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Bible Commentaries

Ironside's Notes on Selected Books
John 4

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-26

When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,) he left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee. And he must needs go through Samaria. 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. (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. 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. 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. 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. The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias 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.

In tracing out the life of our blessed Lord Jesus Christ, we find it of great interest to note the way He dealt with different souls whom He interviewed. A great many books have been written on personal work for Christ, but there is no book in the world that is more helpful on that line than this gospel of John. There are so many different records of those with whom the Lord Jesus Christ had conversations that we get a marvelous unfolding of His wonderful wisdom in opening up the Word of God to needy souls. One of the loveliest is this interview with the Samaritan woman.

We are told that the Pharisees were making much of the fact that Jesus was baptizing and making disciples. It was reported that His followers were outnumbering those of John. When He heard that, because He did not want anything that looked like rivalry, He left Judea almost immediately and went to Galilee. Actually, we read that Jesus Himself did not baptize but left that to His disciples.

An orthodox Jew would cross the Jordan near Jericho and make his way up through Perea, and then cross back near the Sea of Galilee in the north. But the Lord Jesus Christ did not take that route. A stern legalist would not go through Samaria. But the Lord Jesus Christ took that direct road because of the very fact that He was anxious to meet these poor Samaritan sinners that He might reveal the truth to them. “He must needs go through Samaria” (v. 4). Long before the creation of the world it had been settled in the counsels of eternity that He was to meet a poor, sinful, Samaritan woman that day. He could not forego that appointment. So He went until He came near the city of Sychar, and there by Jacob’s well He stopped. We read, “Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour” (v. 6). The time here is not the same as in the Synoptic Gospels. The sixth hour was high noon. It was an unusual thing for people to go out at the noon hour to draw water.

But there sat the Lord, waiting to meet a thirsty soul, and we are told, “There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water” (v. 7a). I can visualize that scene. My wife, daughter, and I sat on the curbing of that very well and we looked off to the city of Sychar and, farther away, to the city of Shechem, and it was so easy to imagine that woman coming down the road, her water pot on her head, and Jesus waiting to meet her. He sat, wearied, at the well. He had become tired, seeking for sinners! What wondrous grace that He, the eternal God, should have so linked Himself with our humanity that He should know what pain and weariness and toil meant!

She knew that He was a Jew by the ribbon of blue that went around the border of His robe. At once all her being would be stirred with indignation. What business did He have sitting there on their well? She probably said to herself, “If he dares to say anything insulting to me, I will give him back as good as he gives.” But oh, how surprised she must have been when He looked up very kindly and said, “Give me to drink” (v. 7b). She knew that the ordinary Jew would have dashed the cup to the ground even if she had offered it, and here was a Jew asking drink of her. But she said, “How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria?” (v. 9a). And then John puts in a little word of explanation. I do not think she said these next words, but the Spirit of God put them in that we might understand, “For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans” (v. 9b).

Note the answer of our blessed Lord: “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” (v. 10). What a wonderful revelation concerning the gift of God! Do you know the gift of God? Do you know that salvation is the gift of God? Do you know that eternal life is a gift? Do you know that God is not a merchantman seeking to bargain with people, but God is a Giver, offering everything freely? It is so hard for people to understand that, and so they have devised all kinds of ways and means whereby they hope to earn salvation and thus to win, at last, a place in God’s heaven. My dear friend, the God of this Bible is too rich to sell His salvation to anyone, and if He put a price on it in any degree comparable with its value, you and I are altogether too poor to purchase it. But, thank God, it is a gift. “If thou knewest the gift of God.”

How do you receive a gift? Suppose you wanted a Bible and you came to me and I said, “Let me give you this one.” Then you put your hand in your pocket and said, “I only have twenty-five cents.” “My dear friend,” I would say, “I don’t want your money. I am offering this to you as a gift.” What would you do? You would take it, I trust, and go away saying, “This book was given to me as a gift.” So it is with God’s salvation. You cannot do anything to earn it. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Have you come to Him and received His gift? “If thou knewest the gift of God.”

