Some Lessons Taught at Sychar.

1874 56 Outside the boundary of Judea, the Lord found Himself at home by the well of Sychar, in company with a woman, whose name is to us unknown, but whose life at that time He described in a very few words. We know about her from what He told her, and we learn about Him from what He taught her. That her name should be veiled in obscurity was only fitting, but that the previous conduct of the one with whom He deigned to converse should be recorded, is in perfect harmony with His ways in grace. To have known her by the name she bore amongst men, would have been only to connect that name with a life of infamy and disgrace. To know her as the woman with whom the Lord talked at the well of Sychar, imperishably connects her memory with His dealings in faithfulness and love.

The mention of her name might have recalled her sin and shame, her history now reminds us of His grace. The name of the woman who anointed the Lord in the house of Simon the leper is embalmed in the word, as well as that of the earliest and the latest visitor at the empty tomb on the morning of His resurrection day. With Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus, and Mary Magdalene, we are all familiar from reading the Gospel by John. To Martha who served, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, and Susanna, who ministered to the Lord of their substance, are we introduced by the sacred historian Luke. But the name of the woman who had outlived five husbands, and seemed willing to end her chequered life in sin, John the evangelist passes over in silence, as his brother historian had done, when recounting the service done to Christ by the woman in Simon the Pharisee's house, and relating the testimony borne to the Lord by the penitent thief on the cross. Who cares to know their names, but who, that either wants or understands God's grace, would be without those histories, which tell of the attractive power of the Son of God? The character of those drawn to Christ is what we want to know, of the class of persons He would receive we need to be informed.

Their names, if set forth in the word, would add nothing to our knowledge of the Saviour; nor could they make us better acquainted with that heart, which found delight in gathering convicted sinners and confiding souls around itself. Whose those are that He will receive, the brokenhearted penitent wants to learn, with whom He would sit, and to whom the Lord could open out truth, the soul, that has been taught what it is by nature, delights to recall. To dilate on a sinful creature's transgressions is not the purpose for which their wicked ways are mentioned; and, though their evil deeds are noted without any attempt to palliate their guilt, the object for which they are recorded is, not to satisfy the morbid curiosity of creatures as sinful by nature as themselves, but to set forth in the brightest, fullest way the grace of God, and the graciousness of the Lord Jesus Christ.

But, besides that saving grace in which all share who believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, God's grace to those who have sinned is further manifested in making them vessels for His service, and thus multiplying the channels through which the testimony of His grace and love may flow out to other hearts, and water other souls. And the sequel to that conversation at the well of Sychar illustrates for our instruction, the ground on which such service should be based, the spirit in which it should be carried on, and the end which should be sought after; and all taught us, not in a dry didactic way, in the language of schools, or in theological formulas, but in a fresh and vivid way, by examples drawn from real life, even those who there figured in the scene.

And first as to the ground on which such service should be based. Of this the woman is the example. Brought consciously into the presence of One who knew her well, though they had never before met in person, she learnt from His lips, that He was the very One whom she had been led to expect — the Messiah, or Christ. "I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ; when he is come, be will tell us all things," was the woman's remark to the Lord in answer to the instruction vouchsafed her about worship. "I that speak unto thee am he," was the Lord's immediate rejoinder. The Teacher had come, and she had talked with Him. With her own ears she heard His words, of whose coming God's servants of old had kept alive the expectation in the hearts of both Jews and Samaritans. "He will tell us all things" was the estimate she had formed of the Messiah. The One, who there sat by the well, had told her of her present and past life. He had told her likewise of the falsity of the Samaritan worship. He had told her of what He could give. He had told her also about God, and of the worshippers for whom the Father was seeking, and bad crowned it all by telling her that He was the Christ.

