The Gospel: John 4:5-42
Jesus came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.
A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”
Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” They left the city and were on their way to him.
Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and 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.”
Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” 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 truly the Savior of the world.”
Prayer: Lord, you have promised that when two or three gather in your name you will be present with them. We depend on that promise today and pray that you will move among us. Lord, we pray that you have inspired Mike's preparation, that you will enliven his presentation, and that you will empower our application. Amen
The Message: We are all familiar with the phrase "being in the right place, at the right time" aren't we? This phrase usually indicates a positive outcome and response to a need or an opportunity.
In a spiritual sense, this phrase is often used when we find ourselves blessed, or somehow experience a positive outcome to a situation we have been uncertain about. It is sometimes used as a way to explain the unexplainable, you know when things work out for us spiritually and we are not sure how to comprehend it without sounding too "spiritually out there." Or too "spiritually minded."
In the Gospel reading from John this morning we have this very familiar passage. Is there anyone here this morning who hasn't heard this story before? OK, so as we approach this story I have to say it is one of the most cited and quoted stories of all of the Gospel stories.
So, can I say to you that this story is actually the perfect example of being in the wrong place at the wrong time? Everything about his incident is wrong.
Why is Jesus in Samaria? Why is he by himself? Alone in this foreign place and in this religiously significant place? Then why does he engage this Samaritan woman? Why does he ask her to share the water that she draws from the well? Why does he disclose his divine nature to this woman? Why does he reveal the knowledge that he has about her as a morally corrupt person? Why then does he continue to reveal all that he knows about her? When she seeks to deflect him from that revelation why does he engage her in a discussion about the heritage and nationhood of her cultural background? How does she know that the Messiah is coming? Then why does Jesus reveal that he is the Messiah? How does John know what the disciples are thinking since he goes on to say that no one spoke out loud? Why does the woman choose to leave at that moment and go and share with her friends and neighbors? Why does she confess, to the other people in the village, that this man knows all about her? How does she announce to the whole village that this Jewish character is the Messiah?
Everything about this story should have us shaking our heads in wonder. This is all wrong, out of time, out of place, and without a lot of reason or sense to it.
Before I go on I'd like to give us a moment to consider who might be the Samaritans in our own lives right now? Who are the people, that if we encountered them, we would have to stop and contain our reactions or our thoughts? Let's be honest. We all have them. I am not going to ask you to name them, out loud, so it is OK for you to think of them to yourself.
So, with those people in mind let's return to Jesus and his experience in Sychar, Samaria.
What provokes this encounter and these remarkable events? Well, John has been moving through the moments of Jesus' ministry in pretty rapid-fire succession. John begins his Gospel with a declaration of Jesus as the Light of the world. Then John the Baptist testifies that there is one coming after him, John encounters and Baptizes Jesus, then Jesus calls the first of his disciples, there is the Wedding at Cana where water is turned into wine, Jesus cleanses the Temple, Jesus then encounters Nicodemus in a late-night conversation about life and being born again, we hear briefly about John the baptist and his ministry, there is a discussion about purity which compares John's disciples and Jesus' disciples, John declares that he must decrease as Jesus increases in influence, John declares one last time who Jesus is.
Then we find Jesus deciding to withdraw because the Pharisees have heard that he is baptizing more people than John. Jesus makes the decision to head back to Galilee, but instead of taking the accepted route - the long way around Samaria by the coastal route, Jesus decides to cut through Samaria. Shorter and faster, but definitely more dangerous.
Somehow Jesus becomes separated from his disciples. We do learn later that they have gone off looking for supplies, food, and water. This would make you think that perhaps this was an impromptu decision, an unplanned diversion from the schedule that places Jesus in this strangely vulnerable situation. He shouldn't be here, he shouldn't be alone, he shouldn't sit down at Jacob's well, he shouldn't talk to the woman, he shouldn't, he shouldn't, he shouldn't.
But he does! Then he declares himself, to Samaritans, as the Messiah, as the savior of the world.
What happens? Well, many believe. Initially, some believe, because of the woman's testimony, then others believe as they hear "his word." The end result is that salvation comes to Samaritans in fulfillment of John the Baptist's words from just before this incident in John 3: 31- 36.
"The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, yet no one accepts his testimony. Whoever has accepted his testimony has certified this, that God is true. He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life but must endure God’s wrath."
There is one word that jumps off the page at me from these verses - "Whoever." This is an unqualified declaration. "Whoever." Then Jesus goes on into Samaria and unequivocally shows what John means. There are no more "whoever" people than the Samaritans in the world that Jesus lived in. There is no greater example of "whoever" than this woman who Jesus encounters at the well.
Jesus cuts through all the social and moral and spiritual boundaries and declares unequivocally that when he says "whoever" he means "whoever."
So, can I ask you to go back to the person or people you thought about as your Samaritans earlier? Can you put them in this scenario? Those people who we know would not respond well even if Jesu himself came to them.
We have to be careful, don't we, that we stay open and willing to accept Jesus' "whoever" We must remind ourselves that this is not just for us and those we love, but for all, and to all. All those outsiders, who, make up the great "whoever" outside our comfort zone.
How would it change the way that we thought about those people, how would it change how we pray for those people, how would it change how we talk about those people if they were Jesus' "whoever?"
I would like to end this morning with prayer 8 from the Prayers and Thanksgivings from the BCP on page 816 which is entitled:
For the Mission of the Church
Ever living God, whose will it is that all should come to you through your Son Jesus Christ: Inspire our witness to him,
that all may know the power of his forgiveness and the hope of his resurrection; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Inspire our witness to him, that all may know the power of his forgiveness and the hope of his resurrection. Amen! Come Lord Jesus.
Bishops & Father Mike