Sewer turned Sower!

(John 4)

 

To understand John chapter  4, we must first understand about the Samaritans. Samaria was between Judea and Galilee so much so any Jew travelling from Galilee to Judea or Judea to Galilee needed to go through it. Many Jews, because of the aversion they had for the Samaritans, took a longer route to avoid cutting across Samaria. Bethel is a well known place in Samaria and Jeroboam used it as a holy place to displace the religious authority of Jerusalem. He set up one of his golden calves here and established his idolatrous priesthood (1Ki 12:28). When Assyria invaded Samaria, the inhabitants were deported in mass to Assyria and Assyrian settlers brought in to replace them. The new comers presumably intermarried with the Israelite remnant and were known as Samaritans. On the return from captivity the Samaritans sought a share in the rebuilding of Jerusalem, but were firmly rebuffed by the Israelites in their drive for racial purity (Ezra 4:2). At no time had the bitterness between the Samaritans and Jews been greater than at the time of Christ. John 4 is therefore remarkable, the buying of food in Sychar, the tete-a-tete at Jacob’s Well and the subsequent evangelisation of the area. Incidentally, the good news brought in by the lepers, was at Samaria.

The Samaritans’ religion was based on the Pentateuch alone; but the Jews had so much more. The Samaritans built themselves a temple on Mt. Gerizim. After their temple was destroyed by the Maccabees they worshipped on the mount in the open.

Unlike the other Jews who abhorred the Samaritans, Jesus Christ decided to walk through the road less travelled. How many of us would put ourselves in the path of non-Christians willingly? Seclusion has become a kind of creed. Jesus was tired and hungry and plopped at the well, totally spent. What a contrast to our easychair religion! Even though it was an accepted custom that Jews don’t ask water from the Samaritans, Jesus broke the custom and made a point of contact. Jesus was a young man of thirty, so vulnerable. Yet He talked to an immoral woman in that rustic setting on touchy subjects. He knew, she needed the goodnews. From Samaria He had another long journey to Galilee. Yet He took the time to show her the way. It was not a crowd, just one woman. One lost, broken woman was important to Him. He spent His energy and time for her, patiently clearing her doubts. She was a mustard seed that became a banyan tree. Thus He made inroads into Samaria. He had a clear objective. The very purpose for which He came to earth needed to be fulfilled. Life was not a pleasure trip for Him.

Christ’ mind was full of leading her to eternal life. “If you knew,” He said. There are millions around us who “do not know” about the free gift of salvation that Jesus Christ has to offer. “... you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.” If people knew about this free offer they would ask and He would give them. But who would go and tell these ignorant people that there in something free offered and they should take advantage of it before the last date? (Rom 10:14,15). She did not know the Saviour standing at the door and knocking. Who will tell them except you? Too long we have been hiding behind the brush. It is our onerous responsibility. He doesn’t throw away His gift for anybody to pick it up. He gives to those who ask. Living water is for those who thirst.

“He would have given you.” There is no negative answer. He doesn’t interview for the right candidates. It is for all who ask. What? Living Water! Not the water that satisfies you today and then dries up. It is a spring. You will never thirst again.

The words “Living Water” appear in two places. Here and John 7:38. Here Jesus offers the living water to the Samaritan woman. There He says, from that person it flows out to others. She received it first and then it flowed to the entire village. When we receive the living water, we should let it flow to others. If God could use a sinful woman, why not us? She cooperated with the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Do we? Do we suppress Him?

Jesus had kindled the curiosity in her. Many times a casual conversation about religion leads to serious discussion and ends up fruitfully. We should never think, “What is the point in talking for a few minutes?” God does the follow-up if we cannot do it.

Jesus stood up and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to Me and drink” (Jn 7:38). The Samaritan woman was thirsty. She came to Him. She wanted to know more and more. She drank. She instantly believed in Jesus. Rivers of living water started flowing from within her, leading her and others to eternal life.

“By this He meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not yet been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified” (Jn 7:39). After the resurrection of Jesus, the disciples were given the Holy Spirit to go to Samaria (Acts 1:8). Jesus had earlier asked them not to go to Samaria to evangelise (Mt 10:5). He was once rejected there (Lk 9:52). But He had a high opinion of them (Lk 10:33); though considered strangers (Lk 17:18). Jesus was contemptuously called a Samaritan  (Jn 8:48).

During the persecution by Saul, many disciples fled to Samaria (Acts 8:1). That’s how Philip got to preach the gospel to the Samaritans with incendiary effect. A revival broke out and many were baptized and filled, with the Holy Spirit. I believe this woman heard too, how the Messiah she had met was crucified and rose again. I believe she was baptized and filled, caught up in the great revival of Samaria and became a powerful disciple. This is possible because Peter and John preached the gospel in many Samaritan villages (Acts 8:25). They already have experience with the Samaritans when they went along with Jesus.

Before giving her the living water Jesus led her to repentance. Jesus did not condemn her but saw her broken heart because of her failed life. She must have wept her heart out five times. May be she decided not to marry again but give  a trial with the sixth man.

