J. N. Darby.
It is a wonderful thing to think of the reality of the intimacy with which the Lord carried on intercourse with people in this world - His ways and manners with them - and who He is. In truth it changes all our thoughts of God.
He has visited men before the day of judgment, and we find Him giving, and not judging - dealing with them in quite another way. He who is to be the Judge had to come beforehand to be the Saviour; came in grace, seeking worshippers; came to visit the hearts of men where they were - naughty hearts; coming to such, not to judge at all, but to deal with our souls about the very sins for which He would have had to judge us. If I see Him there I find He has dealt with my sins already in a totally different way. It confirms the judgment, of course - puts the seal of God's testimony on it in the strongest way; but at the same time it gives me to know and understand, that the whole thing has been decided in a totally opposite manner. Instead of coming to claim the debt, He comes to pay it; both ways prove the debt was there, but the dealing is totally different.
He comes and deals with sinners then, in exactly the opposite way to claiming the debt, and deals effectually, and that is the Gospel. "We have seen, and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world." It is a Saviour we have to tell of, and I could not stand here to speak thus if He were not a Saviour who has wrought an effectual salvation. Then comes exercise of heart, and the discovery of what we are by His word, to bring us to repentance; but it tells us we are saved. "Thy faith hath saved thee, go in peace." It was at all cost to Himself that He could say it; but He did not recall it, or deceive her. Can we go in peace? We go out of this room with the consciousness that we go on the Lord's own warrant in perfect peace, and with nothing to fear as to the consequences of sin, if He has said, "Go in peace." Therefore He sends out the word to the children of Israel, "preaching peace by Jesus Christ." And "that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem."
324 Beloved friends, have you got peace? Have you got what He announced and sent out to be preached? It is no good telling me you cannot have peace. There it is. Was it to be preached and not believed? God would have us happy with Himself, and therefore sends the testimony of peace. It is no light thing, for He has made peace through the blood of His cross; and being justified by faith, we have peace with God. It is a real thing, an effectual thing, a divine thing, founded on what has been perfectly done. If I believe, I come into this to enjoy it. It is that God has visited us to bring us peace. "In the world ye shall have tribulation; in me ye shall have peace." Hence God gives Himself, over and over again, the name - "God of peace." It is the name of predilection which He gives Himself. He never calls Himself the God of joy; that may change, but peace is eternally settled.
We see how He dealt with this woman. It was thorough grace. "Salvation is of the Jews." They had the law, the temple, everything that belonged to God, like the elder brother. But the Jews cast Him out, and He must needs go through Samaria. This was the beginning of His ministry. The Pharisees were jealous of Him; so He goes out and leaves this place of salvation according to promise. It is the terrible condition of the world that the Son of God has been in it, and they cast Him out. He came there and has been rejected, hence the testimony is, that the whole world lieth in the wicked one. The world not only sinned, but rejected Him who came into it when man had sinned - the world that had grown up since God cast man out of Eden. If I call myself a Christian, I profess that the world has cast out and crucified the Son of God. Still the grace goes on. God took that as the means and occasion to bring it out. That is what is so glorious in the cross; that that which was the perfect expression of man's enmity, was the perfect expression of God's love. There was the meeting-place between man's hatred against God, and God's sovereign love to man. He was not at it yet, but was walking in the grace and spirit of it.
Here, rejected out of Judea, He must needs go through Samaria, and we get the blessed truth that God is above all sin; because Samaria was most hateful. He can exercise His love in the scene of the thing He abhors. "God commendeth his love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." He gave His blessed Son, one with Himself, down to death, and to drinking the cup of wrath for those who were nothing but sinners. "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself."
325 Now, mark another thing we have here. We find Him thoroughly a man, coming down to this world - "Who made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men." Oh! that some hearts could get hold of this! I speak now of the way that He came - of His death I will speak again - that though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor. It is brought out in the circumstances of this history. In the heat of the day, wearied with His journey, He comes to the well and sits down where He can find a seat. Do our hearts really believe that this was the Lord? Why was He in a condition to be weary? Why there? It was perfect love. He comes down to take this place. He passes through the world - the Holy One that could not be contaminated, and uses this to go through a world of sinners to bring them the love they wanted.
