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This post continues my exegesis on John 4:5-42, the Gospel reading for the Third Sunday in Lent (Year A in the three-year Lectionary).

I normally browse Twitter on Sunday mornings. This is the first time I can recall a Sunday reading trending. This morning’s trend was ‘3rd Sunday in Lent’, and there were dozens of tweets from all over the world, many focusing on the Gospel. A few of them follow.

Some pertain to the living water of which Jesus spoke.

I like the multi-lingual posters in Mangalore:

Airedale Holy Cross (Anglican) in Leeds had two tweets:

There were others on the living water theme:

Here is a song about living water:

One priest posted his sermon:

Other tweets showed various genres of artwork depicting our Lord’s conversation with the Samaritan woman:

And, finally, the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles focused on John 4:25-26 (emphases mine):

4:25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.”

4:26 Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

Part 1 of my exegesis has the Gospel reading, a link to the others for this day and covers verses 5-19, with background on the biblical history of the animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans.

N.B.: WordPress technicians found a solution for my external links which were no longer opening automatically in new tabs. All should now open in new tabs.

Picking up on verse 19, where the woman, whom Jesus has told is guilty of adultery, says that He is a prophet, Matthew Henry‘s commentary tells us that she did not react defensively. Most sinners would have recoiled at a stranger knowing the truth about them:

She does not deny the truth of what he had charged her with, but by her silence owns the justice of the reproof; nor is she put into a passion by it, as many are when they are touched in a sore place, does not impute his censure to the general disgust the Jews had to the Samaritans, but (which is a rare thing) can bear to be told of a fault. But this is not all; she goes further: First, She speaks respectfully to him, calls him Sir. Thus should we honour those that deal faithfully with us. This was the effect of Christ’s meekness in reproving her; he gave her no ill language, and then she gave him none. Secondly, She acknowledges him to be a prophet, one that had a correspondence with Heaven. Note, The power of the word of Christ in searching the heart, and convincing the conscience of secret sins, is a great proof of its divine authority, 1 Cor 14 24, 25. Thirdly, She desires some further instruction from him. Many that are not angry at their reprovers, nor fly in their faces, yet are afraid of them and keep out of their way; but this woman was willing to have some more discourse with him that told her of her faults.

At this point, she moved on to matters spiritual.

She said to Jesus that her ancestors worshiped on ‘this mountain’ — Mount Gerizim — but that the Jews say that worship must take place in Jerusalem (verse 20). It is her way of asking which place is correct.

John MacArthur says that questions about worship are an important factor in evangelism:

That’s the question, “Where do I go to worship?” Her soul is bowing slowly. Her soul is bowing slowly and she knows that being right with God is a matter of worship. She doesn’t know where.

In evangelism, there is condescension, there is the offer of mercy, an unparalleled blessing and eternal life. There is the necessary confrontation and conviction of sin to bring the sinner to repentance. And this must be addressed, unacceptable worship must be abandoned, unacceptable worship must be abandoned …

the compelling thing I want you to see is she knew she needed to bow before God. She knew she needed to go to God and bow her knee and acknowledge Him and she didn’t know where to go. All she knew was external religion, because that’s all sinners ever know. That’s all they ever know. She is stunned by Jesus’ knowledge of her iniquitous pattern of life. Her conscience is pained. Her soul is pierced. She is unmasked as an adulterous covenant breaker. She is a stranger to righteousness. The weight of guilt which she spent a lot of her time trying to avoid has now come down in full force on her head. The reality breaks on her once indifferent mind that she needs to be right with God. And maybe that’s the path to living water and eternal life. She had to go to God.

Jesus answered her, saying that the hour is coming when she — and others — will not be worshipping God either on the mountain or in Jerusalem, emphasising His statement with the words ‘believe Me’ (verse 21).

