Redeemer and Savior
July 04, 2002
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 bread.)
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." . . .
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." (John 4:4-15; 25, 26)
Read also John 4:16-24
I that speak unto thee, am he. (John 4:26)
he great theme of the Old Testament is the promise of the coming of Almighty God as Redeemer and Savior. The theme of the New Testament is how that promise was literally fulfilled in the Coming of Christ the Lord.
Now, the old Testament promise was made through Jewish prophets. And it was so worded as to seem to imply that he, Almighty God, would come as the triumphant ruler of that nation--as the "King of Israel." That is the way the Jewish people understood the prophecies from the first. Their God would come as their Messiah.
Well, the years passed--years of hardship and trouble and captivity. And the longing was never so deep as during the time that they were under the yoke of Rome.
Then quietly, with no national rejoicing, no sounding of trumpets, Christ was born. Thirty years of his life passed unnoticed. Then one day John the Baptist, looking upon Christ as he approached, exclaimed. "Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). The next day Andrew, one of the first disciples, hurried to his brother Simon Peter, exclaiming breathlessly: "We have found the Messiah--the Christ" (John 1:41). Months later, having heard the Lord's teaching and seen his miracles, Peter added his testimony: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of God" (John 11:27).
But the Jewish people as a nation, and particularly the leaders, failed utterly to recognize Christ as the long-promised Messiah. The promise had been fulfilled, and they did not know it. And then followed Calvary and the cross.
Now, all of this took place two thousand years ago. Today, untold millions of people, on the basis of the Gospel record, acclaim their allegiance to Christ as the Messiah: God Incarnate.
But what of the Jewish people today? What is their attitude toward Christ? For them, the Word is still only the books of the Old Testament. They reject the message of the New as being part of Divine Revelation. Therefore they see no value in the claims of Christianity as such.
However, let me bring you a few statements from an article written by Rabbi Philip Bernstein of Rochester, New York. It is a splendid article, written by one who, if he were not a Jew, would have made a wonderful Christian. It pictures the Jewish faith of today as something beautiful and strong; a faith by which to live--yes, and in which to die. Reading it carefully, appreciatively, we understand why Dr. Bernstein is led to declare: "I am proud to be a Jew." Dealing with the Jewish conception of Christ, Dr. Bernstein has this to say:
Why did the Jews reject Jesus? The answer is, they have never done so. We do not know from any contemporary Jewish sources what the Jews thought about the young carpenter from Galilee who died on a hill overlooking Jerusalem.
Those were very turbulent times. The Jews, under the heel of Rome, were seething with discontent. Zealots arose all over the land. To break the spirit of rebellion, Emperor Tiberius sent his most ruthless procurator, Pontius Pilate, to enforce order and obedience on the Jews.
The records show that he put thousands of Jews to death for actual or potential rebellion. The names of most of them are unknown. It is quite likely that the crucifixion (which was the common Roman practice) of a young zealot from Galilee was lost in the whole unrecorded sea of suffering.
Dr. Bernstein then goes on to say that his people of later years "did not reject Jesus, the Jewish teacher, but Christ, the Messiah." The religion of Jesus was understandable to them; it was Jewish. The religion about Jesus was beyond their comprehension. His basic teachings, declares Dr. Bernstein, "have been found to be Jewish. His stature is that of a Hebrew prophet--a fearless fighter for righteousness, as was Isaiah and Amos before him." And so, according to Dr. Bernstein, the modern Jews of today accept Jesus as one of their great ancient leaders, but not as the Messiah.
Now, what shall we say of the testimony of Jesus himself? It is sometimes asserted by scholars even in the non-Jewish world that the Savior never claimed divinity; that this teaching was put forward by the disciples after his resurrection to attract the multitudes to the cause. Is that true? Did the Lord never assert his Messiahship?
We turn to the only authoritative record we possess of the life and words of Christ: the Gospels. This morning we see John's picture of him seated on the well, talking to the woman of Samaria. It is a picture that will live forever.
You and I can realize only dimly what was passing in the mind of the Lord that afternoon. Day after day, month after month, he had been surrounded by throngs of people wherever he had gone. Day after day, a never-ending stream of sick folk--the lame, the blind, the leper--pressing upon him from all sides, pleading for a word, a touch of the hand, to cure them of their infirmities. And in spite of the multitude, in the midst of the throngs, he had always been alone. There was none--no not one--to understand. Well might Isaiah have declared of him that he was "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3).
This is the picture I have of the Savior as he sat upon the stone edge of the well that afternoon: weary in mind and in body; seeing Gethsemane and Calvary drawing ever closer. It is not without significance that it was "about the sixth hour," for the number six in the Bible is a symbol of toil and struggle.
The disciples, we are told, had gone to the nearby village of Sychar to buy bread. And as the Savior sat there, alone with his thoughts, there came a woman down the path from the village to draw water. How simply the story continues: "Jesus saith unto her, 'Give me to drink.'" It was a natural request, easily understood; for the way had been long and dusty. But there is a hidden beauty in those words that almost passes belief. "Give me to drink." Spiritually, "thirst" represents the deep longing of the human heart for a fuller knowledge of the Lord as the Source of all that is good and true. "My soul is athirst for God," declared the Psalmist. "Athirst for God!" (Psalm 42:2).