When she saw Jesus as the Messiah, her priority shifted. She put first things first. When the dialogue ended, she left her pot there so that Jesus could drink. She did not forget a tired traveller’s request for a drink. And also so that she could walk faster and bring the people before He finished His food and left the place. Her idea of the Messiah was that, “When He comes He will tell us all things.” So, when He told her “all things that I ever did,” she knew He was the Messiah.  She talked to the people. She was not shy. People knew her as a wayward woman. They had not yet seen her changed life. How would, they listen to her? Such thought did not put her off. We may  also think, “I am like this; my family is like this. I suffer from this disease. How can I testify?” No. We are not the power. The gospel is the power of God to salvation (Rom 1:16). Don’t give in to the devil’s discouragement. We must keep working at ourselves and keep testifying. The disciples wanted to burn up a Samaritan village but Jesus wanted to bring salvation. Let’s have the Spirit of Jesus (Lk 9:54-56). Go and convince people. Let them come to Christ and see for themselves.

She narrated her own experience, though uncertain about the Messiah. We don’t need to be mature, seasoned Christians to testify. Our experience draws people to Christ. With all our doubts and fears we witness. “Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up and dance” says Dave Barry. Her testimony was so convincing that many from the town dropped their work and went to see Him. Now her fame has swept around the globe. Our testimony must be full of life, convincing (Jn 4:39).

His work of getting the people to know Him was not yet over. Jesus gave priority to doing “God’s will” over food, and to finish “God’s work.” The Father has sent us into this World to do His will and finish His work. Jesus was serious about the mission. We must be fully involved in it more than our food, like Jesus. We do not know when He ate that day. But the hungry disciples were urging Him to eat, so they could eat (v 34).

“Do” (v34). Doing is most important. We need to be proactive. Jesus was in a team, yet He was the only active soulwinner then. Yes, faith can be a lonely place. He was training His disciples by modelling. In future, they were the ones to do the Father’s will and finish the task. You may be a loner doing active soulwinning, to the chagrin of others. But they learn from you. Later on we see how they became active witnesses.

Four months more and then the harvest? (v 35) No. There is no more time to lose. It is already ripe. Jesus was urging His disciples to open their eyes and look, as if they were closed. In effect their eyes were on the food and making Jesus eat, so they could eat. Their eyes were not on lost souls. How ripe she was! No resistance, no opposition! She just accepted whatever Jesus said and unwound. The harvest has been ripe for the past 2016 years. We must put the sickle to it. Four months is a lot of time to waste. Now is the time of salvation. People are open and ready to receive the Good News. The night is falling .

The reaper gets his wages by way of encouragement here and rewards up in heaven, deposited in his account (v 36). The sinner gets eternal life instead of eternal punishment.

Who sowed for this woman? She had known about worship, Messiah and His coming. May be her parents or pastor. Whoever it might be, they must have been disheartened looking at her life but now it was time for them to rejoice. Sometimes we may be sowers and sometimes reapers, sometimes both. So sow with tears without getting discouraged and patiently wait. You may reap or somebody may come to reap. If you reap, remember, someone had sowed. You reap what you did not labour for. Sowing is hard work done with tears. You have reaped the benefits of their sweat. So don’t boast (vv 34-38).

The Samaritans urged Jesus Christ to stay with them. That shows their thirst. The idea that Jews do not interact with the Samaritans took a knock when for two days He stayed with the Samaritans along with His disciples, eating their food and mingling with them. How did the disciples feel? But they were gaining hands-on experience. Where did the team stay? Jesus was so adjustable, becoming all for all, as Paul said. The Samaritans were so generous, accommodating this big number and cooking for them. Will we do it  today that the gospel may spread? will I stay anywhere for God or turn into a blob? (vv 39-41).

We don’t read of any miracles that Jesus performed there, yet many believed. She had talked to “many.” Many believed because of His “words.” May be, her sixth partner also came and believed. May be they had a good life after that. Jesus cares for our family too. So don’t get discouraged if miracles do not happen in your ministry. People may receive a miracle and yet not come to Christ. But His word has power. “As the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isa 55:10,11). See what the words of Jesus did to her. It descended on her like rain and made her bud and blossom and produced fruit and seed. That in turn gave the bread of life to the village people and seed for them to sow. Through a simple conversation Jesus set in motion the chain of events that would result in the salvation of many. The disciples were learning what to preach and teach (vv 39-41).

They believed her words and came to Christ but then started directly hearing from Christ. How right! We introduce people to Christ and then they learn from Him. Teach them to hear from Christ. “We know” they said. They had come into the knowledge of Christ. Their statement: This “Man” is the Saviour, shows how they had rightly understood the human and divine natures of Christ.

They were convinced that He was the Saviour of the “world,” unlike the Jews who claimed that Jesus was for them alone and not for others. What a revelation they got even before the Jews! (v 42). Some Samaritans came out of the town and met Jesus and believed on Him. They in turn became evangelists who took Him to their village for a gospel crusade for two days. “And many more believed”! See the domino effect. Who knows what happened after Christ left! May be the fire spread throughout Samaria. May be that’s how when Philip lit the matchstick, Samaria went up in flames.

Jesus’ Galilee programme was delayed by two days and what a blessed delay it was! It was a crumb of the children’s bread that fell off the table.  Jesus’ commitments were now far-flung that, probably that was the only ministry He had in Samaria. May God bless us with such self-invited delays.

Sowing in the morning,

sowing seeds of kindness,

Sowing in noontime and the dewy eve;

Waiting for the harvest and the time of reaping

We shall come rejoicing bringing in the sheaves!

 


   Address for Correspondence & Contributions:

Lilian Stanley
13 Church Colony
Vellore 632006, India
Tel: +91 9843511943
Email: lilianstanley@gmail.com

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