John 4:1-26
The Water That Leads To Eternal Life

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

1.  A person looking for vegetables doesn't go to an appliance dealer.  A person in need of bread doesn't go to a hospital.  For each request or need to be fulfilled there is an appropriate person to whom we should go and place our requirements.  When we go to Christ, what is it that we are really looking for from him?

2.  The Lord was speaking with a Samaritan woman.  "If you knew the gift of God and if you knew who it was who said, 'Please give me some water to drink,' there would have been a request from you to me and I would have given you living water," (verse ten).

3.  This person called the Samaritan woman did not have a clue who was talking to her.  Had she had known, she would have asked him, said the Lord.  Because she did not know [to look], she hadn't looked for the thing she should have been looking for.  What was the Lord trying to give to her?  As [the text] says here, it was "living water."  What we are being told today is about this: There is One who will give us "living water."

Please Give Me Living Water

4.  So, what ever in the world does this "living water" mean which the Lord was talking about?  Please look at verses thirteen and fourteen.  "Jesus answered and said, 'Whoever drinks this water will thirst again.  But, the person who drinks the water I give will never thirst.  The water I give becomes a spring inside him and the water which leads to eternal life gushes forth,'" (verses thirteen and fourteen.)

5.  The message from the Lord Jesus can be understood by the context from the word "but."  It deals in the second half with "the living water" which the Lord was talking about.  There we have a clear comparison and contrast.  "This water" and "the water I give" are contrasted.  According to the words of the Lord previously, "the water I give" is "the gift of God."  So, this contrast is between "what belongs to this temporary world" and "what comes from God."  The person who drinks the water that belongs to this world "thirsts again."  He not only says the person who drinks the life giving water that is a gift from God will "never thirst," but says "it becomes a spring within him and water that leads to eternal life gushes forth."

6.  As far as the water that belongs to this world goes, no explanation is really necessary.  Because we have experienced in every day reality the thirst that comes when we haven't drunk water.  Furthermore, if we were to stay thirsty we know that before long we would die.  Since this woman also knew she needed water for her body she came to draw some water and she knew as long as she lived she would have to keep drawing water because she would keep getting thirsty.

7.  In addition, we have not just experienced physical thirst, but have experienced many times a thirst in our hearts and minds as well.  And naturally we have tried to satisfy that thirst with the things belonging to this temporary world.  And for a time [our thirst] may have been satisfied.  But, we would experience thirst again.

8.  This woman came to draw water about mid day.  That's strange.  Normally one wouldn't usually come to draw water at the hottest part of the day.  Obviously [the timing of her] water drawing was a matter of evading the public gaze.  Her motive is deducible from the words of the Lord Jesus that come next.  Jesus spoke in verse eighteen as follows.  "Five husbands have been with you, but the one living with you now [as if married] is not your husband."  She surely couldn't have buried five [husbands].  It is believed her marriage relationships had been broken for some reason or another.  They didn't marry with intentions from the beginning to split up; nevertheless, in the end they did.  We don't know what the problems were with her husbands.  The sentence "the one living with you now [as if married] is not your husband" may possibly suggest the problem was with her.  Any way, the clear thing is she kept doing the same thing over and over.  In those times she had to have had something she was looking for and expecting and had gotten satisfied at first.  Still, it never lasted.  What she wanted was satisfied, but she thirsted again.  It would come back again.  If we'd give this some thought, in her case it was marriage, but everyone of us may repeatedly do the same sort of thing but in a different form.  We look for something, get satisfied and thirst again.  What belongs to this world "thirsts again."

9.  But, the Lord is not taking issue with physical thirst, nor even with the thirst of our hearts and minds, but with a very fundamental root thirst.  [He is dealing with] the drying up of very life itself.  The Lord said, "water that leads to eternal life gushes forth."  "Eternal life," of course, does not mean unlimited longevity of life.  Originally the descriptive term "eternal" only made sense with [the word] God.  So, this is nothing but the life of God.*  The spring of true life is God and a person takes part in this life in a bond of fellowship with God.  At one time humanity was a being who truly lived.  So, because he lost this fellowship, life dried up and death came in.  This is the fundamental root of humanity's thirst.  This cannot be quenched by the things pertaining to this world.  It only comes as "the gift of God."  Therefore, the Lord spoke to this Samaritan woman about the water that leads to eternal life.