But notice also the other word, “and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink.” How little she recognized who it was. Who was it? The Son of God. We read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). “The Word [became] flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (v. 14). There He was, God and Man in one blessed, glorious person, but she did not understand that. She had no conception of who He was. He, on His part, did not try to amaze and astound, but He simply opened up in a wonderful way His stores of grace.

She looked at Him doubtfully and said, “Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou this living water?” (4:11). The well, as it is today, is about 78 feet deep. I saw them letting a candle down into it, and they dropped it until it had gone down 78 feet. And the woman said, “The well is deep, and you have nothing to draw with.” “From whence then hast thou this living water?” She was thinking only of that natural water. He was thinking of spiritual water. The well is deeper by far than that well in Samaria. It is as deep as the heart of God with its infinite love and affection. The water that He would give was to be drawn from the depths of God’s love itself.

But she inquired, wonderingly, “Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?” (v. 12). Jesus might have said to her, “Greater than Jacob! My poor woman, did you ever read in the first book of Moses the story of your father Jacob, as you call him. How one night he had sent his family and flocks across the ford, and he was bowed in prayer alone when there came to him a mysterious personality with whom Jacob struggled all night. Then the unknown one said, ‘Let me go, for the day breaketh,’ and Jacob said, ‘I will not let thee go, except thou bless me’“ (Genesis 32:26). Jesus might have said to the woman, “Do you remember that story? Well, I am the One who met Jacob there in the darkness and overcame his stubborn will.” But I am afraid that if He had told her that, she would have shrunk from Him, thinking that He was insane. Instead of alarming her, He sought to reach her heart and conscience.

Without replying directly to her question, Jesus answered and said, “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again” (John 4:13). How well she knew that! Had she not time after time attempted to quench her thirst from that well, only to thirst again? And that may be said of everything that this scene offers as a palliative for the longings of the human heart. You may try everything that the world can give, but you will be unsatisfied still. Oh, I wish I could persuade some needy soul to take these words home to his heart, “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again.” No one has ever yet found satisfaction in the things of the world. They cannot satisfy a heart that has been created for eternity.

“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” (vv. 13-14); or, literally, “a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” What does He mean by that? Those who receive the message of His grace, who believe the revelation that God has given of Christ in this Word, will be born anew. This fountain of living water will spring up within, and they will find a satisfaction that none have ever been able to find in the things of earth.

 

Well, the woman, listening, finds her heart going to Christ. She feels He means what He says, so she timidly asks, “Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw” (v. 15). She has not understood anything yet but the natural. The spiritual is hidden from her still. But the Lord Jesus Christ has won her confidence, and this is a great thing. When that has been won, there is something else needed, that is, to reach the conscience. So the Lord, assured that He has won her heart, undertakes to grapple with her conscience.

 

He overlooks her remark and says, “Go, call thy husband, and come hither” (v. 16). I can imagine she dropped her head, and with the color mantling her face, exclaimed, “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” (vv. 17-18). He drives the truth of her guilty past and sinful present home to her soul. She stands there, greatly moved, and for a moment does not know what to say. Who is this that could put His finger upon the black spot in her life? He looks so kind and considerate, and yet He has done the very thing that has stirred her conscience to the very depth.

 

She blurts out, “Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet” (v. 19). A prophet is one who speaks for God. She realizes that this Man, who has never met her before, yet knows all about her sin, who knows all the evil of her life, He must be a God-sent prophet. It was as though she exclaimed, “I perceive that I am a sinner.” “Our fathers worshipped in this mountain [Mt. Gerizim]; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship” (v. 20)-I do not think she ever finished the sentence. She was ready to go into a long discussion, but I believe a question had been raised in her mind. Where should she go to meet God with a sin offering? The Samaritans said, “Upon Mt. Gerizim.” But the Jews said, “Oh, no, that will not do. That temple God does not own. If you want to meet with God, go to Jerusalem and prepare your offering in the temple. There it will be accepted, and there you can worship Jehovah.”

