Second Reformed Church

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

"The Woman of Samaria: Food" Sermon: John 4:27-45

“The Woman of Samaria:  Food”

[John 4:27-45]

June 28, 2015 Second Reformed Church

Last week, we saw Jesus confront the woman of Samaria about her sin – that she was living with a man who was not her husband; Jesus did this so she would understand the bad news – her sin and her need of God’s forgiveness. 

As she understood and believed that she needed to be saved from the Wrath of God for her sin, she asked Jesus about the right way to worship – and Jesus explained that we are to obey the Word of God – to worship in the Temple in Jerusalem – until God took the Temple away – which He would soon do.

Jesus explained that although outward obedience is important, it is nothing if it is not done by someone who worships in spirit and truth – someone who is worshipping by spiritual obedience to the truth that God has revealed.

In that moment, the woman of Samaria wondered about Who she was talking with – and she asked the question by making the statement:  “I know Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ).  When he comes, he will tell us all things” (John 4:25b, ESV).

And “Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am he’” (John 4:26, ESV).

This was one of those thrilling moments when Jesus confirmed the suspicions of a person He was talking with – yes, He is God the Promised Savior.

During this conversation, we remember the disciples had gone into the town of Sychar to buy food.

And we see, first this morning, belief causes us to tell others.

“Just then, his disciples came back.  They marveled that he was talking to a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you seek?’ or ‘Why are you talking with her?’  So the woman left her water jug and went away into town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did.  Can this be the Christ?’  They went out of the town and were coming to him.”

The disciples headed out of the town and towards Jacob’s well, where Jesus was sitting talking with the Samaritan woman.  And as they drew closer they wondered to themselves, “Why is Jesus, a male Jewish rabbi, talking to a Samaritan woman?”  They knew it was a rabbinical law of the time that rabbis were not to talk to women in the street. 

What they didn’t understand was that Jesus came to emancipate all peoples, including the whole gender of women – women were no longer to be seen as unreliable, second-class citizens, but as equal to men in their sinfulness and in their need of Jesus and the availability of salvation.  Women are called to salvation in the same way that men are called to salvation – equal as sons and daughters before God.  First to the Jews, and then to the Gentiles – male and female.

The woman didn’t notice the questioning faces of the disciples, and the disciples didn’t question Jesus.

The woman was on a high from finding the Savior and receiving His salvation, and she left her water jug behind and ran to the town – telling everyone that she had met a Man Who knew everything about her – Who could tell her everything she ever did – there were no secrets to Him – He pulled back the veil and saw it all.  And she posed the question to them – not out of disbelief, but to challenge them – because we can’t save anyone, “Can this be the Christ?”

“I have met the All-Knowing One – come see if you don’t realize that this is the Christ and believe in Him as I have!”

Have you ever gotten exciting news and just had to tell everyone?

My mother tells me that when we adopted the eldest of my sisters, I went around telling everyone in elementary school that I was going to have a little sister!

When Gene Hecht (from the Irvington Chamber of Commerce) bought his new car, he drove it all over to show his friends and let them drive it – he was so excited to be able to get it.

How about you?  Have there been times and events in your life when you just wanted everyone to know – so you went, called, posted – whatever – your news so others could share in your joy?

That’s what this woman did:  when she came to saving faith in Jesus, she had to go tell everyone else in the town.

Maybe we did, too – when it was new.  Are you still excited to tell others about Jesus and His Salvation?  Or it is “old news”?

It’s really not old news, because you sinned yesterday, and Jesus suffered for that sin and forgave that sin and credited you with His righteousness for that sin yesterday.  And Jesus is not “sitting in Heaven drinking lemonade,” but He is sovereignly ruling every moment of everything right now – there is no chance that anything is happening by chance – Jesus reigns now!

Pray that we would not rest, but be agitated with joy, so that we just have to tell someone.

Second, we see that our spiritual food is faithful obedience.

“Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, ‘Rabbi, eat.’  But he said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’  So the disciples said to one another, ‘Has anyone brought him anything to eat?’  Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.’”

While the woman was in town telling everyone that she had met and believed in the Christ – and she urged them to come see Him and judge for themselves – the disciples were buzzing around Jesus urging Him:  “Eat, rabbi.  Look at the food we just bought.  Rabbi, You need Your strength – eat something.”

And Jesus told them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.”