To each question He had returned an answer. To her expression of surprise at a Jew requesting the ministrations of a Samaritan, He replied by speaking of His willingness to net towards her in grace, and give her living water. To her query, whether He was greater than their father Jacob, He had answered by an announcement of the satisfying nature of the water He could give, a well of water within the recipient springing up into everlasting life. Jacob tapped a spring, He could give the believer a fountain within himself, for the water, which He would give, would become that in the heart of each one into whom it should flow. Asking to have that water, she received in answer a command, which paved the way for dealing with her conscience, by means of which her request would be granted. "Go call thy husband," the Lord said:" "I have no husband," was her immediate response. True were the words she spoke, but no attesting witness was needed to confirm them, for the One who bade her to summon her husband, whilst acknowledging the accuracy of her statement, let her see that He was fully acquainted with her ways. His answer made her think that He was a prophet, a messenger from God to deal with the heart when failure had come in. As such she now addressed Him, and interrogated Him on the question of worship, as debated by the Samaritan in opposition to the Jew. To this too He replied in language which she could not misunderstand, and communicated to her that day, that of which the scribes and the chief priests at Jerusalem were in ignorance, the character of true worshippers from henceforth, and their relationship to God whom they would worship. And now, with one more remark from her, and an answer from Him, the work was done in her soul. But what prompted the remark, "I know that Messias cometh which is called Christ; when he is come, he will tell us all things?" Was it unwillingness in her mind to give up the prejudices of a lifetime on the mere dictum of one whom she deemed to be a prophet? Or was it the lurking expectation, afraid to express itself openly, that her teacher might be the Christ? Whatever it was that prompted her remark, the Lord's quick rejoinder set her mind at rest, and the approach of His disciples terminated her interview with the One who sat by the well.

She left Him, but to serve. She came to the well with an empty pitcher, she left it with a full heart. She had gone in her solitude to the spring with her waterpot, she would return with empty vessels not a few, human hearts, which needed, what she had known, personal intercourse with Messias, the Christ. But what made her a worker in the cause? Was it from the pleasure simply of hearing something new? Was it the fascination of listening to a teacher of commanding ability? Was it the gratification of self, which likes the importance of being the bearer of startling tidings to its fellow creatures? Her tidings were indeed startling. Her communication was news, good news indeed. She bad talked with the promised Teacher, the prophet like unto Moses. All this was true. But what made her a worker in the cause was this, her conscience had first been dealt with by the Lord. Heart work in her preceded lip service. And so in real service for Him it must ever be. And just because there was heart work in her, she could not rest contented without saying to the men of that city, "Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: Is not this the Christ?" AV hat she had done, what she was, Christ had told her. A work had been affected in her through intercourse with a living Person. He had spoken to her conscience. He had reached her heart. But if the first worker for Christ in the town of Sychar was, judging after men's thoughts the last person to have been chosen, when we understand God's mind we must own she was the fittest instrument that He could find — a recipient, because needing it, of saving grace.

How simply she worked! She told what she knew, she testified of what she had found, but in connection with a person, "He told me," thus pointing others to the One who had met with her at the well. But how effectually she did her work! The fields white to harvest, the crowds which went out to Christ were the fruit of His dealing with her conscience, and of her simple tale about it. To stand up and preach was not that woman's work! The twelve and the seventy were commissioned for that service, yet she worked rightly and well, and that without intruding into another's sphere, so that it may be said of her, as of another of her sex, "She hath done what she could." But her desire and efforts to bring others to Christ, were based, it must be remembered, on the result of the Lord's personal dealing with her soul.

Let us next turn to see, as also exemplified in this history, the sprit in which true service should be performed.

The woman had left the well, the disciples having already rejoined the Lord with the food which they had purchased in the city. The draught of water from Jacob's well, which He had asked of the woman, we read not that Christ ever received. Now, to the food, which the disciples had bought in the city, He seemed indifferent. Yet refreshment and meat He had, as He talked with the woman at the well. "Master eat," was the request of His disciples, who were now to be taught by Him, whom John tells us they addressed by the Jewish name of Rabbi. The woman had learnt her lesson, namely, that Christ had come, and that He had talked with her; the disciples were now to learn theirs, namely, the spirit in which true service should be performed, as illustrated by the example of the Master Himself. For His answer, "I have meat to eat that ye know not of," told of something which they had not brought, that ministered sustainment to Him. Unable to comprehend His meaning, their thoughts, like those of the woman, being confined to temporal things, He graciously explained it, as He added, "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work." Thus He, the sent One of the Father, shows us what true service is, the simple but faithful performance of the work marked out for the servant by God. How apt arc men to be influenced by the manifestation or otherwise of results! The Lord's meat as a Servant was to do the work appointed, whatever the results might be.

Was He insensible to results? Far otherwise. What true servant should be? For, as we here find Jehovah's Servant doing the work allotted to Him; so elsewhere we learn His feelings with reference to the results of His labours in that comparatively sterile field — the returned remnant of God's ancient people. "Then I said, I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for naught and in vain, yet surely my judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God." (Isa. xlix. 4.) Comparing these words of the Lord in Isaiah with those in John, one sees that, though not indifferent to the results of His ministry in Israel, it was not the success of His labours which provided meat for His soul.

