Living for Eternity
The Salvation of a Soul
Turn to John 4:
“A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘Give Me a drink.’ For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, ‘How do You, being a Jew, ask for a drink from me, being a Samaritan woman?’ (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered and said to her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, “Give Me a drink,” you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.’ She said to Him, ‘Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?’ Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never thirst—ever; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.’ The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come back here to draw.’ He said to her, ‘Go, call your husband and come back here.’ The woman answered and said, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You have correctly said, “I have no husband”; for you had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.’ The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, I see that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.’ The woman said to Him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when He comes, He will declare all things to us.’”
John 4:7-26 (LSB)
Last Sunday night my sister and brother-in-law came to visit us. They came to the Sunday night service and then came to our house after. Our goal for that time was to solve the problems of the world. Now this was really hard because they left at 11:30, so, we only had three hours to get this accomplished. The wisdom to find our way in such difficult times. I was reading in 1 Chronicles 12 the other morning, and it was talking about all the men who joined David when he became king. And I came across this verse:
“Of the sons of Issachar, men who knew how to discern the times, to know what Israel should do.”
- Chr 12:32 (LSB)
And I thought O lord, for the wisdom to know what to do! Many of us who are “older” were born sort of after WWII, at a time when there was still much leaning on God. Certainly, there would have been no doubt in the culture of who brought the Allies victory over their enemies, that it was by the grace of God. And what was on the horizon at that time was the sixties, which started the sexual revolution, free love, and the whole open drug scene. Now what was a blessing throughout that time was help from the culture, the school system, and the government, though not necessarily Christian, there was such a Christian influence that society, schools, and government frowned on such behaviour. In other words, the church was not fighting this battle alone, for even unbelieving parents and leaders said things like, this sexual revolution is not good for us, this is wrong. But of course, that has changed, as churches we now see ourselves fighting alone. And to make matters worse, we even see churches bailing on truth. So, as our culture wanes, the church also struggles to keep the faith.
And what has happened is that as church folks dabble in the sins of the culture, as even the church gets caught up in things such as materialism, self-centeredness, and all the sexual enticements that are before us; yet all the while being able to keep their blessings at church, and still enjoying worship and family and religious freedoms. We might say that many in the world jumped into many wrongful ways with two feet, while many in the church jumped in with one. And God, therefore, has allowed the slide to begin. As sin is dabbled with even within the church, yet while still being able to enjoy much of the blessings of the Christian life, God pulled the plug and as Romans 1 teaches, He gave them over. In other words, if you want this lifestyle, then go for up. So now we feel what? Threatened, that such blessings as worship and freedom of religion and family values are deteriorating rapidly.
Today, we live in a culture that aborts on average 2,800 babies every day in Canada and the US. So, as my niece said to Anne and me the other day, I wish for the “good old days.” Which made me smile, as I usually picture someone older saying that. Not my 39-year-old niece who looks 25. So, there is a tendency in our Christian thinking to want to turn the clock back. To gentler days, purer days, of course for the sake of our children and our neighbours whom we love. Why? Because we see former times that were better, as we knew things to be different.
Well, now we flashback in our passage to first-century Christianity. Christ has come to the earth, and has all the power to change society. And here we have a story before us this morning, the woman at the well. A real story that is obviously situated in troubled times. Admittedly, when I went to this story, I was completely overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with all this information given to us in John 4, and not knowing where to go with this passage. And thinking, to try to explain this passage in thirty minutes is impossible. But I have chosen to come to this passage with the question of what Jesus does and why this one woman.
This “woman at the well” was born into her culture. A culture that does not include a whole lot of freedom, for Rome is in power. And this has been the case long before she was born. So, there would not be any “good old days” for her. At least not in her lifetime. Now to make matters worse, she is not even Jewish, but she is a Samaritan. So, she is also looked down upon because of her nationality, for the Jews looked down on Samaritans because they bailed on God far earlier than the Jews did. For the nation of Israel was made up of twelve tribes, and they were united under King David and King Solomon. But after the death of Solomon, it was only the tribe of Judah, and a few from Benjamin and Manasseh, and some of the Levites who stayed loyal to God’s chosen line, King Rehoboam, Solomon’s son. And this is where we get the label “Jew” as most of these were from the tribe of Judah, and because their capital city was Jerusalem. Whereas the other eleven tribes followed Jeroboam, outside of David’s line. And their capital city was Samaria, therefore they became known as Samaritans. And what also changed was those who followed God’s line became known as the nation of Judah, whereas the remaining tribes were known by the old name of Israel.
