THE WOMAN AT THE WELL
Dr. W.A. Criswell
9-20-70 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Woman at the Well. On these Sunday nights we are preaching through the life of Christ, all four Gospels, and we have come, after these several years, to the Gospel of John, and we are now in chapter 4. And all of us here and you who listen on WRR, turn to the Gospel of John, chapter 4, John chapter 4, and we shall read the first ten verses. John chapter 4, and share your Bible with your neighbor. And on the radio as you listen and the throng in this house of the Lord, let us read it out loud together: John chapter 4, the first ten verses. Now together:
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 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 He to drink; thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water.
Then the story continues and it ends.
The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men in the city,
Come, see this Man, who hath told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?
What an unusual and astonishing thing for a woman in the East to leave her waterpot, her pitcher. She had come through the heat of the day, for this is at high noon. She had come through the heat of the day and through the dust, the long journey to Jacob’s well, there to draw water and carry it back to her house. She forgot the purpose of her coming. She forgot her waterpot, and in her haste, returned to the city at Sychar where she lived, and with a ringing testimony, invited the people of the city to come out to see this Man whom she said must be the Messiah, the Christ [John 4:28-29].
Well, it is an unusual thing, the astonishing thing that happened in her life that made her forget that pitcher of water [John 4:28]. For one thing, it was astonishing to her that a Jew would speak to her. For the Jews, John explains, have no dealings with the Samaritans [John 4:9]. We haven’t time to go into that historical past. It’s a long, long story, but it bred in days past a bitterness as deep as life itself between the Samaritan and the Jew, and when this Stranger spoke to her, and she recognized His being a Jew, she was amazed [John 4:9].
Now another thing: the disciples were no less surprised when they returned from the city, buying bread, to see Him talking with a woman. The Scripture says, “Upon this came his disciples, and marveled that he talked with,” you have it translated in the King James Version “the woman” [John 4:27]; the Greek is a woman. They were amazed and astonished, and they marveled that He talked with a woman, for no dignified Rabbi would ever be seen in public talking to a woman—all of which points out and up how woman’s estate has changed since the Christian message has permeated the cultural and civilized life of the world. Israel had the highest regard and respect for womanhood of any of the ancient people, but beyond Israel it was unbelievable and almost indescribable the contempt with which womanhood was held in the eyes of the whole world.
Socrates, the greatest of the Greeks, said “I thank the gods that I am a Greek and not a barbarian. I thank the gods that I am a free man and not a slave.” Then he added a third: “And I thank the gods that I am a man and not a woman.”
When I was in India, one of the most dramatic of all of the religious evidences you will see in the earth is their regard concerning reincarnation. You wouldn’t dare step on a bug. You might be stepping on your grandmother. It is an astonishing thing! They believe that when we leave this world, we come back in all kinds of living forms. And one of those theological presuppositions is like this: “If you have been bad, you come back in the form of a dog. If you have been worse, you come back in the form of a spider. But if you have been unusually vile, you come back in the form of a woman.”
A little part of that feeling of the ancient world is reflected in the attitude of these disciples, “Upon this came his disciples, and marveled that he talked with a woman” [John 4:27]; all of this building up in her, this strange Samaritan who had come to Jacob’s well to draw water, and found there this Jew [John 4:6-7]. Now, the Lord engaged her attention in an unusually effective way: He asked a favor of her [John 4:7]. And outside of a hound dog, when somebody asks you something, you will naturally respond. I heard a politician one time answer a question. They asked him, “How did you get elected?” And he said, “By asking people what time it was and setting my watch by their time.” It’s surprising how we are prone, ready to respond when people ask a favor of us. He did that. Seated by the well, He asked her for a drink of water [John 4:7].
Do you remember the Book of Genesis, that’s the way Eliezer, the servant of Abraham, when he bowed his head up there in Padan-aram, and asked God to bless him? [Genesis 24:12-14]. Abraham had sent him to find a wife for his son, Isaac [Genesis 24:2-4], and Eliezer bowed his head and said, “Lord, be good to thy servant and my master Abraham, and give me Godspeed in my mission” [Genesis 24:12]. And the women of the city came out to draw water, and he ran to Rebekah, not knowing who she was, and asked her for a drink of water. “May I have a drink of water from your pitcher?” he asked. And the sign was if she lowered the pitcher in her hand, and gave him to drink, and said, “And I will draw water for your camels, also,” that was the sign that God had blessed his mission: a drink of water [Genesis 24:12-14]. Do you remember in the story of Elijah when God sent him to Zarephath, he came to the widow of Zarephath, and asked her for a drink of water? [1 Kings 17:10]
This was the introduction of our Lord here. Jesus saith unto her, “Give Me a drink of water” [John 4:7]. I could not think of any passage in the Bible that describes for us the humanity of Lord more than this little incident. He was weary, and He sat thus on the well [John 4:6]. He was hungry, and his disciples went into the city to buy bread [John 4:8]. He was thirsty, and He asked of this Samaritan woman, water to drink [John 4:7].
