The Great Light


The Great Light

July 12th, 1964 @ 7:30 PM

Matthew 4:12-16

Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee; And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

John 4:1-38

7-12-64     7:30 p.m.



You are invited on the radio, as with us here in this great auditorium of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, to open your Bible to the Gospel of John chapter 4; the Gospel of John chapter 4, and we shall read out loud the first fourteen verses; the Gospel of John chapter 4, the first fourteen verses.  On Sunday night, I preach through the life of Christ.  And following the life of our Lord, after His baptism and temptation, He entered into a Judean ministry in and around Jerusalem for about eight months.  And after about eight months, He made a journey from Judea to Galilee; and this is a famous incident that happened on His journey from Jerusalem in Judea to Galilee and the beginning of the great Galilean ministry.  Now let us read out loud together John chapter 4, the first fourteen verses.  All of us reading together:


When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John,

(Though John Himself baptized not, but His disciples,)

He left Judea, 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 this living water?

Art Thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?

Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:

But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

[John 4:1-14]


Now this is the introduction and a beginning and a part of the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman

The story lies in a determination of our Lord to do something to begin with that no good Jew would ever do, and that is to put His foot in Samaria, a despised and a cursed land.  An explanation of that in the ninth verse: John writes, when the woman was amazed that He being a Jew asked drink of a despised Samaritan, and a woman at that, she interjected, "for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans" [John 4:9]. 

Now that has a very plain and patent story back of it.  From the beginning, when they first were launched as tribes into the world – Ephraim, Samaria – Ephraim was jealous of Judah, and Judah would not countenance Ephraim.  And those two tribes, one to the north and the other to the south, were envious and jealous of each other from the beginning.  As time went on they separated, and there was a Northern Kingdom called Israel, presided over by Ephraim and nine other tribes.  And to the south was Judah, the Jew was Judah, and little Benjamin, and they entered into fierce wars that lasted for generations.  Finally, as you remember, the bitter and ruthless Assyrian came and destroyed the Northern Kingdom, Ephraim.  And when Assyria, according to its colonization policy, took people from other places of their empire and settled them in that vacuity created by the deportation of the northern ten tribes, when Assyria put those colonists there, the colonists had a hard time.  So they sent to the king of Assyria and said, "We don’t know the God of the land, and we’re not blessed.  Would you find a priest of a religion of the land that he come and tell us how to worship the God of this country?"  So they found a renegade priest who came and taught those Assyrian colonists the religion of Jehovah.  And that gave birth to that hybrid, half-breed tribe who intermarried with the poor Jews who were left in the land, called the Samaritans. 

Now, the Southern Kingdom, Judah, who returned from the Babylonian captivity would have nothing at all to do with those half-breeds up there who lived in Samaria.  So the Samaritans built a temple of their own to Jehovah God on Mt. Gerizim.  And this well of Jacob is right at the foot of Mt. Gerizim.  And when they built a rival temple to Jehovah, after the Jew had read in the Book that the place for His temple was to be at Jerusalem, that greatly embittered even more so the Jew to the south.  So under John Hyrcanus, a Maccabean, he took an army of Jews and went up there into Samaria, and he destroyed, tore down clear to the foundation, that temple to Jehovah on Mt. GerizimYou can imagine how that engendered and embittered more vicious the feeling between the two countries.

So in the time of our Lord Jesus, you could hardly describe the bitterness by which the Jew to the south looked upon the Samaritan immediately bordering his country to the north. The Samaritan was publicly cursed in the synagogue.  He could not be adduced as a witness in any court of law, nor could he be won to God; he was eternally damned.  Nor, as I said a moment ago, would any good Jew put his foot in Samaria.  When a Jew went from Judea to Galilee, Samaria was a country that lay in between; and any good Jew, if he was a good one, would cross over the Jordan River into Perea, go up onto the eastern side of the Jordan and cross up just underneath the Sea of Galilee into Galilee, just in order to avoid going through despised Samaria.  So in the fourth verse of this story, it is pointed out with emphasis, "Jesus left Judea and departed again into Galilee.  And He must needs go through Samaria."  So the disciples were amazed to begin with at the decision of our Lord to walk straight up from Judea into Galilee, going through that despised land of the Samaritan.  Now they were astonished at another thing, at another thing – that the Lord would pause in the country, that He would delay.  "Master, Master, if You are going through Samaria, let’s make it fast, let’s make it quick, let’s make it soon.  This is a difficult land.  We expect no additions to the kingdom of God here.  These people are too hard, and they’re too calloused.  There’s nobody going to be added to the church of the Lord Jesus here in this despised place.  Now if we’re going through, let’s make it fast, and let’s make it quick, and let’s make it soon."   For this is the most difficult of all of the lands that the Lord could have visited, so said the disciples.

