January 24, 2016
I watched Willy the Sparrow with my boys many times when they were young. It’s about a 10 year old boy named Willy who enjoyed pretending to shoot birds with his BB gun, until he himself is turned into a sparrow. Well, Willy had much to learn. His sparrow friend Cipur agreed to teach Willy to fly if Willy would teach him how to read. In the course of the animated film Willy falls into the hands of 2 rats who live in the basement of a bar. They give Willy something to drink that they call the Elixir of Knowledge. Of course Willy gets drunk and is only more confused.
In Jn.4 we read the story of the woman at the well. She is confused about life and Jesus offers to give her living water. Mmmm! A Jewish man offering to give a Samaritan woman living water? It sounds a little suspicious. But in fact, there is nothing suspicious about it. In this story we learn about another grace gift that Jesus has to give. We learn that Jesus came to give eternal living in the kingdom of God.
I. WE ALL HAVE AN UNQUENCHABLE THIRST FOR LIFE. Jn.4:1-15
The story of the woman at the well is well-known to most of us. Jesus is making his way from Judea to Galilee and takes the route that passes through Samaria. Even though the Samaritans came from the intermarriage of Jews and Gentiles, Jewish people did not associate with them. They disdained the Samaritans. Around noon, Jesus and his disciples came upon the Samaritan town of Sychar and Jesus rested by a well that had actually been dug by the patriarch, Jacob. His disciples went to buy some food.
As Jesus rested by the well, a Samaritan woman came to draw water. Breaking all social taboos, Jesus asked the woman for a drink. Not only was it inappropriate for a Jewish man to speak to a woman like this, it was very inappropriate for him to receive a drink of water from her hand, especially since she was a Samaritan. This is not lost on the woman. In v.9 she is shocked. “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” It is interesting that Jesus doesn’t even address her question. Instead he immediately begins to talk with her about living water that only he can give.
A similar thing happens in Jn.3 where Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night and says, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus basically ignores what Nicodemus says with the words, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."
Before saying anything else, let me point out that the phrase “living water” and “kingdom of God” are basically referring to the same thing. Jesus is talking about a kind of life that he alone can give. It is a life so full that it never ends. It is a life that finds its fullness in the good rule of God within and over a person’s life.
The woman didn’t really know what Jesus was talking about. She thought Jesus was talking about physical water. So in v.13-14 Jesus clarifies his meaning by saying, “…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." In v.15 we see that the woman wanted this water so that she would not be thirsty again. Physical thirst in this passage is a metaphor for our thirst for life. Do we not all have a thirst for life?
Just about everything in our culture speaks to this thirst for life. The reason we go to work is to sustain our lives. But we are not just trying to sustain our lives, we want to expand and improve our lives. We want to have interesting and fulfilling lives. All the commercials on TV are about making our lives better, more meaningful and full. The movies and TV shows portray people who live exciting lives. But here’s the thing: This woman thought that the living water Jesus was offering was normal H2O, regular water. In other words for this woman, all she knew about how to find life was rooted in what this world has to offer.
And isn’t that how it is for most of us? Think about this woman. She had had five husbands. She had gone from marital relationship to marital relationship looking for fulfilment in life, until she just ended up living with a guy. Obviously her relationships did not bring fulfilment in life. There are many people today who are trying to find fulfillment in life through achievement, recognition, wealth, success, material things, pleasure and relationships. But all of these things are temporal and they are just as apt to bring disappointment.
Listen to these words from a former agnostic who became a Christian. He writes, “As a naive teen I trusted the so called "experts" that helped to shape my new world view. The natural out workings of the culture I was raised in of course lead to an atheistic, or more precisely agnostic worldview. In truth I was quite content with this world view. As any other person I found pleasure and fulfillment in worldly achievements. From the perspective of an outside observer I had a perfect life, a beautiful wife, great kids, a successful business, real estate and etc. Contrarily, I somehow intuitively knew there was more to life than mere superficial, subjective accomplishments. Looming was a void that yearned for something beyond what I could explain or understand.”
All the things this world has to offer do not bring satisfaction and fulfillment in life. And the reason why these things do not fulfil our lives is because they were never intended to bring fulfillment to life. The happiness we derive from these things is temporal at best, and we are left with an insatiable desire for more life.
II. ONLY JESUS CAN QUENCH OUR THIRST FOR LIFE. Jn.4:16-27
In v.15-18 when this woman asks Jesus to give her this water he tells her to go call her husband, but wait a minute, she says she doesn’t have a husband. Jesus reveals to her that he knows that she has had five husbands and is currently living with a man who is not her husband.
Well, the woman recognized that Jesus was some kind of prophet and so she brings up a religious question about the correct location for worshipping God. This woman was religious. Many people look to religion for finding meaning and purpose in life. And religion has done some good in this world, but it is my observation that the religions of the world are all about those kinds of questions. Where must we worship? What rituals must we perform? What does it take to be acceptable to God or to have the right kind of Karma? Even people who claim to be Christians try to be right with God on the basis of their doing Christian things.
In Jn.5:18 we learn that the Jewish religious leaders were seeking to kill Jesus because he was calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. Jesus tried to help them see that there are compelling reasons why they should have embraced him. And in 5:39 Jesus says to them, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”
These Jewish religious leaders thought that by studying the scriptures they would find life. But just having knowledge of the Bible doesn’t give a person the kind of life that we all thirst for.
In fact, religion is a dead end when it comes to having life. Any religion that cannot give eternal living is a false, dead religion. Even Judaism is a false religion because in Judaism the revelation of God through his word has been misconstrued. When Jesus came they refused to acknowledge the truth about him resulting in a false understanding of who God is.
