“Come, See a Man” — Part One
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“Come, See a Man” — Part One

John 4:27–42  (ID: 2518)

Even if we’ve made dreadful messes of our lives, we’re not beyond God’s plan for recovery and redemption. In John 4, we read about an outcast woman at a well who discovered this truth unexpectedly when she came face-to-face with her sin and her Savior. Until we confront the sin that pours like water from within us, Alistair Begg teaches, we will never accept the remedy to our condition: Jesus Christ.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Light in the Darkness

A Study of Christ’s Encounters with the Lost John 9:1–41, Mark 5:1–20, Mark 6:30–43 Series ID: 25401

Sermon Transcript: Print

Father, as we prepare to turn to the Bible—some of us coming under that sense of trial and disappointment, others of us coming in a sense of relief and joy, but each of us coming in need of your voice and hearing from your Word—we pray that you will so meet with us in this time, as we study the Bible, that we might know that we’re not simply listening to a man talking about something that he found out, but that divine dialogue takes place between your Spirit and our hearts, using your Word, the Bible, to show us who we are and what we are like, and to show us who Jesus is and how wonderfully he loves those whom he has come to save. And we ask this in his name. Amen.

And I invite you to turn back to the passage of Scripture that was read earlier. Actually, we’re going to be there just briefly, and our focus this morning, and probably next Sunday morning, is going to be in John chapter 4. I noticed that Pastor Aquilino mentioned John 3:16 as it relates to the football games and the man with the funny hair holding up the sign. It is also probably the best known and best loved of any verse that anyone has ever learned from the Bible, and if you’ve only ever memorized two or three verses, the chances are John 3:16 is one that is familiar to you. It falls in a conversation between Jesus and a devout religious Jew by the name of Nicodemus. Now, you may immediately find yourself saying, “Well, what possible relevance could that have? I am neither devout, nor religious, nor Jewish. And here we have this encounter with a devout, religious Jew.” Well, you’re going to discover just the way in which God’s Word does its work.

There is great clarity in what John sets out. He’s written his Gospel—he tells us at the end—he’s written these things down in order that men and women might come to believe, and that by believing they might find life in Jesus’ name.[1] So the writing of the Gospel is not simply to provide us with information, nor is the reading of the Gospel to provide us solely with information, but in order to bring about a transformation—the transformation that is brought about in the life of an individual when they come to understand who Jesus is and why it is he’s come and what it is he has accomplished.

Now, I want to point out to you three further expressions of clarity that are essential in looking at chapter 4 together.

The first is in verse 15; these are all in chapter 3. In 3:15 we read, “Everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” Notice the comprehensive nature of that statement. This is not some peculiar, esoteric interest, but it transcends racial and gender boundaries, and indeed, it reaches out around the whole world.

And then, in verse 17, we’re told that “God did not send [Jesus] into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” That the purpose of Jesus’ coming was not condemnatory, but it was salvific. He came in order to save men and women.

And then, at the end of chapter 3, in verse 36, we discover, with equal clarity, that to refuse Jesus is to reject life and to settle for darkness and death. To refuse Jesus is to reject life and to settle for darkness and death. It’s a very staggering and a very solemn statement, is it not? “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life,” reminding us that eternal life is not something that begins after you die, but eternal life is something that begins when we come to trust in Jesus. So it’s a present-tense experience that goes on into eternity. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, … whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”

Now, I point out these three things by way of clarification, because we’re now going to look at the encounter Jesus had with a woman who is, in every sense, at the other end of the spectrum from the religious Jew in chapter 3. She is, on the social, moral, and religious line of things, at the very opposite end from Nicodemus.

No one can ever be so good that they do not require a Savior or so bad as to be beyond the saving bounds of Jesus.

It’s good, actually, to keep these two chapters in view when you’re thinking about the way in which Jesus deals with individuals. The man—whom you’ll have to consider for your homework, in chapter 3—you will discover to be learned, powerful, respected, and theologically trained. It is this man who arrives under cover of darkness to meet Jesus. He is a man, a Jew, and a ruler. You go into chapter 4, and now it is a woman. And the woman arrives not under cover of darkness but in the brightness of the noonday sun. We read that in 4:6. This woman, by contrast, is unschooled, she’s without influence, and she is despised. She is a female, a Samaritan, and actually, a moral outcast.

