Introduction A profound sense of alienation is not uncommon in the world in which we live. It is possible to enumerate a variety of catalysts that typically contribute towards alienation. Some of the most common are indicated below. 1.Social 2. Ethnic 3. Religious 4. Generational
Presentation 10 Introduction Our passage highlights the plight of a Samaritan woman, who knew the sore experience of alienation. She was treated as the off-scouring of her community. Significantly, there was no essential difference between her and Nicodemus, the religious leader - both had precisely the same need. Both were alienated from God, which is by far the most serious kind of alienation to be presented with. Jesus’ approach towards this woman is very instructive and reveals the bridge-building skills that he regularly employed to reach out to the lost.
Presentation 10 Jesus’ Bridge-building The first thing to note is Jesus’ zealous determination to win this woman. In v4 we read that ‘Jesus had to go through Samaria’. Why? Most Jews avoided it like the plague. Travelling North from Jerusalem to Galilee the orthodox Jew would cross over the River Jordan and by taking this longer route avoided having to set foot in Samaria, which was considered an unclean country. But Jesus was constrained to go through Samaria. Why? Because there was a woman there with a need that he was determined to meet. Jerusalem Sychar. Nazareth Sea of Galilee Dead Sea River Jordan Route of orthodox Jews Route Jesus took Samaria
Presentation 10 Jesus’ Bridge-building Unlike Nicodemus not everyone is prepared to seek Jesus out to discuss their problem. Some people write themselves off or, have been written off by society. They cannot believe that God could have any interest in them. Jesus does not sit back and say, “The first move is theirs”. He often makes the first move. He seeks people out. He tells us that he came ‘to seek and to save what was lost’ Lk. 19v10. This should be the pattern for the church’s mission! Not to wait until people come to church meetings. Ask God to help you to identify people with a need, people that you can reach out to in his name. Ask also to be given the zeal that consumed Jesus to win others to God?
Presentation 10 Jesus’ Bridge-building Secondly, we are confronted with the sheer selflessness of Jesus. He and his disciples had covered a distance of some forty miles on foot. Arriving at midday when the sun is at its hottest. The obvious thing to do would have been to seek some shelter from the blistering heat of the sun. Shelter, rest, and food would be the normal priority of the traveller. Jesus had different priorities. He sent his disciples off to get food, while he stayed at the well under the glare of the midday sun. Why endure such personal discomfort? It was the only time he could meet this particular woman.
Presentation 10 Jesus’ Bridge-building Every other person collected their water in the early morning but at midday a solitary figure made her way to the well. Why? Surely to avoid the scathing criticism and cruel jibes of all the other women of the village. “Trying for a place in the Guinness Book of Records are we? How long will man No.5 last? Where did you pick up your latest toy-boy?” Isolated by her own behaviour she crept out to the well in the heat of the day. Little realising that the stranger propped up against the well was experiencing great discomfort and fatigue for her sake. Are we selfless in our evangelism? Or are we often too tired or, too busy or, too distracted to reach out to folk in need?
Presentation 10 Jesus’ Bridge-building The third thing we notice about Jesus is his willingness to be misunderstood. Imagine what people would have thought if they saw Jesus, a Jew, speaking not only with a woman but with a despised Samaritan, a Samaritan woman of questionable virtue. Clearly, the disciples were amazed cf v27 and for once Jesus’ behaviour left them speechless! Jews and Samaritans were enemies! Samaritans were a despised group of half breed Jews and no self-respecting Jew would come within spitting distance of a Samaritan.
Presentation 10 Jesus’ Bridge-building In addition, no Jewish man would have spoken to a woman in public in this way. Orthodox Jews of Jesus’ day thanked God that they ‘had not been born either as a Gentile or as a woman’. Jesus tears through these barriers of cultural and social prejudice. He was quite prepared to be misunderstood. Are we? Are we prepared to raise eyebrows and meet head-on the prejudice of society or, friends in order to minister to those in need? Are there people that we would never associate with just in case it damaged our reputation? The only reputation we should be concerned about is our reputation before God.
Presentation 10 Capturing Attention Thirdly, note Jesus’ ability to make people feel comfortable. Imagine the apprehensiveness of the woman when she found Jesus sitting at the well. She was used to ridicule. She was used to being devalued. Would this stranger give her a verbal tongue-lashing? To her great surprise he asked for help v9... Step into her thought process, “He wants me to help him! Wow!” Jesus’ request for water gave her a fresh sense of dignity. Those written off by society often respond positively when someone is prepared to put confidence in them. And by putting her at ease Jesus created an environment for communication. He built a platform for preaching the gospel. Unwittingly, this woman began to open her mind and heart to all that Jesus was about to say. Is there something for us to learn here?
