Tim Temple


Turn in your Bibles to the book of John, chapter 4. We will be continuing our study with the last part of that chapter. These are stories that are well known to most of us, but I hope that you are paying attention because there is always something new to learn, no matter how many times we have been over a particular passage of Scripture.

As wonderful as it must have been, it was probably frustrating at times to live with Jesus when He was on earth as the disciples did, because Jesus was always doing things and saying things and going places that caught them by surprise. Those unexpected doings and sayings brought great satisfaction into the lives of the people who were involved in them. In the last half of John, chapter 4, we find two of the best illustrations of that that we have anywhere in the New Testament.

To get those verses in their proper context, remember the overview of the whole chapter. First, in verses 1-26, we talked about the wayward woman, known in Biblical lore as the woman at the well . In verses 27-42, we are going to talk about the wondering disciples, then in verses 43-54, the worried nobleman.

In our last lesson, we talked about the wayward woman, in verses 1-26, and the lessons we can learn from her encounter with Jesus. That was such a surprising situation that Jesus would be in Samaria and that He would be talking with a woman. It was such a surprising situation that, in verses 27-42, we find the wondering disciples. The subject of their curiousity is in verses 27-33.

Disciples' Reaction to the Conversation

The first thing that puzzled them was the conversation that Jesus had with the woman, but there were several things about the woman that were also puzzling to them. The first thing that they were puzzled about was her conversation with Jesus as is brought out in verse 27:

John 4

27And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her?

In this day and age in which we live, women sometimes think that they have a difficult time, but think about this: They were even surprised that Jesus was talking to a woman in the first place. As you saw in our last lesson, it was not so much just that she was a woman, but the fact that Jesus was more and more considered to be a Rabbi. Rabbi was not an official title, but it was a title that was honorary, not an earned degree. More and more people were referring to Jesus as a Rabbi, and when men became recognized as Rabbis, they had a certain set of rules that they followed. One of those rules was that a Rabbi did not speak to a woman in public at all. He would never speak even to his own wife and daughters in public; but here was Jesus, in the middle of this town square, the most public place in the city, talking to this woman.

They marveled that He talked to a woman. Not only that, but she was a Samaritan. The Samaritans were half-breeds. They had a different religion, and they were looked down on by the Jews. In fact, the disciples had probably never been through Samaria before, because the customary route was to go around Samaria, not through it.

A third reason that they were probably amazed was that not only was she a woman, but it was obvious to them that she was a wayward woman. Whether she was a prostitute or not, she apparently was a very loose-living woman because she was at the well at noon. The women who were acceptable to each other would have been there much later in the day, not in the hottest part of the day.

All of those things together puzzled the disciples and caused them to marvel, but the last part of the verse shows that the disciples were a lot like we are sometimes. They saw this happening, and they were puzzled by it. They didn't know why it was happening, but they didn't want God to know that they felt that way. Notice the last part of the verse:

John 4

27…yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her?

I am always amused at myself, and I am amused at all of us as Christians when sometimes we are reacting in a certain way; but we sure wouldn't want God to know that we felt that way, as if He didn't know. Here they are. They are not going to ask Him about it, but they sure are wondering about it. I think that might serve as a motivation to us to just go on and be honest with the Lord. If you don't understand why something is happening the way it is, go ahead and tell Him that you don't understand. It may not change anything, but at least your conscience is clear; and it makes you feel closer to the Lord for you to know that He knows you don't understand what is going on.

Maybe a more positive application is that, by this time, they had learned not to question the Lord. They knew that even though His actions didn't always fit their preconceptions, they could trust Him. That is another thing, of course, that we need to learn, so I think that both of those are legitimate applications of the fact that they didn't ask Him. Maybe it was just because they didn't want Him to know they felt that way. On the other hand, hopefully, they had matured to the point that they knew that even though it looked strange to them, it was all right because it was Jesus who was doing it.

Details of the Conversion

In verses 28-30, the scene shifts and gives details of her conversion. Remember now, we are talking about the subject of their curiosity, and the object is the woman. Notice:

John 4

28The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men,
29Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?
30Then they went out of the city, and came unto him.

Notice, in verse 28, that she left her waterpot. That was the very purpose for which she came in the first place, but she left it behind. One thing that we can read into that is that she probably was planning to come back. The next verses confirm that.

She wasn't through with her conversation with Jesus, but I think that there is something deeper than that. Remember, in the first part of the chapter, Jesus had talked to her about giving her Living Water. They had this little conversation about physical water and Living Water. I think the fact that she left her waterpot also indicates that she now has that Living Water, and she really doesn't have as much of a need for physical water, because that is no longer the most important thing to her.