As Jesus taught the woman of Samaria about water, it was now time to teach the disciples about food.  We need to understand – Jesus was still tired, thirsty, and hungry in His human body – Jesus needed to eat and drink and rest like every one of us – but in obedience to the Father – as the time was right – He put aside His human needs to minister to the disciples spiritually.  The lesson was more important in that moment than satisfying His real bodily needs.

The disciples reacted like a “Three Stooges” sketch:  “Who gave Him food?  I didn’t.  Somebody did.  Maybe you did?  Why you!”

We might look at the disciples and their blindness and think:  guys, you live in at culture and at a time when symbols and metaphors were commonly used – especially by rabbis.  Why do you always jump to the literal meaning?

Thankfully for all of us, Jesus is much more compassionate and patient with His brothers and sisters than we tend to be.  Jesus could have jumped on their lack of understanding – instead, He explained that His “food” is to do the Will of God, His Father, and accomplish His work.

We can understand this, can we not?

Have you ever been so excited, so involved, so transfixed by something that you didn’t think about eating or drinking or doing anything else – and been shocked by what time is was or how you felt after it was over?

Have you been at a movie and nothing else registered?  Or reading a book?  Or listening to someone speak

About four or five years ago, when I was at the Banner of Truth Conference, Rev. Iain Murray was preaching – I don’t remember what he was preaching on right now – but in the moment we were transfixed as he brought us to Christ and expounded the Word of God.  When his hour was up, he apologized and said that he had planned to say more, but his time was up, and it was late, so he was just going to stop.  To a man, we yelled, “Go on!”  Nothing else mattered in that moment but continuing in the Presence of God as Iain lead us.

Jesus was not denying His hunger, but He was saying that doing the Will of God, obeying Him, seeing His work in the conversion of the woman of Samaria come to fruition and the town coming out to hear the Gospel allowed Him not to focus on His stomach, because faithful obedience was His – and it is every Christian’s – food.  Faithful obedience fills us, it sustains us, it enables us to function properly, and it satisfies us like nothing else can do – not pizza, not chicken, not hamburgers, not whatever your favorite food might be.

If we are following after the Will of God in faithful obedience, we will be filled, empowered, and sustained to be faithful to the Will of God.

Now, as we understand this, we also need to understand that our emotions are not stable.  We will not always feel perfectly filled, empowered, and sustained as we are seeking to be faithful to the Will of God.  Since sin still inhabits us, our emotions ebb and wane – we are on fire one moment and depressed and doubtful the next.  This is normal – but do not be discouraged.

This is a reason we need to be in prayer for each other.  There are chemical reasons and temptations that lead us up and down in the way we feel.  But our feelings don’t change the facts.  We must continue to come back to the Gospel – back to the Bible – we have to “re-form” what we know to be true in our hearts and minds and pray that God will sustain us and keep us in Him – and He will.  And remember to pray for me, too – my emotions change just like yours, and I need prayer to keep my head right – keeping my eyes on Jesus and His Gospel – no matter how I may feel.

Then, Jesus continues, and we see, third, now is the time of the harvest.

Now, we know there are four seasons:  winter, spring, summer, and fall.

When does it normally snow in New Jersey?  Winter.

When do you normally plant your garden in New Jersey?  Spring.

When do you normally go to the beach in New Jersey?  Summer.

When do the trees normally lose their leaves in New Jersey?  Fall.

So we understand how the seasons work – and we probably know – even without being a farmer – that the crops are – generally – planted in the spring and harvested in the fall.  So, even though we are not farmers, we can understand Jesus’ language:

“’Do you not say, “There are four months, then comes the harvest?  Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white with harvest.  Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that the grower and the reaper may rejoice together.  For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’  I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.’”

Jesus told the disciples:  if you understand what it looks like when the crops are ready to be harvested, understand that people are ready to receive the Gospel.  Unlike any other time before – beginning with Jesus’ ministry and extending until the day that He returns – people are ready to hear the Gospel and believe.

The seeds of the Gospel – in the hearing of the Old Testament Scripture preached – only the books of Moses for the Samaritans – had been planted – and Jesus told His disciples – now is the time to go and “gather the fruit for eternal life” – their people have been prepared through someone else’s preaching and teaching and they were ready – the slightest proclamation of the Gospel would cause them to come loose from the plant – to confess Jesus Christ savingly.

