’t know her name and we don’t know much about her, though some have speculated. What we do know is that she probably lived a very promiscuous life being that v18 reveals how many husbands she’s had, and we know she’s a Samaritan.
Now, the roots of the Samaritan people go back all the way to King David. When David conquered the city of Jerusalem he made it the capital of Israel. It was in Jerusalem that Solomon built the temple and it was Jerusalem that functioned as the centerpiece of the religious life of the Jewish people. But when Solomon’s Israel was split into two kingdoms, Judah in the south and Israel in the north, the northern Israelites built the city of Samaria and made it their capital city. Later when Assyria came and conquered the northern kingdom in 722 BC it captured Samaria. Many Jews were deported and many foreigners moved in. With this mix of people came mixed marriages, mixed religious practices, and mixed everything really. The Samaritans then built had a new place of worship at Mt. Gerizim and rejected anything that had to do with Jerusalem. Which led them to reject all of the Jewish Scriptures (our Old Testament) except the first five books of Moses. Because of this practice, an animosity was born between the Samaritans and the Jews, so much so that by the time the 1st century comes around the Jews who were traveling north out of Jerusalem to Galilee would intentionally go around Samaria to avoid it at all costs. Yet Jesus, didn’t go around Samaria. He went straight into it, sat down at Jacob’s well, and sent His disciples to get lunch in town in v8.
Normally, the women of the town would’ve come to draw water for the needs of the day early in the morning or late in the evening when it was cooler, and they would’ve come as a group to avoid any scoundrels lingering around ready to cause trouble. That this woman comes to the well alone in the heat of the day tells us much about her. She doesn’t belong with the respectable people of Sychar, in fact, there are probably few insults she hasn’t heard from the rest of the local women. Recall, Jesus is weary, He’s been gaining disciples, traveling in the heat of the day, He could’ve easily just leaned His head back and rested waiting for His disciples to return with lunch. But His ministry is a ministry for all peoples. So though weary, He begins speaking with her as she approaches the well in v7 saying, “Give Me a drink.” Yet again, notice that our Savior is thirsty. How ironic that the Fount of living water thirsts? He is not some auto-pilot Son of God, He is the God-Man who experiences the frailty of a true human nature. She answers in v9 in the surprised manner you’d think she’d answer in knowing all the historical racist baggage present between Jews and Samaritans. “How is it that You, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” This was unheard of in their day and there are many parallels similar to this in our day. The Jews and the Nazis, the Koreans and the Japanese, the Colombians and the Venezuelans, Martin Luther King Jr. and David Duke, or Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Who is it for you? Who do you refuse to take notice of? Who do you intentionally avoid in life? You have someone or a certain group of people in mind? This passage and Jesus’ example in it not only calls us to actively and continuously be breaking down these barriers, but to extend and share gospel grace with all peoples, even with those who’ve most offended us.
A Quenching Savior (4:10-12)
After expressing her racist confusion over Jesus asking her for a drink in v7, Jesus responds to her questions in v10 saying, “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.” IF YOU KNEW….are some of the most potent words in this text. If this woman knew who was asking her for a drink she wouldn’t go into the dreadful background between these two peoples, she would’ve asked Him for a drink. And He would’ve been glad and eager to give her not only water, but living water. This phrase ‘living water’ in v10 is used many times throughout the Old Testament. In Jeremiah 2:13 God is called “…the Fountain of living waters.” In Psalm 36:8 God says He gives “drink from the waters of His delight.” Psalm 42 likens the suffering believers longing for God to a deer panting for water. And who could forget Isaiah 55:1-2, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters, and He who has no money, come buy and eat!” So the ‘gift of God’ in the beginning of v10 that Jesus speaks of is nothing other than the ‘living water’ spoken of in the end of v10. This gift of living water quenches the souls of those who drink it. This is what Jesus is extending to her. But it would seem from her response in v11 that she isn’t quite gleaning all the meaning Jesus is speaking of. “The well is deep, how can you draw if you don’t have a bucket?” Perhaps she got a bit of it when she says, “Where do you get this living water? Are you greater then our father Jacob? He gave us this well.” If you only knew…the One who is asking for a drink is the One who, in Genesis 31:42, is called “the Fear of Jacob.” He is the One who wrestled with prideful Jacob and turned him into humbled Israel in Genesis 32. He is none other than the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
If you knew…if you knew…moves me to ask…do you know? Do you know who this is asking for a drink? Do you know the ‘Fountain of living waters?” If you knew, think of the revolutionary changes that would take place in your life. Think of how deeply you would study the gospel, think of how greatly you would feel toward the gospel, think of how mercilessly you would fight your besetting sins, think of how gladly you would come to worship in praise of the gospel, think of how urgently you would seek to spread the gospel, think of how happily you would spend time in prayer, think of how joyfully you would suffer, and think of how eagerly you would anticipate the life to come with this Fountain of living waters!
I fear some of you think knowing God like this is only how a pastor or an elder knows God. Do not believe it. To enjoy God like this, to deeply study, to greatly feel, to mercilessly fight sin, to gladly worship, to urgently spread, to happily pray, to joyfully suffer, and to eagerly anticipate glory…to do these things is to know God! So again I ask, do you know God like this? I pray you would. If this is strange to you, don’t just push this aside…your eternity depends on knowing God as truly soul quenching.
A Satisfying and Sustaining Savior (4:13-15)
We’ve seen a weary Savior, a thirsty Savior, and a quenching Savior. Now let’s see how this passage continues on by showing us a satisfying and sustaining Savior.
