John 4:13-14 & 31-38
“Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water shall thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.‘”
“In the meanwhile the disciples were requesting Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, eat.’ But He said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ The disciples therefore were saying to one another, ‘No one brought Him anything to eat, did he?’ Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work. Do you not say, “There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest?” Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. Already he who reaps is receiving wages, and is gathering fruit for life eternal; that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this case the saying is true, “One sows, and another reaps.” I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.'”
Here, we consider the context, aspirations of author to his audience, genre, examples and divide rightly the word of truth. This means we approach the text attempting to see its intent. We don’t want to see what we want to see but what God wants us to see. Therefore we do everything that we can to ensure we are utilizing exegesis and not eisegesis. We want to draw fresh water out of the well and not put our stagnant, lukewarm water into the well. Sometimes it helps us to work backwards.
As we have discussed, it certainly appears that John wrote with the presupposition that his readers knew the story of Jesus and were familiar with the Old Testament. I make no such presupposition. In fact, I assume that we don’t know the Old Testament because most of us don’t, not to the degree that we can keep up with the imagery in John. Therefore I think it will be helpful to work backwards through John chapter four, with a healthy, heavy dose of our Old Testament tutor. As we take our vitamin E and explore examples exegetically, prepare to put aside preconceived notions and presuppositions and be ready for a μετανοέω (metanoeo) moment. If this doesn’t change your mind, I don’t know what will.
“Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. Already he who reaps is receiving wages, and is gathering fruit for life eternal; that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this case the saying is true, ‘One sows, and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
John the Baptist came preaching, “repent (metanoeo) for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. He came baptizing in water, a baptism of repentance (metanoeo). His baptism and preaching was preparatory and it paved the way for the Messiah. But John was executed before Jesus was and never saw the lamb of God make atonement for sins and be raised by the father on the third day– the ultimate baptism. That is, John labored but never saw the ultimate fruition of his labor on earth. Like the Old Testament prophets who paved the way, someone else reaped the harvest. Nevertheless, Jesus points out plainly, that the disciples entered into labor with the prophets, reaping that which they had sown. There is clearly a generational progression from the prophets to the apostles. Because the prophets paved the way, people were prepared and the fields were white with harvest. Yet it is stated by Jesus that they rejoice together. We’ll come back to this.
Consider the context though, what happened to spur this conversation? While the disciples went to buy food, Jesus had a divine date with destiny and a Samaritan woman at a well. Upon the disciples return, they saw Jesus speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well. When the conversation came to a conclusion, Jesus confounded his disciples, denying food from them by saying to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” He then explains what this food is.
“My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work.” This doesn’t make sense unless one consults our Old Testament tutor. One must utilize an expository exegesis of examples. In Deuteronomy 8 we read, “And you shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. And He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD. Your clothing did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. Thus you are to know in your heart that the LORD your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son. Therefore, you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him.”
Jesus had a little, hidden mana which his disciples didn’t know about but probably should have. The hidden mana Jesus had to eat was to be completely obedient to the father, unlike the fathers and Pharisees and the woman and me. Jesus’ mana was to do the will of the father, which included this divine date with destiny and the woman at the well. She was white for the harvest. She expected the Messiah and the Messiah revealed himself to her. Even in her sin and misguided, taught traditions, she knew that the Messiah would come. Jesus was harvesting, and exemplifying the harvest to his disciples. Yet he was also fulfilling the Law, perfectly to provide us with bread of life.
In Revelation it is written by John, quoting Jesus, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.” In John Jesus says, “Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘HE GAVE THEM BREAD OUT OF HEAVEN TO EAT.’ Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world…I am the bread of life.” Jesus came as bread to harvest people for the father.
The question is, what does the harvest look like. How did Jesus harvest? He made an offer of which the woman wouldn’t want to refuse, even if she didn’t understand it at first. Jesus also confronted her sin. Nevertheless, Jesus offered her living water. What is the Biblical significance of this living water? Here is where the well gets deep.
I am writing from approximately 45 feet in the air, stuck in the basket of an ariel lift, which is broken down (more properly, up) as seen by my shadow. The gas engine won’t start and the emergency, battery back-up has died as well. Since I am stuck, I thought I’d write while I await some sort of a rescue. It shows how excited I am about today’s text and how confident I am in my cronies to come to my rescue and that smartphones are not the Mark of the Beast. Yet it also acts as an example to me, I am stuck in the air with no way down, at the moment. Like the woman at the well, I need help. I am stuck with no power of my own to get out of this situation.
