|Lost & Found | The Samaritan Woman|
|October 22, 2011|
Part 2 of 3 | October 23, 2011
I usually don’t lose things. I’m not the neatest, most organized person in the world…but I rarely lose things. If something is important, I’ll usually know where it is. I almost never lose it.
My kids did not inherit this gene. They lose things constantly. The one that irritates me the most is when they lose the TV remote. This happens on an almost weekly basis.
I’ve told them over and over again…the TV remote goes on the coffee table. It doesn’t go anywhere else. It belongs on the coffee table.
But inevitably, when I reach to the table for the remote, it’s not there. This sparks a search and rescue mission for the remote. I make the boys stop whatever they’re doing and come help me look for the remote. We’re looking under the table, removing the couch cushions, turning everything upside down. And since I can multi-task, I’m giving them a lecture about not losing the remote while we look for the remote. It’s awesome.
One thing is for sure…if the remote is lost, we’ll always look for it. We’ll always look for it because it’s important. I know, a lot of us grew up without remote controls. Remember when you actually had to get out of your seat and turn a knob to change the channel? But now, I’ll be honest…I don’t even know how to operate my TV without the remote. I’m not even sure I could turn it on without the remote. We’ll look for that remote because it’s important to us.
Eventually we always find it. It’s under the couch or behind the table or in the dryer…it’s always in a place where it’s not supposed to be. But we always find it…and there is always great joy and celebration when we find it. I celebrate because I have my remote. My kids celebrate because I’m not going to rip their birthdays out of the calendar like I threatened.
Seriously, there is a great sense of joy when we find something that we lost. Especially when it’s something important. I know a TV remote isn’t that important, but if you’ve ever lost something that was really significant…something that really mattered…and then you found it…you know how you felt. There was joy. There was celebration.
Jesus told a story of a woman who lost a silver coin. She turned her house upside down, looking for this coin. And finally, she found it.
In Luke 15, Jesus said, “And when she finds [the coin], she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:9-10, NIV)
There is great joy and celebration when you find something that was lost. But that celebration is never greater than when a lost person is found. Jesus said that every time a lost person is found, there is a huge celebration in heaven.
Nothing matters more than finding lost people. Nothing on this planet matters more. In fact, that was Jesus’ singular mission.
In Luke 19, Jesus said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10, NIV)
Jesus came to find lost people. And every time one is found, a huge party breaks out in heaven.
In this series, we’re looking at three different encounters between Jesus and a lost person. And we’re seeing how Jesus turns lost people into found people.
Today we’re going to look at an incredible encounter between Jesus and a Samaritan woman in John 4.
This is a little bit of a longer story, but let’s just read the whole thing, then we’ll go back and unpack it.
John 4, starting in verse 3. “So [Jesus] left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
“I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” (John 4:3-26, NIV)
Long story today. But also a great story. Let’s go back and pull out some really key thoughts out of this story.
Jesus is on His way to Galilee, and the shortest route was through Samaria. But most Jews would have gone the long way around. You’ll see why as we walk through this story.
Jesus got tired from walking, so he sat down by a well. That seems like a minor thing, but think about it. Isn’t it amazing that God Almighty chose to come to earth as one of us? An all-powerful, unlimited God chose to come as a finite, limited human being who was subject to hunger, and thirst, and fatigue. Talk about a downgrade! But it was the only way He could carry out His search and rescue mission. It was the only way He could come and find lost people.
So Jesus was sitting by this well at about noon when a woman comes to draw water. Most people would go to the well early in the morning to get their water for the day. They went early to avoid the heat of midday. But this woman came to draw water at noon. Many have speculated that this woman came at noon because of the public shame attached to her lifestyle. She wasn’t welcome at the well with everyone else. She had been shunned because of her sinful lifestyle, which will come to light later in the story.
The story really kicks into gear in verse 7. “When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (John 4:7, NIV)
On the surface, this doesn’t seem to be that important to us. Jesus is tired and thirsty, but he doesn’t have any way to draw water from this well. A woman comes along with a bucket. Why not ask her for a drink?
There were plenty of reasons not to do that. We start to see some of the problems here in verse 9. “The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)” (John 4:9, NIV)
John tells us in a parenthetical statement that Jews and Samaritans did not associate. At all. Ever. It was a divide that had been in place for centuries.