Presentation 10 Jesus captured the woman’s attention by exciting her curiosity cf. v11… Interestingly, just like Nicodemus, her thinking is confined to natural categories; “You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep.” Jesus’ offer of living water would have meant more to someone used to thinking biblically. In the O.T. God is pictured as the one, who supplies living water. “Therefore with joy you shall draw water out of the well of salvation” Isa. 12v31 and in 44v3, “I will pour water upon him that is thirsty’. And in 55v1, ‘Come all who are thirsty, come to the waters... why spend money on what is not bread and your labour on what does not satisfy? Listen, to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.” Jesus claimed to be able to satisfy human longing! Capturing Attention
Presentation 10 Jesus promises to place a spring of living water within the life of anyone who comes to him. A spring which is eternal, free, and the source of joy. Wells can be filled in but you cannot easily block a spring - it comes bubbling through the surface. However, this woman saw Jesus only as someone who could make her life a little more bearable. She thought her problems could be solved by minimising her physical discomforts. A kitchen tap would be great! Jesus wanted much more than that for her. He needed to get this woman to think outside of the box of physical categories, beyond the kitchen sink! But she is still thinking in human categories when she says, “Sir, give me this water...v15. Capturing Attention
Presentation 10 Exposing Human Need Jesus knows the importance of identifying the real need of the human heart. So often all we see is the sin of others but fail to ask, ‘what lies behind it. What makes them do that?’ Here was a woman who had been going through husbands very quickly. Jesus pressed beyond this trail of broken relationships. They were symptomatic of her fruitless attempts to fill the spiritual void in her life. There was a vital piece missing from her life! There was an inner restlessness that she could not fill. Augustine, an early church Father, described his own early spiritual longings by writing: “My heart was restless till it found its rest in Thee[God]”.
Presentation 10 Exposing Human Need To be effective in mission, we need to share Jesus’ understanding of the human predicament. Let me illustrate. God’s design of man can be compared with the petrol combustion engine. This engine was designed to run on petrol. Try running it on water, washing up liquid or coca cola and failure is guaranteed. A friend filled the petrol tank of her car with diesel and wondered why it would not start! God has created man so that he will only function properly when the life of God is flowing in the human engine. It is only when God indwells the human heart that we begin to be truly at home and able to realise the purpose of our existence. How could Jesus help this women to recognise the spiritual need that was hers?
Presentation 10 Exposing Human Need A word from Jesus shatters this woman’s imaginary world. In v16 we read of Jesus saying to her, “Go call your husband...” By mentioning her husband Jesus began to address her conscience and expose her real need. Jesus does not hold out kitchen accessory religion but a salvation that brings folk into a right relationship with God. And for that to happen we need an awakened sense of guilt and a consciousness of our sin. This woman had attempted to fill her spiritual appetite through a string of failed relationships. But only God can fill that void and before he can do so sin has be confessed and forsaken. Spiritual fulfilment is not possible without repentance, without a change of mind and an about turn in the way we have been living.
Presentation 10 A Determination To Heal Notice this hitherto talkative woman gives the briefest of replies, ‘I have no husband’. Her guard is now up and she is eager to avoid exposure. However, Jesus loved this woman too much to let her wriggle away. That said, he is not like the editor of a sensational Sunday newspaper keen to expose the sin and failure of others in order that his readers might gloat over it. Instead, when he wounds, it is in order to heal. He exposes sin privately that we might get rid of it. And when he exposes our sin it is that we might face it and discover how to deal with the very thing that would spoil our enjoyment of God.
Presentation 10 A Determination To Heal However, this woman continues to react characteristically. When people feel uncomfortable, when their conscience begins to challenge them then they invariably want to change the subject. This woman does so by deflecting attention away from herself. She does so by initiating a ‘safe’ theological debate asking, where God should be worshipped? Jews and Samaritans had disagreed over this matter for hundreds of years. But Jesus refuses to be distracted by this red herring!
Presentation 10 A Determination To Heal Jesus refocuses the conversation. And in doing so he does something very wonderful, he reveals his identity. He is not a strange Jew, or even a great prophet, but the eternal Son of God. It was this revelation that finally broke through the resistance in her heart; the realisation that she was standing before the expected and long awaited Messiah Deliverer. Now the thing that overwhelmed her was the discovery that he, despite knowing every detail of her sinful past, still wanted to bless her! Today, as God’s Word is proclaimed, Jesus continues to draw back the curtain to reveal the uniqueness of his person.
Presentation 10 Conclusion How do we get this living water? What is the bucket we gather it in, in order to make it our own? Faith is the bucket, a faith that is produced within our hearts as God’s Word is read or, preached. We come to discover, as the women at the well came to discover, that Jesus can be trusted. The blessings of the gospel can only become our through faith in Christ. Is your heart restless? Have you not yet tasted the living water which quenches your inner spiritual appetite? Jesus says, “If any man thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” Jesus is the answer to man’s alienation from God and inner spiritual restlessness. Hallelujah what a Saviour!