The Scarlet Woman
March 29th, 1987 @ 8:15 AM
THE SCARLET WOMAN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-29-87 8:15 a.m.
Once again, welcome to the great throngs of you who share this hour on radio. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas and this is the pastor bringing the message. It is entitled The Scarlet Woman because she figures in it. Actually the message could more appropriately denominated as The Marvel of Jesus.
In the twenty-seventh verse of this fourth chapter of John, it says, “His disciples marveled at Him” [John 4:27], and that is an understatement. He was so different and so worthy of praise. They marveled at Jesus because of His ministry to the Samaritans, sugchraomai, from which you get sunchrontai [John 4:9]. In verse 9, “the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans,” sugchraomai. They don’t have any friendship or any kindness or any relationship with them whatsoever. They were publically cursed in every synagogue. They were a half-breed kind of a people.
When the Assyrians carried away the northern ten tribes into captivity [2 Kings 17:5-6], the Assyrians gathered colonists out of Mesopotamia and settled them there in that vacant land. And those heathen people, colonists, intermarried with the remnant that was left there, and with the renegades from the Southern Kingdom, and that half-breed nation was called Samaritan. The Samaritans reacted in kind. They built a rival temple on Mt. Gerizim, below which Jesus is standing when He is talking with this woman, and such an insult to the Jewish people who worshiped in the temple of Jerusalem, that John Hyrcanus of Maccabees destroyed it.
You could not find worse attitude, hatred anywhere between peoples than you could find between the Samaritans and the Jews. When the disciples went into Sychar to buy and to trade, it never occurred to them to say that on the outside of their city gates sat the Messiah. They were looking for no additions to the kingdom of God in Samaria. “If we’re going through this despised and hated land, let’s make it fast. Let’s go through quickly.” No thought in the mind of those disciples of the Lord to say anything to the Samaritans about the Lord Jesus, that He is right there. He is in their midst.
I was listening to a businessman here in the city of Dallas years ago. And I happened to mention one of my deacons here in the church. And he said, “What? Is he a deacon in your church?” I said, “Yes.”
“Well,” he said, “I never thought of such a thing or dreamed of such a thing! I’ve been doing business with him for over twenty years, and I did not know he was a Christian, much less a Baptist and least of all a deacon.”
How many of us are like that? People know us for years and years and never identify us as being Christian, or members of the church, or belonging to the household of faith? That’s these disciples; trading with the Samaritans, buying and selling in their city of Sychar, but never bothering to mention that at their very gates is the Messiah, the Savior of the world.
But not so the Lord Jesus; it says here in verse 4, in the fourth chapter of John, “And He must needs go through Samaria” [John 4:4]. And the disciples marveled at Him [John 4:27]. Every Jew crossed over the Jordan into Perea, and up, and then crossed back over the Jordan into Jewish Galilee. They wouldn’t put foot in Samaria. But not the Lord; not the Lord, “He must needs go through Samaria.”
Then a second wonder on the part of the apostles of the Lord Jesus, “And upon this came His disciples, and marveled that He talked with,” and you have it here in the King James Version, “He talked with the woman.” That’s not what John wrote, “And upon this came His disciples, and marveled that He talked with a woman; a woman, talk with a woman” [John 4:27].
If I had hours to discourse I could not describe how much womanhood owes to the blessed Lord, to the Christian faith. The Christian faith has elevated womanhood beyond any other intervention in humankind or in human story.
“A woman,” they marveled that He, a learned rabbi-teacher, would be talking with “a woman.” The greatest of all the Greeks—Socrates said, “I thank the gods that I’m a Greek and not a barbarian; that I’m a freeman and not a slave; and that I’m a man and not a woman.”
The Hindu in his incarnation says that if you are bad, you’ll come back into this world a dog. If you are worse, you’ll come back a spider. If you are vile, you’ll come back a serpent. But if you are incredibly wicked, you’ll come back as a woman. These attitudes are not peculiar or unique. They were universal.
And the disciples marveled that He talked with a woman [John 4:27], and particularly with this woman. She had five husbands, five of them. And finally, after going through five of them, she never bothered to divorce the succession. She just started living one after another, with any man that she chose to take up with. “You have had five husbands; and he whom you now hast is not your husband” [John 4:18]. What an amazing kind of a life, this woman from Samaria!
But what no less startling and amazing is the transformation in that moment. It says here in verse 28; “The woman left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to them” [John 4:28]. No woman in the East would ever forget her water pot. Coming the dry dusty road to the well, that waterpot was her life! And so amazing was the experience of giving her life in faith and in trust and in love to the Lord, that she forgot about her waterpot and went away with a ringing testimony that brought the whole city out to see the Lord Jesus [John 4:28-30], an amazing, an amazing thing! And the disciples did marvel [John 4:27].
And a third amazement: the Lord said, “Lift up your eyes and look” [John 4:35], and when the disciples looked, there was a multitude of those Samaritans coming out to see the Lord Jesus, to listen to Him and to accept His word of reconciliation; an amazing thing! Those eager-hearted, hungry-hearted Samaritans coming out to hear the word of God from the lips of the Lord Jesus. Whereupon the Lord spoke a discourse that is all so pertinent to us today:
. . . Lift up your eyes, and look; the fields are white,
already unto the harvest.
. . . He that soweth and he that reapeth rejoice together.
And herein is the saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth.
I sent you to reap that whereon you bestowed no labor: other men have labored, and ye are entered into their labors.
And may I follow the discourse of our Lord. Number one: seed sowing is never in vain. However humble and however apparently lost, seed sowing, testimony is never, ever in vain. The Lord said in Isaiah 55 “. . . My word shall not return unto Me void: it shall accomplish that . . . whereunto I have sent it” [Isaiah 55:11].
Some of the seed may fall on stony ground, that’s right. Some of the seed may fall by the wayside and every dirty and unclean bird—every infidel and unbeliever take it away, every secularist and humanist deny it—that may be true. And some of the seed may fall where the thorns choke it to death; but always some of it will fall on good ground; always [Mark4:2-20]. No testimony to our Lord is ever vain and full of failure and without fruit unto God, never! Always God somehow, in God’s time and in God’s way, God will bless it.
I live in that kind of a world. As I thought through the thousands of instances that I could use, I choose one. In a difficult, difficult, difficult place, in a county seat town, I had a young minister and his precious wife, two young people. He was pastor and she was a faithful servant by his side, and they visited and they witnessed and they worked. It was difficult and hard. They asked me to come and hold a revival meeting. Because they were kind of my children, I said, “I will come.” And I preached there morning and night; no response. As difficult as I could ever have thought for in my life, but they had faithfully visited and witnessed and prayed and looked to heaven. And I did too, the week I was there; to no avail—stony, hard, without fruit or response.
On the second Sunday of the revival, we had one service, put the Sunday school hour and the preaching hour together. And I preached the best I could and made appeal, to no end, to no purpose, to no response, and as I pled and prayed, nobody opened his heart to the Lord; nobody came forward. Like the seed, fall on stony ground [Mark 4:5], like the seed choked to death [Mark 4:7]; but we didn’t quit. We didn’t stop. We stayed with it. Plead, sing, sing and plead. And one somebody responded. And then another and then another and by the time the service was done there was a multitude there. It was in a hard place and it seemed to me as though two-thirds of that congregation accepted the Lord as their Savior. There was a throng of them. And they were baptized and were added to the household of faith.
God doesn’t let His word fall to the ground and some of it not bear a fruit unto the Lord [Mark 4:8]. Our visiting and our praying and our witnessing are never in vain. In God’s time and in God’s way, God will bless us with a harvest [John 4:35-38]. He will.
Going back to that service, that’s the only service that I have ever conducted in my life where everyone present I knew. Everyone present was in the kingdom of God. Nobody left without being saved. It was a wonder to me.
A second observation from what Jesus says: not only is seed sowing never in vain, however humble or apparently lost, God will bless it in His way and in His time [Mark 4:8]. Number two: according to the Word of the Lord, the harvest is more ready than you realize [John 4:35]. We have a tendency always to say, “The people are hard of heart and this is difficult. It’s just fruitless laboring here.” Jesus says, “The harvest is more ready than you think” [John 4:35].
We had a man in our fellowship of Baptists named C.E. Matthews. He built the Travis Avenue Church in Fort Worth where Dr. Joel Gregory is now pastor. In his later life, he was head of the department of evangelism here in Texas and finally head of the department of evangelism in our Southern Baptist Convention. He was one of the sweetest, dearest friends I ever had through all of the years of my coming up, though he was much older than I.
I listened to C.E. Matthews as he would describe his conversion. He was converted when he was thirty years old, thirty years old. When I was thirty years old, I had been a pastor for thirteen years. He was converted when he was thirty years old. And one time, talking to me about his conversion at thirty, he said, “But you know, I went with a friend to a revival meeting service”—and it was in the day when people did personal work, which we don’t do anymore. I don’t see how God could be pleased with that. We never invite anybody to the Lord anymore. We never try to offer to accompany them down to the front. We don’t do that anymore. We used to. And in those days he and his friend went to this revival service. And a personal worker came back where the two young fellows were. He was seventeen years old. And the personal worker that came back talked to his friend and won his friend to the Lord. And the young man, seventeen, gave his heart to the Lord Jesus. And the personal worker accompanied his friend up to the front of the church where his friend made a confession of faith and gave his heart to the Lord. And C.E. Matthews was left there standing under great conviction but too timid and too hesitant to step out and to go down to the front.
And C.E. Matthews said to me, “If that personal worker had just said something to me, had just invited me, had just encouraged me, I would have been saved, and I would have given my heart when I was seventeen years of age. I’d have done it. As it was, I wasn’t converted till I was thirty.”