“Well,” you say to yourself, “what possible unifying principle could there be in these two lives? You really couldn’t pick two people that were further apart, could you? Both in terms of gender, in terms of background, in terms of social status, in terms of religious interest and so on?” No, actually, they are at the opposite ends of the spectrum. But they are united in this one fact: they both need Jesus. They both need Jesus.

Chapter 3, if you like, in the story of the religious man, makes clear that no one can ever be so good that they do not require a Savior. Some people think that God is going to grade on the curve, and they’ve looked around the rest of the people in the class, and they’re prepared to take their shot on the basis of that. They’re staggered to discover he is not going to grade on the curve, but he has set a very final standard in the person of his Son. And then, it becomes apparent that I could never be good enough—and that’s what chapter 3 makes clear.

Chapter 4, conversely, makes clear that you can never be so bad as to be beyond the saving bounds of Jesus. Which is really terrific good news, isn’t it? I mean, there are some mechanisms for changing your life that demand a certain standard, a certain intellect, a certain capacity, and if you fit that framework, then the possibility of signing up and going on is there; however, if you don’t meet those standards, then it’s just nowhere for you at all. Whereas the comprehensive story of the gospel—verse 15, again, of chapter 3—is that everyone who believes will have eternal life, whether you are a religious person and orthodox and devout, or whether you are an irreligious person having made a hash of things and beginning to imagine that if there is salvation anywhere, it is a salvation that is presumably good for everybody else except you. And chapter 3 and chapter 4 tackle that.

And I’m glad, because in this congregation this morning, the whole spectrum is present. We have devout and religious people who are here. You’ve been devout and religious all of your life. Your religious background is such that you really regard yourself as fairly okay. And the work of the Bible is to show you that you’re not okay, just as Nicodemus discovered he wasn’t okay, and that you need a Savior—namely, Jesus.

There are other people who are here, and they wouldn’t like anyone to know, but the fact is that before God and in terms of their own conscience and in relationship to their family and so on, they really have made a dreadful mess of their lives. That is concealed by how good they look and the way they’re able to conduct themselves, but deep down and inside, they have the sneaking suspicion that they are beyond the pale. And the good news is, you’re not.

The Talk of the Town

Now, what we’ll do is we’ll take this in reverse—start at 4:39 and deal with the little paragraph that concludes the account. I’ve called this paragraph simply “The Talk of the Town.” If you have an NIV, you’ll notice that the editors have given a heading to this paragraph—namely, “Many Samaritans Believe.” It kind of reads like a headline in a local newspaper, doesn’t it? And that’s sort of what it’s supposed to convey: that if you were walking down the street, going into the railway station, and the person was there selling the evening newspapers—as they do in London, at least—then it may say on the hoarding, on the piece that they have there to try and encourage you to buy the Evening Standard, it says, “Many Samaritans Believe.” And you’re supposed to say, “Well, I would like to read that on the Underground,” and so you grab a copy and find out, “How is it that these many Samaritans have come to believe? And what is it they’ve come to believe? Who have they come to believe? What does it mean, ‘Many Samaritans Believe’?”

Well, if we’d arrived in Sychar—which is the town in question, as we discover in verse 4—if we’d arrived in Sychar the day after Jesus had left—and you’ll notice in verse 43 that he left after two days spent with these people—we would have found that the whole community was abuzz with the visit of Jesus. It probably would have been difficult to go anywhere at all, either in a marketplace buying some vegetables, or sitting down to drink some coffee—Turkish coffee, or some coffee—and people not say, “So, what did you think about the visit?”

And if we’d just come from an outlying region, we would have said, “What visit?”

And they would have had to explain, “Well, the visit of Jesus of Nazareth.”

And we would have said, “Jesus of Nazareth was here? What was Jesus doing here amongst the Samaritans? Isn’t Jesus a Jew?”


“Well, isn’t that surprising?”

“Well, it surprised us!”

“Well, why was he here?”

