Sermon: John 4:27-42: The Woman of Samaria (Part 4)


I’d like to approach this text a bit differently from the way I typically organize my sermons. Notice that verses 7-26 focused upon one scene. The camera, if you will, remained focused upon the interaction between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. We settled there for a while. Much was said. And we witnessed a progression. Jesus slowly revealed the truth concerning who he was, and the woman slowly came to see Jesus for who he was, eventually confessing him to be the Messiah, the Savior of the world.

But in verses 27-42 the pace of the narrative picks up a bit; the camera moves rather quickly from one scene to the next.

At first, in verse 27-30 we see the disciples return form their journey to town. They  find Jesus talking with the woman at the well. The woman then returns to town and the story follows her there as she tells her fellow Samaritans of her interaction with Jesus.

Then, in verses 31-38, the camera returns to the well. Now it is the disciples who are being instructed by Jesus. The woman and the disciples have exchanged places – she returned to the city and now the disciples are with Jesus at the well, and he is teaching them.

After that, in verse 39-42, the focus shifts to the Samaritans. They, upon hearing the testimony of the woman, come to Jesus to see and hear for themselves. They ask Jesus to stay with them that they might learn more, and  many come to believe.

So, there are three scenes contained within verses 27-42. I’d like take each of them, one at a time and make observations and draw application from each.

Scene 1 – 4:27-30

Let’s consider the first scene in verses 27-30:

“Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you seek?’ or, ‘Why are you talking with her?’ So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?’ They went out of the town and were coming to him.” (John 4:27-30, ESV)

An Awkward Moment

So evidently there was an awkward moment when the disciples of Jesus returned from the city and  found Jesus conversing with the woman of Samaritan.

Remember, this woman had three things against her in the eyes of the Jew’s of Jesus’ day. One, she was a Samaritan (Jew’s would often avoid contact with Samaritans); two, she was a woman (a Jewish man would never converse openly with a women in the way that Jesus did); and three, she was an adulteress (the disciples of Jesus could not have known this, but perhaps she looked the part).

So as the disciples of Jesus return from the town and find this situation I imagine tension in the air – you know what I’m talking about. This was an awkward moment, I think. Everyone there knew what everyone else was thinking, but no one said a word. I picture the disciples avoiding eye contact with Jesus and with the woman; I picture the woman looking down at the ground, avoiding eye contact with the disciples; and I picture Jesus looking confidently both at the woman and at the disciples – his conscience was clear because his motives were pure.

The significant thing to notice here is that the mind of Christ, and the ways of Christ, were often at odds with the cultural norms – Christ’s view of the world was at odds with the worldview of his disciples in this moment. And what is Christ doing except this? He is calling his disciples to renew their minds and to see the world as he sees it.

As the disciples looked at this woman they saw a Samaritan; a woman; a sinner – one to be avoided. As Jesus looked at this woman he saw a Samaritan, a woman, a sinner – one who needed to hear the gospel – one who the Father was seeking.

It’s good for the Christian to be aware of the fact that we too have been impacted by our society. Each of us sees the world through lenses which have been colored by our culture and our life experiences. We view the world in a particular way, and we assume that the way we view the world is the right way to view it! We view the world in a particular way, and we assume that everyone else sees what we see!

But the Christian ought to live life aware of the possibility that some things that we hold to be true might in fact be wrong. The Christian should seek to know God’s thoughts concerning the world. The Christian should seek to lay ahold of God’s mind and to know God’s ways, as he has revealed them in his Holy Word. The Christian ought to ask the question, is the way I view the world correct according to God? Everyone has a worldview – a way of interpreting and understanding the world around them. The question that the Christian must ask is, do I have a correct worldview? A biblical one? A distinctly Christian one? The question is, do I have the mind of Christ – the eyes of Christ – the heart of Christ?

When we consider the disciples and their journey with Christ over the period of 3 years or so, what we see is a slow and steady transformation. Their minds are progressively renewed – they come to understand more and more – they are moved progressively to see the world as God sees it as they walk with Christ and encounter his teachings and witness his ways. You and I are on the same journey. We do not have the Word of God incarnate walking before us, but we do have the Word written, and we would do well to live in humble submission to it.