I do not suppose that this age-long difference meant much to her at the best, but now she sees she is a sinner and wants to get right with God. Where shall she go? She wants to know God that she may worship Him and receive forgiveness from Him. And Jesus said, “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” (vv. 21-23).

 

What did He mean? He was declaring that the hour had come when God is putting to one side all earthly sanctuaries. It is not a question now of going to either place. You can meet with Him anywhere and everywhere if you are ready to take your right place before Him, to confess your sin and own your guilt. Then you can lift your heart to Him in worship, recognizing Him as your Father, for the moment you confess your sins He forgives. And so you can be a worshipper, for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. He has not left it to you to seek Him first, but He is seeking you, and you can find Him anywhere if your heart is honest before Him. “They that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth” (v. 24).

 

While He was speaking she had been thinking, “I wonder, could it be that this strange man, whom I have never seen before, is really the promised Messiah? He speaks as no man has ever spoken before. I wonder if it could be He?” And aloud she exclaims, “I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things” (v. 25). Oh, there were so many questions, and she says, “I wonder, could this be He? Some day He is coming, and when He comes He will make all the dark things light and the crooked things straight. When He comes He will tell us all things.” And Jesus says, “I that speak unto thee am he” (v. 26). Then what happened? Did she start asking questions? Did she spread out all her perplexities? No, she had not a question to ask. She took one look into those wonderful eyes of His and every question was answered! She said in her heart, “Oh, this is He!” Her soul had found God in Christ. The effects of that is told us in the verses that follow. Am I speaking to anyone who has never found Him? Let me tell you, you need not seek Him anywhere else. He is waiting to reveal Himself to you if you will come to Him as a confessed sinner and trust His grace.

 

 


Verses 27-42

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? 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. 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. And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did. So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days. And many more believed because of his own word; and said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.

There are three distinct sections before us here. In verses 27-30 we have the return of the disciples from the city where they had gone to buy food, and the return of the woman of Samaria to her home in Sychar, there to give testimony. In verses 31-38 we have our Lord’s serious words in connection with the great harvest of souls and the necessity for more laborers. And in verses 39-42 we have the testimony of the Samaritans, who were brought to Christ by the woman to whom He had revealed His messiahship as recorded in the earlier part of the chapter.

We read in verse 27, “Upon this.” That is, just at the time that this Samaritan woman heard the Lord Jesus give that wonderful declaration, “I that speak unto thee am he” (v. 26), in answer to her doubtful, half-questioning word, “I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ” (v. 25), just at that moment the disciples of the Lord returned. They marveled that He talked with the woman. Doubtless they knew her character, and that made them wonder all the more that their Lord should be found in conversation with her. But oh, how little people understood the love of His heart! Again and again we find certain ones surprised because of the depth of His interest in poor, sin-stained men and women. He loved to be with sinners. He loved to manifest His grace and compassion to them. But He never associated with sinners in order to go on with them in their ways. He sought them out in order to win them from their ways and to reveal to them the God of all grace.

And so here the disciples stood by, looking on in wonder and surprise, but nobody liked to speak out what was in his heart. They did not want to ask Him, “What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her?” (v. 27). He could have answered readily. He could have replied, “I seek the salvation of her precious soul. I seek to give her the living water that she may never thirst again. I seek to make her My own and to cleanse her from all her sin.” And if I am speaking today to anyone still living away from Him, let me say that is what He longs to do for you. “This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them” (Luke 15:2). The Pharisees said that, and they thought they were bringing an evil charge against Him when they used such language, but oh, it is to the very glory of His Saviorhood that He received sinners. I like those words of John Bunyan. He exclaims, “O this Lamb of God! He had a whole heaven to Himself, myriads of angels to do His bidding, but that could not satisfy Him. He must have sinners to share it with Him.” We love to sing:

Sinners Jesus will receive;

Sound the word of grace to all

Who the heavenly pathway leave,

All who linger, all who fall.

Sing it o’er and o’er again,

Christ receiveth sinful men.