This was expressed in the most lovely way in the case of the leper in Luke 5, "who besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean." The leper was sure of the power, but did not know the love that was there. He carries the love right up to the leper, "and touched him, saying, I will, be thou clean." If man touched a leper he was unclean, and put out of the camp. But He cannot be defiled. This is a picture of the way the Lord was here. Holiness, undefiled and undefilable, carries to sinners the love they need.
"Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well," and the disciples go away to find meat. Oh! to think of the Lord Himself, whom none of the princes of this world knew, but who was the Lord of glory, sitting weary on the well, thirsty, and dependent upon this world for a drink of water - the world that was made by Him, and knew Him not! "There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water; Jesus said unto her, Give me to drink" - dependent on this woman for a drink of water. In this very fact she finds out that there was something remarkable in the Man. It was extraordinary that a Jew should speak to her, a woman of Samaria, and her mind is attracted by it.
Let me say a word as to this woman, so full of blessed interest for us, drawing out into exercise the heart of the Lord. She was a poor vile creature - alone there. We read of the time when women come to draw water - talking together of all that was passing; but she does not come when the rest came. Hers was an isolated heart; she had isolated herself by sin, and had got nothing; an energetic woman, who had been seeking happiness by the energy of nature, and found wretchedness and ruin. She was out all alone at that unusual time of day, with a heart full of cares. Alone, because of her shame, she finds One only more lonely than herself, and that One was the Lord! She could go to the men of the city, but He was totally alone, had not one to go to, though Himself the most affable and accessible of men.
326 There were no circumstances in which He was ever found where power, love, goodness, and truth were not readily in exercise. There was no weariness, if a poor desolate sinner came. When the disciples returned they say, "Hath any man brought him meat to eat?" No matter what company He was in, He was always accessible to their hearts; but there was no sympathy for Him. No love and goodness met Him in going through this world; His heart was utterly a stranger in it; yet all sympathy for others. If He had to answer for Himself before the chief priests, who were hunting Him to death, the moment the cock crew, His eye was upon Peter - never wearied. No circumstances He was in, could ever touch the spring of grace and goodness that was in Him. But mark what comfort for us! Here was the Judge of quick and dead - not as judge, of course, but the Person who is to be judge, meeting with the poor sinner in grace, sitting with the very person that deserved to be judged. In that sense, in the communion of grace, He is sitting with us. It is just what is going on through the Gospel. "We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech by us."
Well, He is sitting on the well asking drink. She says, "How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria?" Mark the answer of the Lord. It has two distinct points in it. "If thou knewest the gift of God"; that is, what God is doing to you. It is the ground He takes with you: "The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ." The next thing is, "And who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink." That is, if you knew - not, who I am, but - who it is that has come down so low as to ask a drink of water; if your eye were opened to see God giving eternal life - come to require nothing (and who would not get it if He did) - you would be in perfect confidence before Him. He once came looking for fruit and found wild grapes. Under the law He sought for fruit and had His servants killed. He said, I have yet one Son - but when they saw the Son they said, "This is the heir, come let us kill him." The effect was, no fruit, but hatred to Him and His Father. Now He does not come (I do not say producing fruit - He does - but) looking for it. He has come to sow (not looking for fruit), dealing with the sinner personally in the Gospel: and where there is grace, and the sense of need, there will be the fruit of the Spirit, and He will look for it. Human nature judges God, but God's nature comes out entirely superior to that. He gives. Thus we get these two blessed principles, that God is giving, and that the Lord has come down to such poverty as to be dependent upon a creature for a drink of water; come to put Himself down under the wants of those that had nothing but wants, so as to meet them. She is attracted; there is power in His word; and He begins speaking of spiritual things to her.
327 We see, then, the way in which the woman is absorbed with her cares. Verse 15 is a remarkable expression of confidence in His word - "The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw." But mark the state of her heart - entirely occupied with her waterpot and her wants. Do you know nobody like that? People who own the word of God to be the word of God; who own its authority, but are in heart completely occupied with the things of this life. As a natural person she received not the things of the Spirit of God. Her mind was awakened to respect for His word, so that she could believe what He said, but she could not grasp spiritual things; they had not the smallest entrance into her heart, so full was it of temporal things.