Perfect Servant, as perfect in everything else, His meat was to do His will who sent Him and to finish His work. True, in doing it, He must have had joy, a joy we cannot conceive, as He saw one poor sinner's heart opened up by His teaching, like a flower expanding under the warming influence of the sun, and knew that the blessing, communicated to her, would be fruitful in blessing to many a soul in that city. But His meat was found elsewhere. What simplicity, and what faithfulness do these words bring before us, the Master's teaching for His disciples, and that Master Jehovah's Servant, and Jehovah Himself.

Whilst sitting by the well the Lord had ministered to that one poor woman's soul. But now it would seem, lifting up His eyes He saw, and drew the attention of His disciples to the sight, the people trooping out of the city to meet Him. "Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, for they are white already to harvest." God's blessing on the soil to produce an abundant harvest could not be enjoyed for four months yet, nevertheless there was a harvest to be reaped at once, the result of seed sown long before, which had germinated, and now was rapidly ripening under the presence of Him, who will by-and-by appear to Israel in their land, as the "Sun of righteousness."

It was harvest time then at Sychar, a harvest time unknown even in the annals of that fertile district. A joyous time is that of harvest even in the natural world: of this the word bears witness (Isa. ix. 3); but a joyous thing it also is, when there is a harvest of souls to be reaped. Of this the disciples were now to have experience, but in a way and place quite unexpected. That Judea, so recently stirred by the preaching of John, should have yielded such results, would not have seemed surprising. Or that Galilee, in which a welcome reception awaited the Lord (John iv. 45), should be the field in which such an operation should first commence, would not have seemed unnatural. But that Sychar, where we read not that John preached, nor the Lord had laboured, was to be the field in which the disciples should first have the joy of reaping, must have been most unexpected indeed. What others have since known they were now to learn, how cheering it is to the heart of a faithful servant of God, when the reaping time arrives, and the labourer or labourers have only to enter on a work made ready to their hands. It is a blessed thing to see souls bowed down under the power of the word, and prepared to take their stand henceforth in God's strength as the servants and true followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The power at such times of those who wield aright the sword of the Spirit seems immense, but they are but men liable to be taken advantage of by the enemy, and so need, like the disciples, the Lord's gentle reminder that to reap is not everything, happy and inspiriting as that service is. Others, as in this case at Sychar, may have sown the seed, which at length produces such a bountiful crop. "Herein," said the Lord, "is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour; other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours."

The disciples were but reapers, one set of the servants made use of in that portion of the field. Those who had laboured in earlier times, who had there sown the seed, had passed away; but the Lord does not overlook them, nor allow their labour of sowing to be forgotten in the bright genial days of harvesting. The names of some who sowed the seed (in this case the hope of Messiah's appearance), the Old Testament may furnish. But who kept alive that expectation in the hearts of the Samaritans by teaching them what was written in the word, we cannot now tell, and probably the disciples in their day were almost as ignorant about it as we are; but, whoever they were to whom the Lord referred, He would have us to understand that, neither their names, nor their labours are overlooked by Him. How gracious is this of Him! How encouraging to those who toil during the sowing season, and depart this life without witnessing the joy of harvest, to remember the gracious announcement of the Lord of the harvest, that "he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal, that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together."

How apt are men to judge of the labourer's usefulness by the apparent results of his work! How apt too are they, in the time of harvest, to regard the reapers as the one and only class of labourers who have tilled the soil! Not so the Lord. He knows who have ploughed up the ground, and sowed the seed during the sunless days of Autumn and Winter, or the blustering days of Spring; and when the harvest is reaped, and the grain gathered into the barn, He will remember them, and own what share they have had in the work carried on upon earth for Him. It is well, it is right, to rejoice when harvest time arrives in any locality; but the time for full joy about it cannot come till a perfect estimate can be made of the crop, and then the sower and the reaper shall rejoice together.

Are we called to sow? Let us work on undaunted, though we see not the fruit of our labours. Are we allowed to reap? Let us work diligently, remembering the responsibility which rests on us, but ever mindful, that others may have a share in a future day in the joy over that harvest we are permitted in the Lord's goodness to reap. What joy, doubtless, would it have been to those of earlier days, who had kept alive the expectation of the Christ, if they had lived here long enough to see Him.