Now they were amazed at another thing:  when they went away into the city to buy bread, they would deal with the Samaritans; but it never occurred to the disciples to tell the Samaritans that the Lord Jesus was out there beyond the gate of their city.  They went into the city to buy bread, and while they were there purchasing provender and vittles and food for the thirteen of them, Jesus and the twelve, while they were there, Jesus, being wearied with the journey, sat on the curb that surrounded the well.  And as He sat there, a woman from Sychar, the nearby village, came to draw water.  It is twelve o’clock high noon.  No woman would come at twelve o’clock high noon to draw water; it wasn’t the time.  But you see this woman was a different kind of a woman, and she didn’t come when the rest of the women were there drawing out of the well.  She came at an off-hour.  And when she came to draw water at the well, there was Jesus.  And there ensued this long conversation between the Lord and this despised Samaritan woman that’s recorded here in the Book, in which she came to repentance and a saving faith in the Lord Jesus.

And when the disciples came back, now this is the third amazing astonishment of the disciples, "And upon this came His disciples, and marveled that He talked with," and you have it translated here in the King James Version, "with the woman, the woman" [John 4:27].  Now you lose the meaning, the emphasis of that passage altogether when you change that little article that John uses.  John wrote, "And when His disciples came, they marveled that He talked with a woman," not "the woman, that woman," but "a woman."  No dignified man in public would be caught talking to a female, much less a distinguished and honored rabbi.  You just didn’t talk to a woman publicly; it was beneath the dignity of the man in that day and in that generation. 

Haven’t you heard me facetiously describe some of the attitudes of these people, beyond the blessings of the Christian faith, in their attitude about a woman?  I have said in days past that Socrates is quoted as having said he thanked the gods for three things: one, he thanked God that he was a Greek and not a Bavarian; and he thanked God that he was a freedman and not a slave; and he also thanked God that he was a man and not a woman.

When I was over there in India, they believe in reincarnation; and brother do they have some marvelous ideas about reincarnation.  Now if you’ve been bad and you’re reincarnated, why, you’ll come back into this world as a dog.  But if you’ve been worse than bad, you’ll come back into this world reincarnated as a spider.  But if you’ve been vicious, you’ll be reincarnated and come back into this world as a serpent, a reptile, a snake.  But if you have been indescribably vile, you’ll come back into this world reincarnated as a woman!  Now that’s the doctrine over there in India in the Hindu religion.  It’s an astonishing thing; it’s an astonishing thing!

And they were amazed that Jesus was talking with a woman!  And then we can add to it, "what a woman, what a woman"; she was a humdinger of one.  It says here in the Book that she had five husbands.  And the Lord said to her, "And he whom thou now hast is not thy husband" [John 4:18] – five of them.  She finally got to the place where she didn’t bother to divorce them, she just assimilated them; she just took them in and changed them every fortnight.  Well, when she changed her dress, if the guy didn’t match her dress, why, she changed him and got one that did.  She was some woman, some woman – the marvelous thing of these women.

 "Thou hast had five husbands, and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband."  She just got tired of them and changed them one after another; sort of like some of our people do today that we read about in the newspapers. 

And the Lord talking with that woman; the disciples were astonished and amazed!  But – but, every criteria by which they judged the kingdom of God and the message of Jesus had a violent reversal in the Lord’s friendship, and comradeship, and sympathy, and understanding with that scarlet woman.  A despised Samaritan, an unspeakable character, but you won’t find in the Word of God a more marvelous address on spiritual worship than you’ll find here in the message of our Savior to that outcast woman.  Nor will you find in the Word of God a more marvelous, effective witness to the saving grace of Christ than you’ll find in this glorious convert.  After she had found the Lord as her Savior, forgetting her water pot, forgetting her pitcher, forgetting her pail, she made her way up to the city and said, "Come out, come out all of you, come and see! [John 4:28-29]. The Lord is outside the gates of the city of Sychar.  The Savior of the world is outside the gates of the city of Sychar, come and see.  I’ve found the Lord; I’ve found the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God.  Come and see!"  And those Samaritans, to the last citizen, went out to see this remarkable thing by which this woman had been changed, and converted, and saved, and was glorifying God.  And the city of Samaria "believed on Him for the saying of the woman who testified, He told me all things that ever I did."  Then it was that the Lord said to these unbelieving disciples, "You say that this is a difficult field; you say there are no converts to be had here; you say there are no additions to the kingdom of God to be won here; look, look, lift up your eyes and look."  And the disciples lifted up their eyes and saw those hungry-hearted, eager Samaritans coming to the Savior.


Lift up your eyes and look, white, white to the reaping, to the gathering,

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.

[John 4:35-37]


There are some marvelous things to be said to us of encouragement from this text.  One, one, we are faithfully to sow the seed of the Word, and we’re not to be discouraged.  Ground may look hard, and the ground may look stony, and the outlook may be difficult, but we’re not to be discouraged. We’re to sow the seed of the Word just the same, expecting the Lord of the harvest to bless it.  I have sowed many times, stumbled into evidences of God’s blessing in areas and places and times when I least expected it. 

