THE WOMAN AT THE WELL
The past two Sundays we’ve been in John 4:1-42, looking at Jesus’ extraordinary conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. In Jesus’ day, the tension between Samaritans and Jews was high. They essentially hated one another. The Samaritans had taken the Jewish religion and mixed it with pagan practices, angering the Jews and creating quite the division between the two. While the Jews sought to maintain their religious purity and practice, they treated the Samaritans as if they were less than human. Somehow, along the way they forgot that the Samaritans were also made in the image of God.
Sadly, many people in our world today are still marginalized, disrespected, discriminated, and even hated because of the same stigmatism the Jews in Jesus’ day had. When we fail to see human beings as image bearers of God we don’t just fail to honor and respect them, but we are actively withholding value and dignity that God himself doesn’t withhold.
For the woman of Samaria, it was worse. Not only did an entire Jewish race hate her but the Samaritans, her own people, shamed and despised her. For the Samaritans, getting water at the well was like social hour. The women of the town would often go together and catch up on the weekly gossip, but not this Samaritan woman. She was a woman with a reputation that left her without close friends to accompany her to the local watering hole. This woman had 5 failed marriages and was now with a guy who was trading sex for lodging. This is what made Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman so remarkable. Jesus, on his way back to Galilee from Judea, choose to make a pit stop in Samaria to do what no one else would do; have a conversation with this woman.
Jesus spoke kindly to the woman, valued her as an image bearer of God, and asked her for a drink of water. He later uses water as a metaphor to speak to the woman about salvation and water that cleanses that can only be given by God. In an attempt to expose the issue that has infected all humanity—sin, and her need for God’s forgiveness, Jesus asks the woman if she could go home and get her husband to join the conversation. The woman, full of shame and not wanting to be despised by another person, offers Jesus a half-truth by letting him know that she didn’t have a husband. Jesus acknowledged that was true, that she has had 5 husbands, the guy she's shacking up with isn't her husband, and that friends with benefits is sinful too.
The conversation begins to shift once Jesus starts addressing sin. The woman now perceives Jesus to be a prophet and begins to talk about worship theology. She asks Jesus where the right place to worship God is. The Jews worshiped in Jerusalem and the Samaritans on Mount Garizim. The woman’s sin was exposed and she wanted to know where she needed to go to atone for her sin.
Jesus’ response would have been offensive to both the Jews and Samaritans. He said neither. Jesus explained that the Father was actively seeking worshipers and that He would give people the truth by sending the Holy Spirit to teach them who to worship. Because of Jesus, people would no longer need to go to the temple to worship. By the end of their conversation the woman is totally transformed and goes back into town and tells everyone her sin, and that Jesus forgave her.
Jesus overcame racial barriers, sin barriers, gender barriers, geographic barriers, all in order to make a way for anyone, anywhere, to worship God. It doesn’t matter one’s sin pattern, social status, gender, or race — if they would repent of their sin and embrace the salvation that comes through Jesus alone, they can be cleansed, forgiven, and free!
Jesus’ greatest act of love for this woman was still to come. Jesus later hung on a cross dying for all the sins of this woman. He then rose from death, proving He was God, atoning for the sins of mankind, and conquering sin, satan and death. Still later, He sends His spirit to those who believe to empower them for ministry in the context of their everyday lives.
Jesus has given us His spirit to empower us to be like Jesus, to enter in to the messiness of life like Jesus did with the woman of Samaria. Because of Jesus’ scandalous love and grace we are free to be honest about our sin, struggles and short comings. Jesus’s love and grace isn’t a permit for us to continue to sin, but it is the power that frees us from sin.
Freed people wear their scars outside their sleeves. Ashamed people cover and hide. The woman at the well was full of shame before she met Jesus, but she was unashamed after her encounter with Him. Unashamed people aren’t proud of their sin, but understand they are loved despite their sin. When we realize that there is more mercy in Jesus than sin in us, we marvel like the woman of Samaria, and are compelled to offer that same mercy back to others. We now see our sin and pain as stories that tell of Jesus’ grace, and we are now freed to share those stories with anyone who will listen. The more we are acquainted with the truth that we are truly loved by God, and He is now happy with us, the more compelled we are to share with others how to enter into the same salvation we have experienced!
With an estimated population of 1.7 million people, San Antonio is the 2nd most populated city in Texas and the 7th largest in the United States. Our city is filled with people like the Samaritan woman. People full of shame and guilt, seeking fulfillment and finding identity in everything except the God who created them. People who feel that they could never belong to a church because of their past experience and current struggles.
The church was built by Jesus, and we are all like the Samaritan woman. We have secrets and scars we seek to hide but that Jesus wants to forgive and heal. We can’t expect people to get their sin in order before coming to church. This was why we planted a church, because we are all works in progress and we all need Jesus. We want people to know and love Jesus. The church of Jesus is more like a hospital for people infected with the sickness of sin. We go out, like Jesus, and make purposeful encounters so people’s sin can be forgiven and lives changed. We invite people to church on Sunday, in hopes that if they show up, they can hear how to be set free from sin. In a day where truth is relative, we must enter into our everyday lives as missionaries and declare the truth that sets people free. The gospel is timeless, and we’ve been called to go. The question will we be satisfied with a life of comfort and entertainment that all our technology offers, or will we go and be satisfied by feasting on the meal that Jesus ate — the Father’s mission.
There is a harvest to reap if we don't give up. Be a part of the story God is writing here in San Antonio. If you are a Christian, don’t quit. The mission will continue, and it’s a great joy to serve at the pleasure of King Jesus!