In the same way the world is stuck with no earthly way out, living water from the well is the only way. Neither Donald Trump nor Joe Biden is the answer for America. I am not knocking law and order because it is needed but how far can law and order take us? Look at Israel for your example. I can look at myself. We need a change of heart, through the harvest. Today a person almost caused us to crash the car we were riding in because the driver of the other car was watching their phone and not the road. I was furious. Yet while justified in my concern, my rage was as unlawful as the driver staring at their screen. We all need this living water.
I believe this and I believe that the living water will come from Jesus as he reigns from heaven and not from a rapture rescue. While I need a rescue from my lofty perch, I don’t need Jesus to physically come and rescue me. He already came and paid the price and sent his Spirit, the living water, it exists but in my case, it isn’t very deep and I am high above the ground. Let me explain, now that the batteries have been filled and I am safely on the ground, because this is not something I made up by looking at my precarious position but by expository exegesis of examples.
Jesus, the Word, the Messiah, God made flesh, the bread of life who has the hidden mana, says to the outcast, Samaritan woman at the well, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” At first, she didn’t ask but rather wondered where Jesus would get this living water.
He then says, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water shall thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
The woman at the well is not the only person offered this living water. In John 7 we see Jesus preaching in Jerusalem at the Feast of Booths. “Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, “From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.'” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” It’s always nice and tidy when the explanation of the imagery is given. We now know for certain that Jesus is talking about the Holy Spirit, who is also God, with Jesus and the father.
If you need to know the theological explanation given here which states, “the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified,” read John 16:5-15. Lord willing, we will eventually get there. It is the best explanation of the timing of the coming of the Spirit. For now, we focus on the role and increase of the Spirit as it pertains to the living water. Like Jesus had to increase while John decreased, it seems that the Spirit has a similar scenario. We’ll come back to this.
Notice what Jesus said at the feast of temporary tabernacles about the living water; “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.'” Problem; it’s not in all caps and it’s from the NASB. Quoted Scripture in the New Testament is supposed to be in all caps in the NASB. I’m not knocking the NASB but the main reason I use the NASB is because it makes the reader aware of Old Testament quotes by using all caps, usually. I understand why they didn’t use all caps here because it isn’t a direct quote from a single, easily identified source. Nevertheless, Jesus said it was from the Scripture and John recorded it as Scripture so I believe that it must be in our Old Testament tutor. Let me write that again because it is of utmost importance, which we will see later. Jesus said it and John recorded it, therefore it is found in the Old Testament. It’s also found again in the New Testament.
But before we consider the context of our expository exegesis of examples and attempt to understand the author’s aspiration to his audience, consider the context of Jesus crying this out at the Feast of Booths, the feast of the temporary tents or tabernacles. John has written, “and the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.” We have also read, “the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” Keep the continuing context of John in mind as we continue; the preparatory baptism, changing water into wine, light in the darkness, the bread of life and being born again.
At the feast celebrating Israel’s temporary dwelling in tents as a reminder that their ancestors temporarily wandered the wilderness before entering the promised land, Jesus, in his temporary flesh cried out, “‘If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, “From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.”‘ But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
It was preparatory for the people present, pointing to what was to come, while in remembrance. John tells us plainly that the water was the Spirit and he would come after Jesus was glorified from his temporary, tabernacle flesh to his glorified body, in which he ascended to heaven to sit at the righthand of the father until he put all his enemies under his feet, the last being death. (Psalm 110, Acts 2, 1 Corinthians 15, Hebrews 1, Matthew 22 and John 16)
This was promised by Isaiah, Ezekiel and Zechariah, Jesus points it out to the people present at the feast of Booths, even if the NASB doesn’t. Probably the translators were simply overwhelmed by the imagery invoked by Jesus, so that they didn’t know which passage to choose. We’ll start in Zechariah because we have seen it before.
