Most Influential Books Part 3

This is part three (and final post) in a series on the most influential books I’ve read.  I’ve also listed some “runners up” at the end.  To be honest, there are so many good books that I read each year, that a list like this is necessarily subjective, and its always growing. Not that some books don’t have obvious merit for all people, but I also recognize that some may have had impacted me more than they will you. Not only that – but there’s a good chance that next week I could read something that blows me away and it won’t be on the list. Just this past week I read two books that were pretty darn good – Matt Chandler’s ‘Explicit Gospel’ and Michael Reeves ‘Delighting in the Trinity’. Nevertheless, I have to draw the line somewhere!

I hope you enjoy this third installment!

11. The Power of Positive Thinking – No one will accuse Norman Vincent Peale of being a theological genius, in fact much of his teaching undermines the basic Christian message that we are all sinner who need a Savior extra nos, but early in my theological awakening I didn’t seem to realize much of his incorrect teaching. So despite a deeply flawed message, God graciously used this book to help me learn two important things: 1. I need to be praying for others regularly and 2. The importance of Scripture memorization. This book literally pointed me back to the Bible’s importance for my physical and emotional well-being. I was suffering a great deal of anxiety and my doctor had prescribed anti-anxiety medication. My stomach was constantly in knots and I wasn’t sure how I was going to deal with the problem…medication seemed like the only option. But when I fervently began to memorize scripture and pray for others and bigger items besides just my own desires, I began to slowly be cured of my anxiety. I stopped taking medication. I was a free man. And its not a big mystery as to why – this wasn’t magic, it was simply allowing the Word of the Lord and the power of the Spirit to become my top priority and renew my mind. The Bible can do that like no other book.  In addition, praying for others got my mind off my own troubles and focused on loving others (even if I didn’t know them). This book helped point me in the right direction. Would I recommend it now?  No way – but its prescriptions, most certainly. In fact if you want to learn more about Peale’s false teaching you can read Tim Challies’ write up on his bio: http://www.challies.com/articles/the-false-teachers-norman-vincent-peale

12. The Loveliness of Christ – During some of my darkest, most stressed-filled days this book has been a balm of healing. I have quoted it, memorized portions of it, I’ve taken it to the hospital multiple times, and it’s been a great tool of perspective in the midst of suffering. It is a small book, but a powerful book. Samuel Rutherford is probably one of the most influential puritan writers of all time, and his influence on me has been significant. If you were to add any one book to your collection as a result of this blog post, this would be the one I’d start with. The book is comprised of probably 100 (small) pages of quotes which are simply excerpts from his letters to other believers. In another way, if you are a Christian, Rutherford’s caring love for others around him ought to be a model for you as you seek to live in a way that is caring and reflective of the Savior.

13. Kingdom Through Covenant – Perhaps no book to date has had such an outsized impact on the way I understand the way in which the Biblical story is put together and unfolds throughout history. It made me feel good to be a Baptist (truth be told), and assured me that I wasn’t giving up any intellectual ground on that score (perhaps an intramural joke there)! It also explained for me a lot of the flow of events in the Old Testament and how they culminate in Christ – especially O.T. promises. This was an important book in my deeper theological development, and for those who have been Christians for a while and have always wondered at the dispensational and covenant approaches (i.e. you are/were head-scratchers like me), then this will prove very fruitful ground for you. You’ll have to ignore all the Hebrew and Greek text that the authors slip in from time to time. They are the scholars in that field and they do that to show their work (like you did in long division in 8th grade). My best advice is to do your best to read around it and not let it bog you down…its well worth it!

14. The Lord of the Rings – Growing up I was somewhat of a stranger to Tolkein’s work. I was aware of The Hobbit (I had seen a play, and perhaps had it read to me by my mom), but had no idea there was more to the story. Finally, while I was in college, my brother Alex introduced me to the story when Peter Jackson’s silver screen rendition of The Fellowship of the Ring came out in the theaters. I went as a skeptic, and left as a man head over heals in love. Later, in the weeks and days leading up to my wedding, I read The Lord of the Rings almost nonstop. I carried it with me everywhere, and my bookmark was our wedding vows which I was endeavoring to memorize. I still read this book whenever I can, and appreciate its depth and literary value more with each passing year.