“Well, actually, we asked him to stay for two days.”

“And did he?”


“Yes, but how did he get here in the first place?”

“Well, in the first instance, he was talking with a lady—a lady from our community. And she was out getting water, and… And that’s what happened.”

The whole place would have been abuzz with it. And when you trace it back down the line, it comes to a lady. Comes to a Samaritan woman. Comes to a woman who, in the routine of her life, was just going about her business, heading for the well as she normally did. And revival, essentially, takes place in Sychar. And when we investigate why the city is abuzz with the news of Jesus, we don’t discover that there has been a significant evangelist who has come to town. But we discover that this woman, having met Jesus individually, had felt compelled to tell others about the Jesus she had met; and as a result of that, the people’s interest had been piqued; and as a result of their interest being piqued, they’d gone out to find Jesus; and when they had finally located him, they asked him if he would stay, and he stayed with them for two days.

Now, in the very heart of it all, when the lady goes back into town, in verse 29—and I’ll just point this out to you—when she goes back into the town, she says to the people, “Come, see a man.” “Come, see a man.” There doubtless were some cynics in the crowd, especially if she was shouting it out, who would have said, “Here we go again.” Because after all, when it came to seeing men, this lady had a pretty good track record. She’d had five husbands, she had a live-in lover, and pretty well, when it came to relationships, she was notorious.

But this was obviously different: “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” Could this be the Messiah? What a strange thing to say. What has happened to this lady out at the well? Who in the world was she talking to? Back into the town, making a fuss and a bother: “Come, and see a man who told me everything I did. Could this be the Christ? Could this be the Messiah?”

I bet you’ve never had anybody come into your office and say that, have you? Pity. You could try it, if you have met Jesus. I hope some of you have at least said it, insofar as you invited some people to come this afternoon at five o’clock. Oh, you may have said, you know, “Come get a hamburger,” or “Come and enjoy the picnic.” But really, underlying it, what you’re saying is, “Come and meet Jesus. I’d like you to come and meet the man who means everything to me.”

The Talk at the Well

Well, let’s go right back to the beginning, to verse 4. And my heading here was not “Talk of the Town” but “Talk at the Well.” You can see what a genius I am at these headings, can’t you? They’re just remarkable. “The Talk at the Well.” There was a well, and there was some talk. Why don’t we call it “The Talk at the Well”? I spent a long time on this, and I hope you’re impressed.

The reason I want you to notice this in verse 4, just the setting, is because, once again, this bears all the testimony to the historic accuracy of Gospel writing—to the geographical details as well. There is nothing about this little section that has the notion of fabrication to it. It has all the indications of an eyewitness account. He is identifying the well. He’s identifying the location of the well. He’s identifying it within the historic framework of Judaism, in terms of it being Jacob’s well. And as they sit down, they look across to the northwest to Mount Gerizim, which you can still find on a map, and where you will find located the contemporary city of Nablus. This is a real-time incident in a real place involving real people. We have to always remember that when we’re reading our Bibles. We’re reading here the record of that which took place.

And to this well arrives Jesus. Jesus had moved on from Judea. There was a great surge of enthusiasm for him, and as was often his case, he decided just to move on, and he’s going off to Galilee. And on his way to Galilee, he had to go through Samaria. There’s a sense there of geographical order. There’s a sense there, if you like, almost of divine compulsion. And in making his way through the region, “he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. [And] it was about the sixth hour.”[2] The sixth hour, by Jewish reckoning, is the noonday—ordering the hours of the day from 6:00 a.m. in the morning being sunrise.

Notice that Jesus was tired, presumably dusty, hot, and thirsty. The creator of the universe was thirsty. The God who had been there when creation came to birth, the one who was responsible for the establishing of two parts hydrogen, one part oxygen, sat by the well and was thirsty. It’s a reminder again that this man, Jesus, is none other than the man who is God. The claim of Scripture is clear. This is not a man who assumes a posture of divinity. This is divinity incarnate. This is God in the flesh. Such a staggering claim! Who would invent such a claim? It is in many of the difficulties—the intellectual difficulties—of Christianity that some of the choicest nuggets are found. And don’t be put off by these things. Think and trust and believe.