Of course, physical water is still important after we know the Lord, but to have that kind of relationship with the Lord makes everything pale in comparison. We are not as bothered about physical surroundings and physical needs when we are walking with the Lord as we would be otherwise. So that may be another thing that the Holy Spirit wants to communicate to us when it says that she left her waterpot there. Notice the last line of verse 28:

John 4

28…and went her way into the city, and saith to the men,
29Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did…

Proof of Her Conversion

When a person first gets saved, usually their first impulse is to at least want to go to the people who know them best to share the message. Sometimes they can't do that because they are away from those people and can't get back to them; but, in most cases, the first people that we want to tell about our salvation are the people who are closest to us. A. Wetherell Johnson, who is the founder of Bible Study Fellowship , says, “A fellow may try to hide his sin, but once he discovers Jesus Christ, his first instinct is to say, ‘Look at what I was. Look at what I am now. Jesus Christ has done this for me'.” Here is an example of that. She wanted to go back to the people whom she knew best—the men of the city—and tell them the message.

Verse 30 shows that the Living Water that is now within her—the Holy Spirit—was powerful enough to move the men to come and see. If they saw a change in this woman, they were curious to know what could have brought about that change. One of the wonderful things about changed lives is that it does get the attention of people who know the person before the change. That is not a justification for living a wicked life. Sometimes, as I have mentioned to you before, I am bothered about these sensational testimonies about how their life was changed by Christ, because I think that if we are not really careful, people who are living in sin and who are struggling with sin can easily say, “Well, look at that. He was farther along in sin than I am, and he got by with it. He got saved, and the Lord brought him back to Himself. Maybe I can go a little longer in my sin.”

We want to be careful and not give that impression, but on the other hand, from the positive standpoint, you think about the way God has changed the lives of some people. Probably all of us know somebody whose life was really turned around by coming to know Jesus Christ, and that is a powerful testimony to the power of God. That is what we have here. These men wanted to see what it was that made such a difference in this woman.

Her Contribution to Jesus

We have seen the disciples' concern about her conversation, and now we have seen some of the proof of her conversion, so in verses 31-33, we see that she actually made a contribution to Jesus. The scene is shifting back and forth here. One thing is going on at the well while something else is going on in the city. In the meantime, His disciples urged Jesus saying:

John 4

31In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat.
32But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of.
33Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat?

Remember, back in verse 27, we saw that the disciples had gone into the city to get something to eat. Jesus was tired, and that is how He wound up at the well. He stopped at the well on the outskirts of town and was resting there. The disciples went into town and got the food, came back to the well, and naturally they were concerned for His physical need to eat. They were concerned that He was hungry and tired. They gave Him a chance to rest, and they were concerned that He was still hungry, and yet He didn't seem to be interested in eating.

It was right for them to be concerned about His physical needs. We have talked about the significance of the fact that Jesus was tired, and here Jesus is hungry. It is good to know that He had those kinds of emotions. The Scripture tells us that He did: “He was in all points tested like as we are, yet without sin.” He knows what it is to be hungry. He knows what it is to be tired, and as we are going to see in a moment, He knows what it is to be excited and to be happy. In verse 32, He says:

John 4

32…I have meat to eat that ye know not of.

The food that Jesus had to eat was not physical food. The disciples didn't understand that. They thought that someone else had gotten there first with the food. They didn't understand what He was talking about, but the fact is, Jesus was so excited about the woman's salvation that He isn't concerned about food at all. It was as if His spirits had been lifted even physically by seeing her accept Him, and that was her contribution to Him.

The Scripture tells us that angels rejoice in the presence of God over one sinner who repents. The implication of that is that it is not just the angels who rejoice; it is everybody in the presence of God. God Himself and the angels in His presence rejoice when a sinner repents, and here is an example of it. This wasn't anything new for Jesus. He had been rejoicing over people who had believed in Him all through the years before He ever came to earth, because He existed in Heaven as God before He ever came to earth. So, He had been rejoicing over people who had accepted God by faith all through the stages of history, but now He is on the earth doing that.

When you think about what had happened here, He had taken this poor, untaught, sinful woman and had brought her to the point of understanding what eternal life was and had seen her accept the gift of eternal life. That was a thrill to Jesus. That was food for His soul. It was in contrast to the hard hearts of His Jewish countrymen. The very people He came to had not gotten that point. Very few of them understood what He was talking about, but here was this woman who was light-years away from them spiritually, and yet she had accepted Him, trusted Him as her Savior, and that was exciting to Him—another one of His human emotions.