What was to be done? He had been pouring out words of grace; all had flowed over her head - passed over a heart absorbed with the things of the world. He takes the other side, not the gift of God, but the state of man - "Go, call thy husband, and come hither." The woman answered and said, "I have no husband." Quite true. She tells the truth to hide the truth - as often in this poor world. The conscience is reached now: and there is where the word enters always. It is quite right it should attract the heart, but the conscience must be reached. "Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: for thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly." It is all out now; her conscience is brought into the presence of God. Everything must be out in the light that has come into this world. It is wonderful how quick memory even becomes under this action of the light. Sins are recalled which have long been forgotten. Light has come in; she has understanding now; before she had not understood a word; she was completely buried in her cares. "The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet." The word of God had reached her conscience, and wherever it does it has authority, and it is the only way. When I find a book that tells me all things that ever I did, I know what it is. It does not require to be proved by man. No book in the world has authority till it reaches the conscience. Then it is its own witness to the folly of attacks made upon it, and proves the folly of unbelief. It is the word of God itself, its own witness. I do not take a candle to see if the sun shines! But do you not see that it shines? Then you are blind. The only thing that brings authority with it is the word of God coming into the conscience - "Come, see a man that told me all things that ever I did. Is not this the Christ?"
328 God is love; His blessed Son, a poor man speaking to the woman; but He is also light come in. These always go together. You never find when the Gospel is received, that it does not get in as light to the conscience. There is no fruit without it. Where it gets in, it will be light exposing all that is there; and if not, there is no root. The point where intelligence is brought into the heart of this poor woman, is where her conscience is reached. How would you like Him to tell you everything? Does He not know every wicked thing I have done? It should come up in judgment; but my comfort is, that it was all out before Him, when He was dealing with me in grace. Now I can bear it that the eye of God searches everything through His word. In dealing with the soul, love has brought the light there. Love attracted Peter; Luke 5. Why does he not run away? Why go up to Him, and say, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord"? He was drawn by the love and grace, and convicted by the light that the love had brought in. Light, that manifests to myself what I am in the sight of God, brings me there, so that I am in the light as He is. There must be truth in the inward parts, but did that hinder the Lord saying, "If thou knewest the gift of God"? Now, instead of trying to make things straight with God, I have found Him, knowing everything I have done, in perfect grace. There is then no hiding sin. All is brought into the light by God.
329 Mark another thing. God is bringing in something new. Was He going to trust the heart of this poor woman? No. He was going to get her to trust His heart. People say, May not my heart deceive me? To be sure it may! Will His deceive me? The grace of God brings salvation to us - brings us everything we want. So He brought strength at the pool of Bethesda - "Take up thy bed and walk." He is not requiring anything from us, but brings the thing we want - brings Himself: and there is nothing we want like Him. He brings us to repentance - to the conviction of what we are, as here. But He comes saying, "If thou knewest the gift of God." God has something to give - eternal life through Jesus Christ. But I shrink from coming to God. Quite right, to a certain extent. But who is it that I am with, that is bringing in this light? The very Man that asked for a drink of water. "If thou knewest who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink" - a poor man with nothing but words of grace; you would have trusted Him. "Thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water." Do you think I could trust God in the day of judgment? But can I trust the poor man sitting on the well-side? It is when my eyes are open upon the Person and work of the Lord, that I find I have been talking with the Lord Himself, and He had not a word against me, and yet knew all that ever I did. My heart has the blessed consciousness that it has met God.
There are the poor infidels beating out their brains to find out about God, but I have met Him. He had nothing but kind and gracious words, though He knew all my sins. His whole ways and words and works are perfect love to me, and the love of one come to seek me as a sinner. The Father seeketh worshippers. You have not to go to this mountain or that. He sent the Saviour seeking. How many does He find? Does He find hearts here that would pass by the Lord Jesus - that have read hundreds of passages in which His grace was manifested, and gone away untouched, unmoved, though God was spending His heart on you?
See how even the heart of the Lord rejoices over this one poor sinner (v. 32), "I have meat to eat that ye know not of." Do you believe that of Christ? He had come to open her eyes, and that was the Lord's meat. "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work." It is lovely to see the Lord's heart in this way. Just see how it opened out to all the rest. "Say ye not, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest." He has actually been rejected out of Judea, but the case of this woman has so comforted Him now, it opens out His heart to say, "The fields are white to harvest."