This was a lesson learned by the disciples as they walked up and witnesses their Rabi conversing with the woman of Samaria in this way. They didn’t realize it, but school was in session! And what was the lesson? It was this: One, God is concerned to save the world – yes, even the Samaritans. Two, God is concerned to redeem women – they are no less valued by God; men and woman are unique, but equal in God’s sight. Three, God is concerned to call sinners to himself. The disciples needed adjust their way of seeing the world to coincide with the way that God sees it, as revealed through Christ, the eternal Son of God.

The Woman Left Her Water Jar

The woman would soon leave to go back to her to town to tell of her encounter with Jesus. But notice the detail that John provides. He is concerned to tell us in verse 28 that “the woman left her water jar” as she went away. What is the significance of this detail? Why does John give it?

Consider three things;

One, this detail supports the claim that John, the author, was indeed an eye witness to these things. We can picture him being among the twelve, taking note of the fact that the woman, as she hurried away, left her water pot behind – he decided to include this detail in his narrative.

Two, this signifies that the woman planned to return. She ran off, not because she rejected Christ’s claim, but because she was thrilled to hear his claims, and planned to return. Wonderful things had been revealed to her by Jesus, but she was not finished. Far to many people are content with only an initial and superficial encounter with Jesus – this women believed that Jesus was the Christ, but she intended to sit as his feet even more.

Three – and I will admit that this is the most speculative of the three observations – but I can’t help but wonder if John is not symbolizing something here as he makes note of this little detail.

The woman left her water jar. Why would John take the time to tell us?

Consider this: The woman came originally to draw physical water to quench her physical thirst – Jesus offered her living water, spiritual water that would satisfy eternally. We learned that this woman’s entire life had been marked by seeking satisfaction in worldly things. She had been married to five men, the one she was currently with was not her husband. Jesus was calling her to repent of that. He was calling her to leave the worldly things behind and to seek the things that are above – things that satisfy deeply and truly and eternally. I can’t help but think that John gives us this little detail – the woman left her water jar – to symbolize this reality – that the woman went away no longer concerned with earthly water, but desiring the water that only Christ could give. There was a change of heart that took place within this woman, and perhaps the living behind of the water jar symbolized that reality.

Coming to Christ is like that. We spend our lives drinking from the cisterns of this world. We expect them to satisfy; we expect that they will quench our thirst, but they do not. And then Christ calls us to himself. Christ offers living water. And as we begin to drink of him we find that he is far better than anything this world has to offer – far more satisfying.

To walk with Christ, to worship God in spirit and truth, to live in obedience to God’s word, it not a dreary thing – it is blessed thing, a happy thing!

So many live life chasing after satisfaction and contentment, peace and pleasure in the things of this world – but it alludes them. They drink, and drink, and drink, but their thirst is never quenched. They find themselves perpetually parched, forever dry. And they wonder why that is?

God would say, you’re drinking from the wrong cistern; you’re drinking from the wrong jar – from the wrong well

All of this reminds me of the words spoken by God to his rebellious people through Jeremiah the prophet, saying,  “for my people have committed two evils: [the first one is this,] they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and [the second is that they have] hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (Jeremiah 2:13, ESV)

This is the essence of sin. Sin is our love misdirected. Sin is our worship misdirected. Sin is when you and I drink from the wrong cistern, seeing this or that thing as being worthy of honor and able to satisfy our souls, when in fact only God is worthy; only God is able. We are to drink of Christ.

The woman left her water jar behind. She was more concerned to drink of Christ! She was done with seeking satisfaction in the waters of this world. I think that is the symbolism here.

Come and See!

Notice that the woman immediately ran to her home town and, in verse 29, “said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?’”

Notice that this woman wasted no time in serving as a witness to the Christ.

Notice the pattern in John’s gospel. In 1:38 Andrew and John approach Jesus for the first time and ask, “‘Rabbi… where are you staying?’ [And Jesus] said to them, ‘Come and you will see’…” In 1:46 Nathaniel responds to Philip’s announcement that he had found the Messiah by saying, “‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’” And here the woman, being thrilled about what had been revealed to her runs to her home town and pleads with those she loves saying, come and see.