And as he sits there, a Samaritan woman arrives. Verse 7: “When a Samaritan woman came to draw water.” Now, the emphasis on “Samaritan,” of course, is crucial, because the Jews and the Samaritans didn’t deal with one another. And that becomes apparent in the initial dialogue. He says to her, “‘Will you give me a drink?’ (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)” Verse 8, I think, is the explanation as to why he breaks social taboo. Why would a man speak to a woman in this way? Verse 8 tells us: because the disciples were not there to help him as they normally would have done.

But we might wonder why it is that a woman would be there in the middle of the day. What a strange time to go and draw water, especially those pots being heavy, and the sun being at its zenith. And the inference, of course, appears to be that her tainted past, and indeed her present life, had not endeared her to the female community of Sychar. She was not being invited to the ladies’ gatherings. They certainly were not stopping at her house to call up and say, “We’re going to the well. Are you coming?” No, they did that when the evening shadows began to fall. That was sensible. She had to choose to go in the middle of the day, alone. So, a lonely lady makes a lonely journey, in the routine of her life, and she meets a man. It’s a great story! Love this story.

An Appeal to Her Sympathy

Samaritan woman meets Jewish man. Jewish man says, “Could I please have a drink?” Very natural beginning, isn’t it? Wonderfully straightforward, and also just an expression of Jesus’ need. This is not an opening gambit. This is not Jesus setting out a course in personal evangelism: “Now, let me see. What should I say here? Well, let me think of a good beginning.” No! He’s thirsty. In fact, I’ve been reading this story again this morning, and I can’t find anywhere where it says that Jesus actually got a drink of water in the whole process. Because it just goes question and answer all the way through. It makes me thirsty even thinking about it.

He appeals to her sympathy. He seeks a favor from her. And in doing so, communication is established. The striking impact of the opening statement by Jesus is made clear in verse 9: “The Samaritan woman”—again the emphasis, you see: “Samaritan” woman. Not just a woman. “Samaritan” is important. “The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘You[’re] a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’” And then, parenthetically, an explanation: “(For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)” Or, if you’re using an NIV and your eyesight is very good, you can look at the bottom of the page, and the alternative rendering of that translation is, “[For Jews] do not use dishes Samaritans have used.” Because of the complexities of the Pharisaical accretions to the Jewish law, there were all kinds of purity factors in the washing of hands, in the washing of utensils, and so on—and Jesus and his disciples were to fall foul of this on a number of occasions. But the very fact that Jesus addresses her in this way cuts across all those normal taboos and boundaries and causes her to ask this question.

Jesus does not answer her question. You’ll notice that. But instead, he supplies a second question. And in verse 10 he says, essentially, “If you find that surprising—that I would ask you for a drink of water, being a Jew, and a man, and so on—if you find that surprising, then wait till you consider this thought.” Then he says, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” He raises the conversation to a different level. She assumes herself to be in the position of providing what he needs. She’s about to discover that she is actually the one in need of what this stranger is able to provide. She thinks she’s in the position to provide what Jesus needs, only to discover that she’s actually the one who needs what Jesus provides.

Do you ever think, when you come to an event like this, that you might be doing what Jesus needs? That he sort of needs you to come here? He needs to know that he’s liked? He needs to know there are a few people left in Cleveland that actually care about God, or care about the Bible, or care about Jesus? And that’s sufficient motivation for you to come. You perhaps saw The Passion, and you said, “What a shame that people treated Jesus like that. I don’t want to treat Jesus like that. I’m going to be nice to him. If he has got any events that are going on, I’ll go to them and help him.” And then you’ve come here, and you’ve discovered that what you thought you came to provide for him has got nothing really to do with the subject at all. It’s all about what he has come to provide for you.

