The Woman At The Well                

John 4:1-31

Richard Hinkelman, Guest Preacher

Franklin Circle Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

To hear a podcast of this sermon, click HERE:  110710SermonPodcastHinkelman

(Our apologies for both the delay in getting this sermon and podcast uploaded as well as the less-than-adequate quality of the taping (unforeseen fan interference!).  There is also a video of the sermon on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=10150258963779640.  Thanks to Jake Pruitt for both the audio and video of today’s sermon.)

 

Choir Song:  Instruments of Your Peace

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBc4uxiXsfc

O God, we pray that the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts might be acceptable in thy sight – O God, our Rock and our Redeemer.  Amen.

Richard Hinkelman, offering insight on God's Word. (Photo by Jake Pruitt)

If you have your Bible, please open it to the Book of John – chapter 4.  The fourth book of the New Testament.  As you are turning, I just want to give you a little background about the disciple John – so you can have a little perspective about the author of the story we are about to read.

The Gospel of John is not simply an historical account of the life of Christ –
but rather it is a powerful argument for the incarnation,
a conclusive demonstration that Jesus was, and is, the very heaven-sent Son of God
and the only source of eternal life.

John – as a man, was not perfect.  In fact, most would consider him a little rough-around-the edges, to say the least.  In Luke 9:52 we read how, after feeling unwelcomed by the Samaritans, John asks Jesus if he should call down fire from heaven to destroy the Samaritans.

Not only was John short-tempered, he was also a bit self-centered.
He asked Jesus if he could have one of the two seats of honor at the side of Jesus, in the Kingdom.  And of course, this caused tempers to fly within the other disciples.

John’s temperament and way of going through life caused such a stir,
that Jesus even nick-named him one of the “Sons of Thunder.”

However, Jesus saw potential in John.
He looked past what John was, and saw what he would become.

As we read the Gospels, there is no dramatic event to account for John’s transformation.  It must have come from being with Jesus, being accepted, loved, and affirmed by the Lord, and then being filled with the Holy Spirit.

When he realizes Christ’s love for him, John is so humbled that he doesn’t even refer to himself as “John” as the author of the Gospel – but rather, “The Disciple Jesus Loved.”

Jesus accepted John as he was, a Son of Thunder,
and changed him into what he would become, the apostle of love.

John 4:1-7 (NLT)

1 Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, “Jesus is baptizing and making more disciples than John”
2 (though Jesus himself didn’t baptize them—his disciples did).
3 So he left Judea to return to Galilee.
4 He had to go through Samaria on the way.
5 Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.
6 Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime.
7 Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.”

So, here we see Jesus and his disciples traveling from Judea, headed for Galilee.
The most direct route would have been to go through Samaria.
However, in those days, the Jews and Jewish leaders despised the Samaritans so much, that they would go out of their way to go around the city at all costs – tacking on extra time to their journey, in order to avoid contact with Samaritan villages or people.

The Samaritans were a people of mixed Jewish and Gentile (non-jewish) ancestry.
They, like the Jews, claimed descent from Jacob and worshipped the God of Israel –
but the Jews looked down on them as having no claim to “their” God, because they were not “thoroughbred” Jews.
In fact, this exclusion was so great, that the Samaritans and Jews worshipped in separate places – the Jews in Jerusalem, and the Samaritans at Mount Gerizim.

But Jesus…a Jew himself…was not concerned with contributing to the racial or religious hypocrisy of the day.  He was concerned with putting an end to it.
Jesus wasn’t concerned with “avoiding that sort of place” because it might upset the religious authorities or personal traditions of the Jewish people.
[When personal and religious traditions got in the way of love and inclusion – Jesus chose to break tradition and demonstrate love and inclusion.]
He even further upset the applecart by talking to a Samaritan WOMAN (the lowest of the low).
The Jewish religious leaders considered Samaritan women to be unclean from birth.

Jesus asks her for a drink.

His interaction with her stars off as routine.  Simply asking for a drink of water.

However, to her, it was more than just a stranger asking for a drink of water.

8 He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food.
9 The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?”