Well as time went on, all the kings of Israel were evil, whereas in Judah there were some who trusted in God like Hezekiah and Josiah, though there were many kings who did not. Therefore, the nation of Israel fell into captivity before the nation of Judah, and they intermarried with the heathen nations, namely Assyria. Whereas in Judah, even though they were exiled into Babylon, they were able to better keep their identity. Eventually, both nations end up being taken over by Persia, and then later by Rome. But because Israel or the Samaritans intermarried earlier and more frequently, they earned the name “half-breeds,” which is what the Jews would call them.
So Roman oppression, being a Samaritan, and thirdly, she is a woman. Which, in that culture, she also would feel to be even less important again. But there is also one more strike against her, she has been married five times, and lives with someone now that is not her husband. I am sure she was known even among her own people as that lady that’s been married five times. “Oh, and by the way, she is also now living with someone else, though she is not even married.” This would not endear her to Jewish society, though they were not all that pure in this area as Jesus insinuates at times in His ministry. But, for all the injustices of Rome, they were actually a culture that had a fairly high view of family and marriage compared with many of the other pagan cultures around at the time. Nothing outstanding, but history tells us it was better than most.
After our time with my sister and brother-in-law, and by the way, we were not able to figure out how to fix everything, though we tried, we concluded that things were a mess. And I believe that if we were born at this time of this woman, we would also come to the same conclusion, that things are a mess. So, what is Jesus going to do? For we have oppression under Rome. We have tremendous prejudice against Samaritans by Jews. Tremendous prejudice of men towards women. And finally, the abuse by this woman of the marriage covenant. So, what does Jesus do? Does He tackle Rome? Does He tackle the prejudice at large between Jews and Samaritans or men and women? Does He go to Rome and say things like, we have some marriage laws here that need to be changed? For I met a lady who has been married five times and is now living with someone else. He could have, for many have done some outstanding things for the cause of society. And man, do we ache for such change in our culture. Lord, we pine for the good old days. As we discussed this with my sister and brother-in-law, sometimes what comes over you is a feeling of defeat, as the problems seem so big, and we seem so small. And we face this a bit as the church. That if we do not change the culture, we fail. And therefore, we look on the horizon as the culture is winning and the church is losing. And the frustrating part is that Christ, in His day, could have changed everything, instantly. So, why is Jesus so concerned with one woman, when the whole culture is a complete mess? In other words, He seems to allow the culture to keep winning. And yet He focuses here directly on an individual and the message of the gospel.
So, here is a question that came to mind. Can the gospel flourish in a messy culture? Actually yes, because Christianity is about to flourish over the next number of years in the early church, while the oppression of Rome does not get better, but actually worse. And the description of the culture in the later letters of Paul and Peter does not improve. See, the thought in the early church must have been that Christianity can thrive in spite of the culture. Where we can tend to think at times that Christianity can only thrive if we or God do something about the culture. So, I would suggest that winning or victory is possible for the church in this culture, even when we may look at the messy culture and say, no way!
“Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, ‘How do You, being a Jew, ask for a drink from me, being a Samaritan woman?’ (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered and said to her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, “Give Me a drink,” you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.’”
John 4:9-10 (LSB)
- We Hold Truth that is Unknown to the World
Jesus says, if you had only known the gift of God you would have asked. See, the world does not know. The world has no clue about the greatness of the gift. And we can complain about the world, and we would be right. But we also hold the greatest gift ever, the gift the world needs. That term gift of God is not completely clear to what Jesus is referring. It would seem that he is referring to eternal life, but could also be referring to our knowledge of God. Just think of what we know about God that our friend at work does not know: He created us in His image, He loves us, He made a way for us to escape death and hell, He sent His Son to die for us, He sent His Spirit to live within us, He promises to never leave or forsake us, He will be with us in life and in death, and in Zephaniah 3:9, He rejoices over us. Most of this is unknown to the world. And Jesus actually says that if this woman knew these things, she would inquire of Him. For the world has no clue about the greatness of the truth that we know.
- We Have a Saviour Who is Unknown to the World
“She said to Him, ‘Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?’”
John 4:11-12 (LSB)
Our culture is very materialistic, and it also is very earthly and shallow. The thoughts and actions of the day are for the most part related to today. Satisfaction today, immediate gratification, as so much is invested in the here and now. So too, this woman, when Jesus comes to her, and they are at the well, she can only think of what she can touch and know. So, she thinks of Jacob. In her mind, it was Jacob who gave them the well, and therefore gave them the water, because her thoughts are earthly.
