The woman left her water jar beside the well and went back to the village and told everyone, "Come and meet a man who told me everything I ever did! Can this be the Messiah?" So the people came streaming from the village to see him. John 4:28-30

In the former chapter, we found that the disciples had meanwhile joined their Lord at the Well, while He was still conversing with the woman of Samaria. Until now, she had enjoyed undisturbed her interview with the Divine Wayfarer; but other eyes being upon her, the conversation abruptly terminates. So it is with all our most hallowed seasons of communion with the Savior on earth. They are necessarily brief. He is to His people still, in a spiritual sense, as He was to that daughter of Israel, "as a stranger in the land, and as a wayfaring man that turns aside to tarry for a night." Blessed will that time be, when no disturbing intrusive element can interrupt the bliss of fellowship whose duration will not be a transient noontide-hour of burden and weariness, but ETERNITY!

The silence of that speechless group seems to have been first broken by the sudden departure of the woman. In the intensity of her newborn emotions she is forgetful altogether of the purpose which brought her to the well of the Patriarch; and, leaving her pitcher behind, she hastens to her native city to proclaim to her fellow-townsmen the astounding intelligence that she has found the Messiah. How altered her whole character and feelings since she left her home a brief hour before! She had left from the gates of Shechem a miserable sinner; she returns a rejoicing believer, with her deep spiritual thirst quenched, once and forever, at a nobler fountain.

There is something true to human nature, and truer still to the expansive, unselfish spirit of the Gospel, in seeing her thus hastening to make others partakers of her own joy and peace. The impulse is natural to communicate to others whatever may have imparted happiness to ourselves. A son who gets advancement in the world delights to take the earliest means of sending the tidings to the paternal roof. The soldier in the forlorn hope hastens to give to those who are waiting with breathless interest, the intelligence alike of his safety and of his feat of successful daring. The shepherd in the parable is represented, on finding the lost wanderer, as calling his friends and his neighbors together, saying, "Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost." The father of the prodigal is not contented with his own happiness in giving welcome to the long absent one, but his banqueting halls are thrown open, that others may have a sympathizing participation in the gladsome return.

We may recall a moment of deeper, stranger, intenser joy still—a joy which quickened the pulses of the world's life; when Mary Magdalene had not only entered the deserted sepulcher, but had listened from unmistakable lips to words of wonder and gladness—with fleet step, unable to keep the ecstatic assurance to herself, she hurried to proclaim it to those most intensely interested—"She departed quickly from the sepulcher, with fear and great joy; and ran to bring His disciples word." The two travelers to Emmaus, when their wondering eyes were opened, hastened forthwith to the eleven with the glad news, "The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon."

So it was in the case of the woman of Samaria. She, too, had seen her living Lord—the Messiah promised to her fathers. Her joy and wonder cannot be unshared. It was with her as with the brethren of Joseph: no sooner had the patriarch made himself known to them, saying, "I am Joseph," than they hastened to convey the startling intelligence to their aged father, "Joseph is alive!"

The true Joseph had made Himself known to this alien sister. She cannot keep to herself the joy of all joys. "The woman left her water jar beside the well and went back to the village and told everyone, "Come and meet a man who told me everything I ever did! Can this be the Messiah?" So the people came streaming from the village to see him."

And this is ever the true result of saving conversion, the necessary consequence of the reception of the truth into our own hearts—a longing desire to make others sharers and participators in our joy and peace in believing. If Christianity be real and living, it must be expansive. The work of the Spirit of God in the heart is not a fiction, not a form, but a life. To use the simile of this narrative, it is a fountain not only 'springing up,' (bubbling up,) but overflowing its cistern, and the superfluous supply going forth to gladden other waste places. Not the mass of stagnant water without outlet, but the clear, sparkling lake, discharging its rush of living streams which sing their joyous way along the contiguous valleys, and make their course known by the thread of green, beautifying and fertilizing as they flow.

Or, if we may employ another figure, let it be that whose appropriateness redeems it from commonplace—the stone thrown into the same still lake. The ripples formed are deepest in the center. Christianity is deepest in the heart in which its truths have sunk; but its influence expands in ever-widening concentric circles until the wavelets touch the shore. Religion, intensest in a man's own soul and life, should embrace family, household, kindred, neighborhood, country, until it knows no circumference but the world!