Back in Jn.4 Jesus tells the woman that where a person worships is not the issue and in v.25 the woman says, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things." She had a hope in the Messiah, God’s anointed King, who was to come and bring deliverance and peace. In v.26, it says, “Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am he." In other words, “I am the one you are waiting and looking for. I am the one who can give you living water that will quench your thirst for life.” Over and over again in the gospel of John, Jesus announces that he is the One who gives eternal living.
I say, “eternal living,” because I want us to understand that the life Jesus offers is not a life that begins when we die. For many years I did not have this understanding. I thought that the hope of Christianity was something far off that I received only after dying, or only when Jesus returns. But I have come to see that Jesus offered to give people eternal living in the present. In other words, He offers this thirst quenching eternal life right now. It is his gift to us.
Now why is this such a good gift? What is compelling about the life that Jesus offers us? This is a very important question because it has bearing on how the church presents the gospel. Is the life you and I are living compelling? As I was writing this message and this question came to my mind I had to pause and think. You see, some view the gospel as a ticket into heaven. It is not a ticket into heaven. When you buy a ticket to an event, you hold onto the ticket till the day of the event. The ticket has no bearing on your life until the event. That is not what Jesus offers.
Some see the primary focus of the gospel to be about the forgiveness of sins. Having my sins forgiven is very important, but it is not the focus of the gospel. Some think that when their sins are forgiven they are given a leg up on everyone else. The slate of their heart has been wiped clean but now it is up to them to toe the line so that they make it into heaven. In this view, the gospel becomes burden of keeping rules and meeting holy obligations.
In the gospels we learn that the value of eternal life given to us by Jesus is found in the fact that we actually enter into a relationship with God himself. When we receive the gift of forgiveness from Jesus he quickly hands us another gift of life, or living. We begin to live life that has its source in God. It comes from God and is lived with God on a daily basis. In Jn.17:3, Jesus says, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
In addition to this, entering into this life means coming under the good rule of God in his kingdom. Whether we know it or not, we all live under some kind of rule, some sort of world view that governs our thoughts and actions. God who created all things, knows best how to live in this world. God loves us and calls us to live in obedience to him. It is to live like Jesus would live if he were in your shoes.
Getting a PhD can greatly enhance your life, and you understand that the course will be challenging. But there will be a lot of good things that come along side of the challenges. When we receive the eternal living that Jesus gives, we enter into his way of life. His way of life is so good that when it is lived out in this sinful world, we face many challenges. So as Christians we focus on the love, grace, mercy, and goodness of God that is ours. We focus on seeing Christ and his ways developed in our living. There is no better, more fulfilling life than that which Jesus offers to us.
III. HAVE YOU EMBRACED JESUS, THE SAVIOR OF THE WORLD? Jn.4:28-42
So what did the woman do? In v.28-29 it says, “So the woman left her water jar 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?" Isn’t it interesting that the woman lost all thought about getting water? Meeting Jesus eclipsed her physical thirst.
In v.30 we see that many of the town’s people were going to Jesus. In v.39-41 it says, “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.” How does one drink of this living water? How does a person open Jesus’ gift of eternal living? It is by believing.
The word “believe” is used in various ways. For example, in v.29 the woman said, “Come and see a man who told me all that I ever did.” She was asking those people to believe something about Jesus. “He told me everything that I ever did.” Those people could have said, “How interesting. He must be quite a person.” End of conversation! It’s one thing to believe something about someone, but it is quite another to actually believe in that person. We might agree that certain things are true about Jesus, but that is very different from believing in Jesus. To believe in Jesus is to commit oneself to Jesus. It is to put confidence in Jesus by entrusting my life to him. When I entrust my life into his hands I am exercising faith. When I entrust my life to Jesus I begin to act on what he has said and done.
So if Jesus says he will forgive my sins and give me eternal living and if I believe what he says, then I will go to him in confident trust that he will do it immediately. What is more, I will begin to live in accordance with his teachings and his good commands. This process of coming to faith and trust in Jesus often takes different forms for different people. The important thing is to put your confidence in Jesus for eternal living.
Earlier I read a quote from a man who was agnostic. Let me continue his story. He writes, “In the summer of 2012 I felt a series of very strong convictions to seek out existential truth. Unlike many folks prodded by another believer in their life, I in isolation determined to set on a course to essentially disprove God. I couldn't at the time explain this internal motivation (thank you Holy Spirit); none the less my quest began. I poured over texts, books and videos trying to determine what the truth really was. For the first time in my life I recognized that Christians did not simply check their brains at the door. I was amazed to discover the bible was not just a book of fables shared out of tradition and to be believed with a blind faith. I was at last able to understand life through a lens of clarity that was just months before thought incomprehensible.
Truly in a matter of months my life turned full circle. In fact I recall the feeling very vividly, it was as if for the first time in my life I could see. It was truly as if a veil had been lifted and all of a sudden in my past, present and future I could see God at work. I remember the very moment I gave my life to Christ. As I drove over a hill with an internal dialogue with God unfolding, to my surprise a beautiful rainbow was on the horizon. (I even took a picture for memories sake) From that time onward I have had an insatiable desire to know Him more and magnify His kingdom. In retrospect of the darkness of unbelief from whence I came I now particularly have an affinity to reach agnostics, atheists and/or non-Christians. Thus my calling I feel is to continue to grow in the arena of apologetics. I'm a 33 year old husband, father and business owner on the verge of beginning a MA Theology & Apologetics program with Oklahoma Weslyan University. I'm not sure where the Lord will lead me from here but after 3 years of study and prayer I'm sure this is where my calling is.
Do you sense something in this man’s story that goes beyond religious ritual and tradition? Do you sense that this man entered into eternal living with Christ? What is your story? Are you alive in Christ? Are you committed to believing in him? Have you entrusted your life to him? This is a critical question that only you can answer.