Jesus tells them – and us – that the primary work of the Christian is to proclaim the Gospel and teach those who believe savingly.  Jesus tells them – and us – this is the time when the greatest number of people will confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  The work of sowing starting back in the Garden of Eden – and the crop from those years is coming to fruition.  People are waiting with baited breath for someone to say, “Jesus is the One Savior Who will make you right with God.”

For the past two thousand years it has been the days for the final harvest – the days of the great harvest – and we are called to be at work – still planting, but very much so harvesting from the seeds planted by others.

Now is the time to receive wages as the reapers of the seeds of the Gospel in people’s lives as they come to full bloom in faith through the gift of God and the work of the Holy Spirit.

And we ought not to be prideful about who planted the seed or who harvested the fruit.  Jesus said that some sow the seeds and some reap the fruit, but both enter into the labor.  God has chosen to use the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ by humans to be the means He uses to bring people to faith in the Gospel.

This problem existed in the church at Corinth:  people were bragging about whether they came to faith under Paul or Apollos or someone else who preached the Gospel.

Paul writes, “What then is Apollos?  What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each.  I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything but only God who gives the growth.  He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.  For we are God’s fellow workers.  You are God’s field.  God’s building” (I Corinthians 3:5-9, ESV).

We ought not to be concerned with who “won” the person to Jesus – it is not a contest.  What we are to be about is being faithfully obedient to our God and Father by proclaiming the Gospel to every person and praying that God will cause that person to come to faith in Him.  And Jesus tells us, because of the proclaiming of the Gospel that has been done – there are fields upon fields of people who just need a nudge, and God is pleased to cause them to come to faith.

Even if we are tired and thirsty and hungry – if there is any opportunity, the food of proclaiming the Gospel in faithful obedience to our God and Father and the knowledge that now is the time of the harvest should cause us to be sustained and filled and satisfied, as we tell of the Glory of Jesus Christ and His salvation.

And this may seem obvious at this point, but, fourth, faith comes through hearing.

“Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony. ‘He told me all that I ever did.’  So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days.  And many more believed because of his word.  They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.’

Here we see that the woman ofSamaria went into the town and told the residents there her testimony – her story – of what happened between her and Jesus and how she had come to believe that He is the Christ.  Because of this testimony, the Samaritans asked Jesus to stay – and He did – and taught them for two days.

After spending two days with them, many of the Samaritans believed savingly on Jesus, but notice, they people told the woman that they did not believe based on her testimony, but based on what He said – that is how they came to know that He is the Savior of the world.

We may have heard or read testimonies of famous people – or not-so-famous people – and found their conversion stories inspiring, but, what we are told is that normally, people come to faith through the proclaiming of the Word of God – specifically, the Gospel.

Paul writes, “For the Scripture say, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.  For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed?  And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?  And how are they to hear without someone preaching?  And how are they to preach unless they are sent?  As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’  But they have not all obeyed the gospel.  For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?’  So faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:11-17, ESV).

Jesus preached Himself to the Samaritans and many believed.  If we preach Christ and His Gospel, many will believe.  Jesus said they are ready to hear.

After two days, Jesus and the disciples left and went on their way to Galilee:

“After two days he departed for Galilee.  (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.)  So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast.  For they too had gone to the feast.”

Once the woman of Samaria savingly believed that Jesus is the Savior, she had to go tell others.

Jesus’ real human hunger was put to the side as He faithfully obeyed His Father through preaching the Gospel to the woman of Samaria, and He was filled, sustained, and satisfied.

God the Holy Spirit has been working through the preaching of the Gospel since its first announcement in the Garden of Eden, and since Jesus’ ministry – now more than ever – people are ready and willing to hear and believe the Gospel.

But we must go and speak the words of the Gospel – we must go tell others like the woman of Samaria, then we will find our spiritual food in faithful obedience as we continue to be used by God to bring people into the Kingdom – the Church – especially through telling others about Jesus and His Gospel.

Shall we go?

Let us pray:

Almighty God, we are humbled and amazed that You have chosen to bring people to salvation through our proclaiming of the Gospel.  We ask that You would convict us that now is the time to proclaim and harvest, that Your Word will go forth and not return void, and that we will be filled according to You infinite Providence through our faithful obedience to You.  For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

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