Oh, how unlike is the true spirit of the gospel to that of the world's selfishness; that selfishness which would retain all with tenacious, avaricious grasp, with no thought or care for the happiness or well being of others. Christianity breaks down these walls of narrow isolation, and proclaims the true brotherhood of the race. Selfishness closes the heart, shuts out from it the rains and dews and summer sunshine; but Christianity, or rather the great Sun of light, shines—the closed petals gradually unfold in the genial beams—and they keep not their fragrance to themselves, but waft it all around. Every such flower, the smallest that blushes unseen to the world—becomes a little censer swinging its incense-perfume in the silent air, or sending it far and wide by the passing breeze.

The woman of Samaria became, as every Christian who has tasted and seen that the Lord is gracious ought to become, a home evangelist and missionary. Origen calls her "the apostle of the Samaritans." The entire words in the song of an elder sister in Israel, which we have more than once partially quoted, are beautifully true in her case with reference to the inhabitants of her city: "Those who are delivered from the noise of archers in the places of drawing water, there shall they rehearse the righteous acts of the Lord, even the righteous acts towards the inhabitants of his villages in Israel: then shall the people of the Lord go down to the gates."

And her case and character are, in this respect, only in beautiful keeping and harmony with manifold examples in sacred Scripture—"going down to the gates," and proclaiming to others, "This gate of the Lord into which the righteous shall enter." Job was such a missionary. Not content himself with knowing and rejoicing in the revelation of a 'living Redeemer,' that evangelist of the Arabian desert, in words appropriate to his barren home, expresses his ardent desire that others might participate in the glorious discovery, "Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book! that they were engraved with an iron pen and lead in the rock forever!"

David was such a missionary. The tokens of God's forgiving grace and mercy vouchsafed to himself, acted as a stimulus and incentive to convey these to others, "Then will I teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted unto You"—"Come, all you who fear God, I will declare what He has done for my soul."

Andrew was such a missionary. For, having himself beheld and welcomed the Lamb of God, we read, "The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, "We have found the Messiah" (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus."

Philip was such a missionary. Himself the recipient of the glad news, he "finds Nathaniel, and said unto him, We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth" at the same time extracting from the simple-hearted Jew, the noble avowal, "Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel."

The converted maniac of Gadara became such a missionary. He was not permitted to continue his posture, "sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind," a passive subject of the wondrous transformation—"Jesus sent him away, saying, Return to your own house and show how great things God has done to you. And he went his way, and published throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done unto him."

And so it was also with the greatest of all converted men. No sooner was Paul struck to the ground by the heavenly light, and heard the voice of that Jesus whom so long he had persecuted, than he "immediately preached Christ in the synagogues of Damascus, that He is the Son of God." "You," says Christ, to all and of all His people—"you are the light of the world." As little can the sun retain his heat to himself, or the moon her borrowed luster, as the believer cease to be a radiating center of holy influence. "If these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out." And if this influence, in the case of not a few, fail of being of an active nature, let all remember that there is one of another kind equally acceptable to God, and equally potent for good. The Christian, confined for weary years to a sickbed, is rendered physically incapable of the outer activities of the spiritual life; but there is a speechless eloquence and power in a holy, Christlike character. Such may prove silent evangelists, commending the gospel to others by their meek, patient, enduring, unmurmuring resignation—like the alabaster box of old, broken unnoticed and unobserved; but the whole house, (the little sphere of their influence), is filled with the odor of the ointment!

To return to the narrative. The mission of this female evangelist was signally successful. For it is added, "So the people came streaming from the village to see Him." Now there is something in this statement which is remarkable, and well worthy of our attention. She has made a startling assertion in the midst of those who were only too cognizant of her character. Yet they credit her testimony; they obey, apparently with alacrity, her summons, and crowd with her to see the Judean Pilgrim. With some of these, doubtless, there may have been no higher motive or inducement than curiosity; but from the sequel, we seem warranted to infer that this was not the predominant reason. They had given a ready and hearty credence to the wondrous story of this strangest of attesting witnesses, and at her bidding, and under her guidance, they hasten without hesitation to the old traditional Well.

What could it have been which rendered her testimony so strong, so self-evidencing and self-authenticating? We may note one or two particulars which must have specially tended to conquer their prejudices, and prepare them for a recognition of these same Messiah-claims.

(1.) Her honesty and outspoken candor must have gained her a favorable hearing: "Come," she said, "see a man that told me all things that ever I did." It was the last thing we could have expected her to utter—the last message they would have expected her to deliver—to ask them to come to see one whose penetrating glance had read and revealed her blackened history. She would in ordinary circumstances have shrunk from such a revelation of herself. Indeed, when we see her leaving the well and disappearing among the old olive trees on the road to the city, the natural suggestion which occurs to us is, that she is glad to rush away from the withering glance and exposure of that Heart-searcher, saying, in the spirit of the oldest world-transgressor, "I heard your voice, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself."

