The Woman at the Well: Christian Satisfaction, Worship and Service
John 4:1-42



Jesus Makes Room for John in Judea (4:1-3)

CHAPTER 4
When therefore the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus makes and baptises more disciples than John v.1 once the pharisees learned of the proportion of the Lord’s ministry, they were going to use it to stir up rivalry between the disciples of the Lord and of John… John 3:22-36 is an example of the pharisees’ efforts.

2 (however, Jesus himself did not baptise, but his disciples), v.2 The disciples knew the Lord (and baptized to Him) as the Messiah of Israel; but Jesus knew from the beginning that He must suffer and die as the Son of man (broader). His true baptism would be after the ascension, and “unto” His death and Resurrection. Therefore, he refrains from baptizing personally.

3 he left Judaea and went away again unto Galilee. v.3 For Jesus To stay in the vicinity of Judea would have put Him beside John as a kind of party leader in men’s eyes, similar in principle to the error of the Corinthians who coupled the name of Christ with their party leaders (I Cor. 1). This would never do. Galilee is where his public ministry properly began.


The Woman at the Well – Christian satisfaction and worship (4:4-30)

a degraded gentile woman is just the object that the lord used to teach grace. JESUS OFTEN TAUGHT BY CONTRAST… see note on first page. He reveals to her: 
  1. The greatest heavenly blessing – the indwelling spirit (Eph. 1:13) the power to enjoy eternal life.
  2. The greatest heavenly priviledge – worshipping the father in spirit and truth.
we would have thought that the lord would use nicodemus who was “the teacher” in israel to teach the priviledges of Christian worship, but instead he uses this degraded gentile woman who could not lay claim to any true worship. On the other hand, we would have thought that the Lord would use this degraded gentile woman to teach man’s need of new birth, but instead he uses the most upright of the pharisees, and shows that even he needed to be born again! “for my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith Jehovah (Isa. 55:8).”

Jesus as a humbled man. in this account it is remarkable that Jesus is not only presented in his official character (messiah) but as a humble man, weary and thirsty from his journey. Jesus walked an estimated 3,125 miles during his three years of public ministry. He took a verbal beating from this woman, but never got his drink. It was Jesus in this character that occupied the mind of J.G. Bellet at the end; reference “the last interview with a departing servant…”

a progression is seen in this woman’s apprehension of the person of Jesus:
  • a Jew (v.9) – initially views him with distain
  • a prophet (v.19) – knows he has touched her conscience
  • the Messiah (v.29) – knows him as the object of prophecy
  • the Savior of the world (v.42) – knows him as savior.
must needs go”. not just geographically, although The direct route to Galilee lay through Samaria. Due to the racial divide, Jews were known to go out around through Perea across Jordan to bypass Samaria (see map below). the reason was love. the grace of God imposed upon Him a path that brought Him to a particular city (v.4) at a particular time (v.5).

A thirsty sinner and a thirsty savior meet (vv.4-8)

4 And he must needs pass through Samaria. v.4 “must needs go” (see note above) – the reason was not merely geographical. his love brought him here. the Lord Jesus is deeply interested in Individuals.

5 He comes therefore to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near to the land which Jacob gave to his son Joseph. v.5 there is no coincidence to these details. Sychar, now called 'Askar, lies half a mile north of the well. It was a small town, the name meaning “town of the sepulcher”, Joseph's tomb being about one hundred yards east of it. it was adjoined to the land which Jacob gave to Joseph (Gen. 33:19; 47:22; Josh. 24:32). the Lord Jesus is about to fulfill in picture the type of Joseph as “A fruitful bough by a well; His branches shoot over the wall” (Gen. 49:22).

6 Now a fountain of Jacob’s was there; Jesus therefore, being wearied with the way he had come, sat just as he was at the fountain. It was about the sixth hour. v.6 “being wearied with his journey” – the Lord was fully a man. He passed through all the circumsatances we pass though. he knew what is was to be weary. this leg was about 20 miles! The sixth hour – john reckons time as the romans did… this is our 6:00 AM. It was an unsusual time to draw water, and she came at this time to be alone because of her reputation.

7 A woman comes out of Samaria to draw water. Jesus says to her, Give me to drink v.7 he himself made all the water in the universe, and here he was thirsty. He would never perform a miracle to satisfy his own need. he waited on the father to satisfy his needs. evry miracle he did was for the blessing of others. he was here for her salvation… "Beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings…that publisheth salvation.” (Isa. 52:7). “Give me to drink” – he wanted to be refreshed by fellowship with his creature.

8 (for his disciples had gone away into the city that they might buy provisions). v.8 The Lord jesus was alone too. A lonely sinner and a lonely saviour meet. the Lord doesn’t do an extrnal miracle before her eyes, no sign is needed. The Son of God speaks in Divine love… and consience and heart are reached!

1st Objection: The Racial Divide between Jew and Gentile (vv.9-10)

the Jews and the Samaritans. Why did the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans? II Kings 17 tells us that gentiles were transplanted into the northern kingdom after the ten tribes were taken away. They were pagans, so the Lord sent lions among them to make them fear him. The result was a hybrid worship of Jehovah and idols carried out in Mt. Gerazim. They worshipped the Lord out of supersition and fear. the Jews held racist hatred for them and tried to justify it with scripture.

9 The Samaritan woman therefore says to him, How dost thou, being a Jew, ask to drink of me who am a Samaritan woman? for Jews have no intercourse with Samaritans. v.9 OBJECTION #1. “i am too far away from god.” her first objection reveals that the natural heart of man does not understand grace. A racial divide existed between the Jews and samaritans. she had expected Him to totally ignore her, as Jews did generally. The Lord was that fruitful bough by a well; His branches were shooting over the wall of racial dissenstion to meet her needs. The Lord graciously treats all her objections as “requests for more information”… a good lesson for evangelists.

10 Jesus answered and said to her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that says to thee, Give me to drink, thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. v.10 REPLY #1. The lord’s reply does not answer her question, but addresses her heart. If only she knew two things:
 (1) the gift of god” – God as the giving God He is, his heart longing to bless,
 (2) who it is that says to thee, Give me to drink” – the glorious person who was speaking to her in such gentle grace
she would have asked of Him to satisfy the need of her lonely, thirsty soul, and He would have given her living water – the enjoyment of eternal life by the SPIRIT (Rom. 8:2). see also Rev. 22:1.

2nd Objection: Doubting The greatness of our Lord (vv.11-14) 

11 The woman says to him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: whence then hast thou the living water? v.11 OBJECTION #2. Her first question (v.11) is more of an honest question. Her second question (v.12) is an insult. She assumes that the living water would come from the well. The Lord didn’t have rope or bucket… she couldn’t see how he could bring up the water.

12 Art thou greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself, and his sons, and his cattle? v.12 She then questions the Lord’s greatness. As if the greatest person to her (jacob) was one who could give a well of physical water that could only satisfy him, his household, and his livestock. this is an insult, but the Lord passes over it in grace. he does not tell her how much greater than Jacob He is, because He knows instead how to lead her to find this out for herself.

13 Jesus answered and said to her, Every one who drinks of this water shall thirst again; v.13 REPLY #2. The Lord didn’t answer either of her questions; Instead, his answer gave her what her heart really needed. physical Water, no matter how pure, may refresh, but thirst will come again. God has ordered it to be this way for the creature so true satisfaction can not be had apart from God.

14 but whosoever drinks of the water which I shall give him shall never thirst for ever, but the water which I shall give him shall become in him a fountain of water, springing up into eternal life. v.14 But when one is given to drink into the Spirit (I Cor. 12:13), the resfreshment never diminishes. Christ gives the Holy Ghost to the believer to be in us an always-fresh fountain of Divine enjoyment! It is by the spirit that we enjoy eternal life… by the “communion of the Holy Ghost” (II Cor. 13:14) that we have fellowship with the father and the son. It is precisely this character of life that the Lord Jesus communicated to the disciples in John 20:22 when, “he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” It is to this character of life that jesus refers when he speaks of “life more abundantly” (John 10:10). see note on The springing fountain above.

The springing fountain. There are Seven figures of the spirit used in John’s gospel, see note on first page. the word “well” should be “fountain”, and has the thought of a geyser… springing up of its own accord with inboard power. The SPirit as the fountain is the internal source of satisfaction and joy, resulting in worship. The fullness of this could not to be known until the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). We read in John 7:39 that “the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.”

3rd Objection: Living Water can’t Solve my Problems (vv.15-19)

15 The woman says to him, Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst nor come here to draw. v.15 OBJECTION #3. She is as much as saying, “if you living water can solve my physical thirst so can stop making this 6:00 AM trek to the well, then I’ll take it.” She Does not believe that the Lord can actually fill and satisfy her heart. She is attracted to this man, but his words are still not making a dent.

16 Jesus says to her, Go, call thy husband, and come here. v.16 REPLY #3. this is the critical turning point. in order for her soul to be won for god, He must shine light upon her conscience. “come hither” – this last phrase was for her heart. he wasn’t casting her out, he wanted her company.

17 The woman answered and said, I have not a husband. Jesus says to her, Thou hast well said, I have not a husband; vv.17-18 She replies with half the truth, trying to hide the full truth. it was important that not only “grace” (replies #1 & #2) but “truth” also (reply #3) should enter her ears for her to be saved. He exposes the evil, fallen, depraved state of her soul.

18 for thou hast had five husbands, and he whom now thou hast is not thy husband: this thou hast spoken truly v.18 She had been through five husbands in her search for satisfaction, drawing her into lower and lower depths of sin. she was currently living common-law with a man. This made the Lord Jesus the seventh man in her life. If you have tried to find love and failed… there is a man you need to meet. there will never be an eighth man, for Jesus will fill your heart!

19 The woman says to him, Sir, I see that thou art a prophet. v.19 the word touches her conscience, and the immediate response is to identify the Lord as a prophet (see note on the true character of prophecy, and on the turning point).

The true character of Prophecy. Prophecy has several different characteristics. Sometimes it is foretelling events, and other times it is that class of ministry which reaches the conscience. It may be edification, exhortation, or comfort (I Cor. 14:3). In every case, prophecy is a word from God for the time, and it brings the soul into the presence of God. We see this character in the Lord’s reply in vv.16-18. her heart may have been touched before v.16, but not her conscience until the Lord (“that Prophet”) speaks to her in this special capacity.

The degraded gentile woman. She had been through five husbands, and was living common-law with a sixth man. As the sinless son of God the Lord Jesus had liberty to meet a woman of this character alone. Mere men, even Christian men, ought never to do this.

Here she hits a turning point. she starts making real progress in her soul… because her conscience had been reached. Her objections from this point on take on a different tone. They are less scornful and insulting.

4th Objection: We have our Own System of “Worship” (vv.20-24)

20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain, and ye say that in Jerusalem is the place where one must worship. v.20 OBJECTION #4. she is trying to change the subject! Whenever the conscience is pricked about sin, the natural response is to backpedal. She is really saying, “you have your religion and I have mine, and who is to say which one is right?” How often when speaking with sinners will they interrupt to ask “what church do you go to?” this mountain – a reference to mount Gerizim.

21 Jesus says to her, Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when ye shall neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem worship the Father. v.21 REPLY #4. if it were us, we might have pushed back on her changing the subject. But the Lord knew he had gone far enough (see the repentance in v.29).

vv.21-24 four great differences between Judaistic and Christian worship: 
  1. a change in the place of worship (v.21a). no longer a geographical place (see note). This would put the Jewish-Samaritan dispute to rest.
  2. a change in the relationship with the person they worshiped (v.21b). Jews and even Samaritans worshipped Jehovah. Now it would be God as father… the character of God coming forth to his children in love and grace.
22 Ye worship ye know not what; we worship what we know, for salvation is of the Jews. 23a But the hour is coming and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth;
  1. a change in the character of worship (vv.22-23a). The Samaritans’ worship was unintelligent. They had some mixture of idolatry and worshiping Jehovah. But the Jews at least knew they worshipped a moral lawgiver, although this was still a very limited revelation of God. the new character would be “in spirit” (spiritual) and “in truth” (according to the revelation of God). Jews worshipped with their hands (not in spirit) but they did have limited truth. The Samaritans had neither. 
23b for also the Father seeks such as his worshippers.
  1. a change in the attitude of the worshipper (v.23b). True worshippers are sought by the father… we cannot worship from a framework of human efforts. We must bow before sovereign grace. there is a longing in the father’s heart for intelligent, spiritual worship. He wants his creature to refresh his heart with thoughts of his son. the son is seeking sinners.
 
24 God is a spirit; and they who worship him must worship him in spirit and truth. v.24 why is true worship “in spirit”? (see note above). What is worship? it is the overflowing of the human spirit that refreshes the heart of God. What could refresh his heart more than to hear our opinion of his son? and yet All of god’s thoughts about his son are fully formed in his Word.

what is worship? This is hard to answer definitively… perhaps this passage helps. Jesus wanted “a drink” from this woman. In a similar way, god wants something from his creature to refresh his heart… this is worship. It is the overflow of our hearts toward God. and what IS IT that refreshes God’s heart the most? to hear our opinion of his son!

worship in spirit. It is not capital “S”, as in the spirit of God; although we do worship by the Holy Spirit (Phil. 3:3). True worship is not generated through the body or the soul (emotions) but rather in the spirit – the part of our being which is God-conscious. it is in contrast to fleshly worship. God wants to hear the overflow of our hearts! If the heart is not engaged, it isn’t true worship. True worship comes from God and goes to God. That which is physical or strictly emotional is of human design and not true worship. However, depending on the composure of the individual, true worship may affect the soul and produce emotion. This is natural and to be expected; however, we should never forget that the emotion produced is not worship. The Word of God is able to discern what is spiritual and what is soulish. See Hebrews 4:12 - "the dividing asunder of soul and spirit".

The Christian’s true place of worship. The Christian’s place of worship is – not a building, or a congregation, but – the very presence of God, the heavenly sanctuary (Hebrews 8-10), “WITHIN THE VEIL”. we come into his presence by simple faith… this is where we worship. God had been looking forward to this “hour” of Christian worship since the beginning of time! See note on eight “HOURS” on P.1. see L.F. # 136…

Within the holiest of all,
Cleansed by His precious blood,
Before the throne we prostrate fall,
And worship Thee, O God.

5th objection: Nothing but a person can satisfy my needs (vv.25-30)

25 The woman says to him, I know that Messias is coming, who is called Christ; when *he* comes he will tell us all things. v.25 OBJECTION #5. She knew the coming messiah was the One who could answer every question as to God. she wasn’t looking to a religion any more. She is willing to admit there is something wrong with her ecclesiastical system… this is where The Pharisees thought they had hit the nail on the head. she is now occupied with a man… but she still thinks that man’s coming was future.

26 Jesus says to her, I who speak to thee am hev.26 REPLY #5. the only left to do was to connect the dots! This thirsty man who had attracted her heart and touched her conscience was himself the Christ! The final piece of the puzzle slides in place…

27 And upon this came his disciples, and wondered that he spoke with a woman; yet no one said, What seekest thou? or, Why speakest thou with her? v.27 the disciples return and can’t understand why he is speaking to this degraded woman. The fruitful bough was reaching over the wall, and their Jewish minds could not process it. He came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. but they knew enough not to voice their consternation. See note below on “preaching to Samaritans”.

28 The woman then left her waterpot and went away into the city, and says to the men, v.28 “she left her waterpot and went away with a well” – J.N. Darby. the waterpot is a symbol of daily toil; those monotonous activities that persons in bondage take up, never to find satisfaction in them. Finally, she is able to leave those things behind, because she has someone, a person, who can satisfy her thirsty soul, and who has the power to impart to her a fountain of living waters.

29 Come, see a man who told me all things I had ever done: is not he the Christ? v.29 she doesn’t say “come see a new religion!” but “come see a man!” “that ever I did” – past tense, she looks at all that as a past life… repentance had occurred. “and such were some of you…“ (I Cor. 6:11). His grace toward her did not make her present a twisted view of His person. he had exposed her condition, but then filled her heart. This kind of testimony has power (v.30)!

30 They went out of the city and came to him. v.30 her testimony had a great effect. she was so attracted to the person of Christ as an object, that others were interested in seeking him as well.


Service to the Father’s Will & it’s Connection with Satisfaction (4:31-38)

Using Physical examples to illustrate spiritual truth. The Lord often did this. he was the greatest teacher the world has ever had, and he didn’t shy away from object lessons:
  • physical wine (ch.2) – spiritual and lasting joy
  • Physical wind (ch.3) – the spirit of God
  • Physical Water (ch.4) – spiritual satisfaction
  • Physical food (ch.4) – his own satisfaction
  • Physical harvest (ch.4) – a harvest of souls
  • physical handicap (ch.5) – man’s total depravity
  • Physical bread (ch.6) – Christ as food for our souls
  • Physical light (ch.8) – Christ as the Light of the world
  • Physical blindness (ch.9) – man’s spiritual blindness
  • Physical door (ch.10) – Christ as a spiritual door
  • Physical shepherd (ch.10) – a spiritual shepherd
  • physical wheat (ch.12) – Christ’s death & resurrection
  • physical washing (ch.13) – moral cleansing
  • Physical vine (ch.15) – Christ as the true vine (energy)
the Lord’s “meat” or satisfaction. The Lord gives us the key to his joy. He loved to do the father’s will. For this chapter on to the cross he mentions it over and over, until finally he says, “it is finished.” see John 4:34, John 5:30, John 6:38, John 17:4, and John 19:30. in Heb. 12:2 the cross is linked to “the joy lying before him”… the joy of fulfilling the expression of his devotion to the father by going down into the dust of death in perfect obedience and submission.

Preaching to Samaritans. The disciples here see the Lord speaking to a Samaritan woman, and they are confused. We might wonder why the Lord would tell the disciples to go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and not to gentiles or Samaritans in Matt. 10:5. The answer might be the context of John’s gospel. In john’s gospel the rejection of Christ by the nation of Israel is assumed from the beginning, and so the Lord is seen going out to the gentiles in a wider sphere of grace. It is not in Judea or galilee but in Samaria where he says “behold the fields… already white to harvest” (v.35). In the synoptic gospels it isn’t until the end that he tells the disciples to go into all nations (Matt. 28:19).

The Example of Christ’s Service (vv.31-34)

¶ 31 But meanwhile the disciples asked him saying, Rabbi, eat. v.31 we see a contrast between what the disciples were doing and what the woman was doing. she went into the city to tell the citizens “come see a man!” but the disciples were frowning on the Lord’s interaction with her and totally occupied with physical food. the Lord rebukes them in v.32.

32 But he said to them, I have food to eat which ye do not know. v.32 the Lord would have them take their minds off the physical and the temporal, and see the spiritual and eternal sphere that Jesus walked in. he had “meat” or satisfaction in something that they were completely oblivious to. This is generally true of the life of Christ inside each believer.

33 The disciples therefore said to one another, Has any one brought him anything to eat? v.33 even though they were disciples of the Lord and had walked with him, They have no concept of this kind of food.

34 Jesus says to them, My food is that I should do the will of him that has sent me, and that I should finish his work. v.34 what really satisfied the Lord and gave him joy was to do the fathers will, and in this case the father’s will was for him to speak to the woman at the well.

Exhortations for Christian Service (vv.35-38)

35 Do not ye say, that there are yet four months and the harvest comes? Behold, I say to you, Lift up your eyes and behold the fields, for they are already white to harvest. v.35 the Lord uses the occasion to exhort His disciples to be diligent in service in His harvest. the time for service is now. It is not in Judea but in Samaria, a city of the gentiles.
  1. The time for service is now (v.35). in natural harvest there is a cycle… a slow time, and later a busy time when the harvest is ready. This is not true in spiritual things. The full millennial harvest of gentiles may be “four months” away, but the fields are already white for Christian evangelists!
36a He that reaps receives wages and gathers fruit unto life eternal,
  1. There is a coming day of reward (v.36a). it is set before us as “wages” (II John 8), at the “bema” seat, encouragement for service. “fruit unto life eternal” – more souls brought into fellowship with god (I Thess. 2:19, 20).
36b that both he that sows and he that reaps may rejoice together.
  1. There is a certain kinship between all involved in the harvest (v.36b). see note on “reapers INSTEAD OF SOWERS” below. the sowers were the old testament prophets who awakened in souls the expectation of the Lord’s coming (e.g. v.25). The reapers are the New Testament evangelists who present Christ as savior (vv.26, 42). They have a common joy in the salvation of others.
37 For in this is verified the true saying, It is one who sows and another who reaps. 38 I have sent you to reap that on which ye have not laboured; others have laboured, and ye have entered into their labours.
  1. reapers in the harvest need to have a humble attitude (vv.37-38). the apostles needed to understand that they couldn’t take credit for the harvest, because it was a joint effort between old and new testament servants. As Isaac newton once said; "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants” (1676). This knowledge will keep the Christian servant humble in spirit.
why are we “reapers” instead of “sowers”? in Matt. 13 the Lord speaks of sowing the good seed, but generally speaking the Christian evangelist is “reaping” or being used to finalize a work in a soul that was begun earlier; by the sovereign action of God in new birth, “sowing”. In this case is was the old testament prophets who sowed (written word used to quicken readers), and the new testament evangelists who reaped!

Reaping in Acts. We SEE IN acts (especially acts 8) a tremendous reaping among the Samaritans by the apostles. There was great Joy in the city of Samaria (not the same city as Sychar).


“Two Days” in Samaria – the Period of Gentile Blessing (4:39-42)

Four things that characterize the present period (vv.39-42) 

¶ 39 But many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him because of the word of the woman who bore witness, He told me all things that I had ever done.
  1. AN UNDERSTANDING OF GOD’S GRACE NOT SACRIFICING HIS HOLINESS (V.39). this evangelical work which began through personal testimonies. the lord can use one insignificant sinner to work a great blessing.
40 When therefore the Samaritans came to him they asked him to abide with them, and he abode there two days.
  1. The period would last “two days” – adequate witness to God’s grace (v.40). these “two days” represent the two thousand years in which God did “visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name” (Acts 15:14). “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (II Pet. 3:8). 
41 And more a great deal believed on account of his word; 42a and they said to the woman, It is no longer on account of thy saying that we believe, for we have heard him ourselves,
  1. the work would grow rapidly through the spread of the word (vv.41-42a). “of his own word” – nothing is mentioned about miracles… it was what he said that brought about the salvation of a great multitude. this is what characterizes the Christian dispensation; many saved through the spread of the word. The charismatic movement is not an improvement!
42b and we know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world.
  1. The believers know him not only as messiah but as savior (v.42b). a time when Jesus is known, not only as the messiah, but as the savior of the world, because the gospel had gone out full and free to the world. A Jew would never say this. they would only see the messiah as the one who would “save his people”… but the saved gentile has in some ways a deeper understanding of GRACE, and see THAT he is “the savior of the world”.