The harvest is more ready than you think [John 4:35]. There are providences in life that prepare people to accept the Lord that we do not know about [John 4:38]. That’s what Jesus says. Others have sown and have labored and providences have come into life to prepare their response that we don’t know about, we’re not aware of.
I remember a man, a businessman, a hard businessman, saying “No” to the invitation, say “No” to the appeal, say “No” to God and “No” to Christ, “No! No!” But I went to see him just the same. And when I went into his office, there he sat behind his desk with his head buried in his hands, weeping. I sat down by the side of the desk. And what had happened, a tragedy had come into his life, unspeakable, sorrowful. And he was there just weeping his heart out. In no time at all, I won that man to the Lord. And he won his family, and I baptized every one of them.
You don’t know the providences that lie back of a human heart and a human life. You don’t know. God has His way and His time, and the harvest is more ready than you think [John 4:35].
There’s one other thing in the Word of our blessed Lord. He says here “. . . that he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together” [John 4:36]. The sower and the reaper rejoicing—the sower; that’s an astonishing thing! The sower, not the reaper: first He names the sower. Both in this world and in the world to come, both in earth and in heaven, the sower rejoices [John 4:36].
I do not know the number of people that have been won to the Lord in a ministry that God has placed in my hands and I know nothing about it at all. Just sowing, just sowing, just sowing [John 4:36]. I went to a big banquet in a church here in this metroplex. And the emcee of the banquet was the chairman of their fellowship of deacons. I was to speak to the group. And as I sat by his wife, the deacon’s wife, she turned to me and she said, “You have no idea of this, but I gave my heart to the Lord Jesus listening to you preach on the radio. I became a Christian listening to you on the radio.” I had no idea of such a thing, none at all.
I was introduced to speak at a convention of Baptists in South Carolina, over there on the other side of the Mississippi River. And the man that introduced me was an illustrious preacher. He had been a professor in one of our great seminaries. And he was pastor then of one of the tremendous churches in South Carolina, still a young man.
And when he introduced me, I was overwhelmed when he said, “As a youth, as a youth my father committed suicide, and I was plunged by family problems into darkest despair. And,” the brilliant young man said, “I went to a service where this Dr. Criswell was preaching. And in that service, in the appeal, out of the despair and the darkness and the hopelessness of my life, I rose up to give my heart to Christ, and my life to God, and to be a servant of the Lord.” I never thought of such a thing. I’d never heard of such a thing. I never dreamed of such a thing. And yet in that introduction, that brilliant pastor says, “It was in a service he conducted that I found the Lord and gave my life to be a servant of Christ.”
You don’t know what you do! You don’t realize the seed that you’re sowing and the repercussion it has in the hearts of those who are listening. And I haven’t time to speak of heaven, why, when did we see the poor or naked or hungry or in prison or sick? [Matthew 25:35-39]. And the Lord says “. . . inasmuch as you did it unto one of the least of these, you did it unto Me” [Matthew 25:40].
Seed sowing, seed sowing, “that he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together” [John 4:36]. Reaping, that’s an open, open thing where we look upon it, reaping.
The real true reward of a scientist, a true scientist, is not emolument or advancement but what he’s able to see with the eyes of the soul. Kepler—Galileo’s dear friend, the founder of astronomy, the science of astronomy—Kepler lived on a pittance, but he discovered all of these laws of planetary motion. Think of the reward, think of it.
The true reward of a physician is always this of a ministry. One of these doctors I read about had under a glass case, a one-eyed, one-eared dilapidated teddy bear. In an operation, he had made a little child able to see, a little child who was blind. And the mother said to the little thing, “What are you going to give the physician, the doctor, the surgeon for opening you eyes so that you could see?” And the little thing had that teddy bear. And the doctor said, “That is the finest reward I’ve ever had in my life,” a dilapidated one-eyed, one-eared teddy bear. Reaping.
I have been in the heart Africa and I have seen the missionary stand in his little church with a flock around him. I’ve done that in the jungles of South America, the missionary standing there with a little flock around him—reaping [John 4:35-36].
And the reward of the soulwinner is indescribably and unspeakably precious. A wounded, dying soldier said to the chaplain in no man’s land, “And remember to tell my Sunday school teacher I’ll meet her in heaven. She won me to Christ.”
“That the sower and the reaper may rejoice together” [John 4:36], we are never to be weary in welldoing. And we’re never to be discouraged; sowing the seed of the Word, speaking for the Lord Jesus, inviting to Him, humbly, prayerfully, as God gives us open doors to say a good word for our Lord. Let’s do it. Let’s do it.
We’re going to stand in this moment and sing us a hymn of appeal. And while we sing the song, somebody you, here this morning, to give your heart to the Savior [Romans 10:9-10], or to put your life in the fellowship of our wonderful church, or a family to come to be with us, or to answer a call of God in your heart, while we sing this song, on the first stanza, down one of these balconies, down one of the stairways from the balcony, or down one of these aisles on the lower floor, “Pastor, this is God’s day for me and here I stand.” Do it. Come. And may angels attend you in the way, while we stand and while we sing.