Second Reformed Church

Monday, June 15, 2015

"The Woman of Samaria: Water" Sermon: John 4:1-15

“The Woman of Samaria:  Water”

[John 4:1-15]

June 14, 2015Second Reformed Church

            If the Lord is willing, for the next three weeks, we will be looking at Jesus’ encounter with the woman of Samaria.  We begin this morning with Jesus’ arrival and His discussion about water:

            “Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee.  And he had to pass through Samaria.  So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.”

            We see, first, this morning, Jesus obeyed the Father.

            John explains that when the Pharisees heard Jesus’ popularity among the people was growing and that He – through His disciples – was baptizing more people than John, Jesus left Judea and headed towards Galilee.

            If we picture modern day Israel, we can divide the land to the west of the Jordan River – and understand the landscape at the time of Jesus – generally – like this:  Judea was in the south.  Galilee was in the north.  Samaria was in the middle.

            So, why did Jesus leave?  Was He afraid of the Pharisees?

            Surely the Pharisees were beginning to be troubled by Jesus – He could turn the people against them and anger the Romans – so they were watching Him, and soon they would be seeking ways to kill Him (cf. 5:18).

            But the reason Jesus left was not due to the Pharisees, but due to His following the will and the timetable of God the Father.  It was not time for Jesus to encounter the wrath of the Pharisees.

            We will remember when we looked at the wedding at Cana in chapter 2, when Mary asked Jesus to do something about the lack of wine, Jesus responded, “Woman, what does this have to do with me?  My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4b, ESV).  Again and again through the Gospels, we are told that Jesus did not act when it was not time, and He did act when it was time.  God the Father gave His Son a timetable to follow, and Jesus obediently followed the will of His Father.

            So, in obedience to the Father, Jesus left Judea, and then we are told that He “had” to pass through Samaria.  And that statement wouldn’t necessarily raise any eyebrows, because we don’t live in first century Israel – “O.K., that was the only way to go.”  But the fact of the matter – as the first century historian, Josephus, records – there were three roads that Jesus could have taken – two of which did not go through Samaria.

            Even so, we might think, “Well, who cares if He went through Samaria or not?”

            The reason the question is raised is that – nationally – the Jews hated the Samaritans, and the Samaritans hated the Jews.  Samaritans were considered “half-breeds” – they were the descendants of the joining together of Jews and Gentiles – they were not pure Jews.  Not only that, they did not worship at the Temple in Jerusalem – they worshipped in their own temple at Mount Gerizzim.  They had incorporated pagan rites into their worship, and they only believed the five books of Moses – they did not believe the books of the prophets.

            We see this hatred portrayed in the scandal of the parable of “The Good Samaritan” – it was the Samaritan – the one the Jews looked down upon – who was willing to help the Jew who had been mugged and left for dead – not the priest and the Levite who were also Jews.

            So, we would think that Jesus would want to avoid going through Samaria, if possible.  And it was possible – there were two other roads to where Jesus wanted to go that didn’t go through Samaria.  So why are we told that He “had” to go through Samaria?

            Again, because He was obeying the will and plan of His Father:  Jesus had to go through Samaria at that time to meet the woman He would meet at Jacob’s well.

            Often we wonder why things happen in our lives – we look at things that are happening and the places we are living and working, and we wonder what the point is – if we are really doing any good.

            Now, it is good and right for us to pray and consider if we are doing what is right and living the way God would have us live and doing what God would have us do.  But I would challenge you took look back over your lives – over some of those times when you didn’t know why certain things were happening – or why you were in a certain place.  See if you don’t see a pattern – of being led from one place to another.  We won’t always see the connections – but sometimes we will!

            As I look back over my life, I see how God was preparing me for ministry from a young age.  One example:  I intended to go to college to become a research chemist – and Drew was not onmy list of colleges I was interested in.  But my guidance counsellor urged me to give Drew a chance.  And at Drew, one of my friends asked me a question about a book by J. I. Packer, which led me to read a book by Louis Berkhof, which led me to become Reformed in my understanding of the Scripture.

            Seeing that type of leading by our Sovereign God and Loving Father ought to fortify us to obey our Father when He commands us to do something or be something or believe something in His Word.  We should not hear the Word of God and say, “Oh, I don’t want to do that!” or “But, God, why?”

            Rather, we should hear the Word of God, trusting our Loving Father, knowing how He has led us and provided for us in the past, believing that whatever He has for us is leading to the good of all we who love Him.

            David wrote, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are near me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4, ESV).