Henry explains:

Note, It should cool us in our contests to think that those things which now fill us, and which we make such a noise about, shall shortly vanish, and be no more: the very things we are striving about are passing away: The hour comes when you shall neither in this mountain nor yet at Jerusalem worship the Father. First, The object of worship is supposed to continue still the same—God, as a Father; under this notion the very heathen worshipped God, the Jews did so, and probably the Samaritans. Secondly, But a period shall be put to all niceness and all differences about the place of worship. The approaching dissolution of the Jewish economy, and the erecting of the evangelical state, shall set this matter at large, and lay all in common, so that it shall be a thing perfectly indifferent whether in either of these places or any other men worship God, for they shall not be tied to any place; neither here nor there, but both, and any where, and every where. Note, The worship of God is not now, under the gospel, appropriated to any place, as it was under the law, but it is God’s will that men pray every where. 1 Tim 2 8; Mal 1 11. Our reason teaches us to consult decency and convenience in the places of our worship: but our religion gives no preference to one place above another, in respect to holiness and acceptableness to God. Those who prefer any worship merely for the sake of the house or building in which it is performed (though it were as magnificent and as solemnly consecrated as ever Solomon’s temple was) forget that the hour is come when there shall be no difference put in God’s account: no, not between Jerusalem, which had been so famous for sanctity, and the mountain of Samaria, which had been so infamous for impiety.

MacArthur reminds us of what happened in AD 70, a few decades after Jesus had this conversation:

“An hour is coming”–and He says it again in verse 23–“an hour is coming and now already is when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.” Not long after this, a few decades, 70 A.D. comes. The Romans come at the end of the Jewish rebellion that started in 66 and the Romans come and they destroy Jerusalem and they crush the temple and don’t leave one stone upon another and there’s no more temple worship. And then the Roman powers go up into the area of Samaria. They arrive at Mount Gerizim and historical accounts tell us they took out their swords and they slaughtered thousands of Samaritans on Mount Gerizim and brought an end to that worship as well. Jesus is giving the prophecy of what’s coming and coming very fast, and it already now is in the sense that the New Covenant is almost in place. It’s not long until it be ratified in His death on the cross. Our Lord’s answer is a very crucial, crucial answer.

Jesus told her that she — and the other Samaritans — worshipped what they did not know, whereas the Jews worshipped what they knew, for salvation was from the Jews (verse 22).

MacArthur interprets our Lord’s words as follows:

This is a critique, a simple and brief critique of Samaritan religion, which was limited as I said to the Pentateuch, and then the mixed in pagan, idolatrous elements of religion from those with whom they intermarried.

“You don’t even know what to worship. At least we Jews worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.” That is, the Scripture was given to the Jews, the Messiah comes through Israel, that’s all He means by that. It’s not for the Jews only, but it’s from the Jews. But He’s saying we have the right data, we have the Scriptures, the oracles of God (Romans 3, Paul says). We have the truth. We know the truth. That’s not a commendation of Jewish religion, by the way, because it was apostate and Jesus denounced it repeatedly.

But nonetheless God had deposited the truth with them, and through them would come Messiah. So we have that on you. You don’t even know what you’re doing. We at least have the revelation of God about worship.

Jesus said that the hour is now coming, indeed it is here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeks such people to worship Him (verse 23).

Again, He was speaking of the coming destruction of the temple and all that was associated with it as well as the slaughter of the Samaritans.

MacArthur says:

There’s no more priesthood. There’s no more altars. There’s no more sacrifices. There’s no more vestments. There are no more incense, candles, all that goes with it. Whether it is the ill-informed worship of the Samaritans or the apostate worship of the Jews, it all disappears, it all passes away. No more mountains, no more temples, no more priests, no more sacrifices, no more altars, no more vestments, no more feasts, no more Sabbaths, none of it–all that is ripped apart, disappeared. And the punctuation point was made in 70 A.D. I mean, it had always been that God wanted heart worship, that’s why Amos said, “Stop your songs, your hearts aren’t right. I hate your feasts. I hate your Sabbaths. I hate what you’re doing.” Malachi said the same thing, “All you ever bring Me is lame animals.” Isaiah 1 said the same thing: your whole head is sick from top to bottom. It’s always been about the heart, but all those symbols that once pointed them in the direction of heart worship are gone, are gone

Jesus told the woman that God is spirit and, therefore, those who worship Him must do so in spirit and in truth (verse 24).

