February 11, 2018
I have never had high expectations in life, but I do have deep longings. Given my emotional bent, I don’t expect great things from life in this world. However on beautiful summer days when the weather is ideal and I feel good, I find myself wistful for that day to continue forever, but it never does. I am longing for something that I can’t even seem to put into words. The best way I can describe it is that I am longing for life and eternity.
I’m sure that I’m not alone in this. I believe everyone has these longings. In Eccl.3:11 we read, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” This morning we are in Jn.4. It is the story of Jesus and the woman at the well of Sychar. As we consider this story we will see that entering into life with Jesus brings fulfillment to our deepest longings.
I. WE RECEIVE FULL ACCEPTANCE BY JESUS. Jn.4:1-9
A little history lesson will help us get a picture of what was going on in these verses. After King Solomon died, the nation of Israel divided into the northern and southern kingdoms in 930 BC. The southern kingdom was called Judah and the northern kingdom was called Samaria because the city of Samaria was its capital. In order to keep his people from going to the temple in Jerusalem, Jeroboam, the king of Samaria set up two golden calves, one in the north and one in the south and told the people to worship these calves. It was idolatry.
Over the next 200 years the northern kingdom turned further away from the Lord, to the point that they were practicing child sacrifice. In 722 BC, Assyria conquered the northern kingdom and resettled the very best and prominent Jews throughout the Assyrian empire. They also brought in people from Babylon and other Gentile areas. These gentiles intermarried with the Jews still living in the northern kingdom. Their descendants came to be called Samaritans. In about 400 BC, the Samaritans built a rival temple on Mt. Gerizim. They set up their own religion which was based on the Pentateuch, the first 5 books of the Old Testament. They did not accept the rest of the Old Testament. Along with this I read that there were other religious practices that were not in keeping with Judaism. In about 110 BC, led by a Jewish Priest named John Hyrcanus, the army of Judah invaded Samaria and destroyed the temple on Mt. Gerizim. This only deepened resentments and hostilities between these two people groups. By the time we get to Jesus in about 6 BC, Jews and Samaritans did not associate with each other if they didn’t have to. These people did not like each other.
And so we come to Jn.4. Jesus is making his way north to Galilee and the quickest route was through Samaria. Jesus and his disciples come to the well at Sycar. It is noon time and it is hot, and Jesus is tired. He sits by the well while the disciples go into the city to buy food. A Samaritan woman comes to get water. This is interesting because the women usually came to get water either in the morning or the evening when it wasn’t so hot. But this woman came in the heat of the day.
We see what happens. Jesus asks the woman for a drink of water. It was a very inappropriate thing to do. For one thing, Jewish men did not usually talk with women, let alone a Samaritan woman. And this woman was taken aback. She couldn’t believe that Jesus was talking with her. But there is another level of inappropriateness going on. No Jew in their right mind would ever think of drinking from a pitcher that was handled by a Samaritan, let alone a Samaritan woman. It wasn’t that they were afraid of getting Samaritan germs; rather they believed it would make them unclean. In fact, an alternate translation for the parenthesis in v.9 is “for Jews do not use dishes Samaritans have used.”
But we do not get the slightest sense that Jesus was worried about talking with this woman. He doesn’t pull back. He doesn’t ignore her. In fact he asks her for a drink of water. There is no fear on the part of Jesus of becoming unclean and when you stop to think about it, Jesus was the holiest, cleanest Jew in Israel at the time. Take the whitest sheet you can find and get it around mud and it won’t be long before that sheet is unclean. But it doesn’t work that way with Jesus. In fact Jesus teaches that it’s not what goes into a person from the outside that makes that person unclean. It is what comes out of that person’s heart that makes them unclean. There was no unrighteousness in Jesus and so nothing outside of Jesus could contaminate his righteous life. This woman knew nothing about Jesus. She was surprised that a Jewish man would treat her with respect and even ask her for a drink of water.
The world we live in thrives on antagonism and bigotry. It is normal for people in all parts of the world to feel disrespected, unwelcomed, unappreciated, unwanted. It is common for people to be treated as less than human just because of their ethnicity, their place of birth, their skin color or whatever. It doesn’t take much. In our country this is often played out between whites and blacks, but that is not the only racial antagonism found in this country. There are plenty of others. These kinds of hostilities do things to people that are destructive and breed hatred regardless of which group you are in.
The important thing to see here is that Jesus accepts people as they are. He welcomes people of every ethnicity, skin color, and culture. In this case he was part of the privileged group. But that meant little to him in relationship to this woman. In fact, Jesus also knew what it is like to be despised and rejected by his own people.
The Bible says that God is love. Jesus is God embodied in human flesh. He reveals God, and we see that he loves all people as they are. He is interested in you and me. There is nothing that you have done or can do to diminish God’s love for you. It is a wonderful thing to know that God accepts us as we are. You never need wonder about whether or not God loves you. He does! He made us!
II. WE RECEIVE ETERNAL LIFE IN JESUS. Jn.4:10-19
Jesus offers to give this woman living water. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus told Nicodemus about being born of water and spirit and now he is talking about giving living water to this Samaritan woman? Of course, living water speaks of fresh, running water as opposed to water that stands still and is stagnant. Think of drinking from a fresh mountain stream. But there is more to this picture. Again, Jesus is appealing to the Old Testament. Listen to some verses.