He received this poor sinner. He revealed Himself to her. He gave her the living Water. And then we read, “The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city” (v. 28a). Notice that. She came thirsty. She came to get the water from Jacob’s well, but she found that in Christ which so satisfied the longing of her heart that she forgot her waterpot for love of Him, and off she hastened to the city. “ [She] saith to the men, Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” (vv. 28b-29). And so she who, a little while ago, had been a sin-stained, characterless woman has now become an earnest evangelist. It is just what the Lord Jesus has been doing all down through the centuries, revealing His grace to needy souls. It is what, if you do not know His saving power, He is waiting to do for you.

Then we read, “They [the people of Samaria] went out of the city, and came unto him” (v. 30), and in the meantime the disciples prayed their Master to eat. “But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of” (v. 32). They were so concerned about meeting physical need. The Lord Jesus Christ was thinking of something very much higher. His first thought was not of satisfying the cravings of physical appetite. His great concern was a yearning love for poor, sinful men and women, and a desire to deliver them from their wretchedness, to cleanse them from their iniquity, and to make them pure and holy in the sight of God.

“I have meat to eat.” In other words, there was nothing that gave Him such satisfaction, there was nothing that meant so much to Him as seeing anxious souls ready to receive His message. And oh, dear friends, I want to tell any poor sinner, you need not hesitate about coming to Jesus. He longs to have you come. People say to me sometimes, “I fear I am almost too great a sinner.” You are not too great a sinner for Him. He loves to take even the vilest sinners and cleanse them from their sins. He is waiting to do it for you. “Yes, “I have meat,” He says, “that ye know not of.”

 

And the disciples, who were thinking still on the natural plane, turned to one another and shook their heads and asked, “Whatever does He mean? ‘Hath any man brought him aught to eat?’” (v. 33). But Jesus knew what they were saying, and He said, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work” (v. 34). It was in order to do that will that He came from the glory He had with the Father before the world was. We hear Him say in Psalm 40, “I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea, thy law is within my heart” (v. 8). Doing that will meant assuming our humanity. It meant coming to earth as a little babe born of a virgin mother. It meant growing up in Nazareth, that mean, wicked, and dirty city. It meant growing up there in holiness of life and purity of heart, a Child without a stain of sin upon His conscience and undefiled by any evil thought or by anything unholy, a Man to whom the will of God was utterly supreme, a Man whose hands were hardened as He used the carpenter’s tools, who worked in the shop so that the people afterward were amazed when He went out preaching. They exclaimed, “Is not this the carpenter? How, then, has this Man these things, having never learned?” But in all this He was doing the will of God, and He was ever looking forward to the cross. In God’s due time, He laid aside His carpenter’s tools, left the shop, and went out to preach the gospel of the kingdom of God and to heal needy humanity of their ills. And the cross loomed ever nearer before His face.

In the seventeenth chapter of this very gospel we see Him in prayer, and He is bowed before the Father, His heart going up to God who had sent Him into the world and to whom He was soon going back again. He cries, “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” (17:4). In this He was anticipating the work of the cross, for the work that was specially given Him to do was that of making atonement for sin. He says, “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45). That was the work that He had in view. That was the work He must finish. He would not go back to the glory until He had accomplished that for which He had dedicated Himself from the very beginning.

 

And so at last, after those awful hours of suffering on the tree when God made Him to be sin for us, though He knew no sin, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him, after He had drained the bitter cup of judgment to the dregs, the cup that our sins had filled, after He had borne in His inmost soul all that our iniquities deserve, when “he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:6 )-then we hear Him saying, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46 ). He cried with a loud voice, “It is finished” (John 19:30 ), and He bowed His head and yielded up His spirit to the Father. In the Greek language that is only one word instead of three. We say, “It is finished.” He cried, “Finished!” That means that the work that saves was completed. It means that the work whereby men and women may be cleansed from their sins and may stand justified from every charge before a holy God had been fully done, and upon the basis of that finished work God can now be just and the Justifier of him that believes in Jesus.

