HH, Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water–Joh. 4:10
Scenes by Wells
It is remarkable how many of the choicest scenes of Scripture should be associated with wells.
- It was by a well that Abraham’s servant met with the destined bride of Isaac in that loveliest story of the Book of Genesis.
- It was by the well that Jacob first cast his eyes on Rachel.
- It was at a well that one of the crises in the life of Moses came when he stood up and rescued the daughters of Reuel from the shepherds. And all the memories and meetings of these Oriental wells are crowned by this story of the woman of Samaria.
- It was the hour of sultry noon, and the whole land was weary, and Jesus shared in the weariness of noonday. And then a woman of Samaria came to draw, thinking, remembering, dreaming as she came, and all so busy with her woman’s heart that she hardly spied the dusty traveller till He spoke. So do we stumble on life’s greatest moments?
So coming to the well a thousand times unaltered, we come one day and everything is changed. Life’s crises often come unheralded. God is not pledged to warn of their approach. They wear the garments of the common hours and come in the multitude of common duties, when lo! we are at the parting of the ways, and all things shall be different forever.
Christ Disregards Prevailing Prejudices
Now, what struck the writer of this story first was the disregard that Jesus showed for the most cherished prejudices of His day. Christ was a Jew after the flesh, and the woman with the pitcher was Samaritan, and for long centuries, and notably since the rebuilding of the Temple, Jew and Samaritan had been so ripening in mutual spite that now they would not speak to one another. But Jesus sweeps these prejudices off. He bids defiance to conventionality. Behind the sinner and back of the Samaritan, He hears the cry of a soul that can be saved. Everything else becomes as threads of gossamer before His burning passion to redeem her. Now there are some men who scorn conventionalities just because they want to seem original. But there are other men so filled with a burning purpose that in the heat of it common prejudices die. That is a right noble disregard; it is the disregard of Jesus by the well.
Christ First Asks for a Favour
It is remarkable that the first words of Christ are an appeal. “Give me to drink,” He said. It was the first time in all her life that she had ever been asked a favour by a Jew, and to be asked a favour by those whom we are certain would despise us, produces a strange revulsion in the heart. I do not know if even on the cross the humility of Christ is more apparent than in these humble pleadings that fell on this Samaritan’s ears and still are calling to our hearts today. We, too, may feel certain that Jesus will despise us. We may think ourselves very loathsome in His sight. Yet He is pleading with us as a brother pleads and calling to us as a brother calls, and He is holding out His death to us and offering us His pardon and His power. Nay, more, whenever we give a cup of water to a little one in Jesus’ Name, then like the woman of Samaria we are giving Christ to drink. And in every kindly deed, we ever did, we are responding to this pleading of the Master. In every face of pain, every distorted limb, every moan and sigh, and all the sobbing of the helpless children, Christ still is saying, “Give me to drink.” And we had better cease to worship Him as Lord than fail to respond to such a pleading.
Christ Was Impressed by the Samaritan Woman’s Ignorance
I note, too, that what aroused the compassion of Jesus for this woman was her ignorance. “Ah! woman, if you only knew the gift of God: if you only knew who was speaking to you!” In Sychar, the honest neighbours rather shunned this woman, not because she was ignorant, but because she knew too much. They hated her. They tattled of her. She was a bold and unprincipled woman. Only Jesus in the whole wide world pitied her from the bottom of His heart. She was so ignorant for all she knew. She had so missed the prize for all her unhallowed grasping! O heart of Christ, so infinite in pity, teach us again the ignorance of passion, and make us pitiful to the men and women who have missed the mark because they have not known God’s gift of love!
Christ Offers Something Superior and of Permanent Value to the Inner Man
So Jesus gently deals with the Samaritan, reading her heart and showing her what she was and leading her upward from the well of Jacob to the wellsprings that are found in Jacob’s God. “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst, but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” Two features of this promised gift arrest us.
(a) The first is that he that drinketh of the living stream shall never thirst again. But do we not find the Psalmist saying, “My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God”? Is every longing of the soul satisfied forever when we have tasted of the wells of God? Nay, God forbid. The more we drink of holiness, the more we thirst for it. The more we drink of purity, the more we crave it. The more we taste of God, the more we long for Him. But under the power of this new affection, sinful affections gradually die; and baser cravings that dominated once sink slowly in this newborn life in God until at last the very craving is forgotten, and having tasted God, we thirst no more.
(b) And then this fountain is within our heart. This poor Samaritan had to take her pitcher and run the gauntlet of the village street whenever she wanted a draught of Jacob’s well. But the gladness and the peace are within us when we have truly met with Jesus Christ. There is a sense in which a Christian is dependent. There is another sense in which a Christian is the most independent man alive. He can go singing under the dullest skies; he can have royal fellowship in crowded streets, for he carries his heaven in his heart, and heaven in the heart is heaven on earth.