Our Lord Jesus Christ was the greatest of all teachers. He used different methods to minister to His hearers. While He frequently spoke to the multitudes, He also spent time ministering personally to needy individuals. Our Saviour’s discourse with the despised Samaritan woman is one such example.
In our past two articles, we saw how Christ graciously condescended to meet the spiritual needs of the adulterous Samaritan woman. His kindness and gentleness opened the way to the heart of this needy sin-stricken soul.
Let us note the progression in our Lord’s extension of grace to the Samaritan woman. Jesus did not start the conversation by highlighting her sinful estate though He knew all about her immorality. It was only after He had gained her attention and awakened her spiritual interest that He gently reproved her scandalous lifestyle: “The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: 18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly” (Jn 4: 17-18).
What further lessons can we learn from this instructive account of Christ’s ministry to the Samaritan woman?
o Christ’s readiness to receive sinners
The woman felt uncomfortable when Jesus addressed her sins. Changing the topic, she enquired about the right place of worship – whether it should be “in this mountain” or “in Jerusalem” (v 20). Patiently, the Lord taught her that “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (v 24). “Nothing is more common than for sinners to change the conversation when it begins to bear too hard upon their consciences; … By showing her, also, that He knew her life, though a stranger to her, He convinced her that he was qualified to teach her the way to heaven, and thus prepared her to admit that he was the Messiah (Jn 4: 29)” (Matthew Henry).
Christ’s wise and gracious answers to her objections convinced the woman that He was no ordinary man: “I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things” (v 25). Though she was a Samaritan, this woman knew about the coming of the Messiah. Driven from her false refuge, she was now ready to receive the Saviour.
“Her heart had been made lighter with the great hope of the world. The words of Jesus Christ carried her thoughts to that hope. He had told her much; the Messiah would tell her all things, and give light on every dark question. She perhaps began to suspect that Jesus was the Messiah” (The People’s New Testament Commentary).
Responding to her statement, Jesus told her plainly that He was the Messiah: “I that speak unto thee am he” (v 26) – the first such admission recorded in the Gospels. When asked by the Jews whether He was the Messiah, Jesus did not answer them in plain terms for He knew their proud and envious hearts (Jn. 10: 24). But the Lord, seeing the yearning in the heart of this needy soul, revealed Himself fully to her: “I that speak unto thee am he” (v 26).
We thank the Lord that He delights to reveal Himself to the poor and needy. Indeed, all whose hearts are open to Him will find grace in His sight. While this Samaritan woman was shunned by many, our Saviour sought her out and extended grace to her. The Lord is ever ready to receive and save lost sinners. He sought out Zacchaeus, a tax collector who was hated by his fellow Jews because he had cheated them. The Lord visited him, and Zacchaeus and his family were saved: “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk 19: 10).
o Inviting sinners to Christ
The woman had come to the well with the sole purpose of drawing water for her physical needs. But at the well, she had met the Messiah and received Him. Now she could think of nothing else but the truths she had heard, and the Saviour Who had ministered so kindly to her. Having found “living water” – which could meet her soul’s deepest needs – “the woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city” to share her new-found faith with her fellow Samaritans: “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” (vv 28-29). Constrained by her love for her Saviour, she began immediately to witness for the Lord. This was clear evidence of the gracious work which the Lord had wrought in her.
As she went about to call others to the Saviour, she used no complex arguments. Neither did she enter into a discussion about His claim as the Messiah. She merely invited the men of her city to “Come, see …” the Messiah for themselves.
Her zealous witness for the Lord met with much fruit: “Then they went out of the city, and came unto him” (v 30). They came to Christ to examine Him, that they might know who He was, “for though the woman had been a woman of ill fame, yet such was the account that she gave of Christ, and such power went along with her words, that what with the strangeness of the relation, and the curiosity with which they were led, and chiefly through the efficacy of divine grace, at least in many of them, they were moved to regard what she said, and to follow her directions and solicitations” (Albert Barnes).
Through the woman’s faithful testimony, the people of Samaria came to know the Lord: “And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world” (v 42).
We thank God for His special grace upon poor and needy sinners. He took time to minister to the Samaritan woman and lead her to grace and salvation.
Let us also learn from the Samaritan woman. She was concerned for the salvation of her fellow Samaritans. Having been saved, she was quick to share Christ with them so that they, too, might experience a life of liberty and joy in the Lord.
Brethren, are we concerned for lost souls? What have we done to reach out to our unsaved loved ones, neighbours and friends? Like the Samaritan woman, let us be zealous to invite others to meet and know our Lord. Find opportunities to speak to them of the Saviour and share our faith with them.
May the following short exhortation from J C Ryle challenge us to go forth with the Gospel of grace: “That which the Samaritan woman here did, all true Christians ought to do likewise. The Church needs it. The state of the world demands it. Common sense points out that it is right. Every one who has received the grace of God, and tasted that Christ is gracious, ought to find words to testify of Christ to others. Where is our faith, if we believe that souls around us are perishing, and that Christ alone can save them, and yet remain silent? Where is our charity if we can see others going down to hell, and yet say nothing to them about Christ and salvation? We may well doubt our own love to Christ, if our hearts are never moved to speak of Him. We may well doubt the safety of our own souls, if we feel no concern about the souls of others” (J C Ryle).