MacArthur continues:

Christ ushered in a new era of worship, doesn’t focus on externals or on symbols, but on what is internal and what is real and what is genuine. All you need to worship is the truth in the Scripture and a heart that loves God anywhere and everywhere. Such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. He wants worshipers who worship in spirit and in truth. He is a spirit, verse 24. And those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.

MacArthur points out the doctrine here:

By the way, we worship the Father, we worship the Father. Twice in verse 23 refer to meaning God, the true God, God Himself, but it’s not limited to Him. He is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The very term “Father” ties Him into Christ as Son. He’s not a Father if He doesn’t have the Son. So we worship the God who is Father and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, as so often is repeated in the New Testament. We worship the God who is also the Holy Spirit–God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, the true God. And we start with truth, right? We start with the truth about God; God is the Trinity.

The woman pursued the conversation saying that she knew that Messiah — Christ — was coming and that, when He came, He would proclaim all things (verse 25).

Henry gives us the Greek used, which means that she thought Messiah’s arrival was imminent:

The Samaritans received the writings of Moses, and were no strangers to the prophets, nor to the hopes of the Jewish nation; those who knew least knew this, that Messias was to come; so general and uncontested was the expectation of him, and at this time more raised than ever (for the sceptre was departed from Judah, Daniel’s weeks were near expiring), so that she concludes not only, He will come, but erchetai—”He comes, he is just at hand: Messias, who is called Christ. The evangelist, though he retains the Hebrew word Messias (which the woman used) in honour to the holy language, and to the Jewish church, that used it familiarly, yet, writing for the use of the Gentiles, he takes care to render it by a Greek word of the same signification, who is called Christ-Anointed, giving an example to the apostle’s rule, that whatever is spoken in an unknown or less vulgar tongue should be interpreted, 1 Cor 14 27, 28.

Henry explains what she meant by Messiah’s proclamation of ‘all things’:

What she expects from him: He will tell us all things relating to the service of God which it is needful for us to know, will tell us that which will supply our defects, rectify our mistakes, and put an end to all our disputes. He will tell us the mind of God fully and clearly, and keep back nothing.” Now this implies an acknowledgement, First, Of the deficiency and imperfection of the discovery they now had of the divine will, and the rule they had of the divine worship; it could not make the comers thereunto perfect, and therefore they expected some great advance and improvement in matters of religion, a time of reformation. Secondly, Of the sufficiency of the Messiah to make this change: “He will tell us all things which we want to know, and about which we wrangle in the dark. He will introduce peace, by leading us into all truth, and dispelling the mists of error.” It seems, this was the comfort of good people in those dark times that light would arise; if they found themselves at a loss, and run aground, it was a satisfaction to them to say, When Messias comes, he will tell us all things; as it may be to us now with reference to his second coming: now we see through a glass, but then face to face.

Then Jesus said to her, ‘I am He, the One who is speaking to you’ (verse 26). One cannot imagine what she must have thought at that moment.

MacArthur gives us the text from the manuscript for that statement:

Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you AM.” There’s no “He” in the original; it’s an I AM statement, the name of God. “I who speak to you AM.” The One speaking to you is the I AM. This is the final point in the glorious culmination. The incarnate Christ is revealed–the unveiling of Christ. She is ready for the truth, and He is there to give it to her. I who speak to you, I AM.

Twenty-three times in the gospel of John we read “I AM.” Seven times He says “I AM” something: the Bread of Life, the Branch, the Way, the Truth, the Life–all references to His eternal Godhood. He reveals Himself to her.

What a blessed woman she became.

MacArthur tells us how conversion works in our Lord’s physical absence. Here we understand that He is always with us, even if we cannot see Him:

This is how it works with the sinner. It starts when we condescend in love and compassion; when we offer the marvelous realities of mercy and blessing, the promises of eternal life, and then we move to confront the sin. And if the sinner will turn under the power of the Holy Spirit and repent of sin and reach out for the truth, it is at that point that Christ is disclosed to the sinner. He reveals Himself to her.

