I preached this sermon at Becontree avenue Baptist Church (www.becavebaptistchurch.org.uk) on 17th May 2009. The main point of the message is that Jesus came to save everyone, regardless of who they are or what they have done. No one is excluded from the invitation. It is of course a personal decision to accept or reject the Good News of eternal Life offered by Jesus Christ.
John 4: 4 – 26, 28 – 30, 39 – 42
4Now he had to go through Samaria. 5So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8(His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) 9The 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.) 10Jesus 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.” 11“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?” 13Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15The 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.” 16He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” 17“I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18The 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.” 19“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. 24God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth.” 25The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” 26Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.”
28Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29“Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” 30They came out of the town and made their way toward him.
39Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41And because of his words many more became believers.
42They 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 Saviour of the world.”
It probably started like any other day for her. Domestic chores, food to prepare, water to collect. Now that was a problem.
Because of her lifestyle – who she was – she was that woman! Because of how she had played the cards that life had dealt her, she just couldn’t go to the well when the other women went. Respectable, decent women went to the well in the early morning before the sun got too hot. Or they went in the evening as things cooled down.
They would make their way to the well and chat and laugh and gossip and then go back home.
But none of the social niceties for her. Oh No! How the other women shunned her, ignored her, talked about her behind her back. Oh they probably watched her as well, just in case their husbands were on her hit list.
She had had five husbands and now lived with a man – a terrible thing to do in polite society. She was most definitely an outcast. A social pariah!
So here she is, in the noon day heat, at the well, collecting water as she has done for many days. But today is different, she had an encounter with Jesus. And as I’m sure you will agree meeting Jesus means you are never the same again.
This man is like no other man she has ever met. He talks to her. Treats her like a human being. Most men have nothing to do with her, or they talk at her. She is used to verbal abuse. She is used to many things but not kindness. Not interest. Not graciousness.
Here is this Jewish man talking to her, asking for a drink. This is so wrong. Jews certainly don’t talk to Samaritans – in fact they try to avoid the area completely. And Jewish men don’t talk in public to women. And proper Jews would never use the same bowls, cups, plates etc that non Jews had used. They feared being made unclean. But not this man – he is different. He is Jesus.
As they talk the woman realises that Jesus is someone special. He is certainly a prophet, but he is also the Messiah!
Then comes something amazing – John 4: 16 – 18 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.” Jesus knows all about her – but he doesn’t condemn her or criticise her for her chaotic lifestyle. He just tells her plainly and simply that he knows.
Many years ago whilst I worked in the bank I had a colleague a young girl called Kelly who had bought a house with her fiancé and moved in with him. The young man, Ian, had an accident and fell off scaffolding and ended up in hospital. Our Admin Manager who made a great song and dance about being a deacon in his local Baptist Church lectured Kelly about how awful she was living with her fiancé and not a word of sympathy for the injured man. On the other hand I simply asked Kelly every morning how Ian was doing and how was she coping.
So the woman in our story rushes into the village telling everyone she can that Jesus is here – he must be a prophet – he told me everything I had done!
It’s a sobering thought that this Samaritan woman is one of the first evangelists – one of the first missionaries. And look at the results of her testimony – John 4:30 & 39 They came out of the town and made their way toward him. Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony
I am amazed when you look at scripture and see how many people of doubtful character are used by God to fulfil his purposes, spreading the gospel and furthering the Kingdom of God. Here’s just a few to think about:
Jacob who was as crooked as they come. He robbed his older brother of his inheritance and did all sorts of dirty deals. And yet he is regarded as one of the great men of faith.
Rahab was a prostitute who hid the Israelite spies in Jericho – There she is mentioned not only in Joshua but also in that great list of faithful men and women in Hebrews. We read in Hebrews 11:31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.
Ruth was a foreigner from Moab and yet she was the great grandmother of King David whom the Bible calls a man after God’s own heart.
In the New Testament we find that one of Jesus’ disciples was Simon the Zealot – a “freedom fighter” or “terrorist” depending on your viewpoint.
Then there was Paul who had been Saul the ultra religious Pharisee and Christian hater. He had men and women imprisoned and stood by approvingly as Stephen was stoned to death. But when Paul met with Jesus on the road to Damascus nothing was ever the same again.
So what do we do? We who have met with Jesus and call ourselves his followers? Do we like the woman at the well go and tell everyone we know about our experience with Jesus?
If we don’t tell people about Jesus how are they going to know about him? We all have different circles of friends, acquaintances, work mates, neighbours and so on. For some people we are the only Christians they will ever meet and if we don’t tell them, no one else will.
Don’t worry about the result whether people respond or not. That’s not our responsibility – it’s their choice to say “Yes” or “No” to Jesus. Our job is to tell them.
So let’s ask Jesus to give us the courage and the enthusiasm to go out into the world and encourage people to come with us to meet with Jesus. Amen.