Now, your reaction may be very similar to the reaction of the lady. He says, “If you’d asked me—if you’d asked this individual—he would have given you living water.” And she said, verse 11, “You’ve got nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where do you get the living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well. He drank from it.” And once again, Jesus sidesteps her question. He doesn’t answer the question, again. Why? Because it’s not the issue. It’s a red herring. I mean, it’s not irrelevant. The questions are of interest. But he doesn’t get into the Jewish-Samaritan debate, nor does he get into the question of the historicity of Jacob and whether he is a greater person than Jacob. There will be time for that kind of conversation. But for now, he wants to address the issue. We’re not gonna discuss which well is the best well, or whether Jacob’s well has living water, or anything else. Jesus answers, verse 13, probably pointing to the well, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.”

Now, think about that for just a moment. The woman’s whole focus to this point is about water. The reason she’s at the well is because the well has water. The reason she has a pot is because she’s going to fill the pot, or the jar, with water, and she’s gonna take it back to use the water. She understands this. And Jesus says, “Everybody who drinks this water will thirst again, but anyone who drinks the water that I give will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”[3]

Now, what Jesus is doing here is simply applying the Bible. Because the Old Testament uses this metaphor frequently. We needn’t go back through it; you can take my word for it and check later. The psalmist often talks about thirsting for God. The prophet Isaiah speaks about the day that will dawn when, “with joy,” men and women “will draw water from the wells of salvation.”[4] One of the loveliest invitations that God issues is in Isaiah 55: “Come, … you who are thirsty, [and] come to the waters.”[5] And in Jeremiah chapter 2, God speaks to the people through his prophet, and he says, “I have two things against you: number one, you have turned away from me, and number two, you have sought to dig wells of your own making—turned your back on the living God and sought to go about business on your own.”[6] Which is exactly a description of the human predicament.

Wasn’t it Pascal who said that there is within each of us a god-shaped void?[7] Trying to give expression to the notion of that search for satisfaction which is true for every person in humanity. And in the same way that the people in Jeremiah’s day could be seen, as it were, metaphorically digging out cisterns in the hope of finding satisfaction in the wells that they were digging, so a congregation like this has been marked by this throughout the week that has passed, if we’re honest.

Some of us have lived this whole week aware of the fact that our lives are marked by unsatisfied longings. Unsatisfied longings. Longings which we thought, when we were younger, would be assuaged as a result of our success, but our success has not addressed the longing. Or that marriage—in this spouse, we would find the answer, and it hasn’t been the answer. Or in the acquisition of possessions. Or in the experience of whatever gives us a high. And Jesus, as it were, points to it all, and he says, “Everybody who tries this stuff will be thirsty all over again. But anyone who drinks the water that I give will never thirst again.”

Genuine Christian experience, always and everywhere, demands that we be brought face-to-face with our own sin.

Well, of course, the lady doesn’t get it, does she? “Oh,” she says, “I’d like for some of that water, so I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”[8]

This is a pattern now in John. In chapter 2, John records how Jesus had said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it again,” and the Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you’re going to raise it in three days?”[9] Jesus is speaking about his body. He’s speaking in spiritual terms. They understand it in physical terms. You go into chapter 3: Jesus says to Nicodemus, “You must be born again.” Nicodemus says, “Born again? How could somebody be born again? Can you, when you’re old, enter a second time into your mother’s womb?” Jesus says, “No, I’m not talking about physical birth. I’m talking about spiritual birth.”[10] You come to John chapter 4, he says, “Whoever drinks the water that I give him will never thirst again.” She says, “Oh, give me some of that water, ’cause I’m sick of coming out here in the middle of the day to go to the well.” He taps into her search for satisfaction.

Did any of you see the biographies this week on Jessica Lange? She’s now fifty-seven years old; I worked that out. And as I watched her and listened to the story of her life, I remembered that in my little book I had a quote from her, and I went and found it. And this is what the quote said. I wasn’t surprised to find this quote again after I’d listened to the biographical piece: “The main thing that I [remember from] my childhood was this inescapable yearning that I could never satisfy.” “This inescapable yearning that I could never satisfy.” “Even now,” she says, “at times I experience an inescapable loneliness and isolation.”[11]

An Address to Her Conscience

But—and with this we will move towards a close—Jesus is not content simply to tap into her awareness of her need for satisfaction. Jesus is now about to address himself to her conscience. To her conscience. And he does that by issuing an invitation to her to go and call her husband and come back. Verse 16: “Go, call your husband and come back.” Well, he asked her to do what she couldn’t do. You see, if there’s going to be a transformation in this lady’s life, it’s not enough that she has a sense of wanting satisfaction. She needs to be brought face-to-face with her own sin. And genuine Christian experience, always and everywhere, demands this.