In response to her faith, in response to her repentance, this outcast, immoral, ignorant woman that our Lord sat down to talk with was completely disinterested and now she wants the truth about the life of God that is eternal, that her heart craves so desperately. She wants forgiveness for her wretched life. And in that moment when she believes and when she repents, He is revealed to her.

This is a divine work, isn’t it? She knew nothing about Him at all when it started. Now she wants to know everything about Him that’s available so she can be a true worshiper

You know, I don’t want to overdo this, or turn it into some kind of an analogy, but I would simply say this: when you’ve taken the steps, and obviously we can’t know people’s history like Jesus did, but when you’ve taken the steps to make the condescending conversation begin, initiated it, and when you’ve taken the steps to unfold, and unpack the beauties of the promise of the satisfying gifts that God gives to those who come to Him, and when you’ve confronted sin, and when you’ve warned the people that they have to turn from false worship to true worship, if you’ve done all of that, then you can leave it to God to unveil the truth concerning Himself. That’s the divine work. That’s what heaven has to do.

Just then, our Lord’s disciples arrived, astonished to find Him speaking with a woman, although they did not ask for a reason why (verse 27). Men and women did not converse in those days.

It was part of the divine plan that they did not arrive until just after Christ revealed to the woman that He is the Messiah.

MacArthur examines that timing for us and how it fit into the overall plan for evangelisation:

… notice verse 27, “At this point,” and in the Greek that is very, very specific. “At this point,” at this specific moment. This is a critical juncture. The disciples had finished their business in Sychar. It took whatever time it took to do whatever they needed to do to get the food and walk back. They returned to the well at this moment, at this point. You wouldn’t use that phrase unless you were trying to make a point of the precise timing that was going on there. The very moment Jesus had declared who He was, and the woman turned with that in her and couldn’t get to the village fast enough to tell everyone, at that moment, as that conversation comes to an end, the disciples arrive. If they arrive earlier, the conversation gets interrupted. If they arrive earlier, they begin to ask questions. They engage in the conversation, and we know what their questions would be because they have them in their minds. If they arrive late, they don’t even know about the conversation. The timing is perfect. They’re not too early and they’re not too late. They arrive exactly on time to see Jesus shattering barriers of tradition and prejudice. They see Jesus do what He wants them to do. What does He want them to do? He’s going to tell them…He’s going to tell them before His ascension in Acts 1:8, He’s going to say, You shall be witnesses unto Me in Jerusalem, Judea”…Then what?…Samaria and the ends of the earth.” He’s showing them what He wants them to do.

Yes, the gospel was for Israel, but it was for the world. And when it couldn’t go through Israel, God put judgment on Israel and carved out a new channel—His church made up of Jew and Gentile. God foreordains everything. When it said that, of necessity, Jesus went through Samaria, it was a divine necessity to be at a certain point at a certain time. Every moment, every detail, a thousand details caused everything to converge exactly the way it did, and yet Christ moves, as He always does, effortlessly through the conversation. It’s not forced. It’s not hurried. It comes to its climactic end with the claim that He is the Messiah and she affirms that. He operated on that amazing schedule. He says over and over again, and particularly to the gospel of John that we are in debt for this, “My time has not come,” “My time has not come.” His time had not come. And there are occasions when He said, “My time has come; My hour has come.” He was operating on a divine timetable.

Both our commentators agree that the disciples said nothing to Jesus about His conversation with a woman because they thought He had a good reason for it.

Henry says:

they knew it was for some good reason, and some good end, of which he was not bound to give them an account, and therefore none of them asked, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her? Thus, when particular difficulties occur in the word and providence of God, it is good to satisfy ourselves with this in general, that all is well which Jesus Christ saith and doeth.