 

A dear saint was dying, and somebody stood over him and asked, “Is all well?” He looked up and replied with a smile. “Yes, ‘it is finished.’ Upon that I can hang my whole eternity.” Oh, do you realize the blessedness of that? “It is finished.” You cannot add anything to a finished work. It is not a question of Christ having done His part and now you must do your part in order to put away sin. But the blessed truth is that Christ has forever put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, and God wants us to receive the testimony of that, to believe it, and to give God glory for it. And the moment we do believe, all the work of the Lord Jesus Christ is put down over against our sin and our iniquity, and we are justified freely by His grace.

 

“My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.” He came into the world for that express purpose, and He would not go back to heaven until it was accomplished.

 

But now, He thinks of the millions, the untold millions, in the world who will have to wait so long before they hear the message. So He says to His disciples, “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest?” (v. 35a). This, evidently, was very early in the year and they could see the green fields about them. They would make their calculations and say, “Well, in about four months it will be harvest time.” Jesus says, “Do not say that. Do not say, ‘There are yet four months, then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest” (v. 35)- not the fields of wheat, not the fields of corn, but these great fields of the nations of men all about us everywhere in the world. They are white already to harvest, men and women everywhere who need Christ. Men and women who are living in their sins, who are dying in their sins, who are crying out, “Who will show us any good?” (Psalms 4:6). Now it is the responsibility of the servants of Christ, of those who know Him, of those who have been saved by His grace, to give this message of His gospel to those still living in sin.

 

Here, I may say, is the challenge in regard to foreign missions. People say sometimes, “Well, I do not believe in foreign missions.” You can be very thankful that somebody else did! If somebody had not believed in foreign missions long ago, you and I would be poor heathen still living in ignorance of God and in sin and corruption. But somebody was enough interested in foreign missions to come to our fathers in the various European lands from which our ancestors hail, and there to tell the story that turned them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. We today are enjoying the knowledge of Christ because of the faithfulness of those of bygone centuries. Oh, let us be as faithful today! Let us be as true today in heeding the command of our Lord Jesus Christ to get the gospel out to all the world in the shortest possible time! Do not let us put it off. Do not say, “Oh, well, some other day will do.” He says here, “Say not ye, There are yet four months?”

 

I think there are some to whom He might say today, if He were living in the earth, “Say not ye there is another dispensation, when the remnant of Israel will do the reaping and get the crop out of the world? Say not that, but lift up your eyes and look. The fields are white already to harvest, and it is your responsibility to do what you can to give them the truth.” And be assured of this: if you and I do faithfully what we can, whether by going ourselves or by upholding in prayer and by our gifts those who do go, He will see that we are rewarded accordingly. The Lord adds, “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” (vv. 36-38).

 

The disciples were sent out into the land of Israel, to which prophets had been sent of God during other centuries, and they were going to reap where others had sown. And so today, He sends His servants, some to sow and some to reap, that all, at last, may rejoice together.

 

Now, in verses 39-42, we get the effect of that Samaritan woman’s testimony. Whenever God saves a soul, it is in order that the saved one may give the ministry of His grace to somebody else. Has He saved you? Then are you trying to reach someone else? You have often heard the story of the life-saving crew that went out in a boat through a terrific storm and rescued a man who had been fastened to a mast on a wrecked ship caught in the rocks and visible clearly from shore through their glasses. They brought this man back, but he was utterly unconscious. They took him to the little hospital and gave him some restorative to bring him to. The first words he uttered when he came to consciousness were these: “There is another man.” They said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Another, another man.” They said, “Do you mean there is another living man out on that wreck?” “Yes,” he said, “another man.” And so they went out again through the storm, and this time they had to clamber aboard and search the ship. Sure enough, they found another man in the ship lying there unconscious. They brought him ashore in their boat, and he was saved. Have you been brought to know the missionary grace of God in redeeming love? Well, there is another man, there is another woman, there is somebody else needing Christ. Do what you can to reach them.

 

The Samaritan woman was saved. She had found the living water. She had gone back to the village and said to the men-I think that is significant: the men knew her pretty well-and she said to the men, “Everything is different now. ‘Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?’“ (v. 29). And so we read. “Many of the Samaritans of that city believed on Him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did. So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days, and many more believed because of his own word” (vv. 39-41).