Many prophets and righteous men had desired to see what the disciples saw, but never lived to their day. Will they be deprived of their joy? No. They shall see the day of Christ's glory, and the crop which has resulted from the seed sown by them in patience and under difficulties, known perhaps only to themselves and to God.

All who labour for God upon earth shall see the result of their work. "The sower and the reaper shall rejoice together." The Lord will not dissociate them, and, though spoken of in a different matter and in a different connection, may we not say, what God hath joined together let not man put asunder? The Lord's word about the labourers are worth remembering, cheering to the sower, sobering to the reaper.

To sow, is to disseminate faithfully the testimony of the day, whatever it may be, which has been committed to God's servants. To reap, is to gather in souls by ministry as the fruit of the seed sown. But who are to reap, and when? This the Lord decides, and here allots to the disciples their portion of work in the field. "I sent you," etc. Their commission was from Him, and He, who never makes a mistake, did not send them into the field before the crop was ready for their work.

Just come from Judea where they had had no reaping, they find at Sychar the crop ready for the sickle; for, taught to expect the Messiah, the Samaritans were willing, when they knew of Him, to receive Him. To have attempted to reap in Judea would have been to labour to little profit. To have commenced sowing at Sychar would have indicated want of discernment about the condition of souls in that city. To have concluded from their success at Sychar that all Samaria was ready to receive the Lord, would have been manifestly erroneous, as the reception He met with from one of the cities of Samaria at a later period of His life clearly demonstrates. All this surely has a voice for us, where sowing and reaping go on side by side. The work in one place is no criterion of what the work in another should be, nor does it follow that the labourer highly blessed in one locality, has only to move to another to find that field also quite ready for his reaping hook.

And now with the Lord's example as teaching for us, and His words to His disciples having a voice for our days, let us look at the action of the woman, and the recorded statement of some of the Samaritans at Sychar, as showing us what should be the end of true service in dealing with souls.

Having learnt for herself the value of personal intercourse with Christ, she desired the same for her fellow townsmen, so besought them to come and see the man, who had told her all things that ever she did. She could not rest satisfied with simply telling them of what she had heard, nor whom she had seen. She wanted others to meet Him for themselves. They did so, though first believing on Him for the saying of the woman. Short of that she could not have them rest; short of that they did not stop. True spiritual instinct thus prompted her to bring them to Christ, as that which would settle their souls in the truth about Him. And she received, from the words of those who believed on Him because of His own word, the fullest justification of the correctness of her desire for all her fellow-citizens. "Now we believe," they' said, "not because of thy word, for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world." For here, the words "the Christ" should be omitted. Her testimony was that He was the Christ, theirs that He was the Saviour of the world. She had learnt from Him who He was. They had learnt from His two days' sojourn with them what He was, as meeting their need on the broad ground of grace. All questions of the superiority of Gerizim, over Moriah, were here set aside. All that they had contended for with reference to the Mosaic ritual must have appeared in a new light, for the Saviour of the world had come, had sat with them, had taught them, and had convinced them of what He was. Thus their souls were settled on a firm basis, and they could testify of what they had found, as this title of the stranger was firmly fixed on their hearts — "the Saviour of the world." They felt the strength, the comfort, and the security of their position. The woman's witness to Him they knew of. It was correct, but what they had found from intercourse with him, they could tell of, for they thus had learnt what she had not declared. She had done her work in calling attention to Christ. They were established in truth about His person from hearing Him themselves.

The two days' sojourn in that city ended, a bright episode in the Lord's life, without one cloud to overshadow it in Sychar; but it brings into fuller and most painful relief the unbelief of the Jews, which hindered them from sharing in joy as deep, and as real, as that of these Samaritans.

The Christ had been at Jerusalem, but they had not discerned Him. The Saviour of the world had moved in and out among them at the passover, but they had not discovered it. Just what is witnessed every day still, is it not? That when souls in different places are getting blessing, and learning for themselves what it is to have intercourse with Christ, others very near them, it may be, are strangers to their joy, the eye still shut, and the heart still ignorant about Him. To open their eyes, and to lead such to Christ may be work graciously given them to do.

Let the woman, and the Lord, and the Samaritans be illustrations how to labour aright, and in dependence on divine strength and wisdom, successfully for Christ with souls. C. E. Stuart.