MacArthur says:

They kept silent. Why did they keep silent? Well, though they are new disciples, though they haven’t been with Jesus very long, they’re beginning to learn what all disciples need to learn and that is trust. Here’s how your discipleship goes. When you’re new in Christ, you question everything. When you’re mature in Christ, you question nothing. And in the process you go from questioning everything to questioning nothing.

Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city, saying to the people (verse 28) to come and see a man who told her everything she had ever done, asking, ‘He cannot be the Messiah, can he?’ (verse 29).

John adds that marvellous detail about her leaving her water jar behind. I can think of several reasons why she did so. First, the notion that she came face to face with the Messiah who revealed everything she had ever done must have filled her with an eager awe to tell others. Secondly, she did not want to be slowed down on a mile-and-a-half trip into the city with a full jar of water. Thirdly, as she was calling people to meet Jesus, she would naturally return for her jar. Fourthly, she no doubt also left it behind for the Messiah and His companions to enjoy with their lunch.

She must have been persuasive when she went to Sychar, because John tells us that the people left the city and went to meet Him (verse 30).

Notice that she asks whether the man she met is the Messiah. She knows deep in her heart that He is but, being a woman in a patriarchal era, she must not stamp her authority on a personal statement.

However, MacArthur adds that she posed the question in order that the people discovered the truth for themselves:

she defers to them as men; she’s gracious about that, and she’s open about the fact that everything that I’ve lived, all the wretchedness of my life. He knew; He knew it all. Come see this…this…Is this the Messiah? And she poses it negatively because she wants them to make the discovery. She doesn’t want to force that on them. And so they responded.

Henry has more:

Two things affected her:—First, the extent of his knowledge. We ourselves cannot tell all things that ever we did (many things pass unheeded, and more pass away and are forgotten); but Jesus Christ knows all the thoughts, words, and actions, of all the children of men; see Heb 4 13. He hath said, I know thy works. Secondly, The power of his word. This made a great impression upon her, that he told her her secret sins with such an unaccountable power and energy that, being told of one, she is convinced of all, and judged of all. She does not say, “Come, see a man that has told me strange things concerning religious worship, and the laws of it, that has decided the controversy between this mountain and Jerusalem, a man that calls himself the Messias; but, Come see a man that has told me of my sins.” She fastens upon that part of Christ’s discourse which one would think she would have been most shy of repeating; but experimental proofs of the power of Christ’s word and Spirit are of all others the most cogent and convincing; and that knowledge of Christ into which we are led by the conviction of sin and humiliation is most likely to be sound and saving.

Meanwhile, back at the well, the disciples were urging Jesus to eat something (verse 31).

But He replied that He had food to eat that they knew nothing about (verse 32).

The disciples asked each other whether someone nearby might have brought Him sustenance in their absence (verse 33).

Jesus then gave them a brief discourse on the work of saving souls.

He said that His food was to do the will of the Father, who sent Him, and to complete His work (verse 34).

MacArthur reminds us that in the Old Testament God was often referred to as ‘God our Saviour’:

That is an Old Testament title for God. He is by nature a saving God—God who is the Savior of all men, especially of those that believe. He’s the Savior of all men in the sense that He even temporally and physically doesn’t give sinners what they deserve when they deserve it. If He did, they would all perish, we would all be dead the first time we sinned. God by nature is a Savior, is patient and gracious, and merciful and kind, hoping that His mercy leads us to repentance. And so He’s even in a temporal sense demonstrating that He’s a Savior by nature. In a spiritual sense, He does it eternally and spiritually when He brings us to true salvation …

Therefore, this was essential for Jesus:

His joy, His exhilaration, His delight was in the work of the Father in saving sinners. That’s His joy. That caused His heart to be so uplifted that He had no thought of physical hunger. There is evidence then of who He is from providence. There is evidence from priority, the focus of His life. He came to seek and save the lost.

Henry also says that Jesus takes delight in saving souls:

How Christ expresses the delight which he himself had in his work. His work was to seek and save that which was lost, to go about doing good. Now with this work we here find him wholly taken up.

Jesus asked the disciples if they did not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’, then, as if by way of illustration, told them to look around and see how the fields were ripe for harvesting (verse 35).