In Jer.2:13 we read, “for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” In Zc.14:8 it says, “On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter. And the LORD will be king over all the earth.” Living water speaks of God’s grace, cleansing of sins, life, and transformation by Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.
We can see from v.11 that she did not understand what Jesus was talking about. This is generally the way it is in the world. People do not really understand what we are trying to say when we talk about life in Christ and the kingdom of God. These concepts are not in their mind. That is because they think only in terms of life in this world. She thought Jesus was talking about physical water. And so Jesus clarifies that no, he is using water as a metaphor for eternal life, for a life that is so satisfying that she will never thirst again. She still didn’t get it. In v.15 she says, “Give me this water so I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
And in response Jesus says something that seems to come out of left field. “Go, call your husband, and come here.” “What? What does my husband have to do with any of this? I have no husband.”
Why did Jesus tell her to call her husband? Here’s what I think. This woman came to the well to draw water to quench her thirst. Jesus wanted to help her see that she was spiritually thirsty as well. Jesus immediately clarifies the woman’s answer by saying, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband.”
Here was a woman who was just trying to survive. It was very difficult for a single woman to live alone at that time because it was very much a man’s world. Women had little resource or recourse to provide for themselves. Perhaps some of her husbands died or perhaps they divorced her. It might be that no one else would take a chance on marrying her and so she took what she could get and was just living with a man outside of marriage. It was the best she could do. It was a life, but not a promising or satisfying life. What is more, it was a life that had little to do with God. This woman was living a self-centered, self-directed, fear-filled life apart from God.
Right away she realized that Jesus was no ordinary man. “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.” So why did Jesus have to throw all of that up in her face? No one particularly likes having their immorality and brokenness exposed. I will point out that there does not seem to be any hint of condemnation in Jesus’ voice. He just states the truth and because the woman had never met Jesus, she realized that Jesus was someone special. He knew stuff about her. And he knows stuff about you. The reality is that before anyone will begin to listen to Jesus’ offer of life, they need to come to a place in which they hear the truth about their lives. This is true for all of us.
Now some of us were baptized when we were babies. I was baptized when I was a baby. Maybe you were told that by baptism your sins are forgiven and you are in the family of God. Well, this does not in any way change the fact that before we can receive eternal life from Jesus, we need to come to grips with our selfish, self-directed, self-reliant, fear-filled, disobedient lives. I don’t know about you, but my being baptized as a baby didn’t take away my self-centered, disobedient will. I still had to come to a place of repentance and active faith in Jesus.
Most people draw their life from the things and people of this world. They think about life in this world only. Like this woman, their goal is to secure their lives in this world. We all understand this. But this focus leaves little room to consider the reality of God and our accountability to Him. If we are satisfied with our current life on earth why would we have any desire to receive life from above? At the end of the day, we will not give an account of ourselves before anyone in this world. We will give an account before God. And if we have not repented of our sin and received eternal living from Jesus, we will only know eternal death because we have ignored or rejected life in Christ. Have you received eternal life in Jesus?
III. WE RECEIVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD THROUGH JESUS. Jn.4:20-26
Jesus shows us that God accepts us as we are. But he does not let anyone who comes to him remain as they are. Jesus shows us that God is interested in giving us new life and the forgiveness of our sins through Jesus.
Once she realized that Jesus was a prophet she raises a question about the proper place of worship. The Samaritans worshiped on Mt. Gerizim while the Jews worshiped at the temple in Jerusalem. She wanted to know where people ought to worship. Now Mt. Gerizim figures prominently in the Pentateuch. So the Samaritans felt they had good grounds for worshiping on Mt. Gerizim. But, of course, in the Old Testament we also learn that God caused his name to dwell in the temple at Jerusalem. The Jews believed that the temple in Jerusalem was the only appropriate place to worship. And so there were competing claims about where the right place to worship was.
Jesus’ answer is interesting. He points out in v.22 that the Samaritans didn’t know God because they had limited knowledge of God. They rejected the Prophets, the Psalms, and the historical books of the Old Testament. The Jews, on the other hand, were given clear revelation about God and his ways. Any salvation that was to come would come through the Jews. And of course, Jesus is Jewish.
But in v.21 Jesus pretty much says, the place of worship is not on Mt. Gerizim or in Jerusalem because in v.23 he says, “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.” In fact that is the kind of worshipers God is looking for.
Last week we noted that the phrase “lifted up” refers to the cross. Well, in John’s gospel, the word “hour” is very significant. It appears often. Jesus talks about his hour, or about an hour that is to come. Look it up. It’s interesting. It refers to his death, resurrection and ascension. In other words, what Jesus is saying is that he is the new temple. He is the person through whom we worship God. By faith in Jesus Christ we receive his eternal life and we are qualified to actually worship God in his presence in spirit and truth. The truth is in Jesus.
When a person embraces life and forgiveness through faith in Jesus, that person is brought into an eternal, ongoing relationship with God in his kingdom. It is a relationship in which we seek to honor and worship God with our lives every day in every way.
The woman responded, “I know that Messiah is coming…When he comes he will tell us all things.” Jesus said, “I who speak to you am he.” The woman left her water jar and went into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” Jesus Christ is the only one who can bring us into a life giving, life transforming relationship with God. This woman’s life was wonderfully changed. What about you?
Our deepest longings have to do with being loved, having a secure and meaningful life, and worship. We all worship some thing or some one or both. Worship is a deep longing. Jesus is the only person who can satisfy every longing of our heart. Are you in a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ?