To read this sermon from The Rev. Dr. David A. Marcus, Jr. click on “Continue reading” below. The sermon is available in PDF format under the link Pastor’s Sermon as well.
Sermon based on John 4:1-42
There are many things that God wants us to share in life. Through studying our gospel lesson from John, we can see through Jesus’ encounter how to share God’s word and witness with others. The first nine verses in this fourth chapter of John provide for us the background. We see that Jesus and his disciples had been ministering in Judea, and the word was getting out to the Pharisees that Jesus’ disciples were baptizing more people than John the Baptist. That was of great concern to the Pharisees. Jesus did not want a confrontation so he decided to go back to Galilee. In traveling back to Galilee, we learn we are to make contact with others. We see the following passage:
“Now he had to go through Samaria.” (John 4:4)
If we were to look at a map today of Judea, one would naturally go through Samaria to get to Galilee. Yet if we were of Jewish descent in biblical times, what we would do if we wanted to make this trip was go to the east, cross the Jordan River, then go north until you were opposite Galilee, then cross the river and go back. Those of Jewish descent would completely avoid Samaria. If we are walking or even driving somewhere we prefer to travel the shortest and quickest distance. Why would someone travel a longer route if not necessary? The reason was due to the hatred between the Jews and the Samaritans during the time of Jesus. Years before Jesus ministered in this area, Assyrians had captured the Northern Kingdom, and some of the conquered Israelites remained. They intermarried with the incoming foreigners, and many of the Jewish faith felt they had committed an unforgivable crime. They saw the resulting race known as the Samaritans, as unclean. The Samaritans were considered to be despicable and avoided at all cost. The dislike among those of Jewish descent and Samaritans continued to grow over the years. Yet Jesus decided that he needed to go through Samaria. He decided to go against the social norm and the religious traditions of his day, and purposefully make contact with Samaritans. So Jesus leaves Judea and takes the short route through the city of Sychar with his disciples.
We see in these verses that Jesus’ first contact was with a person who had three strikes against her a real outcast in society. She was a Samaritan, (strike one) a woman (strike two) and divorced five times (strike three). Her reputation likely resulted in ridicule by other women in the village. Any decent man who wanted to retain his reputation likely avoided her. In verse seven Jesus speaks to this woman. Despite she is a Samaritan, a woman who was divorced multiple times we see that Jesus reached out to her. “Please give me a drink,” he said. Just those simple words and request leapt over all the social norms and boundaries that were in place for years. We are witness to a conversation among them. In this conversation the first principle of sharing the Good News is made clear.
We are to make contact with other people. What’s the best way to catch a cold? Contact with people. What’s the best way to make friends? Contact. What’s the best way to spread the Good News of the Gospel? Contact. We have to make contact with people, and befriend them and get to know them. If we’re going to introduce people to the Good News, we need to get to know them to share the Good News. We must spend time with those who perhaps think and believe differently than we do. This might mean breaking the traditions of the religious establishment. This might mean breaking down some prejudices that we might have. This might mean stepping out of our comfort zone.
After making contact, Jesus teaches us to reach out with compassion. This is made evident through verses 10 through 26 of this passage. Jesus answers, concerning his request for water:
If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water. (John 4:10)
Jesus used the metaphor of living water, trying to get the woman to understand that he could provide her the everlasting water of life, but she did not understand. As Jesus tried to bring the conversation around to the spiritual, we see the Samaritan woman is still focused upon the physical. In verse 15 the Samaritan woman is still thinking how would nice it would be not to have to go out there and draw water from the well all the time. Through this encounter she demonstrated that her spiritual condition was in need of healing. She doesn’t understand what Jesus was talking about. Jesus knew her problem, which is sometimes our problem as well. She needed God, the source of living water, and she had been looking in all the wrong places for meaning in her life. She has been looking for a relationship with other men in the hopes that would solve everything in her life. Somehow Jesus sensed this already and Jesus knew this plan was not working in her life. As they continued to talk about things like worship, Jesus was modeling for us how to reach out with compassion. Jesus doesn’t try to change her living situation. Jesus doesn’t judge her. Jesus’ compassion for her allowed him to see her loneliness and how lost she was in life. At times it is easy for us to forget that people are lost. Perhaps there are some among us who feel lost in some way. We are lost because our relationship with God is not growing. Sometimes we are in need of what this woman experienced with Jesus. We need to know that people care.
Finally in the remaining verses of this chapter we learn we are to bring others to Jesus. There are three responses worth exploring in these verses they are the woman’s response, the disciples response and the response of the Samaritans. Let’s look at the woman’s response first (verses 27-30). Notice her actions: she leaves something, she goes, and she says something. Verse 28 is interesting. What does she leave? Not Jesus, but her water jar. She has every intention of coming back for her water jar because that was a necessary chore in everyday life there in Samaria. However, the importance of the physical has been superseded by the importance of the spiritual. She needs to go and tell somebody about her encounter with Jesus. To whom does she go? Only to those who will listen we learn in these verses. What does she say? Simply, “Come and see a man who told me all the things that I have done. This is not the Christ, is it?” It’s a wonderful response. Her actions prove to us that it doesn’t take a theological degree to share the Good News with others. We can do it too!
The response of the disciples is even more telling in verses 31 through 42. The disciples were surprised to see Jesus talking to this woman. They perhaps thought to themselves, “Why is Jesus doing this, in public for this is a Samaritan woman. What is going on with him today?” In verse 31 they tell Jesus they have gotten food, and they ask him to eat. Jesus says, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” The disciples assume someone else had brought Jesus food, but Jesus in verse 34 makes clear that the food that sustains him is his vocation, which was to fulfill the will of God. The disciples mistakenly thought that the purpose of this trip was to get to Galilee quickly but they are mistaken. In a few short moments following the response of the Samaritans, the disciples learned they were going to spend more time right in their current location. They think life is presently about eating and drinking. They think Jesus is standing there at the well simply because he needed to drink. As Jesus and the disciples are standing among a place that was known for its corn crops Jesus uses this occasion as a teachable moment for his disciples. He says:
Four months more and then comes the harvest. (John 4:35)
In this interaction with his disciples Jesus is trying to teach his disciples not to miss the bigger picture in life. Don’t miss the point of their time here he appears to be saying. Jesus encouraged them to open their eyes and look around, at the fields of people they would come across. The Kingdom of God was ripe for harvest, and Jesus was trying to prepare his disciples to be ready at all times.
Finally, let us observe how the Samaritans respond in verses 39 through 41. Verse 39 says:
Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.(John 4:39)
Following this encounter the Samaritans asked Jesus to stay two more days. More Samaritans came to believe in Jesus not because of this woman but because of their own personal encounter with Jesus. As John writes for us:
And many more believed because of His word; and they were saying to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world. (John 4:41)
The Samaritans personally encountered Jesus. They recognized him as the Savior of the world and they individually began to respond.
Our passage this morning instructs us to improve our communication skills when it comes to sharing the Good News of the Gospel. We must make contact with the lost, reach out with compassion and bring others to Jesus! People are thirsty for answers; people are hurting and looking for salvation. What are we doing in our personal witness to help those people in our community?
Remember God wants us to share!
The Rev. Dr. David A. Marcus, Jr.
March 19, 2017