In older translations, ‘white’ is used for ‘ripe’. MacArthur explains that John is referring not only to crops once matured but also to the Samaritans arriving:

That’s a beautiful moment. Here come the villagers with their typically Middle Eastern, ancient white robes and when the harvest is white, it means that the tops of the grain have turned white and the harvest is ready. The green grain is still there but here come the white Samaritans and they’re like grain ready to be harvested. “Don’t say four months. I’m telling you, lift up your eyes, the harvest is now.”

What’s He talking about? He prophesies that those people are going to be saved that day. He not only knows the past of the woman, He knows the future of the village.

Jesus continued, saying that the reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together (verse 36).

He said that the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ holds true (verse 37).

He added that He sent them to reap that for which they did not labour; others had laboured, and the disciples had entered into their labour (verse 38).

MacArthur explains what Jesus meant:

Right now, you’re here and right now you are going to have the joy of reaping and receiving the benefit, the wages, the blessing that comes to those that gather fruit for life eternal. You’re going to be part of a revival right here. “And he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together, for in this case the saying is true. One sows and another reaps.”

What does He mean by that? You’re going to reap what you didn’t sow. Who…who sowed? Who sowed into these Samaritans, Moses? They had the Pentateuch. Some of the prophets from which had developed their Messianic ideas; is it possible John the Baptist? There’s one other sower, the woman. She went and she told them what had happened to her. Something from Moses, something from the prophets, and something maybe had drifted from John the Baptist’s extensive ministry. Remember, he had moved north for the last number of months. And this is how it is. Some sow, some reap, and God…What?…gives the increase. So He’s teaching His disciples a lesson. And He’s saying, “I sent you to reap that for which you haven’t labored, others have labored and you’ve entered into their labor.” You’ve come at the end of the labor to reap the harvest, and you’re going to reap it today. What an amazing day, amazing day.

How does He know this? Because He not only knows what people think—He not only knows the past, He knows the future. He knows they’re going to be saved that day. After all, He’s the Savior; He’s the one who gives life. He’s the one who determines salvation. So evidence comes from prophecy.

Henry points to the hard work that goes on in a harvest of crops:

See here how Christ, having expressed his delight in his work, excites his disciples to diligence in their work; they were workers with him, and therefore should be workers like him, and make their work their meat, as he did. The work they had to do was to preach the gospel, and to set up the kingdom of the Messiah. Now this work he here compares to harvest work, the gathering in of the fruits of the earth; and this similitude he prosecutes throughout the discourse, v. 35-38. Note, gospel time is harvest time, and gospel work harvest work. The harvest is before appointed and expected; so was the gospel. Harvest time is busy time; all hands must be then at work: every one must work for himself, that he may reap of the graces and comforts of the gospel: ministers must work for God, to gather in souls to him. Harvest time is opportunity, a short and limited time, which will not last always; and harvest work is work that must be done then or not at all; so the time of the enjoyment of the gospel is a particular season, which must be improved for its proper purposes; for, once past, it cannot be recalled. The disciples were to gather in a harvest of souls for Christ. Now he here suggests three things to them to quicken them to diligence:—

(1.) That it was necessary work, and the occasion for it very urgent and pressing (v. 35): You say, It is four months to harvest; but I say, The fields are already white. Here is,

[1.] A saying of Christ’s disciples concerning the corn-harvest; there are yet four months, and then comes harvest, which may be taken either generally—”You say, for the encouragement of the sower at seed-time, that it will be but four months to the harvest.” With us it is but about four months between the barley-sowing and the barley-harvest, probably it was so with them as to other grain; or, “Particularly, now at this time you reckon it will be four months to next harvest, according to the ordinary course of providence.” The Jews’ harvest began at the Passover, about Easter, much earlier in the year than ours, by which it appears that this journey of Christ from Judea to Galilee was in the winter, about the end of November, for he travelled all weathers to do good. God has not only promised us a harvest every year, but has appointed the weeks of harvest; so that we know when to expect it, and take our measures accordingly.