You remember the marvelous passage in the Book of Hebrews?
For He took not upon Him the nature of angels, but He took upon Him the seed, the nature, the seed of Abraham.
For in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be for us a merciful and faithful High Priest in making reconciliation for our sins.
For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succor us who are tempted.
“Give Me a drink of water” [John 4:7].
Now, as He spoke that to the woman and entered in the conversation with her, He led her into a commitment of her life and heart and faith and trust to the Lord Jesus [John 4:28-29], for as He spoke to her she became convicted, conscious of her sins, and confessed them to the Lord Jesus. “I have no husband,” she said. Jesus said unto her, “You have answered well, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband” [John 4:17-18]. What an unusual thing. She had had so many husbands that after five of them, she didn’t bother to divorce them. She just changed them every fortnight. I wonder what she looked like. There are so many that don’t have any husbands at all, not one, and this woman had five. She had a way with men; it was terrific.
So after going through five of them, she changed them like she would her dress. After changing five of them, she didn’t bother to divorce them anymore. she just changed upon any whim or pretext, and the Lord said, “That is right. You do not have a husband. You have had five, and the man you now have is not your husband: in that thou saidst truly” [John 4:17-18].
Then something came out of the heart of that woman that you would never guess. Looking at her, you would say, “Well, she is the scum of the earth. She is as promiscuous as a pussy cat. She is on the same level with the dogs, the canines, and the felines.” That is what you would think looking at her. But when the Lord led her to a confession of the sin and guilt and wrong of her life [John 4:16-18]—and you cannot ever come to know God unless first there is a consciousness of sin in your life. He is not a Savior unless there is something to save us from, and that’s why He came into the world [1 Timothy 1:15]: because we are sinners, all of us [Romans 3:23], and He came to die for our sins [Luke 19:10; Hebrews 10:5-14]; to make reconciliation for the sins of the people [Romans 5:10].
And when He led this woman to that consciousness and that conviction of sin [John 4:18, 29], there was something in her you would never have guessed. She asked Him a deeply spiritual question [John 4:19-20]. Now, who would have thought that she would have ever thought about anything spiritual? Her mind was carnal, apparently, and she lived in a permissive and promiscuous world, yet in the soul of that Samaritan sinner there were deep spiritual overtones, and she asked Him about worship and where [John 4:20].
Down in the human heart crushed by the tempter,
Feelings lie buried that grace can restore;
Touched by a loving hand, awakened by kindness,
Cords that are broken will vibrate once more.
[“Rescue the Perishing,” Fanny J. Crosby, 1869]
I said a while ago I wish I could have seen her, what kind of a woman she was. I was referring to just her physical appearance. But this time, I am speaking of the real woman on the inside, for a woman is not just the outside that you look. She is a soul, and on the inside she is just like God made her, and this woman on the inside had deep spiritual longings and aspirations. I can imagine easily, her mind went back to the day when she was a young girl, pure, virgin, precious, innocent. And I can imagine, in the quiet of the night ten thousand times she reviewed and relived those days when one fallen step led to one further down. And I can easily think that ten thousand times she wished she could be pure and holy, washed and clean again.
It was upon that occasion and with that openness of soul in confession and spiritual interest that the Lord spoke to her about the water of life [John 4:10-14]. Water is made up of two things that only God could create and put together. One is hydrogen, a tasteless, unseeable element. The other is oxygen, a tasteless, unseeable element. Put them together and you have the great oceans and the life of the whole world.
That is an exact parable of what it is that God has made for us when He calls it the water of life [John 4:14]. There are two elements in it: spirit and truth. “The hour cometh,” he said to the woman, “when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth” [John 4:23]. “God is Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth” [John 4:24]. There are two ways that we come to God. One is in the truth and the other is in the spirit.
What is the truth? “And Jesus said unto him, hē hodos kai hē alētheia kai hē zoē oudeis”: “I am the way,” hē odos, “I am the truth,” hē alētheia, “the truth, I am the life,” he zoe [John 14:6]. What is truth? These are facts we find in geology and the rocks; these are facts we find in astronomy and the stars. These are facts that we find in the branches of science and discovery and research. But what is truth? I find truth when I find the blessed Lord Jesus [John 14:6]. The truth of God [John 14:7, 9], and the truth of life [John 8:12], and the truth of salvation [Acts 4:12], and the truth of forgiveness, and the truth of atonement [Romans 3:25], and the truth of reconciliation [2 Corinthians 5:19], and the truth of justification [Romans 8:30], and the truth of sanctification [John 17:7], and the truth of redemption [Ephesians 1:7], and the whole gamut of revealed spiritual truth is in Christ [John 4:23].