 

There was a wonderful awakening in that Samaritan city, all because of the devoted and faithful testimony of this poor woman who had just newly come to know Him. “Many more believed because of his own word; and said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world” (vv. 41-42). It was she who aroused their interest. It was she who led the first to go out to Him. As a result of that, they invited Him into the city. But now they say, “We believe not just because of your testimony, but because we have seen Him and have heard Him. He has spoken to our hearts and has moved our consciences. He has won our love and affection, and we have put our faith in Him. We know He is the Christ, the Savior of the world.”

 

Do you know Him? What a blessed thing to be acquainted with Him, whom to know is life eternal, and then to endeavor to lead others to know Him too!

 

 


Verses 43-54

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? 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. 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. And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did. So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days. And many more believed because of his own word; and said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.

There are three distinct sections before us here. In verses 27-30 we have the return of the disciples from the city where they had gone to buy food, and the return of the woman of Samaria to her home in Sychar, there to give testimony. In verses 31-38 we have our Lord’s serious words in connection with the great harvest of souls and the necessity for more laborers. And in verses 39-42 we have the testimony of the Samaritans, who were brought to Christ by the woman to whom He had revealed His messiahship as recorded in the earlier part of the chapter.

We read in verse 27, “Upon this.” That is, just at the time that this Samaritan woman heard the Lord Jesus give that wonderful declaration, “I that speak unto thee am he” (v. 26), in answer to her doubtful, half-questioning word, “I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ” (v. 25), just at that moment the disciples of the Lord returned. They marveled that He talked with the woman. Doubtless they knew her character, and that made them wonder all the more that their Lord should be found in conversation with her. But oh, how little people understood the love of His heart! Again and again we find certain ones surprised because of the depth of His interest in poor, sin-stained men and women. He loved to be with sinners. He loved to manifest His grace and compassion to them. But He never associated with sinners in order to go on with them in their ways. He sought them out in order to win them from their ways and to reveal to them the God of all grace.

And so here the disciples stood by, looking on in wonder and surprise, but nobody liked to speak out what was in his heart. They did not want to ask Him, “What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her?” (v. 27). He could have answered readily. He could have replied, “I seek the salvation of her precious soul. I seek to give her the living water that she may never thirst again. I seek to make her My own and to cleanse her from all her sin.” And if I am speaking today to anyone still living away from Him, let me say that is what He longs to do for you. “This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them” (Luke 15:2). The Pharisees said that, and they thought they were bringing an evil charge against Him when they used such language, but oh, it is to the very glory of His Saviorhood that He received sinners. I like those words of John Bunyan. He exclaims, “O this Lamb of God! He had a whole heaven to Himself, myriads of angels to do His bidding, but that could not satisfy Him. He must have sinners to share it with Him.” We love to sing:

Sinners Jesus will receive;

Sound the word of grace to all

Who the heavenly pathway leave,

All who linger, all who fall.

Sing it o’er and o’er again,

Christ receiveth sinful men.

He received this poor sinner. He revealed Himself to her. He gave her the living Water. And then we read, “The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city” (v. 28a). Notice that. She came thirsty. She came to get the water from Jacob’s well, but she found that in Christ which so satisfied the longing of her heart that she forgot her waterpot for love of Him, and off she hastened to the city. “ [She] saith to the men, Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” (vv. 28b-29). And so she who, a little while ago, had been a sin-stained, characterless woman has now become an earnest evangelist. It is just what the Lord Jesus has been doing all down through the centuries, revealing His grace to needy souls. It is what, if you do not know His saving power, He is waiting to do for you.

Then we read, “They [the people of Samaria] went out of the city, and came unto him” (v. 30), and in the meantime the disciples prayed their Master to eat. “But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of” (v. 32). They were so concerned about meeting physical need. The Lord Jesus Christ was thinking of something very much higher. His first thought was not of satisfying the cravings of physical appetite. His great concern was a yearning love for poor, sinful men and women, and a desire to deliver them from their wretchedness, to cleanse them from their iniquity, and to make them pure and holy in the sight of God.

