Bible Study Notes

Unless you were Jesus!” - Sermon: John 4

 

Jewish male attitudes and teachings were what we would consider prejudiced at best and at worst downright chauvinistic: One should not talk with a woman on the street, not even with his own wife, and certainly not with someone else’s wife, because of the gossip of men.”  Indeed, it was forbidden for a man to give a woman any kind of greeting! Jesus was breaking all known political, religious and social customs by having this conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well.

When we hear the word, “Samaritan” there’s a good chance we think of those kindly souls who answer the phone and listen patiently to the stories of those at their wit’s end. There is an irony here because this well-known organisation is named after a people who were seen as the worst kind of outcasts. (The Good Samaritan, Luke 10: 30-37)

 For the devout 1st century Jew the Samaritan was despised as a half-breed; the Jews in Samaria had inter-married with the hated Assyrians and adulterated orthodox beliefs; they only held to the first 5 books of Hebrew scripture (unforgivable); suspicion and mutual hatred had deep historical roots.  You did not talk to them, look at them; you did not recognise their right to exist and you certainly did not travel through Samaria if you were walking from Judea to Galilee: you by-passed enemy territory and took the long way home; rather than associate with that mob you were prepared to walk 7 days, rather than 3…Unless, of course, you were Jesus!

 

Jesus is tired and weary, thirsty and hungry. His cloak was probably worn and covered in dust and dirt from his journey as he slumped beside the well. His disciples had gone into town.  Perhaps he had dozed off, or maybe he prayed.

And the woman turns up.  With what we now know, it should not surprise us that she exclaimed, “But you’re a Jew and I’m a Samaritan!” It’s more intriguing as we discover her story: 5 husbands, 5 divorces and now there’s man number 6 on the scene.  She had a history.  ‘This Jew hasn’t averted his gaze. So maybe he’ll look at me in that way I know so well.’  She came to draw water every day when the sun was at its highest, knowing this was the safest hour; she could draw water in peace and avoid the withering looks and the shouts of “Whore!”  She was tired too, tired of her life…

Jesus only asked her for a drink of water!  It seems so innocuous but that simple request is disarming: he says the one thing she would never expect a Jewish man to say to a Samaritan woman: give me a drink!  That’s all it took, a simple request which would open up a conversation that would change her life and the lives of millions – and ours too.

 

Jesus will give the woman a clue that she isn’t talking to any old thirsty stranger, but that he is the Messiah and if she only understood that, she would most certainly ask Jesus for his living water.

 Perhaps she thought he was making fun of her; that the water from her Father Jacob’s well was not good enough for him – that he wanted flowing, running, living water; he knows full well that this well doesn’t have that sort of water.  She noticed he didn’t have a container with which to draw the water and the well was at least 100 feet deep.

There was something different about this man: yes, he was a Jew but he sat at the same level as her, eye-to-eye, equals; he was a Jew but he was prepared to sip water from her cup!

 

Again he offered her living water (vv 13 & 14) saying, “Everyone who drinks from this well will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give will never thirst.”  We are not surprised that still she doesn’t understand, even when Jesus said, “the water I give you will become like a spring of water welling up to eternal life!”

Perhaps she heard the strange man saying that, if she accepted his living water she would have an easier life.  After all, coming to this place twice a day with huge containers was back-breaking work; she was tired of the humiliation, humdrum and the heat – she was always thirsting…

 

And the plot thickens. Jesus will take the conversation to a higher plane.  He begins to challenge her, to stretch her thinking.  He tells her, “Go get your husband”.  It seems a strange thing to say in the middle of a conversation, an ordinary conversation. But this is no ordinary chat:

 It would appear that this conversation is going somewhere, that Jesus has a plan.  He knows that she is hiding who she really is and Jesus knows it.  He knows that her need is far deeper than just wanting an easy way to find water; he knows what she needed was forgiveness; he knows she needed an experience of unconditional love, a love without prejudice; the men she had met would use her all up and then throw her away.

Every man would do this- unless, of course, his name was Jesus.

 

The woman answers correctly that she had no husband, and you get the impression she’s pleased with her answer.  Jesus pounced on that answer: “You’re right, you don’t have a husband; you’ve had five of them and the one you are living with now is not your husband.” 

The mask she has tried to maintain is beginning to slip; he encourages her to tell the truth – she feels safe enough to admit the truth.  Asking the woman about her husband is really his compassionate and caring way of saying: “This life of yours is a bit of a mess; you are carrying more than water jars, aren’t you?!”  He doesn’t threaten her or beat her up with her sin…

 

Our natural tendency is to cover up, to cover up who we are; to hide the truth from others and even from ourselves.  Like this woman we present another self.  She is troubled and unsettled and tries her best (and more than once) to avoid the issue, and she moves the conversation to worship; she thinks she’s on neutral territory now, but Jesus begins to get to the heart of the matter:

 

“OK, let’s talk about worship (since you brought the matter up), about God and spiritual matters. This is an area I know well! You might not like what you hear but you need to hear it and that, after all, is what this meeting is all about! Your people, the Samaritans are not worshipping God at all.  The answer to your search, to your thirst, is looking you straight in the eye!”

“Like it or not, woman, God has chosen the Jews to make God known to the nations, and God has shown them how he wants them to worship him.  Your temples and separate mountains and your ritual ceremonies and your ancient arguments are not needed.  I’m here to do away with these differences; it’s who you are and the way you life that counts before God!  I’m here to bless and forgive – to receive real worship in spirit and truth!”

 

The woman discovers what we all discover – that she cannot hide anything from the Lord.  He cuts right through all the games.  You cannot be saved unless you admit to and confess your sin before God. This truth was setting her free; this was a sip from the cup life-bringing water he was promising!

I who speak to you am He!” 

No man had ever loved this woman or accepted her, for her.  He witnesses to her out of love.  There is nothing about her (her gender, culture, religion, her life-style), nothing which presents a barrier to having a relationship with God.  It is said that 90% of evangelism is love, borne of love.  To witness like Christ is to be a loving presence and not just a proclaimer.  But in love he confronted her with the truth. 

 

When she left the well, she ran to tell others about the man who knew all about the things she had done; the man who said: woman can I have a drink? She left her old jar behind…

 

If we ever want to be fed (watered) by Christ; if we ever want that deep thirst in our souls to be quenched, then we must sit face-to-face with this same Jesus; we must admit who we are.  The more we avoid him, the emptier we will become: “…no accomplishment, relationship, cars, cash or celebrity will ultimately satisfy because our hunger (our thirst) is the shape of God”. 

No one could offer this – unless, of course, he was Jesus!  Like many people we meet, this one woman was thirsty (to begin with) in a way she did not understand.  She is not alone; there are millions of people who have never heard that God loves them, never heard that Jesus died for them – to forgive them and bring them life (LIVING WATER). 

MFR

 

 

 

 

 

 


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