You see, it’s not very difficult to get people to agree that they would like something to fill their lives up. I mean, “Do you have anything that can help me? I’ve tried booze. I’ve tried wine, women, and song. I’ve tried stuff. I’ve tried houses. I’ve tried vacations. Do you have anything that can fill this emptiness?” That’s why Pascal’s statement is helpful, but only up to a point: because you can get people to sign up for something to fill the gap in their life, but without ever seeing them confronted by the real need in their life, which is not for a hole to be filled, but it is for sin to be cleansed and to be forgiven.

And Jesus, in a masterful and in a kind and in a lovely way, puts his finger on the area of this lady’s life. She must be made to confront her need. And how carefully he shows her her desperate need for personal forgiveness and for salvation.

How does this come across? “‘I have no husband,’ she replied.” And then listen: “Jesus said to her, ‘You[’re] right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.’”[12] Wow! Wow! I mean, we’ve met a lot of people on the bus, on the train, on the plane, in the station, in the Starbucks, everything else. We’ve had all kinds of conversations. But we’ve never had somebody do this to us, have we? We’ve never had somebody sit and look at us and say, “Oh, yes, I know everything about you.” Because there is no other human being that knows everything about us.

And that’s the significance, you see, of the statement that the lady made when she went into the town. She went into the town, and she said, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did.” That might seem a little thin at first, doesn’t it? I mean, we might want—those of us who’ve been Christians for a while—we might want her to go into the town and say, “Come and see Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, the Savior of the world, the one who is the fulfiller of the promises of the Old Testament, Jesus Christ, Prophet, Priest, and King.” They’d be going, “There we go. That’s the kind of thing we like. That sort of clarity.” But she goes in, and she says, “Come, and see somebody who told me everything I ever did.” But it isn’t thin. It’s fantastic!

What is she saying? Who can tell you everything you ever did? Who knows everything you ever did? Only God. She realizes that when she clasps eyes with this man who asked her for a drink of water, in the unfolding dialogue, she has met the living God. Psalm 139: “O Lord, you search me, and you know me! You know when I sit down and when I stand up. You know the words of my mouth before I even speak them.”[13] “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did.”

Isn’t it fantastic, too, that Jesus does not dismantle her? He doesn’t destroy her. He doesn’t despise her in any shape or fashion at all. “Why don’t you get your husband?” “I have… I have no husband.”

Then he doesn’t say, “Well then, let’s just talk about why it is that you don’t have a husband. And let’s just start from the beginning, and let’s get it out. Let’s go. Begin.” No, he’s very gracious. He fills in the blanks for her. It cost this woman everything to say, “I have no husband.” I don’t think for a moment she said, “I have no husband!” If she got it out at all, she said, “… I have no husband.” And graciously, Jesus says, “That’s right, honey. You don’t have a husband. You’ve had five, and you’ve got one just now, and he’s not your husband. That’s why I’m telling you about my living water.”

See? Her sense of inadequate satisfaction speaks to her real need. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we had met that lady on that day—not that day, couple of days before. Same well. And we’d had a conversation with her and said, “How are you doing?”

“Ah, I don’t know. I’m not doing so good. My relationships are a mess,” and so on.

And you say, “Well, what do you think your problem is?”

“Well, you know, I think… I think… I didn’t have a very good background. And, you know, I didn’t make good choices. And the first one was a real jerk. The first husband was a complete fool, and he annoyed me and messed me up. The second one… well, I don’t even want to talk…” and so on. And eventually, as we listen to her talk, she just describes how all of her problems are all outside of her. All of these things that have happened to her, all of the things that she’s got no control of, that have messed up her life from the outside in.

And we say to her, “Now, how are you planning on fixing this?”

She says, “Well, I’m going to look within myself, and I think somewhere inside, you know, I’ll be able to fix this. I’ll sort it out. I read a great book the other day that told me, you know, ‘If you look within to your power source, and you plug into the real you,’ and so on.”