And it will come about in that day that there will be no light; the luminaries will dwindle. For it will be a unique day which is known to the LORD, neither day nor night, but it will come about that at evening time there will be light. And it will come about in that day that living waters will flow out of Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and the other half toward the western sea; it will be in summer as well as in winter…Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths. And it will be that whichever of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, there will be no rain on them.”
In Isaiah we read, “With joy you will draw water from the springs of salvation…For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and currents on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring.”
While the Spirit is surely seen in Zechariah and Isaiah, Ezekiel is also in the mind of the Lord and John, I am quite sure.
“Then he brought me back to the door of the house; and behold, water was flowing from under the threshold of the house toward the east, for the house faced east. And the water was flowing down from under, from the right side of the house, from south of the altar. And he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate by way of the gate that faces east. And behold, water was trickling from the south side. When the man went out toward the east with a line in his hand, he measured a thousand cubits, and he led me through the water, water reaching the ankles. Again he measured a thousand and led me through the water, water reaching the knees. Again he measured a thousand and led me through the water, water reaching the loins. Again he measured a thousand; and it was a river that I could not ford, for the water had risen, enough water to swim in, a river that could not be forded. And he said to me, ‘Son of man, have you seen this?’ Then he brought me back to the bank of the river. Now when I had returned, behold, on the bank of the river there were very many trees on the one side and on the other. Then he said to me, ‘These waters go out toward the eastern region and go down into the Arabah; then they go toward the sea, being made to flow into the sea, and the waters of the sea become fresh. And it will come about that every living creature which swarms in every place where the river goes, will live. And there will be very many fish, for these waters go there, and the others become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. And it will come about that fishermen will stand beside it; from Engedi to Eneglaim there will be a place for the spreading of nets. Their fish will be according to their kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea, very many. But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they will be left for salt. And by the river on its bank, on one side and on the other, will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear every month because their water flows from the sanctuary, and their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing.'”
I know what you are thinking, Russell P, it sounds like Zechariah and Isaiah but not Ezekiel.” Like I was stuck in the air in a broken down ariel lift high above the ground, sometimes we get stuck with our preconceived notions and presuppositions, failing to see the imagery. Not only this but we also fail to connect the contextual dots and the aspirations of the author. Let’s let the author of today’s text tell us more about this living water Jesus offered to the woman at the well.
Once again, John is quoting Jesus. “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.”
And to the woman he said, “Everyone who drinks of this water [Jacob’s well] shall thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
Our problem is our preconceived notion that believes Revelation deals with the end of time. Yet it should not be this way, especially if we take the alleged “historical, grammatical approach.” That is reading plainly and literally unless obvious imagery and metaphorical meanings are made, such as symbols, symbolism, analogies, similes and the like. Revelation is an epistle to seven literal churches from John. He begins the letter in the following way: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must shortly take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near. John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come; and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne; and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the first-born of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us, and released us from our sins by His blood, and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father; to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
Psalm 72:8; “May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth!” Notice the dominion and also notice its boundaries are water. And while this may sound like a stretch, consider the continuing context and the author. John doesn’t include parables in his gospel account because it’s been done, rather he immerses us in imagery, the same imagery found in Ezekiel, Isaiah and Zechariah– both in his gospel account and the book of Revelation.
“And he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. And on either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His bond-servants shall serve Him; and they shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. And there shall no longer be any night; and they shall not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God shall illumine them; and they shall reign forever and ever.”
To the majority, this is far future, at least 1,007 years hence. I don’t care about majorities because the majority elected a hair-sniffing, racist. I believe in reading the Bible for all its worth, letting Scripture interpret Scripture. Nevertheless, the Lord shall have dominion and eventually the majority will come to the living water because the Bible says so. It had to because God cannot lie but he absolutely can use symbolism and metaphorical imagery. Ezekiel and John didn’t see rivers of water flooding the earth literaly but as imagery because God promised Noah he would never flood the earth again with water– it was a Covenant, signified and signed with a rainbow.
One of the main arguments made against this eschatology, which is actually theology, is that it wasn’t the position held by the church fathers or the reformers, such as, Ignatius, Polycarp, Augustine, John Calvin and Martin Luther. Yet these didn’t all agree with each other, meaning that some of them were wrong. And if one of them was able to be wrong, all of them were able to be wrong. We have to consider what John believed, remembering the themes in his gospel account.