One Sunday not too long ago, one Sunday I was preaching my heart out here in this church at an eleven o’clock hour.  And as once in a while, once in a great while, there were very few to respond.  And when we don’t have a gracious harvest, oh my heart is cast down, and I’m blue and discouraged.  Well, I went home and that afternoon, that afternoon, a school teacher called me over the telephone, and she said, "I was at the service at church this morning at eleven o’clock."  And she said, "I never felt such a burden of need in my life as I heard you preach the gospel.  And I am so wanting to find the Lord as my Savior and to be saved.  I wonder if I could make an arrangement to come and to see you, and you tell me how I can be saved?"  We made the appointment, and I read to her out of God’s Word.  She made her confession of faith in this sacred place the following Sunday morning, and I baptized her that Sunday night – when I was so blue and discouraged: we’re not to be blue, and we’re not to be discouraged.  Faithfully we’re to sow the seed of the Word.  We don’t know the providences of God that will bless it.

In a nearby city close to Dallas, I was asked to speak at the First Baptist Church in this city on a stewardship night.  And seated at the head table, the deacon who presided over the banquet sat to my right, and his wife sat to my left.  And as we were breaking bread together, the wife said to me, she said, "You do not know this, but I found the Lord, and I was converted under your ministry."  I said, "Why, I never dreamed of such a thing.  This is the first time that I’ve ever seen you that I know."  She said, "Yes, I understand, I understand."  She said, "I was a member of the church, but I was lost, I was lost.  And one day when I was ill and staying at home, I listened to you on the radio, and there in my house, in my home, I gave my heart to Jesus."  She said, "I never wrote you a letter, though a thousand times I’ve had it in my mind to tell you; but I just wanted you to know that I had found the Lord through your preaching on the radio."

I received a letter from a pastor here in the state of Texas.  And he said,

"I’ve never told you, but I want now for you to know: listening to you one time, driving down the highway, on the radio, I stopped, I pulled to the side, I bowed my head over the steering wheel, I answered God’s call to be a preacher.  And today I’m pastor of the  church in our little city."

I could multiply that ten thousand times in a thousand different ways.  You don’t know, you don’t realize:  it is God that gives the harvest; we are to sow.  There are providences of life that work in places and in areas where we do not realize.  And we are to preach, and we’re to witness, and we’re to testify, and we’re to make appeal with great anticipation.  God will honor His Word, and God will bring to Himself those whom He hath elected to faith and to salvation in Him.

I went to see a man one time; he was very difficult, a businessman who was hard and hard to reach.  I went back again because of the prayers and encouragement of his faithful wife.  He was just as hard and just as difficult.  Upon a day, I went back yet again, and as I went up to his office, I thought, "What a waste of time.  This is the hardest and most difficult man, and he’ll never be won."  But out of loyalty and devotion to that godly wife who belongs to our church, I made my way once again and went to his office.  When I was ushered into his office this time, he was seated there at his desk with his head buried in his hands, crying.  I kind of apologized, you know, for coming. 

"Oh no," he said, "You could never have come at a more opportune moment; sit down, sit down."  There had come into the circle of his family an indescribable hurt and sorrow; and it had crushed and broken that man as he sat there at his desk with his face buried in his hands.  And with an appeal of desperation, he looked at me as if to say, "Is there some answer?  Is there some way?  Is there somehow God?"  Why, in no time, in no time, I led that man to the saving faith of the blessed Lord Jesus and baptized him into the fellowship of the church and people of God.  You don’t know, you don’t realize the providences of life, the plowing that God hath done in the human soul.  We are to sow without discouragement, and we are to work in great anticipation that God will do a great and marvelous thing, just as the Lord, speaking to the despised outcast, and in just a moment, she became God’s great, brilliant, scintillating, marvelous witness to the saving grace of the Lord Jesus.

I have just a moment left; may I speak of the Word of our Savior?  "That he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together," some sowing, others reaping.  How many times when we go to a service do we say, "Oh, what an effective evangelist; oh, what a God-blessed preacher; oh, what a marvelous service" – as though the reaper had done it all?  No.


That he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.

And herein is the saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth.

I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labor: other men labored, and ye are entered into their labors.