10.  She was certainly unhappy.  She was not happy when you really saw her.  The real reason for her unhappiness was not that she failed so many times in her marriages.  It was not her misery in which she lived in avoidance of the public's gaze.  Those were not the reasons, rather it was she had lost the life of God in her.*  The wretchedness of a dead tree does not lie in he fact that the leaves have fallen off, but in the fact the root has gone bad.  It is in the fact it can no longer suck out the water from the ground of the earth.  It's the same with people too.  Often times we determine human misery by only the places the eye comes in contact with.  But, true unhappiness lies in a hidden place.  It lies in the place where the root of human life has rotted out and is disconnected from God the spring of life.  Consequently, the Lord came to give "the water that gives life," a water which does not belong to this temporary world.

Please Go Call Your Husband

11.  However, in order for her to know what "the gift of God" is or who this person is she still had to go through a number of processes and it seems they may be processes which we have to pass through also.

12.  She said, "Lord, please give me that water so that I will never thirst and shouldn't have to come here to draw [water]."  She still just didn't clearly comprehend the Lord's message.  As a general expression, "water that gives life" means water that is not stagnant and still but flowing.  She was probably taking it with that type of definition.  Yet, the Lord did not chide her for her misunderstanding.  He proceeded on in the conversation.  She was looking for the water though she misunderstood.  The Lord suddenly spoke to her as follows:  "Go and call your husband here," (verse sixteen).

13.  They were words she never would have expected.  At once she replied, "He is not my husband."  She wanted to avoid that topic.  It must have been the very thing she would not have wanted him to touch upon.  So, by saying that she tried to end the discussion.  But, the Lord would not let her leave on that.  As I touched upon earlier, the Lord spoke as follows:  "It is exactly as you said, 'He is not my husband.'  You have had five husbands, but the one living with you now [as if married] is not your husband.  You have told [about yourself] just as you really are," (verses seventeen and eighteen).

14.  "Please call your husband."  [The word] "husband" perfectly symbolized her daily hidden lifestyle, the unseen shadow part of her life, and that her day to day insides were miserably coming apart at the seams.  The true reality of human sin is not something which comes out to the surface nor into contact with the public's eye, but is at the very level of the inner being of [one's] day to day living which so comes unraveling.  It is something we are used to living with with innocent looks on our face as we keep making  it so that we can't see it and so that even the self within doesn't see.  We want to keep it secret.  But, the Lord said, "Go call your husband here."  In other words, he was saying come to the Lord bringing with you the sinful truth just as you really are.

15.  The Samaritan woman, who until that point had been dealing with the Lord as an equal, was there dragging along the misery of her every day life, [but now] she could not avoid standing before the Christ as a sinner by herself.  All this was very necessary for her to take part in the water that leads to eternal life.  It is the same for us as well.  The way we keep our sinful every day realities up somewhere we cannot stand before Christ.  Though we keep our sin hidden somewhere and stand as if the self was somebody before Christ and even though at times we have lectured on Jesus or Christianity like we command a view from above we should not expect eternal salvation to lie at such a point.  A person should first stand as a miserable sinner before the sharp discerning gaze of the Christ who sees through it all.

The Time Is Coming For True Worship

16.  However, she still attempts some moderate resistance.  Some people doggedly resist the workings of the Lord on them.  This woman said, "Lord, I perceive you to be a prophet.  Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you [people] say the place we ought to worship in is in Jerusalem," (verse twenty).  Skirting the topic of the every day realities of her life, she attempts to break it off with a commonly held religious topic.

17.  Originally they had the same roots as the Jews [but] it was in the fifth century B.C.E. when the Samaritan religious branch completely separated.  They opposed the temple at Jerusalem when it was rebuilt after the capitivity and constructed a temple on Mt. Gerizim.  They claimed that this very mountain was the place chosen of God.  What this Samaritan woman is calling "this mountain" is this Mt. Gerizim.  Which place was chosen by God, Jerusalem or Mt. Gerizim?  This may seem like a dull question to us, but for them it was the point of a religious controversy lasting several hundred years.  She tried to turn the topic towards this controversy.  But, we frequently do things similar to what she did.  Rather than facing the issue of our own sins right on, don't we instead take ease in making up questions, "What about Christianity or Buddhism, what are they about?"  There definitely are people who take comfort talking about God in the third person, "What is this God stuff?," rather than face God personally.  That's how they try to seek shelter in some safety zone where the sparks won't fall on them.