It’s got a contemporary ring to it. It’s on every afternoon on the TV, the same stuff: “Here we are. We’re gonna to talk to Mrs. So-and-So today. What’s your problem?”

“Oh, my husband, and my uncle, and my grandmother, and my job, and my circumstances, and my DNA, and my everything.”

“Ah, well, don’t you worry, honey, because you just look within yourself. I want you to know that you have it all within you. You just plug in, find your source, and we will be on our way.” And then, cue the applause, and the music, and off to a commercial break, and then back, and we’ll talk to Mrs. X again.

What the lady discovered was that the absolute reverse was true, right? Which is what you and I need to discover: that the problem is actually all within me, and the answer is all outside me. “It is not the things that go into a man that defile a man,” Jesus said. “It’s the things that come out of a man.”[14] The problem is within, and the answer is without.

So she brings her empty life to the wonderful supply of living water. She brings her sinful past to the cleansing supply that Jesus provides. She brings her hopes and possibilities for the future, in light of her messed up past, to the one who knows everything about her and who loves her just the same—enough to spend this time talking at the well so that she might never, ever thirst again.

Well, we’re through, but let me finish in this way. If you read John’s Gospel—and if you haven’t read the Bible, John would be a wonderful place to start—if you read John’s Gospel, you would be struck almost immediately by the very clear lines of demarcation that John describes for us. He describes how Jesus is the life, the light, and he has come into the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. He describes Jesus as being the life, and that life is the light of men.[15] But men and women are spiritually dead. And he describes, on the one hand, the rejection of Jesus, and on the other hand, the receiving of Jesus: “to as many as received him, to them he gave the power to become the sons of God.”[16] In other words, John’s Gospel, as good as any other Gospel, makes it very clear that each of us needs to come to know Jesus in a personal, saving way. And until we do, we are under God’s wrath and judgment.

God has every legitimate right to abhor sin. That’s what makes so amazing his grace.

It is very solemn, isn’t it? God has every legitimate right to abhor sin. That’s what makes so amazing his grace, whereby, given the extent of his wrath, he would provide such a salvation in his Son, so that religious, orthodox leaders in the community might come to trust in Jesus, and so unschooled and despised Samaritan women may come to bow at the very same place.

We have a little booklet that we use all the time; it’s called Becoming a Christian. And we have a supply of them through in the prayer room, which is through the doors to your left and my right. And if at any time, now or later, you would like to have a copy of this little book to take away and think these issues out, we would be delighted to place it in your hands.

I hope many of you will be back this afternoon. We can talk on that occasion, as we have opportunity. And in the meantime, let us pray:

God our Father, thank you for this wonderful description of your son, Jesus, and the way in which he deals with individuals—that there’s no experience of our lives that we can go through that is unknown to him, that he does know the worst about us, and yet he loves with an everlasting love.

O make me understand it!
Help me to take it in!
What it meant [for] thee, the Holy One,
To bear away my sin.[17]

And may the grace of the Lord Jesus, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit rest upon and remain with each one who believes, now and forevermore. Amen.

[1] See John 20:31.

[2] John 4:5–6 (NIV 1984).

[3] John 4:13–14 (paraphrased).

[4] Isaiah 12:3 (NIV 1984).

[5] Isaiah 55:1 (NIV 1984).

[6] Jeremiah 2:13 (paraphrased).

[7] Blaise Pascal, Pensées (1670).

[8] John 4:15 (paraphrased).

[9] John 2:19–20 (paraphrased).

[10] John 3:3–5 (paraphrased).

[11] Jessica Lange, quoted in Os Guinness, Long Journey Home: A Guide to Your Search for the Meaning of Life (Colorado Springs: Waterbrook, 2001), 7.

[12] John 4:17–18 (NIV 1984).

[13] Psalm 139:1–2, 4 (paraphrased).

[14] Matthew 15:11 (paraphrased). See also Mark 7:15.

[15] See John 1:4–5.

[16] John 1:12 (paraphrased).

[17] Katherine Kelly, “Give Me a Sight, O Savior” (1944).

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.