Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

Thirsty for God
Pastor Steve Schell
John 4:1-15
After a very dramatic confrontation with the temple leaders in Jerusalem (Jn 2:13-25) Jesus left the city and moved His ministry out to the towns and villages scattered throughout the Judean countryside. There He preached and undoubtedly healed and delivered people from spiritual oppression. His disciples also baptized the people. Judging from clues John gives us Jesus apparently remained in Judea for about eight months. But at some point, a warning arrived that the Pharisees, who already shared with the temple leadership a hatred for Jesus (Jn 5:18, 7:1, 25, 30, 47-48; 8:3), had discovered where He was and what was happening. John says they knew that Jesus was “making and baptizing more disciples than John (the Baptist)” (v1) which meant Jesus was now in great danger. Normally the Pharisees despised the temple leaders in Jerusalem (for good reason), but they were also practical enough to partner with them when they needed their political power to punish some offender. So when this report reached Jesus, He took it as a warning that He would soon be arrested. But it was far too early in His ministry to allow that to happen. His disciples needed much more teaching and training, and there were many who had not yet been saved, healed or delivered. So He immediately left Judea and headed back to Galilee by the shortest possible route, straight through Samaria.

On the way He stopped to rest at Jacob’s well outside the city of Sychar. The well, which is still there today, is located about 35 miles north of Jerusalem. John even tells us the time of day they arrived. He says it was about the “sixth hour,” which means it was either six in the morning by Roman time or noon by Jewish time. Whichever time it was, Jesus had walked a long distance and was physically exhausted. His disciples had gone into the city to buy food, so He sat there alone by the well until a woman walked up with a bucket and a rope. The well is over 100 feet deep. Jesus asked her to give Him a drink, which surprised her because a Jewish man would not normally want to drink from a vessel used by a Samaritan because, by that point in history, the Jews thought they would become ceremonially unclean if they even touched a Gentile (non-Jew), let alone ate or drank from the same utensils (Jn 18:28; Ac 10:28; 11:3). Now let’s read:

v10: Jesus answered and said to her, “If you had seen the gift of God (in the Scriptures), and who is the One saying to you, ‘Give me a drink’ you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water” (literal).

vs11-12: She said to Him, “Sir, you have no bucket and the well is deep, where then do you have the living water? You aren’t greater than our father Jacob who gave us the well and drank of it himself, and [also] his sons and his cattle, are you?” (literal).

vs13-14: Jesus answered and said to her, “All those drinking from this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks from the water which I will give him, will (not/not) never be thirsty again into the [Messianic] age, but the water which I will give him will become in him a well/spring/fountain of water leaping up to eternal life” (literal).

v15: The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water so that I will not thirst nor keep coming here to draw” (literal).

Two thirsty people
We have here an encounter between two thirsty people: one for water and the other for “living water.” Life without God is dry. We feel empty, lonely, exposed and without purpose. As life progresses it disappoints. The pleasures it promised don’t fulfill; our achievements are quickly forgotten; and we can’t escape the daily march toward the end. Those realities confront everyone sooner or later, and then we become “thirsty.” We ask ourselves, “Is this all there is? Why can’t I find peace inside?” And the woman who came out to draw water that day had already become disappointed in life. She’d lived hard and rebelliously, determined to find fulfillment even if she had to break the rules (vs17-18), but it hadn’t worked. She knew the religious traditions, but she was still thirsty… for God; and she didn’t know where to find Him (vs20, 25). This was what Jesus perceived when He saw her, which is why after asking for a drink of water He went straight for her heart. He told her that there was a way to quench the emptiness inside; it was possible for God’s Spirit to live within her.

The Spirit without measure (Jn 1:33; 3:34)
One of the main points John the Baptist regularly proclaimed about the coming Messiah was that He would bring with Him the promised baptism in the Holy Spirit (Mt 3:11; Jn 1:33; 3:34). He said when the Messiah arrived we would no longer be dry and thirsty for God; we would be immersed into and filled up with His glorious presence. For centuries the prophets had promised that a day would come when we would enjoy unlimited access to God Himself, which is the greatest delight any human can experience. David described his own thirst for God this way, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for you, O’ God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God, when shall I come and appear before God?” (Ps 42:1-2).

