Pastor Edward Brouwer 3-11-18 “Traveling with Jesus: to Samaria” John 4:1-30 and 39-42
Traveling with Jesus: To Samaria
Today we travel with Jesus to meet a woman at a well. This story is recorded in the gospel of John and John’s purpose and defining motif is that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and Savior of the World. Jesus is the Word of God and He is the long awaited Messiah and whoever believes in Christ will come to have life, and not just real and meaningful life now but eternal life as well.
Read John 4:1-30 and 39-42
You’ve heard the story many times. I am pretty sure I won’t be telling you anything you haven’t already heard. So consider this a conversation to remind us of who Christ is and our need of Him. The big take away from this text is that Jesus meets the spiritual needs and longings of a needy Samaritan woman. In turn she evangelizes her town such that many people come to faith in Christ. Jesus is travelling from Judea where the city of Jerusalem is located and he is on his way back to Galilee where he grew up. The quickest way to get there is through the central province of Samaria. If you were a strictly observant Jew you would go the long way around because the Jews despised the Samaritans. Bear with me as I give a little historical context.
Samaritans were of mixed race and adhered to a version of the Books of Moses (Pentateuch) that the Jews thought had many corruptions. In 722 BC the Assyrians invaded Israel. They hauled off many people and transferred other people from various cities in the empire to Israel in an attempt to assimilate and destroy the cultural identity of the people of Israel—hence we sometimes talk about the 10 lost tribes of Israel. Well the Samaritans saw themselves as descendants of Joseph through his sons Manasseh and Ephraim—a people group who had intermarried with the resettled gentiles. The Samaritans revered Mount Gerizim based on the Scripture from Deuteronomy 11: 26 See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse— 27 the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today; 28 the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known.29 When the Lord your God has brought you into the land you are entering to possess, you are to proclaim on Mount Gerizim the blessings, and on Mount Ebal the curses.
Back to the story: Jesus is travelling through Samaria and stops at Jacob’s well—his disciples go in to town to get food because it’s the noon hour. Jesus is tired and thirsty. A woman comes to the well to draw water.
Coming to the well alone in the heat of the day seems odd. Typically women would come early in the morning, because it’s cool and water is needed in the morning for the home. They would also come in groups for social reasons and for protection. Being together is both fun but also there is strength in numbers. But this woman is alone. As we have already read in the story this woman is leading a very (shall we say) atypical lifestyle. Her choices have probably led her to be shunned by the rest of the women in the community: in a word, ostracized. It’s easier to come for water when no one else is around.
And here is Jesus. He strikes up a conversation with her starting with his own point of need. Could you draw me some water? And this starts an interesting back and forth. (I want to encourage you in your own evangelism. Use the Jesus model. Show up in people’s lives, and speak out of your own need. Engage people not as a know-it-all but as someone who needs another person’s help. It’s okay to strike up a conversation with a stranger and say ‘I need your help” and then let the conversation follow naturally—perhaps giving you an opportunity to share your faith.) She’s taken aback because as John notes Jews have nothing to do with Samaritans and here is a Jewish man talking to her! Certainly this man is crossing racial, ethnic, social and gender lines! Her comment is not intended to make serious conversation—it’s more like an attempt to shut Jesus down or protect herself from this stranger.
But Jesus will not be put off and is crossing these lines for good reason. Because Jesus is concerned for this woman. So he doesn’t answer her question but says essentially “if you knew whom you were talking to you would ask ME for a drink but I would give you not the water out of this well but from another well—Living Water. That seems right (Jesus offering water)—a lady comes to a well, sees a man and a natural thing would be to ask him if he would be willing to draw water. That recalls the story of Moses in Exodus 2:15 ff. Moses has just fled Pharaoh after killing an Egyptian. He flees to the desert and arrives in Median. Zipporah (his future wife) is at the well and some shepherds begin to harass her and her sisters. Moses comes to the rescue, chases them off, and offers to water their flocks.
But unlike helpful Moses, Jesus isn’t there to give her regular water. It’s clear that he wants to offer a different type of water. And the Samaritan women says “how are you going to give me that since you don’t have a bucket, the well is deep—where are you going to get this special water? Implying perhaps this: “You can’t even give yourself a drink how are you going to give me a drink? You seem to make big promises but can you deliver?” Are you greater than Jacob?
Jesus tells her he isn’t talking about well water—people who drink this water get thirsty again. The water Jesus is offering will quench your thirst for good! This sparks her interest. I want some of that water—just so long as I don’t have to come HERE again! As much as Jesus wants to have a spiritual conversation it appears as though she doesn’t.
So Jesus changes the direction of the conversation and tells her to go get her husband. “I don’t have one”. She’s being evasive. This is no doubt a touchy subject for her. Clearly Jesus knows her life and her history. She’s been married 5 times and the man she’s living with now she’s not married to. Ouch!
This whole scenario reminds me of Jeremiah 2:13 “”My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” I don’t know this woman or the reasons she had been married and divorced 5 times and was now living with a man. Perhaps she was looking for something in men that they ultimately could not give her—love, peace, joy. It reminds me of the song “looking for love in all the wrong places”. Only Jesus can satisfy the deepest longings of our heart. Marriage is great—don’t get me wrong but if you are looking to your spouse to complete you or make you happy or fulfilled, or give you identity, watch out. Marriage wasn’t designed for that and you will crush your spouse if you put all those expectations on them. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus is the only one that can give us meaning and joy and true identity. If we want true peace with God, it is only through Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Back to the Samaritan woman. No doubt it was awkward and embarrassing to have this man call her out. How does this man even know this? Now she wants to redirect the conversation from herself to a more theological and philosophical one. So she changes the subject—what a segue!
“I perceive you are a prophet”. Yeah! Ya think? Well, we Samaritans worship here and you Jews worship on Mount Zion. Who is right? Well Jesus says we Jews have it right and you Samaritans are misguided. But be that as it may, it’s all a moot point because the time has come where place or mode of worship isn’t important. True worship is worshipping God in Spirit and in Truth. Not a bunch of rules and ceremonies! Okay she says, I know that the Messiah will come and he will explain everything. And now the culmination of the story—the great reveal!
I am he! I am the Messiah! The person you are talking to is the very Anointed One of God—and I am here to explain everything!
In haste she leaves her water bucket, goes to town and announces “Come meet a man who knows everything about me—a true prophet of God–could he be the Messiah?” And people flocked to see Jesus and for 2 days he preached to them the good news about himself. And many came to faith—not because of what the woman said but because they had heard and seen it themselves “we know that Jesus is the Savior of the World”. What an amazing statement! This Jewish Messiah, come to save Samaritans and the whole world! This foreshadows Jesus’ great commission telling his disciples to preach the gospel in Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.
Jesus is the Living Water. When we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, the Bible says he comes into our life. Colossians 2:6 “as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, so also walk in HIM” and Colossians 3:3 continues the thought by saying “for the old you died! And now your life is hid with Christ in God. The Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit is the Living Water that indwells us and fills us to overflowing. And not just for this life, but unto eternal life.