And Christ? What shall we say of him? We know--for he has told us--that his heart was filled with a great longing, a divine yearning, for the salvation of mankind. It was a longing born of his great love. In those long weary days he, too, was athirst--yes, hungry and thirsty for the love of those whom he had come to save. Yes, hungry and thirsty that humans should return to him the ineffable love that he gave them so freely and fully; for signs that the truths he taught them had sunk into their hearts.
Almost his last cry upon the cross was: "I thirst" (John 19:28). Not merely the natural thirst of one enduring such great physical suffering, but a divine thirst for some acknowledgment from human hearts giving him to know that all he had done, and all he was doing, would not be lost.
I believe that it must have been this longing in the heart of Christ that afternoon that brought those words to his lips as the woman drew near with her pitcher. Back in Jerusalem he had met with little but opposition and open enmity. In sorrow he had turned his face to the north, to "Galilee of the Gentiles." And on the way "he must needs pass through Samaria." And now this woman, this Samaritan--one of a people hated and despised by the Jews--stood before him. Could she satisfy the deep longing of his heart where the Jews had failed? Perhaps. "Jesus saith unto her, 'Give me to drink.'"
These simple words brought forth some of the most wonderful and beautiful utterances of the Savior--utterances that establish beyond all peradventure the glorious fact of Christ's identity as the long looked-for Messiah. No man, be he Christian or Jew, can say with truth that Christ did not affirm, with the greatest clearness, the truth of his divinity.
Notice how gently, how carefully, the Savior led the thoughts of the woman step by step, onward and upward. "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." No, not the water from that ancient well--dug, we are told, by Jacob himself ages before. Rather, the ""water of life"": the divine truth that flows forth from the Word as "a well of water, springing up into eternal life."
But in her simplicity, the woman did not understand the deeper meaning of those words of the Lord. "Sir, give me that water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw."
Instead of answering, the Lord abruptly changed the subject. "Go, call thy husband, and come hither."
"I have no husband."
"Thou hast well said, 'I have no husband,' for thou hast had five husbands, and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband."
How I wish we had time to go more fully into these words. They were addressed directly to this woman, and certainly had to do with her own private life. But when rightly understood in the broader, deeper sense, they reveal the inner spiritual nature of the whole people of which this woman was a member, the Samaritans, especially as compared with the Jews. The fact that she had lived with five husbands, and that she was then living with one who was not her true husband . . . it is a fascinating study, but we must pass on.
However, we can see the immediate effect of the words upon the woman herself. She was convinced of Christ's marvelous power to read the hearts and minds of all people. "Sir," she exclaimed, "I perceive that thou art a prophet."
And again there was an abrupt change in the conversation--or was it abrupt? Realizing that here was one who was divinely gifted, the woman referred to the chief cause of friction between the Jews and the Samaritans. "Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, but ye say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship."
It was an old controversy, going back hundreds of years to the time when the nation was divided into two kingdoms after the death of Solomon. At that time Jerusalem, with the Temple, was barred to the people of the northern kingdom; so an altar was raised in Bethel, on Mount Gerizim. Now, the Samaritans of Christ's time were descendents partly of the old northern Jews, and partly of the people brought into the land to take the place of the Jews who were carried away into captivity. They had adopted the worship of the Jews, and looked upon Bethel as of equal importance to Jerusalem as a place of worship.
The rivalry had not died out. "Our fathers worshipped in this mountain, but ye (the Jews) say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship."
Was the woman inspired to make this statement? I think so. Certainly it opened the way for Christ to give to the whole world one of his most glorious utterances. For thousands of years, the worship of God had been a thing of form and ceremony--a mere representative of the genuine worship of the heart. The offering of sacrifices; the repeating of endless prayers were all done, it is true, in obedience to the commands of God. But it was outward, formal religion nevertheless, because men could know no better.
But that age was fast drawing to a close. Indeed, it was practically at an end already. What little life there had been in that formal worship had departed. And now a newer, more glorious era had dawned upon the world. Soon men would no longer say, "Lo! here," or "Lo! there" (Luke 17:21), for it would be known that the kingdom of God is in the human heart.
And no place upon earth would be more sacred than any other. The captive in the dungeon, the king upon his throne, the wanderer in the desert, the man or woman jostled in the crowded streets of a city--it would be all the same. Wherever the heart would be lifted in prayer or thankfulness to God, there would be found a "temple of the living God" (2 Corinthians 6:16).
"The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipper shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth. . . . God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." Marvelous words, the meaning of which the woman evidently understood, at least in part. Who could bring that change into the hearts of men, but the long-expected Christ?
"I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ," she replied. "When he is come, he will tell us all things."
Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he."
To the Lord God the Savior, Jesus Christ, be ascribed all glory, honor, dominion, and power, now and forever. Amen.
Lord Jesus, you look to us to return your warm and tender love, and so often we return only indifference, lack of comprehension, and even outright resistance and hostility to your presence in our lives. You call us to show the love for one another that you have shown for us, and we continue to focus our lives on our own comforts, our own privileges, our own kin. As we approach the Word of your truth, we pray that you will open our minds, as you opened the mind of the woman at the well, and give us to see, feel, and accept your wise and healing presence within and among us as the Christ--the human presence of God with us. Amen.
Rev. William Beales