“I have meat to eat.” In other words, there was nothing that gave Him such satisfaction, there was nothing that meant so much to Him as seeing anxious souls ready to receive His message. And oh, dear friends, I want to tell any poor sinner, you need not hesitate about coming to Jesus. He longs to have you come. People say to me sometimes, “I fear I am almost too great a sinner.” You are not too great a sinner for Him. He loves to take even the vilest sinners and cleanse them from their sins. He is waiting to do it for you. “Yes, “I have meat,” He says, “that ye know not of.”

 

And the disciples, who were thinking still on the natural plane, turned to one another and shook their heads and asked, “Whatever does He mean? ‘Hath any man brought him aught to eat?’” (v. 33). But Jesus knew what they were saying, and He said, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work” (v. 34). It was in order to do that will that He came from the glory He had with the Father before the world was. We hear Him say in Psalm 40, “I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea, thy law is within my heart” (v. 8). Doing that will meant assuming our humanity. It meant coming to earth as a little babe born of a virgin mother. It meant growing up in Nazareth, that mean, wicked, and dirty city. It meant growing up there in holiness of life and purity of heart, a Child without a stain of sin upon His conscience and undefiled by any evil thought or by anything unholy, a Man to whom the will of God was utterly supreme, a Man whose hands were hardened as He used the carpenter’s tools, who worked in the shop so that the people afterward were amazed when He went out preaching. They exclaimed, “Is not this the carpenter? How, then, has this Man these things, having never learned?” But in all this He was doing the will of God, and He was ever looking forward to the cross. In God’s due time, He laid aside His carpenter’s tools, left the shop, and went out to preach the gospel of the kingdom of God and to heal needy humanity of their ills. And the cross loomed ever nearer before His face.

 

In the seventeenth chapter of this very gospel we see Him in prayer, and He is bowed before the Father, His heart going up to God who had sent Him into the world and to whom He was soon going back again. He cries, “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” (17:4). In this He was anticipating the work of the cross, for the work that was specially given Him to do was that of making atonement for sin. He says, “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45). That was the work that He had in view. That was the work He must finish. He would not go back to the glory until He had accomplished that for which He had dedicated Himself from the very beginning.

 

And so at last, after those awful hours of suffering on the tree when God made Him to be sin for us, though He knew no sin, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him, after He had drained the bitter cup of judgment to the dregs, the cup that our sins had filled, after He had borne in His inmost soul all that our iniquities deserve, when “he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:6 )-then we hear Him saying, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46 ). He cried with a loud voice, “It is finished” (John 19:30 ), and He bowed His head and yielded up His spirit to the Father. In the Greek language that is only one word instead of three. We say, “It is finished.” He cried, “Finished!” That means that the work that saves was completed. It means that the work whereby men and women may be cleansed from their sins and may stand justified from every charge before a holy God had been fully done, and upon the basis of that finished work God can now be just and the Justifier of him that believes in Jesus.

 

A dear saint was dying, and somebody stood over him and asked, “Is all well?” He looked up and replied with a smile. “Yes, ‘it is finished.’ Upon that I can hang my whole eternity.” Oh, do you realize the blessedness of that? “It is finished.” You cannot add anything to a finished work. It is not a question of Christ having done His part and now you must do your part in order to put away sin. But the blessed truth is that Christ has forever put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, and God wants us to receive the testimony of that, to believe it, and to give God glory for it. And the moment we do believe, all the work of the Lord Jesus Christ is put down over against our sin and our iniquity, and we are justified freely by His grace.

 

“My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.” He came into the world for that express purpose, and He would not go back to heaven until it was accomplished.