[2.] A saying of Christ’s concerning the gospel harvest; his heart was as much upon the fruits of his gospel as the hearts of others were upon the fruits of the earth; and to this he would lead the thoughts of his disciples: Look, the fields are already white unto the harvest. First, Here in this place, where they now were, there was harvest work for him to do. They would have him to eat, v. 31. “Eat!” saith he, “I have other work to do, that is more needful; look what crowds of Samaritans are coming out of the town over the fields that are ready to receive the gospel;” probably there were many now in view. People’s forwardness to hear the word is a great excitement to ministers’ diligence and liveliness in preaching it. Secondly, In other places, all the country over, there was harvest work enough for them all to do. “Consider the regions, think of the state of the country, and you will find there are multitudes as ready to receive the gospel as a field of corn that is fully ripe is ready to be reaped.” The fields were now made white to the harvest, 1. By the decree of God revealed in the prophecies of the Old Testament. Now was the time when the gathering of the people should be to Christ ( Gen 49 10), when great accessions should be made to the church and the bounds of it should be enlarged, and therefore it was time for them to be busy. It is a great encouragement to us to engage in any work for God, if we understand by the signs of the times that this is the proper season for that work, for then it will prosper. 2. By the disposition of men. John Baptist had made ready a people prepared for the Lord, Luke 1 17. Since he began to preach the kingdom of God every man pressed into it, Luke 16 16. This, therefore, was a time for the preachers of the gospel to apply themselves to their work with the utmost vigour, to thrust in their sickle, when the harvest was ripe, Rev 14 15. It was necessary to work now, pity that such a season should be let slip. If the corn that is ripe be not reaped, it will shed and be lost, and the fowls will pick it up. If souls that are under convictions, and have some good inclinations, be not helped now, their hopeful beginnings will come to nothing, and they will be a prey to pretenders. It was also easy to work now; when the people’s hearts are prepared the work will be done suddenly, 2 Chron 29 36. It cannot but quicken ministers to take pains in preaching the word when they observe that people take pleasure in hearing it.

Returning to the Samaritans, in verse 39, John says that many of them believed in Jesus because of the woman’s testimony; he also reprises what the she said in verse 29, “He told me everything I have ever done.”

Both Henry and MacArthur point out a mass conversion such as this never happened among the Jews during our Lord’s ministry.

Henry says simply:

Who they were that believed: Many of the Samaritans, who were not of the house of Israel. Their faith was not only an aggravation of the unbelief of the Jews, from whom better might have been expected, but an earnest of the faith of the Gentiles, who would welcome that which the Jews rejected.

MacArthur reminds us of other episodes in our Lord’s ministry and contrasts those with the Samaritans in this passage:

Do you know that never happened in a village in Israel? In fact, the disciples were getting so tired of going into villages and proclaiming Christ and having Christ come in and being rejected and mistreated, that James and John came to Jesus and said, “Do You want us to call down fire from heaven and incinerate the town?” Jesus said, “Back off, guys.” This never happened. This never happened in Judea. He went to His own village in Galilee—the village of Nazareth—to preach one sermon; they tried to stone Him to death. This is a very significant event. The only time a town is converted and this is to tell us that He is the Savior of the world. And His people have rejected Him; He will go to the world. He tells the disciples what Paul says in 2 Timothy 2, “The hard-working farmer does what he does because he gets to taste the fruit.” Today you’re going to have a great experience.

Now remember, eventually they’re going to get the Great Commission. They’re going to go to the Judea, Samaria, the uttermost part of the earth. They need to know that when they go there will be fruit there. They need to know that they’ll taste the fruit. They’ll go, they’ll plant, they’ll water, they’ll labor—God will give the increase. They’ll enjoy the fruit. So this is a preview of things to come, after His ascension when the Holy Spirit came upon them and they were sent to the world. You’re going to find joy and rejoicing in the fact that God will honor your efforts.

Henry is so correct in mentioning earnest faith, because the Samaritans asked Jesus to stay with them, and He stayed there two days (verse 40). John tells us that many more believed because of His word (verse 41).

