Tonight we’re in John 4, looking at a pretty monumental story in Jesus’ ministry that has a direct impact on how we are to live our lives.
Just like the last few weeks, we’re going to keep doing a refresher of what we’ve read and learned so far, because I think the further into this book we get, you’re going to see the pieces fall together of who Jesus is and why John writes recounts these events.
So looking back to John chapter 1, we talked about how Jesus was in the beginning with God as God, creating all things for the purpose of His Glory and in order to create human flourishing. He gave us everything we needed, and our sin separated us from God. Perfect and imperfect cannot occupy the same space, just as light and darkness cannot occupy the same space. Where there is light, there cannot be darkness.
John the Baptist spent his days pointing people to Jesus, confessing that Jesus was greater than He. John’s disciples followed Jesus, being challenged by Jesus’s mother to do whatever He told them.
Jesus went to a wedding in Cana with his crew, and Jewish ritual required Jews to ceremonially cleanse themselves before eating. The wedding ran out of wine, so Jesus took the water used for the cleansing and turned it into wine, showing that our efforts to make ourselves clean were no match for His blood, which would fully make us clean.
Last week we talked about Nicodemus, the powerful religious leader who approached Jesus at night, asking how he may gain eternal life. Nicodemus had all power and authority, yet he went to Jesus knowing he needed to be made new. Jesus explained to Nicodemus that unless he was born again, he would not see the kingdom of God. We talked about how none of us are born Christians. We may be born in a Christian home or raised with Christian morals, but we are not born with the desire to do good. You don’t have to learn how to be deceitful or selfish; we are born with those desires. Our natural instinct is to be our own God, to be against God. Our transformation comes when we are born again; not physically, but spiritually. When we hand over our trust and our worries and our fears and our selfishness over to Jesus, trusting that His way is better than ours. We talked about the story from the book of Numbers, where snakes were biting and killing people, and Moses put a snake on a stick and raised it up, so that whoever was bitten could look at the stick and live.
And tonight, we’re in chapter 4.
“Now when Jesus leaned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John, 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. 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. A woman from Samaria came to draw water.”
There’s a lot of significance in these first few verses, and it’s important that we point them out and unpack them in order for us to know the significance of this story.
Jesus is traveling from Judea to Galilee, and must past through Samaria. Now here’s some history for you: Jews and Samaritans did not get along. This was known through history. Jews were considered the chosen race, while Samaritans were considered half-breeds. Foreigners had taken over the land of Samaria and had intermarried, leaving behind a mixed race that worshiped God, though did so according to their own traditions rather than the Old Testament Scriptures. To Jews, Samaritans represented the downfall of their nation and also represented forbidden intermarriages between Jews and Gentiles. In summary, Samaritans were outcasts. They did things differently, they stepped out of line, and a great divide had been created between Jews and Samaritans.
Jesus arrived in the town of Sychar, where Jacob’s well was. Jacob, a descendant of Abraham in the Old Testament, bought a piece of land, dug a well, and this well provided his family and children with physical water in a land where there was very little. Keep this in mind.
So wearied from his journey, he sits beside the well at about the 6th hour. The 6th hour of sunlight. We can estimate that this would have been around 12pm. So around 12pm, as Jesus is sitting at the well in a land that Jews traditionally detest, a woman comes by to draw water. Does anyone know why this timing is important?
In any culture where water not an easily accessed commodity, it must be drawn from a well. This well is dug deep into the ground, often with no covering on it, requiring women to take a bucket with a rope and lower it down into the well, let it fill with water, pull it back up, and fill their larger bucket with water in order to take back to their home. And that well is not just outside their house or in their front yard. It is most likely a community well, place in the center of a town or village in order to provide access to multiple families. In Malawi, for example, when we want water for a shower or for cooking, we must walk a half mile down the road from where we stay, draw the water from the well using a pump that has been installed, fill our buckets, and carry them back down the half-mile road on top of our heads. It’s not an easy task. But what is unique is that drawing water 1) always happens at sunrise, and 2) always happens in groups of women. You never see the well occupied alone. Women gather in the morning before sunrise, make the walk to the well multiple times, help each other get the water jugs or buckets on top of their heads, and make the walk back.
But Jesus arrives at the well at 12pm. This would’ve been the hottest time of the day. This would’ve been the least opportune time for him to find someone to draw him water. But this Samaritan woman comes, by herself, at the hottest time of the day. This shows us that culturally she is an outcast. She came when she assumed no one would be there.
So Jesus, traveling through a town that is culturally seen as detestable, stops by a well that traditionally is known to be placed there by their forefather Jacob, which for generations has provided water, a necessity for living. Jesus stops at mid-day, when the sun is highest in the sky, and a woman comes by to draw water, by herself, at the hottest point of the day.
“Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?”
So not only is Jesus speaking to a Samaritan, but he’s speaking to a Samaritan woman, both acts were highly out of cultural practices.
“How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” 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.”
Jesus’s response would have raised at least 4 questions from the woman:
1) What is the “gift of God”? (Eternal life)
2) Who is this man? (Is he greater than Jacob?)
3) What is living water? (On a physical level, it is fresh, flowing water from springs as opposed to stagnant cistern water. On a spiritual level, is it the eternally satisfying life that Jesus provides through the Spirit
4) How can he get water without a bucket?
The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep (Addressing question #4). Where do you get that living water? (Addressing questions #3.) Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock. (Addressing question #2).
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 I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The town of Sychar had praised their father Jacob for giving them the well. They had held him at high regard, but Jesus is showing her that He is greater than their father Jacob. Jacob’s well provided physical water from a stagnant well, while the living water Jesus would provide would be a spring of water welling up. That was the dream. Fresh, flowing water. Of course, Jesus wasn’t talking about an actual spring of water, but our dear friend here misses the mark on that.
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
Jesus says to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 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 now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”
This lady is motivated by the thought of not having to be physically thirsty again. She knows the work that goes into drawing water from the well, water that is stagnant and unclean, and this man has told her that He can provide living, flowing water. She says “give me this water” and he says “go get your husband.”
She confesses that she doesn’t have a husband, and Jesus goes even further to say that she has had 5, and the one she is with now is not her husband. In doing this, Jesus shows the woman that he knows about her sins, which takes her by surprise.
“The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”
The woman turns the conversation from her sin to a controversial religious issue: where should they worship? Has that ever happened to you? You’re trying to have a spiritual conversation with someone, maybe even trying to help someone reveal a sin they struggle with, and they turn the conversation into “Well what about this? What happens when this? Remember this?” That’s what’s happening here.
“Jesus said to her, Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is coming 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 is seeking such people to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Here’s what’s happening, guys. Jesus has showed us that He was in the beginning with God as God, creating all things for His glory. He revealed that he was greater that John the Baptist. He revealed He was greater than the ceremonies used to make ourselves clean. He revealed that He was greater than the snake Moses put on a stick. He was the one who would truly bring healing, who would provide us with new life. And now, Jesus is showing that He is greater than Jacob. Jacob dug a well that provided water for his family. Jesus gives the gift of living water, eternal life, and those who drink of this water will never be thirsty again. We won’t be truly and fully satisfied with our hope in anything other than Jesus. Jacob worshipped on a mountain, but Jesus was not restricted by a specific place of worship. Jesus was to be worshiped everywhere, in Spirit and in Truth.
Jesus meets this woman where she is at—in her sin, in her shame, in her abandon. Jesus meets her at the well in broad daylight, breaking cultural taboos and traditions, and meeting her where she is at. She has lived her life trying to fill her desires with dirty, stagnant water. Jesus tells her he can offer her better. But first, she must acknowledge her sin. She must confess her sin. She makes the claim ‘I have no husband.’ This is true, but this isn’t the root of her sin. This isn’t the real problem. Jesus shows her he already knows her sin. She’s had 5 husbands. Let’s be real here. She didn’t need to hide her sin and her shame from him. He met her where she was at. He met her in her sin and shame and abandon and said “I can offer you something better.”
The woman said to him, “I know the Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ.) When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”
This is the Gospel. Jesus meets you where you’re at—in your sin, in your shame, in your abandon. Listen to me: Jesus isn’t afraid of your sin. Your sin doesn’t shock him. It doesn’t scare him; it doesn’t surprise him. Your sin does not keep Jesus away, rather, your sin is what brings Jesus to the well. Our sin leaves us desperate to be filled. We have a thirst that nothing seems to fill. And so Jesus meets us at the well. In broad daylight, in your sin, your shame, and your abandon.
You want to try and hide your sin? You want to try to minimize it? Make it sound like it’s not that big of a deal? You’re only hiding it from yourself. He already knows. It doesn’t shock him. It doesn’t keep him away. Jesus meets you where you’re at and offers you something more. But you must repent of your sin. You must acknowledge your need for a Savior. This woman knew that the water from the well wasn’t going to fill her. She desired something more. And we all do. We desire something that will fill us, but we must confess our sins. And when we turn that over to Jesus, when we put our trust and hope in Him, we are invited in as true worshipers—worshipping in spirit and truth, meaning both in faith and in fact. We trust the words we read. We believe the words we read. And we live it out. We hand over our lives to the King of the Universe, who meets us at the well in broad daylight, ready to give us something that will fill us forever.