In baseball, it has always been the choice of young kids growing up to either bat first or fourth. Why first? Well, it is often the guy most likely is to get on base, has highest batting average, and is the fastest runner. Why fourth? The clean-up guy, the homerun hitter, the big guy, the strongest guy. But not in Toronto anymore. I heard they were asking kids what place in the batting order they wanted to be. Second. Why? Bo Bichette. Because Bo Bichette bats second. We have a tendency don’t we to be enamoured with the here and now. The most popular home decorators. The Chip and Joanna Gaines (maybe someone has replaced them?). The current musicians, the sports guys. Maybe the guys who speak our language. The Jordan Petersons. This woman was thinking Jacob when Jesus was standing before her. And Jesus said (vs 13), “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again.” In other words, you keep gulping down this water ma’am and you will never be satisfied. Because the Bo Bichette’s will get old and slow, that new 2023 #1 paint colour will go out of style, and the wisdom of the world that might make you rich and smart today, will only cause you to thirst again.
In other words, you will never be satisfied. As our humanness will want to just go from one thing to the next, on and on. This lady was going through husbands, one relationship after another. She was either getting sick of them or they were getting sick of her. Or you might be going through one sexual experience of some sort after another. Or for you it might be the next car, that new outfit, the next best score on the video game. All the while Jesus offers her complete satisfaction so that she would never be discontented again. A literal translation of (vs 14) is, “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never thirst—ever.” This is what it means to drink living water, where Jesus offers Himself to fill up her soul. Ma’am, if you would only take what I am offering you, you will never thirst again, ever. So, what is the result of this encounter?
“The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come back here to draw.’”
John 4:15 (LSB)
- Belief (vs 15, 26)
I would suggest that she initially believes what Jesus has told her, for she asks the Lord for the water. Not that she understood at this point that Jesus was necessarily talking about spiritual things, but she wants the water He offers. Jesus has given her some information, and the little she knows, she believes. And here is an important thing we need to see in Jesus approach.
“The woman said to Him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when He comes, He will declare all things to us.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am He.’”
John 4:25-26 (LSB)
In other words, Jesus did not miss the most important point, that He Himself was the Messiah. And she would know that if Jesus was the Messiah, then Jesus would be the only means for her to ever be saved and have eternal life. Remember when we have the opportunity to speak with people, we might talk about a number of issues going on in the world today, but ultimately, they must know that Christ is the Saviour. And if they do not know this, they cannot believe. Because they cannot believe what they have not heard. So, we must remember that in all our conversations with unbelievers, we must at some point get to the core of the issue, the gospel, and Christ. And this can be very hard because when Jesus confronts her about her sin, she starts to talk about mountains. Ever been there? Confronting someone about some grave area of their life, and their comeback is, well what about this, what about that! So, Jesus quickly turns the conversation again to true worship and the need for the work of the Holy Spirit in her life. Keep it focused. Well not only belief, but also:
- Repentance (vs 16-19)
Now there may have been some excitement here from this woman that Jesus offers her something that pertains to the eternal. In other words, she is thinking this might be some good news for me. No different than if you were in some desperate situation, and someone comes to you says, let me help you out here or here is some great news for you! When my Mom and Dad had passed away, my Dad had a stock certificate of some investment in zinc. Something we knew nothing about, and something we were surprised at, as Dad never really invested in anything. But what it was, was the year they were married in 1945, it showed that they had a stock certificate of, get this $4,500. It had been a wedding present to them. The lawyer who was looking after us said, we need to dig into this because zinc stock over the years has gone crazy and this, 60 years later could well be worth over a million dollars. Of course, we were laughing, but also thinking, wow, do you think? Well, after looking into it, it was true that zinc stock of that amount at that time would have easily now been worth over a million dollars. But the company of this particular stock went belly up just a few years later so that it was worth nothing. But just the thought of it got us excited. And so too this woman must be excited about what Jesus is offering.
Yet look at verse 16, “He said to her, ‘Go, call your husband and come back here.’” Wow! That has to cut to the heart. Here she has been presented with a promise and now she is thinking, disqualified! Why did Jesus have to ask about that? I am not good enough. I don’t qualify. She says in (vs 19), “I see You are a prophet.” No doubt thinking about Nathan the prophet who came to King David with the bad news, as God knew everything about David’s sin with Bathsheba and Uriah. God knew about everything she had done. In other words, “Woman at the well, too bad about your luck.” I would suggest that the reaction of this woman was not defiant. It was not a response of excuses for what she had done. Lord, you don’t know about some of my husbands. No, I would suggest that her response was a heart of conviction and repentance for what she had done, head down, yes, I have had five husbands. For Jesus knew her heart, everything she has ever done. As He knows our heart, everything we have ever done. Yet notice He continues to minister to her. He would not write off this woman even though she had lived with such sin. Belief, repentance, thirdly, what was the result?