330 Then we have to go on to see that, sins having been perfectly manifested, and love, the cross of the Lord Jesus comes in, because sins never could be allowed, nothing but the love, that comes for the sinner, and gave Himself. The heart was won, the conscience was reached. But what about these things that she had done? The very Lord who was speaking to her goes under them and puts them away. We do need something else than that which reaches the conscience; we need that which purges it. Though our sins were as scarlet they are made white as snow, and we are bound to believe it, for "his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree." He has charged Himself with them. I am convicted, and then humbled about them. But before the day of judgment comes, Christ came, and on the cross was bearing the sins He would have had to judge. The cross was God dealing with Him about them. When He comes in judgment I say, That is the Man who put away my sins. Before the time comes for judgment, the Person who is to be the judge has come Himself to bear the judgment. The question is not, then, whether I deserve condemnation - "There is none righteous, no, not one"; but what has God wrought? Can I dare to doubt it?
If I am out in the light before God, there is no place where I see sins so terrible as in the cross. But if they are not all perfectly put away for ever, they never can be, for Christ cannot die again; Heb. 10. He will rise up for judgment, but He is sitting down now, because all is completely done; if not (I mean as to the work, not as to your feelings), it never can be. That being so, therefore, when the soul is exercised, I look at the cross and say, He has borne my sins. I hate them the more. That is all right; it is the work of the Spirit in us; but I speak of the work done for us. Do not speak of past, present, and future sins; it is a foolish confusion of the time my heart thinks of it, and of the work that put them away. As to future sins, I ought never to think of sinning again. As to past sins, how many were past when Christ died? The work was done when they were all future. It is confounding the work done, with the effect in me. He is raised in glory; is there then any question whether I am to be glorified? There is another thing as to the cross. It all passed between God and Christ perfectly alone - of which the outward darkness was the sign - according to the exigencies and righteousness of God; where it must be according to the absolute perfectness of those who wrought it. Men had nothing to do with it; all we had to do with it was our sins, and, we may add, the hatred that killed Christ. It was a divine work about my sins.
331 Now as to the effect of it. We saw the poor woman absolutely absorbed with her water-pot; but the moment her conscience was thoroughly reached, she goes off to testify to the others - If you only get Christ, He will tell you all things. She leaves her water-pot. The Holy Ghost has not recorded it for nothing. The thing that absorbed her is gone. The word and power of Jesus, that gave her conviction of sin, also substituted Christ for the things that had power over her heart: Christ for my righteousness instead of my sins; Christ as the object for my heart instead of my cares.
I add a word for the comfort of any soul that is convicted of sin, but has not peace. Supposing a person had received the word of Christ, but cannot say he has got Him - but says, If only I could find Christ! I find so much sin in me: I would give anything to have Christ. What put that desire into the heart? You have got Him as a great Prophet; His word has reached the heart, you are convicted of sin, but do not know if you have Christ as Saviour. He has spoken to you about eternal life, and you have received a word that has made Christ precious to you, and your conscience bad. Then you have got Christ. His word has had the authority of the word of God in your conscience. If that be so, the Christ that has visited you, is the Christ that has borne your sins. The Christ who thus speaks to us to bring these thoughts to our hearts, is the One that through grace has borne our judgment before the day of judgment comes.
Now, how is it with you? Has your heart given up its water-pot for Christ? I do not mean that there will be no conflict. But has your heart so heard His word that it has penetrated into your conscience? Do you think that you are going with your sins into heaven? How many sins had Eve committed when God turned her out of Eden? One? You have committed more. Do you expect to get into heaven with your sins or without them? Are they all put away? How can you rest a moment until you know it? What madness and folly it would be!
332 The One who deals with our conscience is the One who came where we are, and is now beseeching us to be reconciled to God. It will be a terrible thing in the day of judgment, to have had the heart closed against the voice of the Charmer. Has not He charmed wisely? Were ever words like His - words of grace, unutterable grace, with which He has sought to win us? It is a blessed truth, that before the day of judgment comes, the Judge has come Himself to deliver. Of course you will have to be judged then, if you do not accept the deliverance now.