Vol. 6, No. 6
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On one occasion Jesus "left Judea and went again into Galilee. However, he had to pass through Samaria" (John 4:3-4). He "came to the Samaritan city of Sychar" where "was Jacob's well" (John 4:5-6). Jacob is believed to have had the well dug following his purchase of a "parcel of ground" near a city called Shechem (Genesis 33:18-20). Jacob himself drank from this well "along with his sons and their flocks" (John 4:12).
Jacob's well is ancient. Jacob was born in 1770 B.C. (Robert Young's Concordance, p. 531), and he died 147 years later (1623 B.C., Genesis 47:28). If Jacob had the well dug say about 1700 B.C., then it was 1727 years old when Jesus was at the well in A.D. 27 (A Harmony of the Gospels, Steven and Burton, p. 40).
The well has been and is a good supplier of excellent water for 3702 years (1700 B.C. plus 2002 A.D.). Tourists thrill at drinking from this historic watering place. On May 23, 1971, Harold and Joe Bryant and Gene Priest and Hugo McCord drank from a freshly drawn bucket of the cool water. A glass full of it our guide poured back into the well, and it was five seconds before we heard the water from the glass strike the water below ("125 feet," said the guide). No doubt the well in Jacob's day and in Jesus' day was out in the open, but now a church building (Greek Catholic) covers the well, and a walled monastery surrounds the whole area.
On one day, about "six o'clock, Jesus, tired from his travels, was just sitting by the well. A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, 'Give me a drink.'" (John 4:6-7). "The Samaritan woman replied, 'How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?' (The Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)" Jesus answered,
If you knew the gift of God, and who he is that asked you, "Give me a drink," you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.
She replied, "Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. From where do you have living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this well, and drank from it himself, along with his sons and his flocks?"
"Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water which I will give him will never thirst. The water which I will give will become in him a well of water springing up into eternal life."
"The woman said, 'Sir, give me this water so that I will not thirst, neither come here to draw.'"
The bucket of which the woman spoke was of animal skin with three cross sticks at the top to keep it open, and the rope was made of goats' hair (Vincent).
The water of which Jesus spoke he later described this way: "he who believes in me shall never thirst" (John 6:35); "He who believes in me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.'" (John 7:38).
When Jesus asked the woman to go and call her husband, and she replied that "I have no husband," Jesus shocked her by saying she had had five husbands, and the one she now had was not her husband, she was convinced that this strange man talking with her was a prophet. So she changed the subject: "Our fathers worshiped in this mountain [Gerizim], but you say that it is necessary to worship in Jerusalem" (John 4:20). Sanballat had built a temple on mount Gerizim about 400 B.C., but John Hyrcanus destroyed it in 129 B.C.
Jesus' reply was not about the place where one worships as being important, but whether or not one worships "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:23-24). The only part of a human being that returns to God when he dies is his "spirit" (Ecclesiastes 12:7), yes, his "inner person" (Ephesians 3:16), yes, his non-physical "heart" (Hebrews 4:12). With his "spirit" (his "inner person") he will praise God "with all" his "heart" (Psalm 111:1). So he fulfills one of two requisites in true worship. The other requisite is that his worship must be according to "truth," that is, his "word" (John 17:17). His word requires the Lord's Supper (Matthew 26:26-27) and laying by money in store (1 Corinthians 16:1-2) on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7), with singing (Ephesians 5:19) and praying (James 5:16) at any time.
In the meantime, Jesus' disciples had been sent to bring food, and on their return, "they were surprised that he was speaking with a woman" (John 4:27). A rabbi had written, "Let no one talk with a woman on the street, no, not with his own wife" (Robertson). "Socrates (469-399 B.C.) thanked God daily that he was born neither a slave nor a woman" (Guy Woods, Commentary on John).
Somehow the Samaritan woman had learned that "when the Messiah comes, the one who is called 'The Christ,' he will tell us everything" (John 4:25). Jesus answered, "I, the one speaking to you, am he" (John 4:26). The revelation of his Messiahship was news she could not keep and which she wanted to share. Forgetting her waterpot, she hurried the three-quarters of a mile back to her townspeople to convey the good news: "Come see a man who told me everything I have done. He could not be the Christ, could he?" (John 4:29). "Many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him because of the testimony of the woman" (John 4:39). "When the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, which he did for two days. Many more believed because of his message, and they told the woman,
"No longer do we believe because of your report, for we ourselves have heard, and know that this man is truly the Savior of the world" (John 4:40-42).
Jesus staying and teaching in Sychar was against the instructions he had given to his apostles (Matthew 10:1-6), for the time had not yet come to teach the Samaritan people. But perhaps the good and honest hearts he perceived among them changed his procedure on this occasion and he spent two days in Sychar.