            Why did David trust the Good Shepherd?  Based on past experience, and based on the Good Shepherd having a rod – with which He would beat off any enemy that came against His flock – and the staff – with which He would lead His flocks away from danger and to safe places.

            Will you trust God, the Father, Who so loved us so much that He sent His Son to live and die and live again for our sake?

            Second, we see that Jesus is really human.

“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.”

Jesus was weary from walking about thirty miles.  He was thirsty.  The disciples had gone into the town to buy food, but Jesus sat by the well because He was thirsty.  This was not an evangelistic trick to get someone into a conversation – Jesus was truly thirsty.

And we might think:  “Who cares?”

The author of Hebrews writes:  “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:17, ESV).

The “so what?” is that Jesus – the Son of God enfleshed – understands what it is to be human, to have a human body, and to be tempted as a human.  We have a God and Savior Who understands everything we go through as humans, because He became one of us.

Jesus knows what it is to cry as a baby and not be able to fully express what He means.  Jesus knows what it is to have a dirty diaper and to be cleaned up by His parents.  Jesus knows what it is to go through toilet training.  Jesus knows what it is to be sick.  Jesus knows what it is to be tempted to lust.  Jesus knows what it is to be tempted to be lazy in school and work.  Jesus knows what it is to walk miles upon miles and be exhausted and thirsty.

            We can never say, “I can’t bring this to God, He won’t understand.”  Brothers and sisters, of course He understands – He has felt all the feelings and temptations and experiences that we all go through.  Jesus understands all of them, and He never sinned.  Look at the Psalms!  The Psalmists pour out their hearts about what they are feeling, what they are experiencing, and even the ways they have sinned and are now repenting – and they do so with the expectation that the God they are addressing understands.

            I have counselled a few people who have been in and desired to be in sexual relationships which God forbids.  I have no way to stop a person from being tempted.  But I can tell them that the good news is that God understands, because Jesus was tempted to engage in sexual sin, but He did not – for the joy of obedience to God His Father, He denied Himself what He was tempted to do.  So, now, we – as believers in Jesus, indwelt by the Holy Spirit – know we can deny ourselves the temptations that comebefore us – and follow God and His Will for the greater joy that has been secured for us in Jesus Christ, through the Power of the Holy Spirit.

            That’s not to say it is easy to say “no” to temptation.  That’s to say God understands what it is to be tempted and what we need to deny it, thatthere is hope, and the struggle is worth it.

            And with regards to water – if we are in a place where we are desperate for a drink, we can call out to God for mercy – that He would make a way to wet our parched mouth, and He will understand what it means to be thirsty – and everything else we can bring before Him.

            One other thing to note here:  a great deal has been made about the fact that the woman came to the well at the sixth hour and alone.  Many commentators have used it to draw conclusions about her character.  The problem is that we don’t know if John was using Jewish time notations or Roman time notations in writing his gospel.  If it was the Jewish system, she came at 12 noon; if it was the Roman system, she came at 6 PM.  There are arguments both ways.  We will learn something about the woman’s character in the section of the text we plan to look at next week, but here, we can’t draw any conclusions from the time notation.

            Third, Jesus is God’s Gift.

            “A woman from Samaria came to draw water.  Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’  (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.)  The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?’ (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)  Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me drink,” you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’  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?  Are you greater than our father, Jacob?  He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.’”

            So, we have said that Jesus was actually thirsty – this was not a trick.  And Jesus asked the woman who had come to the well for a drink.  (She had something to draw water with, as that was what she was there to do.)

            In speaking to the woman, the words Jesus used, or His accent, let her know that He was a Jew – and her back went up:  “You’re a Jew!  Who are You to be asking me for a drink!  You know that Jews and Samaritans don’t deal with each other as equals!”

            With that, Jesus knew His Father has sent Him to preach the Gospel to her:  “‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me drink,” you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’”

            We look at this text and we understand that God (the Father) so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son – God gave the Gift of Jesus to live and die and live again that all those who believe would be saved from the Wrath of God by Jesus’ suffering and death for our sin and made right with God through Jesus’ perfect keeping of the Law credited to every believer.

            We look at this text and understand that “living water” is regeneration – being raised from spiritual death to spiritual life – having the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit, beginning the life-long process of sanctification – becoming holy.

            Have you ever considered that we have the spiritual water to everlastingly quench the thirst of those who are spiritual thirsty – dying from their lack of water?

            Do we take our container of water and keep it for ourselves, or do we use it to meet the thirst of all those we come in contact with?  Are we hoarding away the water that will save all those who will believe, or are we freely giving away what God freely gave to us and continues to give as an ever-flowing stream?