15. Henry Drummond – This is not a book, it is an author (is that cheating?). During the 2007/2008 Romney Presidential Campaign I lived on the short sayings of Drummond. He gave me hope that science and Christian intellectualism could co-exist, and helped add perspective to my busy life away from home when I was sad and often feeling lost. Drummond lived and wrote in the mid-nineteenth century and devoted a substantial amount of time to standing up to the popular new scientific theory of evolution. He had a sharp logical mind, and I think just about anything he wrote is really fascinating.
Runners up – books that have taught me at least one major concept that has stuck with me:

God’s Greater Glory – In this sequel to Bruce Ware’s ‘God’s Lesser Glory’, Dr. Ware explains God’s “meticulous sovereignty”, a concept that has really been important in my own studies over the past year or so.  His Biblical and logical arguments are beyond arguing with from what I can tell of all I’ve read thus far. If you’ve read Chosen by God, and don’t want to blow your brains out with a puritan reading (i.e. Freedom of the Will) on the topic of God’s sovereignty, then this is the next step in your educational endeavors.

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars – This is a recent purchase and read and makes the list for how much it makes me laugh. It is easily one of the most enjoyable and hilarious books I have ever read! What I love the most about it is its trueness to the story as well as to Shakespeare’s famous writing style (the entire book is written in iambic pentameter).  If you love star wars and literature, this is the perfect combination – but be warned, this book is not to be read in any location where laughing out loud might be frowned upon!

The Transforming Power of the Gospel – Jerry Bridges explains “dependent responsibility”, which is the concept that men and women are both responsible for their actions and obedience to God’s laws, while at the same time dependent upon God for help to obey.  The tension here is worked out beautifully, and helpfully.

Give them Grace – Elyse Fitzpatrick examines parenting using the gospel. It is probably the best parenting book I’ve ever read, and it is easily the most challenging. There aren’t a lot of “to-do’s” from here, but there is a significant philosophical boost and reexamination that will likely take place.  If you don’t yet understand how the gospel fits into everyday life, this is one you must read.

A Case for Amillenialism – Kim Riddlebarger opened my mind to eschatology and taught me to enjoy it and not be scared to study it. I don’t think he’s the best writer, it seems a little clunky at times.  But he is really helpful in this area, and I find myself going back to his book and his blog again and again for wisdom.

The Trinity – Bruce ware explains divine roles better than anyone I had ever read. Especially subordination in role and co-equality in ontology.  If you’ve never understood the Trinity, this book will be huge for you.

The Freedom of the Will – Edwards proved to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that God initiates salvation.  Extremely difficult read though, so don’t read this unless you’re ready to pop a few Advil along with it! In fact, I would recommend not reading this unless you are an advanced scholar whose already read some other puritan works (or even other works by Edwards). But if you are pretty advanced in your reading and understanding of doctrine, then make sure to put this on your bucket list.

Bonhoeffer – This almost made my original list. I read it at a time when I was going through much pain and angst and it helped distract me and keep my mind fresh. It was a very very good book and a very interesting biography.  It will not leave you satisfied though, I warn you there…but I think that is for the best (though I know some who disagree).

The Pleasures of God – Piper explained how it was the will and pleasure of the Father to crush the Son. This concept just blew me away.  He goes into many other “pleasures” of God in this series, and they are worth reading or listening (there is a sermon series) through.

Holiness – J.C. Ryle explained to me that in order to enjoy heaven later I need to pursue holiness now. That concept is meted out over some three or four hundred pages. It was a very impactful book and showed example after example of how men and women from the Bible lived their lives in pursuit of holiness all pointing forward to the One who lived a perfect life of holiness so that when we fail that goodness, that righteousness, is there for us and keeps us in right standing before God.

The 5000 Year Leap – I read this in 2009 (I think) and it was one of the first books to awaken me to how far off course our country has gotten. It’s a great foundational book for anyone trying to figure out for themselves “what’s really wrong with this country?”

The Children of Hurin – This is one of J.R.R. Tolkein’s posthumously published works and probably the greatest thriller/tragedy I’ve ever read hands down. It was published with the help of his son Christopher and if you get the right edition it will have sketches by Alan Lee, which are really good. Just a fantastic piece of fiction.

Knowing God – This classic work of J.I. Packer helped shape a lot of my thinking on the nature of the Christian life.  Perhaps chapter 19 (on adoption) was most influential because it stuck with me the best. You can hardly go wrong by reading this book multiple times until its truth seeps in and helps you better grasp your life’s purpose, and more of who and what God is all about.