[John 4:36-38]


Many, many a time, a young man will come down the aisle and give his heart to Jesus; back of him is a praying godly father, or a godly Christian mother, or a Sunday school teacher, or a friend; back of them, back of them, these who have prayed, and sowed, and have remembered, and have asked God.  Did you know one of the most astonishing of all of the things Jesus reveals is how it’s going to be at the great judgment day of Almighty God, how it’s going to be at the judgment day of Almighty God?  "Now you here on My right, you enter into the glories of the kingdom and the joy of thy Lord for," and then He lists all those things that they’d done for Him" [Matthew 25:33-36].  And the amazing revelation is this: that these who are entering the kingdom of God, these say, "Why, Lord, when did we ever say that word, or pray that prayer, or weep that tear, or make that intercession?"  Why, they’d even forgotten about it; it was so slight, so little, so small.  Yet God blessed it; the kind word that was said, the gracious gesture that was offered, the sweetness of life portrayed, the invitation extended, a thousand little things that we never even remember.  But God used them to sow the seed, and He blessed it in the saving of these who were lost, and in the reward of these who enter into the joy of their Lord; sowing and reaping, "that he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together."  And when the consummation, when the confession, when the public commitment is made, oh, how everybody is glad, sowing and reaping.

In the days of my youth, I loved to listen to L. R. Scarborough preach.  Oh, that man, president for so many years of our Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, held a revival meeting in Baylor my senior year, and in other places would I hear that man of God preach the gospel of the grace of Jesus!  And one time he said that there was a young doctor in Hillsboro for whom the people were so much in prayer.   And he went to the young doctor’s office, and he found that in the office was an older physician, and they were partners – the older man and the young doctor.  And the older man was a godly man and a deacon in the church.  And the older man so prayed that God would save the young partner who had come to be with him in his office as a beloved physician in Hillsboro.  And when Dr. Scarborough went to see the young doctor, why, he opened his Bible and read to him John 5:24 and won the young man to the Savior.

And that night, when the young fellow came forward publicly to accept the Lord as his Savior, they gave him opportunity to testify of the grace of the Lord in his heart.  And they asked him, "How were you saved?"  And the young doctor said this, he said, "Sir, I was saved, I was saved by the preacher’s coming and explaining to me John 5:24, ‘Whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life, shall not come into condemnation; but is passed out of death into life.’  I was saved by the preacher’s explaining to me John 5:24."  And then the young man added with a gesture of his hand, pointing to the older physician, "I was saved by the testimony of the preacher, John 5:24," and then he added, "and by the tears of this doctor here."  Sowing and reaping, the tears of that doctor, who had the burden of the young man on his heart, and who prayed that he might be saved, and who in gentleness of life and disposition, as they worked together, magnified the grace of the Lord – sowing, sowing, sowing, sowing seeds of kindness.



Sowing in the morning, sowing in the noontime,

Sowing in the evening, in the twilight hour

By and by the reaping, we shall come rejoicing.

["Bringing in the Sheaves," by George Minor]


He that soweth, reapeth.  They shall rejoice together, some sowing, some reaping, some sowing and reaping, God giving the increase.  Oh, how precious and how blessed.  And may God add His infinite grace and blessing to the word of testimony tonight.  Let us pray.

Our Lord, oh, what an encouragement to us, this blessed example of our Savior, "And He must needs go through Samaria" [John  4:4]; put His foot in a cursed land, and brought life, and gladness, and glory, and salvation to those despised and outcast people, and to a woman that the whole earth would despise and spit upon, a woman, yet beloved of God.  "Born of a woman" [Isaiah 7:14], the Book said, "the Seed of the woman" [Genesis 3:15] the Book said.   And out of the darkness of those tragic days for womanhood has come the beautiful and saintly Christian mother, and precious home, and godly companion, all of the sweetness and blessedness of the saving grace of Jesus in womanhood.  O Lord, that such a boon and blessing should be bestowed from Thy gracious hands.  And the encouragement to our souls: we’re not to say, "It’s too difficult here, this isn’t the time, this isn’t the hour, this man’s too hard even for Jesus, this woman can’t be won."  Nay, no, a thousand times no.   Praying, waiting, sowing, reaping in God’s time, in God’s choice, in God’s day; O Lord, that thus we might be encouraged in the faith and in the work of our dear Lord. 

Now Master, bless the testimony of the message tonight, and give us souls once again: somebody putting his trust as Savior in the Lord Jesus; somebody coming into the fellowship of His dear church.  And we shall thank Thee for any harvest God shall bestow, in the saving name of Him who loved us and gave Himself for us, even Jesus.  Amen.

And while we sing our hymn of appeal, somebody you, somebody you, trusting Jesus as Savior; somebody you, putting your life in the fellowship of the church; a couple you, a family you, "Pastor, this is my wife, and these are my children, all of us are coming tonight."  However God shall say the word and lead in the way, make it now, make it now.  In this balcony round, there’s a stairwell on either side at the back, on either side at the front, and there’s time and to spare, come, come.  In the throng on this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front, "Pastor, tonight, tonight I take Jesus as my Savior, all the days of the future I commit to Him; and if I were to die tonight, I would die trusting Jesus."  As God shall say the word and make the appeal to your heart, make it now, come now, while we stand and while we sing.