John N Darby
John 4: 1-30
From the beginning of His ministry, the Lord had been the object of the jealousy of men who did not want Him because He came to trouble their peace and their importance according to the world. When the Pharisees had heard it said that Jesus made more disciples than John, the Lord left Judæa and returned to Galilee, so removing every excuse for the hatred of His adversaries. They rejected the light and their evil heart could not bear the presence of God in goodness.
Thus, already rejected of men, Jesus goes to Galilee, a despised country far from Jerusalem, which the glory of God had chosen to make His centre. He had to pass through Samaria, of which the inhabitants, an abomination to the Jews, had associated their idolatries with the service of the true God. Jesus had no other rest in this world than to do the will of His Father; weary with the way, He found nothing for His rest in the heat of the day but by the well of Jacob. He asks to drink of a woman; she is astonished at this, seeing that He was a Jew, for she knew that the Jews despised the Samaritans. Jesus at once addresses the question of His mission and what He Himself had to give. Full of goodness, His heart is not stopped either by the conduct of this woman, or by the fact that she was a Samaritan; He speaks of the gift of God and the living water which He had to give. The woman understands nothing of it. It is so with us all: “There is not the man that understands”, Rom 3: 11.
It is important that we should pay attention not only to this, that the heart has no understanding at all, but to why this is so. When Jesus Himself speaks to us, why do we not understand? It is that, at the bottom of it, the conscience is not attracted by what Jesus says, though the attention of the natural man be perhaps aroused. The woman objects that Jesus has nothing to draw with; she was preoccupied with other things than what Jesus was wanting to say; her heart was in its daily occupations; the burden of her circumstances weighed on her. It is so with us all. Nevertheless, Jesus speaks in a clear, straightforward and purposeful way; the things which He says are important, but His words reveal the state of our heart. Preoccupied with the world, with business, with money, it does not understand anything of the words of Christ. Only the goodness of God can deliver it from bondage and enlighten it. Man by his fall is without God in the world, and he has a heavy burden to bear. In these circumstances, God is only good in his eyes when He gives him something for the present life; and that is why he does not understand what God says, for he judges not according to God’s thought, but according to his earthly preoccupations, in the midst of which he can neither understand nor taste the things of God. This is also the secret of the little progress that believers themselves make in spiritual things. God’s things are not understood when the heart of a Christian only appreciates them according to its own needs. The things of the earth being laid hold of by a fallen heart, its cup is already too full for God to be able to add anything to it.
God offers you eternal life, but that is not the thing which preoccupies you now; you therefore have no need of it; it is your needs of the moment which preoccupy you and govern you. One would indeed like heaven for later on, but for the moment it seems more important to enrich oneself and raise one’s family.
But God, to make Himself heard, produces a need in the conscience; He gives to the soul the conviction of sin. Then it cannot fail to know that God has been there, for only He can reach the conscience. Jesus lays hold of this woman’s conscience in showing her that He knows thoroughly what she is and all that she has done. Now the conscience has a need; for this woman it concerns a God who is present and speaking to her. The need is current and pressing; she cannot put things off until later. When God has taken hold of the conscience, pleasures or worries cannot hush it up any more; the matter must be dealt with. It spoils all our pleasures and we cannot get rid of it, because it wants to be satisfied. One feels that eternity is at stake and that one must be clear in this respect. The conscience is intelligent because it tells us that God is there: “thou art a prophet”.
God wants to do with us; He shows Himself to our souls. A word from Him reveals our terrible condition; but we see it to be true, as it is, and it is an immense advantage to see that the things which He has said of us are the truth. Confidence in the word of God is then produced. Jesus manifested Himself to this woman as a prophet, because He told her all that she had done. He does not reproach her for her sins at all, He only speaks to her of them to awaken her conscience and, from the moment He has gained her confidence, He speaks of them no more. He only brings our sins to mind when He draws near to us. Jesus had only shown to the woman one positive sin, but her whole conscience becomes living. The end is reached; He does not reproach her sin at all, but see how He uses her to be His messenger in the whole city.
In reply to the woman’s question, Jesus says: “The Father seeks such as his worshippers”. He does not want to receive any worship whatever from a sinner. Sinful man would indeed like to put on a good face to God, but God takes no account of it. One must be a child and have the certainty of it to say, “Our Father”, otherwise it is only hypocrisy. One must know moreover that all God’s children have God as Father - “Our Father”. I cannot say “our Father” with sinners and then preach to them that if they are not converted they will be lost.
We find three classes of people here: the Jews who had the truth but did not have the Spirit; the Samaritans who had neither the Spirit nor the truth; and finally the true worshippers in Spirit and in truth, God’s children, knowing that there are other people who can say with them to Him, “Our Father”. Jesus chose this despised Samaritan woman in the midst of a city, who did not know what she worshipped, to reveal Himself to her as the Christ. See how this woman, who an instant before, thought only of her pitcher and the water of the well, has suddenly become intelligent! She understands what the Jews and their priests had not understood. Jesus presents Himself to her as the gift of God. He demands nothing; He gives. It is thus evident that the sins which she had committed have not repelled this God who had known her in her sins and who humbled Himself to the point of being indebted for a cup of water to a woman of bad conduct. Does this not prove that God is love and that our sins have drawn out the love of Jesus? The anguished heart, the convicted conscience, having taken confidence in the word of God, find the love of God already manifested and Jesus who speaks to us of the gift of God. There is not a single hope for the soul that feels its sin if God is not uniquely and perfectly love.
Jesus humbles Himself to the point of saying: ‘If you had understood that God gives and that the love of God has placed His Son in the position in which you see Me; you would have asked of me and I would have given you the living water’. This gift is inexhaustible; it is a fountain of water springing up unto eternal life; all the needs of your heart will be satisfied.
The woman forgets her pitcher, and runs to the city. Perhaps her family lacked water that day; she thinks no more about it. She is used by the Lord Jesus to announce His Name, because she has had need of the free grace of God. There is nobody, not even an angel, who can speak of grace like a sinner. And that is how it is that I have been able to preach it to you today.
Translated from ‘Le Messager Evangélique’