We expect that if she makes any reference at all to the mysterious stranger, it would be by doing what she could to keep others from going to listen, possibly to fresh disclosures of her character and vicious life; that if she said anything to her fellow-citizens about that Jewish traveler, it would rather be to depreciate His authority and turn into ridicule His words and similitudes. But this, on the contrary, is the very point on which she emphatically dwells. This is to her the credential of His Messiahship, that He has told her all her nefarious past history—that He is fully acquainted with her life of sin.

Could this honest avowal fail to carry its own moral weight to the minds of these simple, straightforward villagers or townsmen of Sychar—that despite of these disclosures, instead of evading Him—belittling Him—mocking Him—throwing discredit on His claims, or keeping the strange interview of that morning a profound secret locked up in her heart of hearts, she invites them to come and see Him, and hear for themselves His omniscient and searching words?

(2.) Another thing which must have won for her the attention of her fellow-citizens, was her earnestness. "Come!" she said, with inviting urgency. Her strange assertions might at first be met by obstinacy and scorn. She might probably at first be regarded as a raving enthusiast and fanatic—the victim of some sudden bewildering phantasm, possessed with one of the demons of their false spirit worship; or perhaps as subserving some hypocritical ends—a deceiver, and being deceived. But probably her tears and heartfelt genuine penitence, coupled with the transparent veracity of her statement, satisfied them that there was in her case no pretense, no delusion.

There was about her tale and her manner an indubitable reality, which conquered and annihilated the strength even of Samaritan prejudices. She may have appeared at first, like Lot to his sons-in-law, "as one that mocks." But in abrupt, importunate earnestness, the smitten penitent implores them to go and see—to go and judge for themselves. These pleadings are irresistible. They went out of the city, she herself probably accompanying them, "and came unto Him." What is to compare with earnestness? There is a true ring about it which cannot be simulated or counterfeited. What Christian ministry, what Christian life, so powerful as an earnest one? It is not the charm of intellect, not the subtlety of reasoning, not the magic of eloquence, that will commend the gospel to others. It is the living words welling up from the believing soul, the lips uttering and proclaiming what has been experimentally felt and tested. "I believed, therefore have I spoken."

Unsanctified intellect has often preached an unknown Savior. Strange as it may seem, unsanctified intellect has even at times not delivered its message in vain, just as the trumpet which stirs the hearts of the brave in battle may be sounded by coward or unworthy lips. But the ministry and the mission most signally owned and blessed by the great Master, is not the wisdom of human words, or the grandeur of flowery orations, but where there is the irresistible cogency of living fervor. Men of the world are quick-sighted enough to penetrate the flimsy veil of unreality and pretension, to discover those who are the mere imposters in the great army of the brave and the true.

On the other hand, where there is unction and reality, other deficiencies will be overlooked and palliated. Even intellectual superiority willingly stoops to hear the heartfelt tale, though it may be delivered with unlettered and stammering tongue. Hence, in the Gospels, the two most honored of preachers, with the exception of the Baptist, just because their tongues were touched with burning earnestness, were that converted demoniac of Gadara, and this converted woman of Samaria. Oh for an earnest Church and an earnest ministry! the baptism "with the Holy Spirit and with fire!"

(3.) We may add one other impression which must have been made upon the people of Shechem—the effect which that mysterious interview at the Well had upon the woman herself. It had made her happy. He had told her all things that ever she did. That, we might have thought, and so would they, should have had the effect of making her wretched. We know the awful feeling which another's cognizance of some crimson sin inspires. It makes the transgressor miserable. Hush-money is the well-known human quietus of a troubled conscience—the ready bribe to muffle the anguish of discovered wrong-doing—the key which locks up the terrible secret. But this woman's guilty secrets were out and disclosed—One Infinite yet human heart at least knew them all. He knew the worst of her. He was within a mile of where she now was—yet she was happy!

Among these half heathen Shechemites were there no spiritual burdens as heavy to be borne as her own? Do we think, amid these rough hewers of wood and drawers of water, there were none of the world's aching hearts to be found? Would they not willingly too pass through the same ordeal as she, if only the oppressive load could be removed? Would they not willingly brave the scrutiny of this omniscient One, and allow Him to unlock their deepest secrets, if only the storm, as in her case, could be changed into a calm by His omnipotent, "Peace, be still?"