More than 700 years before this conversation between Jesus and this woman, the Assyrians captured the area called Samaria. They deported all the Israelites that they thought were too gifted or too wealthy. Sounds crazy, but it actually happened.
Then these foreigners brought in all their pagan gods and intermarried with the remaining Israelites. The result was a people group that the Israelites viewed as “half-breeds.”
This turned into a political and racial divide that ran deeper than anything we see in our culture today.
This is why Jews avoided all contact with Samaritans. In fact, even passing through Samaria made a Jew ceremonially unclean.
But that’s not the end of the problems with this encounter between Jesus and this Samaritan woman.
Jewish men did not talk with women in public. Not even their own wives. And here’s Jesus, talking to a Samaritan woman. That is a one-two punch. He smashed two Jewish laws in one conversation.
This highlights Jesus’ absolute disregard for human traditions. He broke every social, religious, racial, and legal protocol imaginable…and He didn’t care. Jesus made the first move. He initiated the conversation. He loved this woman more than He loved following the rules. We’re going to come back to that.
Look at what Jesus said in verse 10. “Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:10, NIV)
Jesus said, “If you really knew who I am, you would have asked me for living water.”
The tragedy was that this woman was face to face with Jesus, but she couldn’t see who He was. She couldn’t see who Jesus was because of all the rules that got in the way. All of the social and religious rules kept her from seeing who Jesus was.
Many people today can’t see who Jesus is because they can’t see past the religious rules of His followers.
For the rest of this conversation, Jesus dismantles all the rules. He tears down all the roadblocks that stand between Him and this woman. He sets out on a mission to show her who He really is.
And that is what the church is all about. Showing people who Jesus really is. Not showing people religion. Not showing them a bunch of religious rules that aren’t even in the Bible. Not showing them how to be self-righteous. We are called to show them Jesus.
It’s not about us at all. If the church is going to live up to our mission, then we’ve got to get out of our own way. It’s not about us. It’s not about people seeing us. It’s not about people thinking we’re really good or hip or cool or relevant or any of that other junk. It’s about getting out of the way so they don’t see us, but they do see Jesus. It’s about people coming to know Him. And that’s what we see as we continue to work through Jesus’ conversation with this woman.
Starting in verse 11, “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:11-14, NIV)
So far, this woman is simply not understanding what Jesus is offering her. He offered her living water, but she doesn’t understand that the living water of Jesus is forgiveness. Grace. A second chance. She doesn’t understand it, so she gets a bit sarcastic.
“Dude, you don’t have a bucket. And this is one deep well. Yeah, sure. You’ve got “living water.” Ok, I’ll play along. Where are you going to get it? Are you greater than Jacob?”
Jacob was the ancestor of both the Jews and the Samaritans. And she sarcastically asked Jesus, “So I guess you’re greater than him, right?”
But Jesus wasn’t put off by her sarcasm or her doubts. He kept pressing on with His mission, which was to show this woman who He really was. He tells her, “I do have living water. It will quench the thirst that you have. Not your physical thirst, but the thirst in your soul. The living water I can give you leads to eternal life.”
But in verse 15, we see that she still isn’t getting it. “The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” (John 4:15, NIV)
“Ok, if this guy is legit…if he really has this magic water, I won’t have to come out here at noon and sweat my face off anymore just to draw water. Sounds like a good deal to me.”
So she asks Jesus for this water. And that’s when Jesus totally changes the conversation. I mean, this isn’t a gentle turn in the conversation. This is a give-you-whiplash kind of turn.
She asks Him for this great new water, and here’s what He says next in verse 16. “He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” (John 4:16, NIV)
Wow. At first glance, we’re thinking, “Man, Jesus. The highway of your mind has many exits. Where did THAT come from?”
But there is a method to the madness here. Jesus is going to show this woman exactly why she needs His living water. He’s going to show her why she needs His grace to restore her and heal her.
Jesus told her to go get her husband and come back. Starting in verse 17, “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.” (John 4:17-19, NIV)
“Go get your husband.”
“Umm…I don’t, like, have a husband.”
“You’re right. In fact, you’ve had five husbands, and now you’re living with a guy who is not your husband.”