Battling Unbelief – John Piper works out some important ideas here in a book that is basically a boiled down version of ‘Future Grace’ and the idea behind the book is that most of our anxiety and sinfulness (and many issues in our lives) derive from a Christian’s failure to have faith in God.  In other words, we don’t believe Him and don’t trust in His promises etc. It’s astonishing how many times Piper is able to get to the root of things in this small book. I’d recommend this one to anyone who wants to get to the root of the problems facing them each day.

The Story of Christianity Volume I – I read this 500 (or so) page history book last year as part of a seminary class on the history of the Christian church. It was so easy to read and so good that I picked up its sequel (volume II) for reading on my own. What I liked so much about this book was Justo Gonzalez’ ability to simplify complex political and religious issues, and help the reader traverse hundreds of years of history without missing the small things, yet without losing site of the bigger picture.  It’s easily the best volume on the church I’ve read thus far (at least for a beginner like me).

Holy, Holy, Holy: Proclaiming the Perfections of God – This book is a compilation of essays written about the holiness of God by noted scholars and theologians.  The essay by Sinclair Ferguson entitled ‘Hallowed be Your Name: The Holiness of the Father’ left a lasting impression on me and I refer back to it again and again.

Conclusion: One of the things that is inevitably left off a list like this are the dozens of commentaries and study aides I read each year as I teach through books of the Bible. Men like Carson, Calvin, Ridderbos, Vos, Stott, Augustine, Boice, MacArthur, Morris, Kostenberger, Frame, Schreiner, Grudem, Beale and others who didn’t get mentioned in my book list have been equally influential on my thinking and understanding of life, death, Scripture, and many other topics under the sun. There have also been men and women whose books I have read and have been helpful or enjoyable, but if I listed them all it would take way too long!

But what I have learned is that reading changes lives, it does this in the way that Bruce Ware describes the study of theology: first it changes your mind, then your heart, then the actions of your hands, which in turn affects your habitat.  But it starts in the minds and hearts of those who seek wisdom. You’ll notice that many of my books are theological or Biblically based, and that isn’t because I haven’t read a slew of Gresham or my fair share of Star Wars, and it isn’t because I haven’t read the classic works from Dickens and Dumas (becauseI have), but its because the books that have shaped me, influenced me, and changed me for the better have largely been books whose topic is heavenly, and whose aim is joy in life and after it.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the postings – feel free to comment with any questions!

Study Notes 5-14-12

4:25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.”

  • The Samaritans knew of the teaching of the Messiah, even though they didn’t hold any of the Jewish prophetic books to be part of their cannon, they had the Pentateuch, and that was surely enough to recognize that there would be a Messiah.  For Moses even said, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen” (Deut. 18:15).
  • The Samaritans viewed the Messiah through the eyes on the first five books of the Bible because they rejected all the other books.  Kostenberger points out that they actually saw the Messiah as a teacher, and someone who would reveal to them “all things” in the spirit of Deut. 18:18.
  • The Jews, of course, saw the Messiah as a political savior who would liberate them from the oppression of the Romans etc.  Calvin says, “Although the religion among the Samaritans was corrupted and mixed up with many errors, yet some principles taken from the law were impressed on their minds, such as that which related to the Messiah.”

4:26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

  • Nowhere else in Scripture (to my knowledge) does Jesus so clearly state “I am the Messiah.”  This is a magnificent verse that ought to serve as a sort of highlight to the entire chapter.
  • First He lays out the excellency of the gift He has to offer, then He reveals to her that He is the Savior of the World!  Ryle says, “There is no heart satisfaction in this world, until we believe on Christ. Jesus alone can fill up the empty places of our inward man. Jesus alone can give solid, lasting, enduring happiness.  The peace that He imparts is a fountain, which, once set flowing within the soul, flows on to all eternity.”
  • What amazes me is that here, to a foreigner, to a sinner, He reveals the nature of His person.  Amazing.  Paul certainly felt the same thing, that as the “chief of sinners” He felt the weightiness of this reality.  That Jesus Christ, the Son of God, had revealed Himself to him, seemed too much to be grasped.  It was too good.  Such is Christ, and is a mark of His character.
  • One of the things that ought to be mentioned here that Boice brings up is that Jesus uses the phrase “I am” to describe himself.  The English version of the Bible adds the word “he” in there to modify the phrase so that it points back to the title Messiah, however, it also should indicate something deeper to this woman. Namely, the phrase or name “I am” is the name for God – Jehovah.  On the mountain top when Moses asked God who he should tell the people of Israel that sent him, God replied “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’” (Ex. 3:14).
  • By saying “I am” Jesus was, at least in a veiled way, asserting His deity.

4:27 Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?”