- Relationship (23-24)
“But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
John 4:23-24 (LSB)
Jesus tells her that the news He is giving her is the truth that she otherwise did not know. And that God is Spirit, so that He must be worshipped and cherished and loved. Because God is more precious than silver, more precious than gold, more precious than the honeycomb, more precious than zinc. Here is a woman who had five failed marriages, and yet she is invited to have a spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ. Imagine the forgiveness of Christ, the love of Christ for this woman. That He considers her worthy to worship because of what He can do for her. Finally, there are two things that I see as a priority in Jesus’ ministry.
- Christ Articulated Truth
Jesus always seemed to be so careful to be truthful with people, whether that meant explaining the truth to this woman, or as he explained the truth to Nicodemus a few weeks ago. His words were well selected, and He actually does not always explain everything, as He really leaves the one to whom he was speaking to think and figure some things out for themselves. He certainly does not put words in their mouths. For sometimes fewer words can be very powerful, especially when we consider the piercing eyes of Jesus looking at us. Now we are not Jesus, but we do have the words of Jesus. We have God’s Word that “… is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing … and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12). Jesus also spoke truth to those who opposed Him. Think of His dialogue with the Pharisees. And again, we are not Jesus, but we can speak truth to even those who oppose us, but with humility. Yes, Christ very much articulated the truth.
- Christ Cared for Individual Souls
We see Jesus far more speaking with individuals. Yes, He taught crowds, but often the discussion came down between Jesus and a person. As we have in John 3 an encounter with a good, respected man, who was a sinner and needed Christ. And then here in John 4, this outcast woman, who too was a sinner and needed Christ. Christ did not miss the individual. Remember the story of the crowds that were pressing upon Him, and Christ makes known that an insignificant woman had touched Him. My niece said to me the other day, at one time, Uncle Mark, I thought I was going to change the world, and now I realize the Lord wants me to share Christ with the ones around me.
I think that when Anne and I were speaking with my sister and brother. We can become so overwhelmed with what the Lord might have us do, considering where the world is going, and all the change around us. But what God may be saying to us is, “What about the guy at work across from your desk? What about that lady across the street? What about that confused girl that sits beside you in science class?” For this was the example set forth by Christ. When Israel was under the oppression of Rome, Christ would have known that Nero would soon be killing believers, murdering the very ones who would carry on the ministry that Christ began. And what does Jesus do? He thinks about this woman at the well? (let’s pray) Lord, in these challenging days, may You grant us wisdom as the men of Issachar who knew how to discern the times. Might we be thinkers, discerners, and give to us the heart of Christ for the individuals, amen.
When that one woman came to Christ and received the gospel, probably no one cared, for it was just one soul and one salvation. But that is not true for look what happens.
“From that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who bore witness, ‘He told me all the things that I have done.’ So when the Samaritans came to Jesus, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His word; and they were saying to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is truly the Savior of the world.’”
John 4:39-42 (LSB)
What is the value of one soul? It is the value of one soul. But it could also be the start of a revival. For one soul here gets saved and it results in the salvation of (vs 39), “many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman.” And then (vs 41), “many more believed because of His [Christ’s] word.” We get the idea here that many believed when she spoke to them, and others must have come to listen to Jesus and then a whole other group believed. That’s quite the cultural change. But there is also another group affected. Because in Luke 15:7 we read that there will be much joy in heaven when one sinner comes to Christ. That is the value of a soul. Sometimes we may feel that we are losing the battle, especially if we understand that our call is to change the culture, or that the messiness of our culture is causing the gospel to be stopped or to be defeated. You know, it just might be that the messiness of our culture that makes people desperately thirsty. So, Jesus would say, “Go and make disciples.” For here a woman comes to Christ, not wealthy, a great sinner, a Samaritan, at a time when oppression was great, and what happens? A revival breaks out!
Let me leave you with these closing thoughts. One, speak into our culture when we have the opportunity and choose your words wisely. Two, but don’t miss the individual that needs the truth, the victory that can happen amid the messiness of our society. Three, be content with the living water. Be satisfied with Christ. (let’s pray) Lord, we thank You for Your Word. May we read it, know it, understand it, and live it. For the glory of Christ. And all God’s people said, amen.