And after this exchange, she tells Jesus, “I can see that you are a prophet.” She’s starting to get it. She’s starting to realize that Jesus is more than meets the eye. But she’s still not there yet.
In fact, she brings up something that seems like a whiplash turn herself.
In verse 20, she said, “Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” (John 4:20, NIV)
Alright, so we started out talking about water. And then Jesus brings this husband thing up from out of nowhere. And then this woman starts talking about worshiping on a mountain. What the heck is going on here?
It starts to make sense when you dig a little deeper. This woman posed a question to Jesus about the correct site for acceptable worship. Was it Mount Gerizim of the Samaritans, or Mount Moriah in Jerusalem? This highlighted one of the intense religious divides between the Jews and the Samaritans. It had been a hotly debated issue for centuries.
But why bring it up in this conversation? Jesus had just revealed that He knew all about this woman. He knew about her sordid past. He knew about her sinful lifestyle. Could this woman have brought up a thorny theological issue to avoid dealing with her own guilt? That happens all the time. I read one commentary on this verse that said, “It is always easier to discuss theology than to face one’s own sin and to repent.”
People in the church do this all the time. They want to get all caught up in discussions about the meaning of some complicated Old Testament verse. Or they get all wound up in a discussion on end times? Are you pre-millenial? Are you post-millenial? Are you a-millenial? Are you___________?
And as long as they can discuss and debate theology, they never have to deal with the sin in their lives. It’s a perfect cover for them. They look spiritual. They look religious because they’re talking about religious things. But what they are not is authentic followers of Jesus because they don’t confront their sin and they don’t repent of their sin.
Is that what this woman was doing? I don’t know for sure, but I’ll tell you this…it makes a lot of sense. She may very well have tried to skirt the issue of her sin by trying to get Jesus involved in a deep theological discussion. But Jesus doesn’t take the bait.
Starting in verse 21, “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:21-24, NIV)
He takes this conversation back to where He wants it to go. He is trying to get this woman to see who He really is. And when Jesus refers to the time that is coming, He is referring to His own death and resurrection. After that, when the Holy Spirit comes, it won’t matter where you worship. All that matters is that you worship God in the Spirit and in truth.
Now, go to verse 25. Finally, this woman comes to the full realization of who she’s talking to. “The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” (John 4:25-26, NIV)
This was probably the first time that Jesus openly confessed that He was the Messiah. And He made this confession, not to his disciples…not to the Jews, God’s chosen people of the Old Testament…not to a rabbi or a Pharisee or other respected religious leader…but to a sinful Samaritan woman.
His entire mission was to save this lost woman by showing her who He really is. And that is our church’s mission, as well.
Jesus took a great risk in going to Samaria and speaking to this woman. Many times, a Jew would be physically attacked for just being in Samaria. But it was a risk that Jesus was willing to take.
What risk are you willing to take to reach a lost person? A lot of us have never shared our faith with anyone because we’re too worried about being rejected. “They might think I’m intolerant. They might think I’m some religious wingnut. They might not talk to me anymore.”
In a series called Lost & Found, I think it’s important that I remind us all of this truth. Found people find people. I once was lost. Now I’m found. And now I’m going to find others.
That’s exactly what the woman in our story did. Skip ahead a little bit in John 4, to verse 39. “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.”
So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers.
They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” (John 4:39-42, NIV)
This woman went from being the town skank to the town evangelist, all because she met Jesus. When she realized who Jesus was, she couldn’t keep quiet. And once the people saw who Jesus really was, they also believed that He was their Savior.
A whole lot of people in that town came to believe in Jesus because one woman was willing to share her story. You’ve also got a story. If you are in Christ, you’ve got a story to tell. It’s a story about how a lost person became a found person. It’s a story about how God loved you and forgave you and saved you. It’s a story of what Jesus has done and is doing in your life.
The question is, are you telling your story?
“Well, I could never do that. I can’t tell people about that kind of stuff. They’ll think I’m weird.”
So, let me get this straight. You’re willing to let your friends, your co-workers, your classmates, your family…you’re willing to let them go to hell because you don’t want them to think that you’re weird? That doesn’t sound quite right, does it?
Perry Noble said, “It is insane for me to claim to love someone if I refuse to share the gospel with them!” It’s true. If you really love someone, you’re going to share your faith with them.