  • They marveled, but they didn’t say anything.  They were speechless.  Carson points out that there was sexism among the Jews to the points that Rabbis who talked with women were thought to have been wasting their time – time that could have been spent studying the Torah.

4:28-30 So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, [29] “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” [30] They went out of the town and were coming to him.

  • Note the influence of this woman.  Certainly God was using her.  Before she was shunned, now she is a herald of good news.  Isaiah says, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns’” (Is. 52:7).  Sproul says, “…she was so excited by her conversation with Jesus, that she left her water pot and hurried away. We have no record that she ever filled it.  She couldn’t wait to get into town, to go to that very city where she was a despised outcast, to tell of her experience.”  This reminds me of when Jesus was calling disciples and urged the to leave the dead to bury the dead.  When He calls us, we don’t want to resist, we want to accept Him.
  • This is why we talk about the doctrine of “irresistible grace” because when God the Holy Spirit quickens us to life we suddenly see ourselves for who we are and the offer of living water for what it is!  We drop our water pot and go tell everyone we know – no matter how shameful they may see us – about the gift we just received.
  • You see, when we see God’s grace for what it is, suddenly our shame doesn’t mean anything.  Paul says, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Romans 8:33-34).
  • So when the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to the beauty and beneficence of what Jesus did and who we are (condemned men) we naturally grasp onto Jesus with all of our might!  Some foolish men who haven’t studied the nature of regeneration proclaim that Calvinists believe God “drags men into heaven kicking and screaming.”  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Every so-called Calvinist I know believes and understands that when the dead man is made alive by the Spirit of God, they don’t get dragged into heaven, they go sprinting into heaven!  They run quickly to the cross and embrace their Salvation!
  • Lastly, this ought to show us, more than anything else, that God can use anyone to spread the gospel.

4:31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.”

  • They had just come back from their trip to get Him food, so naturally they wanted to make sure that He had something to eat.
  • Ironic that they address Him as “Rabbi” in front of the Samaritan who now suspected He was the Supreme Teacher, the Messiah.  I wonder if this saying further confirmed in her mind what she just heard in her heart.

4:32-34 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” [33] So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” [34] Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.

  • This is the second time in just a short while that Jesus has taken advantage of an opportunity to share the gospel or teach a parable.  He was always looking to turn conversations into teaching opportunities.  That shows you where His head was at.  We know that He must have been at least a little hungry after His journey, for we know that He was thirsty. Yet, He still is intentional about His mission.  I must admit that when I’m tired, thirsty, and hungry, the last thing I’m often thinking about is how to spread the gospel or teach anyone anything.  Calvin also recognized this and said, “…his anxiety about the present business urges him so strongly, and absorbs his whole mind, so that it gives him no uneasiness to despise food…and thus he shows, by his example, that the kingdom of God ought to be preferred to all the comforts of the body.”  I absolutely love that phrase and think that Calvin captures the essence of Christ’s mind – fully absorbed with expanding the kingdom.  I want to have that mind as well.
  • Carson points out that Jesus must surely have been using this as an opportunity to teach His disciples “something of His priorities.”  And further says that Jesus must certainly been thinking of Deuteronomy 8:3, which says:  “And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”
  • Another thing that we need to realize here is how well this response from Jesus ties into His affirmation of deity AND his messianic role. The passage most people think of when they think of the Old Testament prophecy of Messiah is Deut. 18:15-19.  In verse 18 it says, “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.”  In other words, Jesus was speaking for the Father and not of His own initiative.

4:35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.

  • Why was Jesus always sharing and looking for these opportunities?  Because He viewed the world in a way that we do not, He saw the harvest and no laborers.  He came to recruit laborers. And as I mentioned earlier, he was so fully “absorbed” in this work that he dominated His mind.  He was always looking to expand the kingdom of God and here He urges His disciples to see the need and necessity of doing so.

4:36-38 Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. [37] For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ [38] I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

  • Kostenberger says that the “others” who have labored are Jesus and the prophets who came before Him (notably John the Baptist etc).
  • Jesus wants His disciples to take a step back and realize that they are entering into a time in redemptive history that was brand new.  A new age was about to dawn and Jesus Christ was the One ushering that age in.  Jesus came to usher in the harvest.  This was a time many others in history had longed to see (Matthew 13:17), and now these farmers and fishermen got to witness it and be a part of it (Luke 10:2).  This harvest continues until today, and we are all called to be a part of it as well. Amazing.