Of course, down through the years, many of Jesus' followers experience that same kind of excitement. If you have ever had that opportunity to be a part of someone coming to know Jesus Christ as Savior, you know that that is a thrilling thing. It is thrilling to hear about it even when we are not directly involved, and it is perfectly legitimate to rejoice. Jesus Himself was so excited that He forgot about His physical hunger, at least for a time. That was the subject of the disciples' curiosity—this woman and all that was surrounding her.

Do the Work God Has Given Us

In the next part of the chapter, verses 34-42, Jesus gives the disciples the satisfaction of their curiosity. He teaches them some things that help them understand why this was such a curious thing to them. First, He gives them a discourse in verses 34-38. Remember that the disciples were curious about the woman to whom He was talking and about the fact that He was not hungry. Jesus picks up on that, and in these verses, He is going to satisfy their curiosity about both things. The principle which underlies this whole section is in verse 34:

John 4

34Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.

Here is the general, underlying principle of everything that Jesus did. It is one of the most important principles in all the Word of God. It is the thing that makes life worth living and will put your life or my life or anybody else's life in order if we understand this principle—that is, to do the work that God has given us to do. The reason that Jesus was so excited that He didn't need to eat was that He was aware of the fact, maybe more so than at other times, that He was doing what God had given Him to do. He said, “My food is to do the will of Him Who sent Me and to finish His work.”

You know, that is specifically true for every one of us. It was true not only for Jesus, but at the end of John's Gospel, John records that one of the last things that He said on earth just before He went back to Heaven was: “As the Father hath sent Me into the world, even so send I you into the world.” The Father gave Jesus this work to do of bringing people to Himself, demonstrating to human beings Who He was and what He was going to do for them, and then to do it for them.

The Father gave Jesus that work to do. Then after He had completed that work on the Cross, Jesus handed the baton to us and said, “Just as the Father sent Me into the world, I send you into the world.” Of course it is not for us to die for other people's sins, but to tell people that Someone has died for their sins. Every one of us has that as our responsibility.

That work that He has given us to do varies from one individual to another. It varies in type and in intensity. It varies in size and in scope, but every one of us has something that God has given us to do in terms of telling other people about Christ. Each of us has a spiritual gift that God has given to enable us to take care of our piece of that puzzle. All of it in one way or the other focuses on the Great Commission to bring people to Christ and help them to grow.

In following that work that God has given you to do, you need to stay focused on what God has given you to do. I need to stay focused on what God has given me to do, not on what other people are doing. If you can stay focused on what God has given you to do, that is where joy and satisfaction and peace with God all come into the picture. That is where the excitement of the Christian life is—to know that no matter how minimal it might seem to other people, you are doing what God gave you to do.

It is one of the hardest lessons to learn, because it is so easy for us to get our eyes on what someone else is doing. In fact, all of us have a tendency to think, and some have the tendency to tell us, that we ought to be doing what they are doing. We have a tendency to think that if I am not doing what so-and-so is doing, then I must not be all that I should be as a Christian. Listen: God has given some the gift of evangelism. Those people have an ease at giving the Gospel. God has given others the gift of giving, and those people have an ability to, by faith, give money to God's work. God has given us all these different gifts. They are differing, but they all fit together.

What we need to do as best we can is ask for God's direction. Observe what God has used you to do at various times. Find out what it is that God has given you to do and get busy doing that. Of course, other people are not doing exactly what you are doing, but don't be distracted by that. God didn't intend for us all to do the same thing. God intended some people to stand up in front of a group like I am doing. That is what God gave me to do, but the fact that you don't like to stand up in front of people doesn't mean that you are in any way less of a Christian than I am. You have your work to do, and others have their work to do. Jesus said, “This is the food that I have, to do the work that God has given Me to do and to finish it.”

Participation In the Harvest

Having shared the principle with the disciples, Jesus, in the next verses, invites their participation in that. In verse 35, He talks about participation in reaping a spiritual harvest. Look at verse 35:

John 4

35Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.

When He said, “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are already white to harvest,” He probably was speaking about this Samaritan woman and her friends who were probably, by that time, coming up the road to them. That is probably what sparked Jesus' saying that. They literally could look and see the harvest of what He had planted and what they were going to reap. In saying that, He also established a spiritual principle that endures to this very day, and that is that bringing people to Christ is a process. It is a process of seed being planted and that seed taking root in their hearts and blossoming into eternal life.

Jesus said that when planting something physically, you have to plant the seed and then in four months you will see the harvest, but in spiritual planting, sometimes you see the harvest almost immediately like Jesus did with the Samaritan woman. Other times, it may be a lot more than seven months. There is no rule about the growing season. That is what the principle is. We plant the seed, but the germination of the seed is in God's hands. Jesus said, “If you look down the road, you will see that the fields are already white unto harvest.” That is another thing that we need to keep in mind. We need to look around us for opportunities to plant the seed, and we need to be very much on the alert for seed that someone else has planted, but God has brought us there to reap.