The quenching of this thirst was what Jesus was offering to this woman, and through her example, to all who would believe in Him. We must not miss the radical nature of what Jesus did: He offered the baptism in the Holy Spirit to someone who didn’t fit any of the “proper” categories. She was a Samaritan, a woman and relationally dysfunctional. In other words, He offers the “Spirit without measure” to anyone, regardless of their personal history, if they will believe in Him.

Come and drink (Jn 7:37-39)
This conversation beside Jacob’s well probably took place in late December or January. Jesus was on His way to Galilee, and on occasion He would return to Jerusalem during religious holidays (Jn 5:1; 7:1-2, 10). That fall He attended the Feast of Booths (Tabernacles) which was designed to remember the Exodus from Egypt, and it included a daily ceremony in which water was carried from the pool of Siloam and poured out by the altar of burnt offering. This act was a symbolic prayer for rain at the end of the long dry summer. The people and the land were growing thirsty. It was in the last day of that eight-day ceremony that Jesus stood among the crowd gathered in the temple and cried out saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scriptures said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water’” (Jn 7:37-38).

The apostle John then added this explanation, so we would understand what He meant, “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” (Jn 7:39).

In other words, Jesus was offering to them the baptism in the Holy Spirit which John said did not arrive until Jesus was resurrected and had ascended into heaven. After that people began to receive this baptism, starting at the Day of Pentecost (Ac 2:1-13). From that time forward it has been available to all who believe (including children) (Ac 2:38-39).

Receiving this promise
You’ll notice that when Jesus offers the Spirit He says we must come to Him and drink. That means we have a part to play in receiving this gift. In most cases we can’t be passive; we must reach out and take hold of what He offers. And as we listen to Him He clearly states that the gift is given to all who believe in Him. There are no exceptions, but as we know it’s possible to be given a gift but not open it. And the problem is many people have been assured that they are given the Holy Spirit when they receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, and they are, but in some cases those who are ministering to them do not know how to help them actually receive what has been given. So the person is left with a promise, but not an encounter. They’re still thirsty. When a person actually receives this “living water,” when there is within them a “well springing up,” they know it. It’s an actual fact which they experience. The inability of some to minister this blessing can even be seen in the Book of Acts. Philip, the evangelist (not the apostle) preached to many in Samaria, but for some reason he was not able to help them receive this gift (Ac 8:13-17). Peter and John had to come from Jerusalem to minister to Philip’s converts, and then they received.

Helping people receive this gift requires faith, sensitivity to the needs of the person and humility because not everyone receives right away, and if we take that as a personal failure or grow defensive and feel the need to blame someone, we’ll soon stop trying and wound people in the process.

The longer I minister, the more evident it is becoming that for many to be released in this gift, the tongue must be surrendered to the Spirit. I know this is the step that frightens so many, but over and over again it’s after I encourage someone to speak out and trust the Spirit to form a language, the presence of God will move on that person and the “living water” becomes evident to them and me. It’s after they become free to worship in the Spirit that people come back and report a new spiritual breakthrough, they beam, there is a new tenderness to God, they even look younger. The message has come home to their heart: He loves me; He’s with me; He dwells within me. Longtime Christians have said to me, “This is what I’ve been looking for all my life.” And this is what Jesus offered a thirsty Samaritan woman.

Peace (Jn 14:27)
While teaching His disciples about the baptism in the Holy Spirit Jesus said this, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (Jn 14:27).

The peace Jesus offers is not the absence of strife, in fact He warns of just the opposite (Jn 16:33). The peace He offers is not the assurance that this world will grow into a better place, in fact He describes just the opposite. The peace He offers is Himself. He says He will be with us always even to the end of the age (Mt 28:20). That is not meant to be a vague theological truth; He’s offering us a tangible fact. No matter what situations we may face, He and the Father by the Spirit will be with us and within us. Not in small measure, but like an artesian well springing up inside. To thirsty people He offers the presence of God, “like rivers of living water.”

1) Describe someone you know who seems to be full of the Spirit of God. What is different about that person?
2) If you have received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, or had a powerful personal encounter with the Spirit, tell us about it.
3) Have you had to face a difficult trial but knew Jesus was with you? What difference did He make in your attitude? What did He do to help you? 

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