How do we teach this to our children? Here’s an example:  Today we learned about how Jesus revealed to a Samaritan woman that He was the Messiah.  “Messiah” is a name for Jesus, and it means, “anointed one.”  To be “anointed” is to be chosen for a certain task. What was the task of Jesus?  (To save the world)  When Jesus’ disciples saw that he had shared with this Samaritan woman they were amazed because the Jews and the Samaritans didn’t get along.  But Jesus taught them that He was bringing eternal life to people from all nations, colors, races, or ethnic backgrounds.  That’s what it means in John 3:16 that “God so loved the world.”  Heaven will be made up of people from all corners of the earth and it is our responsibility and joy to share in the work of spreading the good news (gospel) about Jesus.  That’s why Jesus said we are to “enter into the harvest” with him. 

Study Notes 4-22-12

4:1-2 Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John [2] (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples),

  • I mentioned before that I think Jesus was probably not doing the baptizing Himself because people might have been prone to claim they had a “better” baptism if they were baptized by Him instead of another disciple/apostle.
  • I get into this a little bit below, but we are forced right away to ask ourselves “why” did Jesus find it necessary to leave Judea?  At first glance it might be easy to assume He was simply being reactionary to the Pharisees.  That He wanted to leave because of them.  Why?  Was it a reaction, or was it an action planned out ahead of time with the Pharisees’ new knowledge simply acting as the catalyst for the unfolding of divine providence?  I think the latter is a better explanation.  There are several reasons as to why He may have left that we’ll explore below, but right now we must settle it in our minds that He didn’t leave simply out of reaction to the whims and actions of men.  Jesus was in complete control of His life.  All things had been given into His hands (3:35).

4:3-4 he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. [4] And he had to pass through Samaria.

  • The way from Judea up to Galilee would have made it geographically necessary/expedient for Jesus to pass this way, but as the ESV study notes indicate, there might be a double meaning in the wording:  “the words may also indicate that Jesus’ itinerary was subject to the sovereign and providential plan of God (“had to” translates Gk. dei, “to be necessary,” which always indicates divine necessity or requirement elsewhere in John: 3:7, 14, 30; 9:4; 10:16; 12:34; 20:9). Through Samaria was the usual route taken by travelers from Judea to Galilee, though strict Jews, in order to avoid defilement, could bypass Samaria by opting for a longer route that involved crossing the Jordan and traveling on the east side.”
  • The Assyrians had resettled Samaria after the northern kingdom of Israel had fallen (2 Kings 17:6-8 ESV). These Samarians were odious to the people of Israel and the history obviously went as deep as the hatred they held for them.
  • D.A. Carson gives more background: After the Assyrians captured Samaria [the capital of the Northern kingdom of Israel] in 722–21 BC, they deported all the Israelites of substance and settled the land with foreigners, who intermarried with the surviving Israelites and adhered to some form of their ancient religion (2 Kings 17–18). After the exile [of the Southern kingdom in Babylon], Jews, returning to their homeland… viewed the Samaritans not only as the children of political rebels but as racial half- breeds whose religion was tainted by various unacceptable elements…. About 400 BC the Samarians erected a rival temple on Mount Gerizim. (D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, 216)
  • Now, to address the “had to” comment here, I thought it would be easy enough to explain it away geographically, but I don’t think that’s entirely what is going on here.  John Piper says he can think of at least four reasons for Jesus “having to” go through Samaria.  The best explanation matches up with Boice’s thinking as well.  Piper says this: Jesus may have felt a divine impulse to go to Galilee by way of Samaria because God planned a divine appointment there. Do the words “had to” in verse 4 only mean it was geographically shorter? Verse 4: “And he had to pass through Samaria.” It was possible to go to Galilee in a roundabout way, which some Jews did because they thought the Samaritans were unclean. But John said that Jesus “ had to pass through Samaria.” Because he had an appointment to keep?

4:5-6 So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. [6] Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

  • A few contextual notes here might be helpful.  First, the Jewish day started at 6am, so the “sixth hour” would have been about noon.  Also, according to the ESV study notes, the well was located “at a juncture of major ancient roads and near the traditional sacred site of Joseph’s tomb.”
  • The fact that Jesus was so wearied from His journey really serves as a reminder to us of His humanity.  He got tired as we get tired.  He thirsted as we thirst.  When I think about the fact that He is in heaven right now hearing my prayers and understands fully what it means to feel as I feel, that is a very comforting fact for me to rest upon.  We have a God who knows us not simply because He made us, but because He experienced life as we experience it.  Astounding.
  • One thing that James Boice challenges us with is to ask whether or not we have ever “become hot or uncomfortable trying to communicate the gospel to others.”  It’s a probing question that we all need to ask ourselves.