She knew he was a Jew.  She knew what the Jews thought of her.
She knew how the religious leaders felt and acted in regards to her and her people
– not because of something she had done, but because of who she was
– something she was because of her birth – something she couldn’t change.
Something she had no choice over.  She knew where she stood.

10 Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who I am, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”
11 “But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this is a very deep well. Where would you get this living water?
12 And besides, are you greater than our ancestor Jacob who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his cattle enjoyed?”
13 Jesus replied, “People soon become thirsty again after drinking this water.
14 But the water I give them takes away thirst altogether. It becomes a perpetual spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

(Continues to vs 15)

15 “Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me some of that water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to haul water.”

Suddenly she realizes this man, a Jew, has a different message
– different from her previous experiences with Jews and the Jewish leaders.
This man told her of a gift God had for her.
He also told her that if she only asked, he would give her living water.

Now, at this point in the conversation, from the woman’s perspective, living water simply means fresh, or flowing water (for example, from a stream – as opposed to stagnant water).  She challenges Jesus on how he can possibly provide better water than what she is about to draw from the well.

So Jesus explains further about his water…water that will forever quench her thirst… would be a source of new life within her…water leading to eternal life.

“Give Me This Water!” she replies.

16 “Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her.
17 “I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied. Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband—
18 for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now.”

Some personal information about the woman comes to light, when Jesus tells her to go and get her husband.  Readers often imply an accusatory tone in Jesus’ voice, during this passage.  However, is it possible that he said it with concern and a gentle tone of understanding?  A soft “I know…I know where you’ve been…I know how you’ve been treated…”

Is it possible that she was not all to blame for her situation?  Remember, some customs permitted a man to divorce her wife just for burning the bread.  Something in Jesus’ voice caused her to further engage in conversation with him…not to shut down and run away.

19 “Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet.

And then, after a moment, she changes the subject.

20 So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?”

Perhaps it was due to the fact that she wanted her questions of worship cleared up, once and for all – and clearly a holy prophet would have the correct answer.

Or perhaps it was an attempt to avert any further disclosure of her personal life – by shifting the conversation to religion.

Either way, notice how Jesus responds to her change of direction.

21 Jesus replied, “Believe me, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father here or in Jerusalem.
22 You Samaritans know so little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews.
23 But the time is coming and is already here when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for anyone who will worship him that way.
24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

He was not presenting a system or a pre-rehearsed “here’s how to get saved” gospel outline; he was simply having a conversation with someone who needed living water.  Jesus made no attempt to turn the discussion back to her lifestyle; rather, he entered into a dialogue about the true place of worship.  Jesus kept the woman’s interest by demonstrating his willingness to let her direct the discussion.

The Samaritans only had Genesis through Deuteronomy to instruct them in their ways of worship.  They did not have access to remaining books of the Old Testament – as the Jews did.  Therefore, the Jews truly had a more complete picture of God, and more accurate form of worship.

Jesus is not neutral; he accepts the correctness of the Jewish position, although he does not allow that to remain as an ultimate barrier to racial reconciliation.  Jesus points to a new realm of worship – not Mount Gerizim or in Jerusalem, but in spirit and in truth.

25 The woman said, “I know the Messiah will come—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus told her, “I am the Messiah”!

Before she can say another word, the disciples return.

27 Just then his disciples arrived. They were astonished to find him talking to a woman, but none of them asked him why he was doing it or what they had been discussing.

Though they didn’t say a word, it seems that it was clear on their faces, the disapproval they felt in their hearts…their racist and sexist attitudes of astonishment that Jesus would be talking to a Samaritan woman.  The disciples don’t say a word – but the woman heard them loud and clear.  The disciples watch as:

28 The woman left her water jar beside the well and went back to the village…

The disciples urge Jesus to eat, and Jesus turns the setting into a teachable moment…an opportunity to impart some spiritual wisdom, and perhaps address their attitudes of exclusion.