“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not ccomprehend it.” John lived in dark days, days that saw the people of God crucifying their Messiah. Days of such disease, demon possession and physical abnormalities that Jesus healed multitudes of people in a place the size of New Jersey. It seems like everywhere Jesus went, someone was violently demon possessed. Unlike the “faith healers” of today, who are frauds, Jesus actually healed withered arms and legs, made the blind to see and the deaf hear, constantly. He even gave this authority to his disciples. The point is, based upon the population and area of the time, the world was sick and in darkness. Yet we are supposed to believe that a Jewish man from Nazareth was the light of the world? Even Nathanael couldn’t believe this; “And Nathanael said to him, ‘Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.'”
Yet this son of a carpenter who was homeless, was light, bread, life, the vine and the shepherd in John’s gospel account but John didn’t come up with these words of imagery. Jesus said these things of himself of which he promised to the Old Testament prophets. Jesus came to a wicked world and a perverse generation, during the height of the Roman empire. Yet he, the homeless carpenter’s son, was the light of the world at that time. And to Nicodemus Jesus stated his mission; “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.”
Do we really believe that? Do we believe that the Jesus is the true temple and from him flows living water that starts as a tiny trickle of water, but grows over time to be a brook, ankle deep. After a thousand units of measure, it is a stream, up to the knees, then to the belly, and eventually into a river that fills the earth– do we believe in the imagery in Ezekiel, Zechariah and Isaiah which is invoked by Jesus in John’s gospel account and Revelation?
No, because it is not what we have been taught– not by the church fathers or the reformers. Nevertheless, it is what Jesus promised and like the Bible, what the church fathers taught can be taken out of context. Also, John Calvin never wrote a commentary about Revelation and Martin Luther called it, “unedifying,” though he later softened his position. We also look out our windows and misinterpret that which we see, without thinking about the history of our planet or the progressive nature of the living water. The kingdom of heaven is like a little leaven a women hid in flour which slowly rise. The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed which starts very small but grows slowly into a tree (Matthew 13). The puritans believed this and built institutions for higher learning but they were let go because a wave of dispensationalism washed over America. The church has lost its influence over the culture because dubious dogmas have overtaken the church which states that the world gets worse and worse, based upon verses ripped out of context.
Therefore I encourage all people to read the Bible themselves, letting the Bible interpret the Bible, seeing the sublime string and keeping things in their context. You can do it, the CAGED method can help. Context is king, Author’s Aspirations to his audience are apex, Genre is the general, Expository Exegesis of Examples enlightens and Dividing rightly the word of truth either confirms or cancels our preconceived notions and presuppositions.
Look at my shadow once again, could you tell what that was if I hadn’t told you? We need to take the same approach with the Bible. We have to let the Bible interpret itself, we have to let Jesus explain his shadow in the Old Testament. Paul writes that the Old Covenant was merely a shadow to the substance of Christ. Therefore we look for the new Jerusalem coming out of heaven and not to earthly Jerusalem.
One last thing; you probably noticed, because I made sure to harp on heavily, including some examples– the Feast of Booths. According to Zechariah, the Feast of Booths is to be celebrated in what resembles the new heavens and new earth described by Isaiah and John. If one doesn’t observe the Feast of Booths, no rain will fall on them. Again, this goes back to types and shadows in not only the Old Testament but the New Testament as well. Is it symbolism and imagery? Yes, but it symbolizes discipline in the new heavens and new earth. In Isaiah 65 we read that in the new heavens and new earth there is planting, growing, working and even death. In Revelation the dogs are outside the city. Obviously meaning that there are no dogs in heaven (sarcasm alert). No, quite the opposite, we clearly see animals in the new earth, meaning that the new earth is probably not what we have been taught. Notice again the Feast of Booths and its original intent of temporary tents for remembrance.
This is the harvest. This is baptism. This is communion. We focus on what Christ Jesus has done for us and follow his example in harvesting. This, despite of me, doesn’t fail. It’s time for me to believe in my heart that which I believe in my head and to come down from my lofty perch and get my feet wet in the harvest. Unless I am using the mustard seed as a metaphor. But I believe that the mustard tree is but a bush at this point in history. Unlike the dispensationalists, I believe we have a long way to go. Look at that, we agree on “already but not yet.”