Again, after expressing her muddled confusion in v11-12 concerning Jesus’ words in v10, Jesus answers in v13-14, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” In other words, drinking from Jacob’s well will satisfy for a time, drinking from Jesus Himself will satisfy and sustain for all time. Comparing Jacob’s well with Himself, Jesus answers a resounding ‘YES!’ to the question she asked back in v12, “Are you greater than our father Jacob?” Here in v14 the living water of Christ is said to be a water that springs or leaps up within the heart. “The water I give him will become in him…in him…an ever flowing spring welling up to eternal life.” This water is so alive, so dynamic, so powerful that it nourishes the soul for all eternity. Jesus isn’t saying that a literal spring of living water will well up and forever flow inside of us, no, He is speaking of the spiritual reality that is present in those who know Him. A reality He continues to describe throughout His ministry. Later in John, 7:37-38 Jesus says, “If anyone thirsts let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”
A fascinating thing to learn is that this Greek word translated here as “welling up” in English is predominantly used to refer to living things. So what’s in view here is not just a complete and permanent satisfaction from an inanimate divine spring Christ puts within us. No, this imagery of living water flowing as a river and welling up within us into a spring that ever satisfies and ever sustains is a metaphor meant to point us to the what life of the Holy Spirit is like inside the soul of man. The glory and gift of the Holy Spirit residing in us is that He not only began our Christian experience in conversion, He sanctifies us, He illumines the Scripture to us, He nourishes us, He gives us gifts for the Church, He ripens His fruit in us, and He keeps us until the end.
I know the phrase ‘Spirit filled’ has a lot of varied meaning depending on who is using it these days, but see here in John 4:14 an entirely biblical and refreshing take on what it means to be filled with the Spirit of God. The ministry of the Spirit inside the soul of man looks and feels like a river, ever rushing and ever flowing within us, producing God’s strength, revealing God’s beauty, creating God’s joy, giving God’s power, deeply satisfying us, and graciously sustaining us to live a life that’s pleasing to God. This ever flowing river will continue to well up within us without stopping until we enter into eternal life and then it will flow on into eternity forever and ever. This is a marvelous gift that is not to be neglected within us. This has even more meaning in our passage as well, because we’re about to come up on one of Jesus’ most well known statements on worship in 4:24 where He says, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and Truth.” Taking all of this together, the living and vibrant ministry of the Holy Spirit inside us that feels like a mighty flowing river, is meant to induce, enliven, and sustain an eternal worship of God, in us.
Let me illustrate this with a historical example. On July 10, 1509 John Calvin was born in Noyon, France. To give you context, in July of 1509 Martin Luther was already 25 and had just begun teaching the Bible in Wittenberg, Germany. We know very little from Calvin’s early life, except of his deep admiration of his father. When he was 14 his father sent him to Paris to study theology. Five years later Calvin’s father had a mishap with the church, which prompted him to urge Calvin to quit studying theology and devote his life to studying the noble profession of law. So off Calvin went to study law at Orleans. Upon his father’s death in 1531, Calvin (then 21) felt the freedom to return to the study of theology. And having returned to theology Calvin faced, grappled with, and came to embrace the protestant reformation wholeheartedly. It gripped him deeply to his core and changed him forever. It gripped him so much that when persecution broke out against the new reformed Christians in Paris Calvin left all he ever knew and fled the city, ultimately landing in Geneva Switzerland to pastor the local church.
Pause and ask…how did this nice young man, bent to honor his father and study law, return to theology, and so devote his life to Christ and His gospel that he was willing to leave everything he ever knew, flee the city he had grown up in, and pastor during a hard time in history? Calvin himself will answer this very question later saying that that when he began studying the reformation it seemed to be a “…doctrine…not leading us away from a Christian profession, but one which brought it back to its fountain…to its original purity. Offended by the novelty, I lent an unwilling ear, and at first, I confess, strenuously and passionately resisted to believe that I had all my life long been in ignorance and error…but…at length I perceived my error, as if light had broken upon me…I made it my first business to betake myself to the ways of God.” So what changed Calvin? What was the light that broken upon him? It was none other than the mighty river of the Spirit of God that awakened him from the dead, to taste and see the divine reality and beauty of God in the gospel of Christ crucified for sinners revealed in the Scripture, and once He saw it, he was changed forever by it! Again I ask – is this how you know God? Seeing, savoring, enjoying, and satisfying? Knowing God like this does not make you a pastor or elder or missionary, it makes you a Christian! If you knew…O’ that you would know!
The Samaritan woman, perhaps still not knowing the full meaning behind Jesus’ words, speaks again in v15. Her words in v15 portray something of the way you and I should respond to all this “Give me this water.”
This is a living water we can know, ever full and ever clear from the Fount that overflows. When we drink it we will find this joy that’s ever full will ever rise.
Church, may you drink deeply of this living water, and honor this ever flowing fountain by being refreshed by it and going on in its strength.
 Matthew Henry, Matthew to John, page 724.
 Brian Simmons, John: Eternal Love, page 22.
 R.C. Sproul, John, St. Andrews Expositional Commentary, page 56.
 Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, TICNT, page 255-256. Also see 1) Sproul, John, St. Andrews Expositional Commentary, page 56, and 2) R. Kent Hughes, John – That You May Believe, Preaching the Word Commentary, page 105-106.
 R. Kent Hughes, John – That You May Believe, Preaching the Word Commentary, page 109-110.
 R.C. Sproul, John, St. Andrews Expositional Commentary, page 59.
 Brian Simmons, John: Eternal Love, page 22.
 This story from Calvin’s life is recorded many places, the one I’m quoting from here is in John Piper, Peculiar Glory, page 182-183.
 Ibid., page 183.
 These are lyrics to the song by Gray Havens entitled Far Kingdom.