Such, then, being the credentials of this female messenger, let us glance at the subject of her MESSAGE. This, too, is remarkable and worthy of note; for in it she tells her fellow-citizens the very fact which we might have expected she would have withheld, and she omits what we would have expected her rather to proclaim. We expect, as she enters Sychar, and gathers the wondering crowd around her, to hear her speak of what we deem alike the most beautiful and the most memorable part of her story—that, too, which would be most impressive to the Oriental mind—about the Well, the thirst, the living water, the gift of God, everlasting life. Or if not this, the mystic sayings about Gerizim and Zion, the world-wide worship, the revelation of the Great Father.

Not a word is said of any of these; no, not even does she speak of the stranger's own closing avowal of his Messiahship. The one declaration—that which has stirred her heart to its depths (she seems to have room for no other) is this, "He told me all things that ever I did." As in the case of Felix, when a greater than Paul now spoke of 'temperance, righteousness, and the judgment to come,' conscience spoke, and her immortal spirit trembled! And as in speaking of the Christian ministry we have adverted to one element at least of persuasive power in the character of the messenger, so have we here the most effective and influential characteristic of his message. It is not figurative expositions, not controversial disputes, not subtle metaphysical distinctions about the nature and character of God, but the direct commending of the truth to the conscience; awakening a deep sense of sin—rousing the soul to a consciousness of the virulence of its disease, and thus preparing it for a revelation of the one glorious remedy.

It was asserted by divine lips to be the first part of the Holy Spirit's work in conversion, "He will convince the world of sin." The evidences of the schools are not without their peculiar value—but the stateliest array of these will never of themselves bring home conviction to one heart. They are not what prove most effectual in gathering in wanderers to the fold—they are not the pitchers which fetch up from the well of life its reviving draughts.

That rather which wins and arrests and conquers, is the knowledge which the Bible has of myself, in telling me "all things that ever I did"—the adaptation of the Great Physician to the wounds and heart-sores of aching humanity—the adaptation of the living water to the thirsty soul. This is the history of every drawer of that water—"God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shone in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."

The Great Teacher, 'the teller of all things,' the true "Word of God," is a "discerner of the thoughts and the intents of the heart." The gracious words to ancient Israel collectively, seem to have a special beauty and significance in their application to this individual case of the Samaritan woman—a comment on the later saying, "Where sin abounded grace did much more abound."—"She decked herself with her earrings and her jewels, and she went after her lovers, and forgot me, says the Lord. Therefore, behold, I will allure her and bring her into the wilderness, and will speak comfortably unto her." (lit. speak to her heart.)

A gospel faith is the response of the human spirit within, to the Revelation without. The unlettered Christian can confront bold skepticism, and fight it with this "proved sword," this unanswerable argument, "Come, see a man who told me all things that ever I did!" "One thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see."

Let us close with one practical remark, the power of feeble influences. If it has been a matter of interest to us to watch the dealing of Christ with an individual sinner at the well of Jacob, more interesting still is the sequel we have been now considering—the crowd, appearing among the trees, of anxious seeking souls, coming to test for themselves the truth of the wondrous tidings, and to prefer the prayer—"Lord, give us this water that we thirst not!" But it is of further interest and significance to note, that this flocking of the people of Shechem to listen to the Divine Stranger was the result of the pleadings and urgency of one feeble woman. She herself had become, to use the beautiful figure of the Psalmist, as a dove whose wings are covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold. In the freshness of her heavenly plumage, this dove of Samaria flies immediately with the olive branch in her mouth to her own Shechem valley, not to seek with folded pinion some quiet perch on Gerizim, but rather to hasten her flight back again to the true Noah, the Giver of "Rest," bringing along with her a flock with weary wing and wailing cry. "Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows?"

Never let us undervalue feeble instrumentality! It was the blast of rams' horns, accompanied with the shout of the army of Israel, which brought to the ground the walls of Jericho. It was the crash of three hundred pitchers and the gleam of torches by the well of Jezreel, accompanied by the battle-cry, "The sword of the Lord and of Gideon," which routed the mighty host of the Midianites. It was a few pebbles from the running brook, and a sling in the hands of a shepherd boy, which laid low the giant of Philistia.

Let none make the feebleness of their efforts in the Church of Christ the reason for neglecting or abandoning them. Let none make the smallness of their talent a reason for burying it in the earth; but rather put it out to interest, that when their Lord comes He may receive His own with interest. It is by small and often insignificant means He still effects the mightiest of His purposes in His Church on earth. He would make this still the motive to all exertion—the secret of all success—the watchword to every Faint-heart and Ready-to-halt in the day of battle—"Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts."

Home       QUOTES       SERMONS       BOOKS