Now obviously you choose your moments. You don’t just walk in and bash them over the head with a Bible. The Bible tells us to let our light shine, but Bob Goff said, “We need to be the right kind of light. If we leave our high beams on all the time, we'll just annoy everybody.”
You pray for God to give you opportunities. But when the opportunity is given, you don’t miss it. Let me tell you, there is nothing that hurts worse than a missed opportunity.
I remember one of my biggest missed opportunities. We’ll call him Steve. Steve and I went to high school together. Steve had a really troubled home life. He drank…a lot. He was involved in drugs. Steve just had a lot of problems.
But Steve was my friend. He knew I was going to Bible College after high school. He knew about my faith. It wasn’t a secret. But Steve had told me that he was an atheist and that’s all there was to it. There really didn’t seem to be any opportunity to share anything with him at all.
And then one day, Steve gave me my opportunity. I don’t know what had happened, but something bad had really broken loose in his life. And he came to me and said, “Man, I really need to talk. I’m really starting to wonder about all this God stuff.”
That is called a golden opportunity. It is really rare that an opportunity is that clear. This is what I had been waiting on. But the thing is, he brought this up after school one day. I had several things to do, so I said, “Cool, man. Let’s talk tomorrow.”
Tomorrow never came. Ever. Steve never, ever gave me another opportunity. We graduated high school, parted ways, and that was it. To this day, I have never gotten over this missed opportunity. And I have also resolved that I will never experience this again. If I have a friend who is lost and I have an opportunity to share my faith with them, I’m going to take it.
Yes, it’s a risk. Yes, it’s dangerous. But let me tell you what is worse…lifelong regret. I don’t know if my conversation with Steve would have changed anything in his life or his eternity. But what I do know is that I didn’t even try.
Some of you are missing opportunities every single day because you aren’t even trying. You claim to love Jesus. You claim to love others. And yet, you never tell others about Jesus. That just doesn’t fly.
Jesus took the risk of going to Samaria and talking to this woman. It was a physical risk. It was also a great risk to his reputation.
Good Jewish men did not do this. They didn’t go to Samaria. And they definitely didn’t talk to a Samaritan woman. That broke every religious and social rule you could imagine.
But Jesus didn’t care. He would break every rule if it meant reaching a lost person. And there is a HUGE example for us in the church today.
A lot of churches aren’t reaching lost people because their rules get in the way. Keep in mind, these are not biblical commands that we’re talking about. Just manmade rules. Things like what you have to wear, the kind of music you have to sing, the translation of the Bible you have to read. None of that is Biblical. All of that can stand in the way of a lost person coming to Christ.
That’s why we structure our services the way we do. Everything we do in our service is designed to connect lost people to Jesus. Now, it doesn’t mean everything is for them. Things like communion are designed for believers in Christ. But we always want to make sure that someone who has never been to church in their life understands what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. We want our church to be as warm, and friendly, and approachable as possible.
The plain fact is that there are already a ton of roadblocks for a person to overcome if they come to Christ. We don’t want to add even more.
But that also means that we catch some feedback from people who don’t like what we do. But most of these people never take the time to understand the heart behind why we do it.
We don’t water down the Word of God. We don’t soften the hard teachings of Scripture. But we will always teach them in a way that can be understood and applied. Always.
We won’t expect people who have never been to church to look, talk, and act like they’ve always been to church. That makes no sense.
We will accept people as they are. With all their flaws. With all their imperfections. With all their scars. With all their sins. We accept them as they because that’s what Jesus did. And we trust that He will change them into the people that He wants them to be…not the people that we want them to be.
That’s who we are as a church because that’s who Jesus is. He loved and accepted the Samaritan woman as she was. He also called out her sin and changed her life. In other words, He gave her grace and He gave her truth, like we talked about last week.
And today, we are giving you grace and we’re giving you truth. If you are not a Christian, I hope you hear this loud and clear. You are welcome here. We’re so excited that you’re here. There is a place for you here. We love you.
And it’s because we love you that we’re going to keep telling you about Jesus. Jesus is the only reason that our lives changed. He is the only hope that we have in eternity. And we love you so much that we have to tell you about Him. And we have to give you the opportunity accept Him as your Savior and your Lord.
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