 

But now, He thinks of the millions, the untold millions, in the world who will have to wait so long before they hear the message. So He says to His disciples, “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest?” (v. 35a). This, evidently, was very early in the year and they could see the green fields about them. They would make their calculations and say, “Well, in about four months it will be harvest time.” Jesus says, “Do not say that. Do not say, ‘There are yet four months, then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest” (v. 35)- not the fields of wheat, not the fields of corn, but these great fields of the nations of men all about us everywhere in the world. They are white already to harvest, men and women everywhere who need Christ. Men and women who are living in their sins, who are dying in their sins, who are crying out, “Who will show us any good?” (Psalms 4:6). Now it is the responsibility of the servants of Christ, of those who know Him, of those who have been saved by His grace, to give this message of His gospel to those still living in sin.

Here, I may say, is the challenge in regard to foreign missions. People say sometimes, “Well, I do not believe in foreign missions.” You can be very thankful that somebody else did! If somebody had not believed in foreign missions long ago, you and I would be poor heathen still living in ignorance of God and in sin and corruption. But somebody was enough interested in foreign missions to come to our fathers in the various European lands from which our ancestors hail, and there to tell the story that turned them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. We today are enjoying the knowledge of Christ because of the faithfulness of those of bygone centuries. Oh, let us be as faithful today! Let us be as true today in heeding the command of our Lord Jesus Christ to get the gospel out to all the world in the shortest possible time! Do not let us put it off. Do not say, “Oh, well, some other day will do.” He says here, “Say not ye, There are yet four months?”

 

I think there are some to whom He might say today, if He were living in the earth, “Say not ye there is another dispensation, when the remnant of Israel will do the reaping and get the crop out of the world? Say not that, but lift up your eyes and look. The fields are white already to harvest, and it is your responsibility to do what you can to give them the truth.” And be assured of this: if you and I do faithfully what we can, whether by going ourselves or by upholding in prayer and by our gifts those who do go, He will see that we are rewarded accordingly. The Lord adds, “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” (vv. 36-38).

 

The disciples were sent out into the land of Israel, to which prophets had been sent of God during other centuries, and they were going to reap where others had sown. And so today, He sends His servants, some to sow and some to reap, that all, at last, may rejoice together.

 

Now, in verses 39-42, we get the effect of that Samaritan woman’s testimony. Whenever God saves a soul, it is in order that the saved one may give the ministry of His grace to somebody else. Has He saved you? Then are you trying to reach someone else? You have often heard the story of the life-saving crew that went out in a boat through a terrific storm and rescued a man who had been fastened to a mast on a wrecked ship caught in the rocks and visible clearly from shore through their glasses. They brought this man back, but he was utterly unconscious. They took him to the little hospital and gave him some restorative to bring him to. The first words he uttered when he came to consciousness were these: “There is another man.” They said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Another, another man.” They said, “Do you mean there is another living man out on that wreck?” “Yes,” he said, “another man.” And so they went out again through the storm, and this time they had to clamber aboard and search the ship. Sure enough, they found another man in the ship lying there unconscious. They brought him ashore in their boat, and he was saved. Have you been brought to know the missionary grace of God in redeeming love? Well, there is another man, there is another woman, there is somebody else needing Christ. Do what you can to reach them.

 

The Samaritan woman was saved. She had found the living water. She had gone back to the village and said to the men-I think that is significant: the men knew her pretty well-and she said to the men, “Everything is different now. ‘Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?’“ (v. 29). And so we read. “Many of the Samaritans of that city believed on Him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did. So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days, and many more believed because of his own word” (vv. 39-41).

 

There was a wonderful awakening in that Samaritan city, all because of the devoted and faithful testimony of this poor woman who had just newly come to know Him. “Many more believed because of his own word; and said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world” (vv. 41-42). It was she who aroused their interest. It was she who led the first to go out to Him. As a result of that, they invited Him into the city. But now they say, “We believe not just because of your testimony, but because we have seen Him and have heard Him. He has spoken to our hearts and has moved our consciences. He has won our love and affection, and we have put our faith in Him. We know He is the Christ, the Savior of the world.”

 

Do you know Him? What a blessed thing to be acquainted with Him, whom to know is life eternal, and then to endeavor to lead others to know Him too!

 

 

 


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Bibliography Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on John 4:4". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/isn/john-4.html. 1914.

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