It seems to me that John is communicating two things by the repetition:

One, he is urging those not yet in Christ to come and see – to investigate the clams of Christ that they might also see him as the Christ, the eternal Son of God, the Savior of the World, as communicated within the scriptures generally, and to believe in his name. Come and see. A brief and superficial consideration will not do. Come and see.

Two, John is establishing a clear pattern for Christians. The pattern is this: to believe in Christ – to see him as the Christ and to follow him – naturally involves urging others to do the same. That is the pattern! Those who follow Christ in John’s gospel immediately think of those they love and they proceed to witness or testify concerning Jesus as the Christ, the Savior of the World.

Come and see, come and see, come and see, is the pattern established in John’s gospel.

Scene 2 – 4:31-38

Let’s consider scene two together. In verse 31 the camera transitions from the woman witnessing to her fellow Samaritans back to Jesus at the well with his disciples.

”Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, ‘Rabbi, eat.’ But he said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ So the disciples said to one another, ‘Has anyone brought him something to eat?’Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.’” (John 4:31-38, ESV)

I’d like for you to notice the similarity between Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well and Jesus’ conversation with his disciples at the well. It’s as if Jesus had set up a classroom there. At first, class was in session for the woman; now class is in session for the twelve.

He had moved the woman’s eyes from a fixation upon the earthly to a fixation upon the heavenly – now he is doing the same with his disciples. The woman came to draw water, the disciples came bringing food. To the woman Jesus said,“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:10, ESV) When the disciples urge Jesus to eat he responds to them saying, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” (John 4:32, ESV) The woman misunderstood, saying,“Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?” (John 4:11, ESV) The disciples also misunderstood saying, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” (John 4:33, ESV)

School was indeed in session, wasn’t it? And the lesson for the woman and for the disciples shared this in common: Christ was urging them both to look beyond the things of this world so that they might see the heavenly and spiritual reality in Christ Jesus. The woman was looking to the wrong things for satisfaction and for salvation; the disciples were looking to the wrong things for strength and purpose.

When Jesus said that he had food to eat that they did not know about, he was not talking about physical food anymore than he was offering physical living water to the woman at the well. He clarified, saying, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” (John 4:34, ESV)

Perhaps it was that the disciples were, at this point, still preoccupied with the things of this world. Jesus pointed their attention heavenward. It’s as if Jesus was saying, you’re concerned about bread – you look to bread to move you along – I’m looking to the Father. It is the Fathers will that moves me along. Live, not for the things of this world, but to accomplished the Fathers will. Look, not only to the bread of this world, but to the bread from above for strength and nourishment. This similar to what Jesus says in Matthew 4:4: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4, ESV) 

Jesus was more concerned to accomplish the will of the Father than to satisfy his fleshly appetite. If only we would maintain this priority! Our priorities are often situated in exactly the opposite way. How quick we are to abandon any thought of living for the will of God when the flesh cries out.

Christ knew how to control the appetites of the flesh. Life was not to be lived for food, but food was for life. Life is not to be driven by the appetites of the flesh, but by the will of God. Christ was decidedly devoted to accomplishing the will of the Father. The will of God for him involved bringing in a great harvest from every tongue, tribe, people and nation.

Listen to his words to his disciples. Verse 35:

“Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor’.” (John 4:35–38, ESV)

Notice the language in the middle of verse 35: “Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes and see”; “Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes and see”; “Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes and see”! Christ is here doing with his disciples the very thing that he was doing with the woman at the well – he was trying to elevate their minds, to open their eyes to see beyond the stuff of this earth that they might perceive the heavenly realities that lay beyond and behind it all.

The disciples were preoccupied with bread – bread that when you eat of it you grow hungry again – bread that would mold and rot with the passing of time. Christ was concerned to bring in a harvest and to gather fruit of an eternal kind. 