18.  But, the Lord used her words and lead the conversation to the heart of it all.  In getting a foothold with the question directed towards him on worship, he began to speak regarding true worship.  Because her problem is she had lost [true] life* and because the salvation given by the life giving water which the Lord bestows is in a recovery of a relationship with God.  And because the bond between God and man or woman is first of all none other than in a person's worship of God.  The Samaritan woman might have intended to run from this topic; but, the truth was the message of the Lord on "the life giving water" had been heading for the subject of "true worship" right from the start.  What had to be, here came to be.

19.  The Lord spoke as follows:  "O woman, please believe me.  The time is coming for you [people] to worship my father in a place that is neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.  You [people] worship what you don't know, but we worship what we do know.  Because salvation comes from the Jews.  But, the time is coming for those offering true worship to worship my father in spirit and truth.  Now is that time.  Because my father is looking for those who worship in this manner.  God is a spirit.  So, those who worship God must worship in spirit and truth," (verses twenty-one through twenty-four).

20.  As far as I understand the designs of the Lord, the decisive words are the words "Now is that time."  Why was it "now that time?"  Because the Lord Jesus was there.  Because the Lord was there the time has come for those who offer true worship to worship the father in spirit and truth.

21.  "The time has come to worship in spirit."  ----  If you would go on ahead in your reading of this gospel, it would read like this beginning in chapter seven and verse thirty-seven:  "On the last day on which the festival was so grandly being celebrated, Jesus stood up and said aloud, 'Whoever thirsts, please come to where I am and drink.  As for the person who believes me, as it is written in the scriptures, living water from within that person will become a river and will come flowing out.'  Jesus was speaking on the "spirit" which those who believed on him were wanting to receive.  [They were wanting to receive the spirit] because "the spirit" had not yet fallen since Jesus had not yet received glory," (John 7:37-39).  That is the first time "the living water" is plainly shown that it is the Holy Spirit.  Those who have been separated from God and lost [true] life* are made into people who live having been given the Spirit through Christ and are made into people who worship God in spirit.

22.  "The time has come to worship the father in truth."  ----  He is not calling God "father" because God is similar to our [earthly] fathers.  (If that were true, there would also be people saying I wouldn't want to believe in a God like my dad!)  He is calling him "father" first of all because unmistakeably he is God the father of Jesus Christ.  It is [a statement of]  how God revealed himself through his Son.  "Now no one has ever seen God.  This one, [even] God the only Son who is in the bosom of the Father, has shown us God," so it is written [in the scriptures,] (John 1:18).  The helpless sinner standing before Christ is given a revelation of God the Father who is full of mercy through the Son and is made into a person who will worship the father by means of that truth.  "Now is that time!"

23.  When the Lord headed for the cross, it was in order to fulfill perfectly this [matter of] "Now is that time." Since the Lord was crucified and resurrected, we too have become persons who can say "Now is that time."  The Lord of the resurrection who has accomplished the work of redemption gives us the Holy Spirit the water that can give us life, and makes us become persons who worship the father in spirit and truth.  Thus, the life giving water given to us becomes a spring and the water that leads to eternal life gushes forth.

24.  Therefore, we understand that the words "at a place which is neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem" do not mean "Any where is all right."  Since God is a spirit, without form, and he is every where, he is not saying that "you can worship just any place you want."  "... At a place that is neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem."  Where ever in the world is that?  It is the place where Christ is, who makes it possible for us to worship the father in spirit and truth.  It is right here and no where else.  Right here where the gospel is preached and the bread is broken, the Lord of the resurrection is here and in our midst [as a people] who have been gathered in the name of the Lord.  Furthermore, he indeed gives us the life giving water that leads us to eternal life and makes us worship God the Father and makes us alive again in that bond of life.

End Note:
*I believe Pastor Takao is referring to the state of death we exist in when Christless.  Since the fall of humankind with the sin of Adam as recorded in Genesis, men and women have lost the life force of the divine in them.  In the early days of Adam we used to have life or God in us, but now we are dead in our trespasses and sins.  When we accept Christ by faith, we are made alive, have life in us, and have God in us again.  That is true life.  Click to go back up.

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