And the other is Spirit, the Spirit of God [John 4:23-24]. Truth is dormant; like the devils believe and tremble [James 2:19]. Truth is dormant; it is like a valley of dry bones [Ezekiel 37]. Truth is inoperative, it is inert until it is quickened by the Holy Spirit of God. The Scriptures will say so much of that: “The letter killeth,” even though you have it. “The letter killeth, it is the Spirit that maketh alive” [2 Corinthians 3:6]. As Jesus says in the sixth chapter of His Gospel of John, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth” [John 6:63]. God must say something to us. God must speak to us. God must take the message from the Book, the message the preacher delivers, and the Spirit must quicken it. He must make it live in our hearts. He must make it meaningful, and significant, and when our hearts vibrate to it, that is the Spirit of God.
When you describe the death of Christ [Matthew 27:32-56], many, many times I find myself weeping. Why, it happened two thousand years ago. It’s one death among how many billions have died, and how many have been crucified on Roman crosses, but somehow the Spirit of God takes the story of the atoning grace of Christ [Ephesians 1:7], and as I listen to it, sometimes as I read it, my heart is melted, and my soul overflows.
This is how one becomes a Christian: drinking the water of life [John 4:14], receiving the truth of God as the Lord makes it felt in the moving of His Spirit. And that dear Samaritan woman found life. She drank fully and deeply. She went to her city with that ringing, glorious testimony: “Come. I have found the Christ” [John 4:28-29]. Not many of us are like that, are we? Most of us, I suppose, are drinking from the wrong well, the wrong well. Ah, there is an abounding overflowing gladness when we get right with God. When we give our hearts to the Lord, there is a sweetness, and a fullness, and a glory. There is an aura, there is a heavenliness, there is something of God that is possessed in no other way, achieved in no other avenue. It’s God. It’s the Lord. And that is the invitation that God extends to us: “Come and drink to the full.”
Do you remember how the Revelation ends? And do you remember its last precious invitation? “He that sits upon the throne saith, Behold, I make all things new” [Revelation 21:5]. New! New! “And I will give unto him that is athirst of the water of life freely” [Revelation 22:17]. “He that drinks of the water of this life,” said our Lord, “shall thirst again: but he that drinks of the water that I give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a spring of water rising up into everlasting life” [John 4:13-14]; every day a glorious day with our Lord. And then that last apocalyptic invitation: “And the Spirit and the bride say, come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come, you. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” [Revelation 22:17]. Come. Come. Come.
You, and you, and you, and welcome. “Pastor, we are all coming tonight. This is my wife. These are our children. All of us are coming tonight. Here we are.” Do it now. Make the decision now, and come now. A couple you or a one somebody you, in the balcony round, in those topmost seats, there is time and to spare, come. On this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front: “Here I am, pastor. I have decided for God. I have taken Jesus into my heart and life, and I am coming.” As the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, respond with your life. Come now. Make the decision in your heart now, and in a moment when we stand up, stand up coming. You do it tonight. God will attend you in the way. His angels will follow you. His benedictory blessings will be your possession in this life, in the hour of death, and in the life that is yet to come. [You] shall never thirst again; eternal life, God’s gift for the taking, for the asking, for the having. Come tonight. “Here I am, pastor, and here I come.” Do it. Come. Make it now. When we stand up in a moment, into that aisle and down to the front, “Here I am, pastor; I am coming.,” While we stand and while we sing.
AT THE WELL
I. She left her waterpot (John 4:29)
A. Unusual for a woman
of the East to do
B. An astonishing event
caused her to forget
II. The Stranger who spoke to her
A. She was astonished
at His being a Jew
1. Jews had no
dealings with Samaritans
B. Disciples no less
1. A Rabbi
speaking with “a woman” (John 4:27)
message done much to elevate womanhood
III. He got her attention in an unusual way
A. Jesus asks a favor
(Genesis 24:12-19, 1 Kings 17:10)
B. The humanity of
Jesus (Hebrews 2:16-18)
IV. He led her to confession of sin and
A. Her five husbands
B. She asked Him about
V. He offers water of life (John 4:10,
A. Made up of two
ingredients (John 4:23)
1. Truth (John
2. Spirit (2
Corinthians 3:6, John 6:63)
VI. She drank deeply (John 4:28-29)
A. Received Him as
Messiah (John 4:29)