“There are yet four months, then comes the harvest”, was probably a common saying amongst farmers. A farmer plants seed and then waits a few months before he sees a harvest. That is the natural way of things. Jesus is pointing out to his disciples the uniqueness of their situation. They had only been walking with him for a short time and yet the time to gather in a harvest was upon them. Verse 35: “…lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” Many Samaritans are about to enter the kingdom.

 Jesus goes on, saying,

“Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” (John 4:36–38, ESV)

These words of Jesus seem to be alluding to Old Testament promises concerning a coming age when God would bring in a great and bountiful harvest. Amos 9:13-14 comes to mind:

“‘Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when the plowman shall overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed; the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it. I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.’” (Amos 9:13–14, ESV)

Jesus is announcing to his disciples that the time for harvest is upon them. This is a time where sower and reaper will work together simultaneously. The disciples of Christ, and those who come after them, will bring in a great harvest, though it was others who sowed the seed.

The question to be asked is, who are the others that Jesus refers to in verse 38 – “Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor”?

Jesus is referring to all those who have gone before – to those who prepared the way. In the most immediate context, Jesus himself had labored as he taught the woman at the well. Now a great harvest was to be gathered because of his labors – he sowed, the disciples would reap. We could also mention the ministry of John the Baptist – his was a ministry of preparation – a ministry involving sowing, if you will. And behind him we have the Prophets of old, and the Patriarchs who labored in faith, who longed to see what these disciples were seeing, and did not see it, and to hear what they were hearing, and did not hear it (see Matthew 13:17).

Jesus is teaching his disciples. He is adjusting their worldview. They are fixated upon physical bread – Jesus is training them to set their hearts to the task of sowing and reaping a spiritual and eternal harvest.

Oh, that we would also maintain a perspective such as this! We indeed are concerned with bread and water, clothing and shelter – these are valid concerns that go along with living in this world. But the Christian is to see that life has a greater purpose than eating and drinking – we are to feast on God and give ourselves to the accomplishment of his will and his purpose.

Therefore we pray daily in this way:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, amen.]” (Matthew 6:9–13, ESV)

Scene 3 – 4:39-42

Let’s look briefly now at the third scene. Verses 39 tells us that,

“Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.’” (John 4:39-42, ESV)

I see in this text the seventh and final theme, already introduced in John, but picked up here and shown to be true in real life in the story of the woman of Samaria (I have presented the other 6 in the last three sermons). Jesus did indeed come for this purpose, to gather in a great harvest of souls from all the peoples of the earth.

This really is incredible. So far only a few Jews have believed – but here many Samaritans respond to Jesus in faith. This must have been a most unexpected development.

Notice that they come to Christ because of the testimony of the woman. I’m typically leery of encouraging people to share their testimonies. The reason is because I have seen this done so poorly. People like to make much of themselves when they share their testimony. But there is a difference between a personal testimony which focus upon self, and testifying to the glory of God in Christ Jesus. The former is unacceptable, the later a most powerful thing.

Notice that the woman shared what she knew and then brought the people to Jesus.

May I suggest that you are to do the same.

Many Christians hesitate to witness because of the fear that they do not know enough. Two things needed be said. One, perhaps it is time for you to grow in your understanding of Christ? Two, notice that you do not need to know much to testify concerning Christ and to say, as the woman did, come and see.

The question is, where are you to bring people to hear from themselves? The woman took them to Jesus who was still sitting at the well. The people asked Jesus to stay with them, and he remained two days, teaching from the scriptures concerning himself. But where are you take people when you say, come and see?

You are to take them to the body of Christ which is present on earth today – to the church. If you do not have the gift of teaching or evangelism, you are to take them to those who do. Bring them to service on the Lord’s Day where the Word is preached. Bring the to class where the Word is taught. If you are unable to show them Christ in the scriptures, say come and see, and bring them to the body of Christ which is made up of many members, each uniquely equipped with spiritual gifts, so that together the church might fulfill her mission to “go and make disciples of all nations.”

The woman’s testimony was wonderful – “He told me all that I ever did” – but it was only after seeing Christ for themselves that they were wiling to confess, “this is indeed the Savior of the world.”



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