This blog series studies the word and actions of Jesus throughout the four gospels and applies them to us today. If you would like to start at the beginning, go here.
JOHN 4: 1- 41. Jesus has been in Jerusalem for the Passover. He has driven men out of the temple, converted a high-ranking pharisee to belief in His deity, and was seeing more and more disciples follow Him every day. Now He is leaving to go back to Galilee. John 4:1-3 suggests that one of the reasons for Him leaving was that the Pharisees noticed His growing popularity. This is not the only reason, but it is a good one. The Pharisees were wounded and convicted of their sin of profiteering in the Temple, and their wounded egos were looking for revenge.
“Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), 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.”
I have usually read this verse without much thought. Jesus was Here and now He is going There. But did you know it is 35 miles from Jerusalem to Sychar? That’s a two to three day walk. That meant they were probably sleeping outside on the ground, drinking water from rivers, eating fruits and grains from trees and fields, and walking in the hot sun on dirt roads, with dirty, blistered, and sore feet.
I have so focused on the destination that I forget there was a journey involved. I often do that in life as well. I think and dwell on where I want to be in the future (financially, in marriage, in my health, spiritually, what books I want to read, how I want our house to look, what needs to be fixed, how much money we will need to fix it … ) that I sometimes forget to live in THIS moment, right now. There is grace and mercy and goodness in this moment, in this day. In fact, Matthew 6:34 says, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” There is a journey involved here, and I have to be in every moment, big and small, and my anxiety and worry over the future robs me of present joy.
Jesus leads His disciples through Samaria. This must have been very uncomfortable for them, because the Jews were taught from the time they could speak to hate the Samarians. There really is no modern-day equivalent to the prejudice and hatred the Samarians and Jews had towards one another, but suffice it to say that the Jews prayed everyday and thanked God they were not born a Samaritan. Even most Democrats and Republicans don’t hate each other that much.
But Sychar was an old city, even by the time Jesus got there, and it is a city with a lot of history. It had been a city when Abraham was alive. The city was in the middle the mountain pass that ran between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizirn. Mount Gerizim was where the Samaritans had once built their temple. It was here that Joshua had gathered the Israelites after the capture of Ai. On Mount Ebal they had offered burnt offerings to the Lord. Then, Joshua had directed half of the congregation to stand on Mount Gerizim and read the blessings of the Law while the other half stood on Mount Ebal and read the cursings of that Law. Later, it was Shechem (a corrupted form of Sychar) that became the first capital of the Northern Kingdom when the nation of Israel divided.
So Jesus comes to this outcast city to make a point. He is telling us something here, and we don’t want to miss it. Philip Yancey says, “Grace, like rain, descends to the lowest parts.” Samaria is the lowest, basest city in the region, and Jesus goes right into it and sits down at a well. There is nothing so foul, repugnant or low that Jesus does not deign to bless with His presence. I am not beyond His grace, and neither are you. My sin is not so great that I am outside of His mercies. Amen. I must read this story of Jesus’ pursuit of this woman as His pursuit of me! I’m the non-Jew outcast who is hungry and thirsty and who has whored myself out to the world for comfort, peace and stability.
Jesus sits down at a well and waits for a diving appointment with a Samaritan woman. This is a long exchange and they talk about one big idea (salvation) in four ways – Water, her Bedroom, Places of Worship, and The Messiah.
A woman of Sychar comes to the well to draw water, and Jesus says, “Give me something to drink.” This action by Jesus is unheard of on many levels. Men didn’t talk to women. Also, Jews did not speak to Samaritans. They were enemies culturally, but Jesus is not shaped by culture, is He? Jesus uses whatever is evident and around Him to teach, just as Paul did in the idol’s temple. Jesus, the greatest Gift, the Living Water, asks her for a drink and then asks her to receive Him.
“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 nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 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 that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Jesus says that if we know, love and trust Him, we will have springs of living water welling up in us into eternal life. This gets the woman’s attention, but it comes at a price – her heart. What about me? What about you? Do I know this gift of God? Have you asked Jesus for living water? Do you want to stop thirsting for comfort, peace, happiness? Looking for fulfillment in the wells of this world will only make you more thirsty. “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.” She wants an endless supply of water, because water means life. Jesus is telling her that she can be forever satisfied and never have to thirst again, and she wants this.
The Bedroom. After she asks for this water, says something strange: “Go, call your husband, and come here.” This seems random at first, but it is a question that goes straight to this woman’s heart. Jesus sees her desire for life and goes straight to her bedroom practices. He asks her to call her husband, and she says that she doesn’t have one.
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.”
Jesus tells her that she is being truthful, but is also exchanging sex for rent. Jesus is after her heart and awakens her conscience of guilt and sin so that He can apply His forgiveness and grace to her everyday life. Is the water and life of Jesus so sweet that it can persuade me to be exposed? And Jesus offers her life while knowing her sins, just like He does with you and me. He does not take away the offer for Living Water in light of her life and sin. The offer is still on the table.
The Place of Worship. She is obviously convicted and embarrassed by Jesus knowing her sex-for-rent arrangement, because she changes topics very quickly to the temple. It is such an awkward transition, too. When you are caught in sin, are you honest and open and ready to confess and repent, or do you deflect and change the subject?
“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.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.”
Jesus is not thrown off by her elusiveness. He is the Great Hunter. You see, everything is about Jesus. Water, Marriage, Worship, Temples…. It all points to Christ. So Jesus follows her down the rabbit hole a little further and says:
“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 is seeking such people 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 (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.”
Jesus fulfills thousands of years of prophecy by saying that the temple of God is not a place but a Person. Jesus is the temple, and we cannot simply go to a building to do our duty as God’s children. Our hearts must change. We must worship God in spirit because God is Spirit (Philippians 3:3). He is not in a physical building or space, but is everywhere at all times. Worship becomes an everyday, all-the-time act. We can only worship Him with His help. And then, in the most straightforward way in all of the New Testament, Jesus tells her that He is the Messiah, her hope, her Living Water, her Light, her God.
The woman becomes a believer and a proclaimer. She has hidden from her neighbors for years because of her sin and shame, and now she shouts her sins from the rooftops to her entire city because of her encounter with Jesus. Jesus knows everything about her and loves her still. If I believe my life is wretchedness without Jesus, then there is a world waiting for me to tell them. This is instructive. Those who are transformed by Jesus become proclaimers, go from hiding into the light, take their most shameful secrets and shout them to the world, using them as evidences of God’s grace and greatness. Is this you? Are you a proclaimer? Are you a witness to the greatness of God?
All good things to think about. I hope this causes you to reflect and pray. I know it has for me. Blessings.