31 Meanwhile, the disciples were urging Jesus to eat.
32 “No,” he said, “I have food you don’t know about.”
33 “Who brought it to him?” the disciples asked each other.
34 Then Jesus explained: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work.
35 Do you think the work of harvesting will not begin until the summer ends four months from now? Look around you! Vast fields are ripening all around us and are ready now for the harvest.

“Of what was Jesus speaking?” the disciples probably wondered.

Unbeknownst to the disciples, the Samaritan woman ran back to her village.  We can’t be sure how much she understood of what Jesus had told her, but she was convinced that everyone in town ought to hear what he had to say.

28 The woman…went back to the village and told everyone,
29 “Come and meet a man who told me everything I ever did! Can this be the Messiah?”
30 So the people came streaming from the village to see him.

Jesus says “Look around you! Vast fields are ripening all around us and are ready now for the harvest. “  The disciples look up, and see the multitude of people – Samaritans from the woman’s village, rushing towards Jesus…wanting to learn from him…begging him (a Jew) to stay at their village…all because one woman shared with her community, her experience with Jesus.

39 Many Samaritans from the village believed in Jesus because the woman had said, “He told me everything I ever did!”
40 When they came out to see him, they begged him to stay at their village. So he stayed for two days,
41 long enough for many of them to hear his message and believe.

For Jesus to stay there, eating Samaritan food and teaching Samaritans would be roughly equivalent to defying segregation during the 1950’s – or for an internationally known television pastor to be seen walking out of a gay bar…shocking, extremely difficult, and somewhat dangerous.  However, the Jesus of the Gospels is more concerned with people than with custom.  And look at the end result.  Verse 39.  Many Samaritans believed in Jesus.

42 Then [the Samaritan villagers] said to the woman, “Now we believe because we have heard him ourselves, not just because of what you told us. He is indeed the Savior of the world.”

Application

As a result of Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman, her bold witness in town, and the people’s curiosity, many became believers.  Jesus’ proof was compelling.  John was convinced and believed; the Samaritans were convinced and believed; and since that time, so have millions of others.

And now, the first question each of us must ask is, “Have I Believed in Jesus?”

Have I received the living water?

If the answer is no, you aren’t alone.  Many are searching, seeking, questioning.

The good news is that no matter who you are, Jesus offers you his living water – new life, and new purpose.

The same Jesus we have just read about…

who ignored the boundaries of religion set up to judge who was and wasn’t acceptable to God,

still ignores those religious boundaries…still says…no matter who you are – come and drink of the living water.  Come with me and be a part of the Kingdom of God.

For those of you who have already received the living water of Jesus Christ, the question to you today is, what are you doing with it?  Are you keeping it to yourself? Or are you, like the woman, going out and telling others to come and see!

We can’t keep it to ourselves…we can’t keep the message of a life-changing encounter with Jesus within the walls of this church building – and expect people to come to this building at 10:30 am on a Sunday morning, to find Jesus.

The Samaritan woman’s encounter with Jesus happened outside of the temple…outside of church, if you will.  It could have never happened within the walls of the Jewish temple, for she would have never in a million years set foot in that temple.  She knew how the Jews felt about her.  She knew they hated her, not for something she had done, but for who she was.

Franklin Circle is an incredible example of what the church is called to be.  Not only is it a place where we can come to receive strong, doctrinally sound, empowering messages from Pastor Allen, but as we look around we see Black, White, Latino, Gay, Straight, Bisexual, Transgendered, Single, Married, Widowed, Divorced, rich, poor, homeless, those who have grown up in church, those who have been hurt deeply by the church – but have found this a place of safety where they can reconnect with Christ and His Family, those who are new to the faith, and those who are still investigating the faith.  EVERYONE is welcome and celebrated here.  Come and drink from the water of life.  Here, everyone matters to us – because everyone matters to God.  Sadly, this church is in the minority.

And like the Samaritan woman, there are multitudes of people who would never in a million years set foot in a church.  They know how “the church” feels about them.  They know how “those Christians” feel about them.  They feel judged and hated for who they are.

This is not just a passing observation on my part.  David Kinneman and Gabe Lyons report their findings in the book

“Unchristian – what a new generation really thinks about Christianity…and why it matters.”