            Understand, if we have believed – if we have received the living water that Jesus gives – we will never be totally parched and thirsty again – the water will flow like a river forever – because it comes from God Who is the Creator and Provider and Sustainer of all things.

            Who do we know with a real spiritual thirst with whom we can share the water that Jesus gives?

            And don’t neglect to notice that Jesus, a Jew, is giving water to a Samarian woman – two people whom the culture said should hate each other and keep away from each other.  Are we neglecting to bring water to someone because of their race, or sexuality, or ethnicity, or something else?  Here, God tells us, “no.”  We are not allowed to restrict our proclaiming the gift of the water to only those people we think are right and deserving of it.

            Isaiah prophesied and recorded God’s words – which apply here:  “I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me.  I said, ‘Here I am; here I am,’ to a nation that was not called by my name” (Isaiah 65:1, ESV).

            As Paul put it, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16, ESV).

            The Gospel is for the Jews – first – and then for the rest of humanity – even the Samaritans.

            Well, what of the woman’s response?  The problem is that this text is written, and we don’t know if her response was serious, tinged with wonder or if she was being sarcastic and confrontational.

            Is her response curios:  “How are you going to draw this living water?  The well is deep.  Are You greater than our father, Jacob?”

            Or more like:  “Living water – are You kidding?  You don’t even have a bucket – and this well is deep!  Do You think You’re greater than our father, Jacob?!”

            The truth of the matter is that Jesus didn’t need a bucket for the living water, and, most certainly, He is greater than Jacob!
            What we can say is that the woman of Samaria didn’t understand.
             Fourth, whoever drinks of Christ will be sated.

“Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 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.’  The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.’”

Jesus explained to her that He is greater than Jacob:  the well that Jacob dug provided him and his descendants and their animals with water that would quench their thirst, but only for a time – they would become thirsty again.  But Jesus gives water that if a person drinks of it, he or she will never be thirsty again – because, the water becomes a spring in that person which keeps welling up and welling up – there is no end to the water it provides – it wells up to eternal life.

In other words:  the Gospel of Jesus Christ – that He proclaimed and we are called to proclaim – once received by a person – has both one-time and eternal effects.  When a person is born again – born twice – when the Holy Spirit regenerates a person – when He raises them from spiritual death, by grace, giving them faith to receive it – the Holy Spirit justifies the believer – a one-time declaration of “innocent” is made based on Jesus’ death for our sins and Jesus’ Holy Life credited to our accounts.  Then, the Holy Spirit continues to “well-up” in us, causing us to become more and more conformed into the Image of Jesus – as we go through the process of sanctification – becoming holy.  This gift is eternal salvation from the Father, in the Son, and through the Holy Spirit.  And we are given the grace to persevere in this great salvation.

But the woman of Samaria did not understand – yet.

For today, let us remember that we have a Loving, Heavenly Father, Who tells us what to do and leads us according to His Will and Plan.  So, let us rejoice in His care for us and seek to follow all that He has called us to do and be.

Let us remember that Jesus is both the real One God, the Son, and a real human being – so no matter what we might be going through, no matter what we might be tempted with, no matter what our heart-ache or concern, no matter what our trial – Jesus truly, really understands.  He has been through it all Himself.  And He will hear us and answer us as we lift up our prayers to Him in accordance with His Will.

Let us acknowledge that Jesus is God’s Gift to all those who will believe – and that we have been called to proclaim the Gospel to all peoples and tribes and nations.  The Gospel is to go out to all.  And the Holy Spirit will apply our proclamation of the gospel as He sees fit.  But, we must proclaim the Gospel.

And let us rejoice and show others our joy in know that we have a spring of living water in us welling up to eternal life through the Gospel, such that we can be sure of our faith and assured of our faith, and look forward – with John – to the day these words are fulfilled:

“Then one of the elders addressed me, saying. ‘Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?’  I said to him, ‘Sir, you know.’  And he said to me, ‘These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation.  They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

“Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple, and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.  They shall hunger no more, neither thirst no more; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat.  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” (Revelation 7:13-17, ESV).

Let us pray:

Almighty God, we thank You that Jesus understands all that we go through – that He can sympathize with us – and that He has left the Holy Spirit with us that we would be assured and led in all holiness after You.  Open our mouths to proclaim the Gospel, and send the Holy Spirit to apply those words, so they will not come back void, but will well up in springs of water as You save a people for Yourself.  For it is in Jesus’ Name, we pray, Amen.

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