Did Jesus ever receive such hospitality from another group of people? No, he did not.

MacArthur wonders what those two days must have been like. He’s not the only one. I do, and I reckon you do, too:

I don’t know what those two days were like, but that must have been incredible. It’s the only time in His earthly ministry that ever happened. It’s the only time it ever happened where He actually spent two days with a whole town, revealing Himself who He was. And I’m sure He talked about the cross and the resurrection and the kingdom.

The Samaritans 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 truly the Savior of the world’ (verse 42), which sounds on the face of it to be a bit demeaning to her, but we should take it as, ‘He is everything you said He was — and more’.

Henry describes how their faith grew during those two days:

what he said and did there is not related, whether he healed their sick or no; but it is intimated, in the effect, that he said and did that which convinced them that he was the Christ; and the labours of a minister are best told by the good fruit of them. Their hearing of him had a good effect, but now their eyes saw him; and the effect was, 1. That their number grew (v. 41): Many more believed: many that would not be persuaded to go out of the town to him were yet wrought upon, when he came among them, to believe in him. Note, It is comfortable to see the number of believers; and sometimes the zeal and forwardness of some may be a means to provoke many, and to stir them up to a holy emulation, Rom 11 14. 2. That their faith grew. Those who had been wrought upon by the report of the woman now saw cause to say, Now we believe, not because of thy saying, v. 42. Here are three things in which their faith grew:(1.) In the matter of it, or that which they did believe. Upon the testimony of the woman, they believed him to be a prophet, or some extraordinary messenger from heaven; but now that they have conversed with him they believe that he is the Christ, the Anointed One, the very same that was promised to the fathers and expected by them, and that, being the Christ, he is the Saviour of the world; for the work to which he was anointed was to save his people from their sins. They believed him to be the Saviour not only of the Jews, but of the world, which they hoped would take them in, though Samaritans, for it was promised that he should be Salvation to the ends of the earth, Isa 49 6. (2.) In the certainty of it; their faith now grew up to a full assurance: We know that this is indeed the Christ; alethostruly; not a pretended Christ, but a real one; not a typical Saviour, as many under the Old Testament, but truly one. Such an assurance as this of divine truths is what we should labour after; not only, We think it probable, and are willing to suppose that Jesus may be the Christ, but, We know that he is indeed the Christ. (3.) In the ground of it, which was a kind of spiritual sensation and experience: Now we believe, not because of thy saying, for we have heard him ourselves. They had before believed for her saying, and it was well, it was a good step; but now they find further and much firmer footing for their faith: “Now we believe because we have heard him ourselves, and have heard such excellent and divine truths, accompanied with such commanding power and evidence, that we are abundantly satisfied and assured that this is the Christ. This is like what the queen of Sheba said of Solomon (1 Kings 10 6, 7): The one half was not told me. The Samaritans, who believed for the woman’s saying, now gained further light; for to him that hath shall be given; he that is faithful in a little shall be trusted with more. In this instance we may see how faith comes by hearing. [1.] Faith comes to the birth by hearing the report of men. These Samaritans, for the sake of the woman’s saying, believed so far as to come and see, to come and make trial. Thus the instructions of parents and preachers, and the testimony of the church and our experienced neighbours, recommend the doctrine of Christ to our acquaintance, and incline us to entertain it as highly probable. But, [2.] Faith comes to its growth, strength, and maturity, by hearing the testimony of Christ himself; and this goes further, and recommends his doctrine to our acceptance, and obliges us to believe it as undoubtedly certain. We were induced to look into the scriptures by the saying of those who told us that in them they had found eternal life; but when we ourselves have found it in them too, have experienced the enlightening, convincing, regenerating, sanctifying, comforting, power of the word, now we believe, not for their saying, but because we have searched them ourselves: and our faith stands not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God, 1 Cor 2 5; 1 John 5 9, 10.

What a wonderful story. Yes, it is one most of us know well, but to dig deeper into it affords us spiritual treasure beyond value.


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