4:7 A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” [8] (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) [9] The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)

  • James Boice has a beautiful insight into the contrasts between the story we find here with the Samaritan woman and the one we find earlier with Nicodemus.  He talks about how they are exact opposites in so many ways, and yet the points of the stories are the same. “If Nicodemus is an example of the truth that no one can rise so high as to be above salvation, the woman is an example of the truth that none can sink too low.”
  • Piper explains the relationship here by saying, “So we have ethnic, racial, and religious issues here that made Jews feel disdain for Samaritans. They were ceremonially unclean. They were racially impure. They were religiously heretical. And therefore they were avoided. Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. But more literally it says, Jews don’t “use together” with Samaritans. You can’t be asking me to use the same bucket. That isn’t done.”

4:10-11 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” [11] The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?

  • It really jumps out to me what Jesus says here about “if you knew who it is that is saying to you…”  If indeed!  How many others made the mistake of missing whom this man was!
  • She seemed to have taken Jesus’ words literally to the point of misunderstanding His point about the kind of water to which He was referring.  Boice points out that Nicodemus also missed the spiritual reference when Jesus told him he had to be “born again.”  Just like Nicodemus, she’s having difficulty discerning the spiritual things because she’s not spiritual herself (1 Cor. 2:14).
  • Boice explains what the woman would have been thinking perhaps, “In Jewish speech the phrase, ‘living water’ meant water that as flowing, like water in a river or stream, as opposed to water that was stagnant, as in a cistern or well. Living water was considered to be better. Therefore, when Jesus said that he could give her ‘living water’ the woman quite naturally thought of a stream. She wanted to know where Jesus had found it. From the tone of her remarks it is evident that she even thought his claim a bit blasphemous, for it was a claim to have done something greater than her ancestor Jacob had been able to do (dig the well).”

There are many Old Testament passages that a spiritual person of the day might have thought of as they listened to Jesus’ words, but this woman was not spiritual as I mention above.

  • Jeremiah 2:13 says, “for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”
  • Revelation 7:17 says, “For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
  • Isaiah 12:3 says, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”

4:12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.”

  • Are you greater?  Yes, Christ is greater, though, once again, He doesn’t answer the woman’s question directly.  He doesn’t give answers to silly questions, but instead answers the question of her heart instead of the mumbling of her mouth.
  • As Boice said in his commentary, “Jesus was claiming to be the One who alone can satisfy human longing…You may try to fill your life with the things of this world…but though these will satisfy for a time, they will not do so permanently.  I have often said that they are like a Chinese dinner. They will fill you up well, but two or three hours later you will be hunger again. Only Jesus Christ is able to satisfy you fully.”

4:13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, [14] but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

  • Here the fact that He was making an analogy is made plane to the woman.  There are some parallels here between the principle of satisfaction and the joy we saw John the Baptist express at the end of chapter three.  Christ gives us life that will satisfy us eternally.  What He gives us matches His divine nature.  He is eternal, the great gifts He gives are eternal. Boice says, “The woman had come to a well.  Jesus has invited her to a spring.”
  • Kostenberger cites Beale and paraphrases that, “Jesus inaugurated the age of God’s abundance. Jesus’ offer of living water signals the reversal of the curse and the barrenness that are characteristic of the old fallen world.”  I love this thought because it expresses the anticipation of Jesus’ arrival on the scene, and the meaning of His breaking into human history to provide a way of life that is more than just legalistic shadows and laws.  It is substance, and complete fulfillment.  It is living and eternal water; it is eternal life.

4:15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

  • The woman here now responds how we ought to all respond!  GIVE ME THE WATER! Why?  So she wouldn’t have to “come here and draw water.”  And because, importantly, she probably felt a need for something (the “God-sized” hole in her life as some have termed it) to fulfill her.  She wasn’t being fulfilled in anything else.
  • Boice is right to cite Augustine’s famous opening to his ‘Confessions’ which says, “thou hast made us for thyself and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in thee.”

 

How to we teach this to our children? Example: Today we learned about how the love and compassion of Christ extends to the least of all men and women.  We talked about how Jesus showed His love by deliberately choosing to talk to the lowest, dirtiest, and most sinful people.  Just like us, these people were sinful and without hope until Jesus changed all that.  Jesus takes our hopeless condition and gives us “living water” which is eternal life.