This is one of the reasons that I don't like to ever talk about how many people I have led to Christ. I don't think any of you have ever heard me say that I have led X number of people to Christ, because it is a very rare thing to do what Jesus did with the woman at the well—to take a person from point zero in their spiritual knowledge and see them trust Christ. Most of the time, one person plows up the ground by exercising their spiritual gift of helping people or whatever their gift may be. Sometimes God uses those gifts to just plow up the ground to get people ready to receive the seed. It may be by how someone lives or how helpful they may be, but they break up the soil. Somebody else comes along and drops the seed in. Somebody else comes along and waters that seed, then someone comes along and is there when the person is ready to trust Christ.

Unfortunately, so many times the only one we ever hear about is the person who is there when they are ready to trust Christ. That is so unbiblical. Bringing people to Christ is like a harvest, and the person who broke up that ground may not have ever said anything to those people specifically about Jesus Christ, but he is just as much a participant in the reaping as the person who was there maybe years later when they say they are ready to receive Christ. We all get to participate in the harvest. That is what Jesus is saying here, and He is also saying, “Look around you. Be aware that you are in the harvest business. There may be somebody nearby whose ground you can break up or who needs some watering. Maybe somebody needs the seed planted. Keep your eyes open to the fact that we are in the harvesting business.

Participation In the Rewards

We have been talking about the participation in the harvest, and now, in verses 36-38 He talks about the participation in the rewards that are given for this kind of service. Notice verse 36:

John 4

36And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.

We have just been talking about a person who sows and may then rejoice together with the person who reaps. Notice verse 37:

John 4

37And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth.
38I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.

We all share in the rewards. Notice, in verse 36, that these are not physical or monetary rewards, but eternal rewards. He is saying that the reaping and sowing is fruit for eternal life. In each of these verses that we have just read, those who reap and those who sow share equally in the rewards.

Jesus doesn't specify exactly what those rewards consist of except that they are rewards that we will receive in Heaven, but the Scripture gives us some idea of what those rewards are. Crowns are mentioned in five different places in the New Testament. There is a crown that is given for winning souls, a crown that is given just for loving the Lord and a crown for loving the Lord's return. Those are pretty easy to qualify for, aren't they? There is a crown for shepherding Christ's flock that probably will be mostly for pastors and elders, but you don't have to be a pastor or elder to shepherd Christ's flock, to help some of Christ's sheep.

God is going to give rewards for doing those kinds of things, but if nothing else, a reward may refer to the fact of just being able to enjoy Heaven more fully. Sometimes people dream for years about going to a certain place, and because they want to go there, they think about it and read about it and talk to people who have been there. When they get to that place, they actually enjoy it tremendously more than a person who just happened to go there on the spur of the moment.

I think that everybody is going to enjoy Heaven to the fullest of their capacity. There is not going to be anybody who is sorry that they made the trip, but there are going to be people in Heaven who have a much greater capacity for enjoying Heaven, because they have been preparing for it all of their spiritual lives. Jesus is saying that as we participate in what He has given us to do, we are preparing ourselves to enjoy the rewards of Heaven, to enjoy the fullness and the blessing of Heaven. We will have a deep sense of being rewarded when we get there if we have been faithful to do what He has given us to do in this life.

A Demonstration of Reaping the Harvest

We have been talking about the discourse that Jesus gave to the disciples as He explained His joy to them, but in verses 39-42, we actually see a demonstration of the very things that He has been talking about. Look at verse 39:

John 4

39And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did.
40So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days.
41And many more believed because of his own word;
42And 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.

Just as Jesus had been telling the disciples, the woman of Samaria—this brand new Christian—got to share in reaping the harvest that Christs Himself had planted. They saw her changed life, and some of them believed because they saw her changed life; but some of them said, “Now we believe, not just because of your word, but now we see for ourselves. We hear Christ Himself.” The woman got to share in the process of bringing other people to Christ right there in the beginning hours of her Christian life.


Notice that verse 40 tells us that Jesus spent two whole days with these people. Out of the brief span of His ministry, that is a significant amount of time. These were half-breeds. They were discriminated against and looked down on by God's chosen people. God's chosen people wouldn't have anything to do with these folks, but God Himself took time, in the midst of everything that He had to do, to be with them.

Surely that tells us something about how mixed up we humans can become in our priorities, doesn't it? Jesus Himself had time for these people who meant nothing to the religious people around them.

Home Bible Studies Books King James
Abilene Bible Church
Dr. Daiqing Yuan Tim Temple Dr. Joe Temple
Some icons on this site used courtesy FatCow Web Hosting