Their in-depth, scientific and statistical research shows
that a majority of those outside of Christianity, especially younger adults,
have little trust in the Christian faith,
and esteem for the lifestyle of Christ followers is quickly fading.
They reject Jesus because they feel rejected by Christians.

One fifth of those outside of the Christian faith, regardless of age, admitted they have had a bad experience in a church or with a Christian that gave them a negative image of Jesus Christ.  This represents nearly fifty million adult residents of this country – who admit they have significant emotional or spiritual baggage from past experiences with so-called Christ followers.

National surveys of young people outside of the church have found that

the three most common perceptions of present-day Christianity are:

anti-homosexual (91%),
judgmental (87 percent)

and hypocritical (85 percent).

THIS is the current status of today’s church – through the eyes of the world.

91% think we hate gay people!

This is why most people will never set foot in a church, on their own accord.

87% of them feel judged by us.

This is the reality.

It may not be fair, and we may not have asked for it…but it is now our job to go out and overcome the negative messages that the church has been portraying.
It is now our job to show the world “the real Jesus.”
The Jesus who loves, the Jesus who accepts, the Jesus who changes lives,
the Jesus who invites EVERYONE to join him in the work of his kingdom.

As we experience the river of living water flowing here at Franklin Circle – we cannot confine it to this building.  For, just like a pond – if the water only flows in and doesn’t flow out – it becomes stagnant and unusable.  And the church is like that pond – if we do not have a flow out, we will become stagnant and unusable.

This is why we cannot keep the message of Jesus within the walls of this church.
We can not let our fears, our traditions, or our comfort hold us back.

We as Christ-Followers must be willing to say YES to God’s call on our lives
to go out and share the message of his love with those who do not yet know.

As we saw in the introduction, the Apostle John had his faults, yet God used him.
The Samaritan woman, though rejected by society, was used by God to bring her whole village to faith in Jesus as the Messiah.  And now, it’s our turn to be used.  How will we respond to Jesus?

As Scott sings this next song, I ask everyone here to close their eyes and take this time to respond to Jesus.

For some, today may be a day of taking a first step of a simple prayer and say

“I need to learn more about you, Jesus and your living water.”

For others, today may be the day when you change the course of your journey – and instead of moving toward Christ, you decide that today begins your journey WITH Christ.  Your prayer can simply be “Jesus, let’s do this together.”

Some here know that Christ has called you to more –  but there are certain things in your life that are holding you back from fully surrendering to Christ’s call on your life.

And maybe today is a day to just say “Help me, God.

Help me overcome my fears, my traditions, my need for comfort, my need to play it safe.”

And for some, God has already been speaking to your heart over the past few months – shaping you, preparing you, telling you “Get ready, because I am going to use you.”

And today may be the day for you to pray, “Here I am…Use me.”

Let us respond as Scott sings…

[Scott Solo –Who Will Go]

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dlMr2eKiNpk
Whatever your prayer…

I want to know more about you, Jesus.

I want to begin my journey WITH you, Jesus.

God, I need your help to overcome things that are holding me back.

Or “Here I am…Use Me.”

Whatever your prayer…I encourage each of you to share it with 1 other person.

Don’t just keep it to yourself.

You don’t have to share all of the details – but sometime this week, let a friend know how you have responded to Jesus.

Find a prayer partner this week – who will pray for you as you pray for them.  Who will encourage you, as you encourage them.  Who will help you grow, as you help them.

And now, lets all stand, as one family – as together we respond by singing
Hymn 452, Here I Am, Lord.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KnsSNbos4I

Closing Prayer:

God, we thank you that no matter where we are on our journey, You meet each of us where we are.  You walk beside us, you lead us, and you cause to grow within each of us the strength to say “Here I am…I will go.”

[Benediction]

God, you are the Source of All Life.
Call us to go from this place and live life fully.

God, you are the Essence of All Love.
Call us to go from this place and love wastefully.

    You, God, are the “Ground of Our Very Being,”
Call us to go from this place and have the courage to be ourselves.  Amen.


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