A Year of Listening to Jesus 1/25 John 4:16-24

16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 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. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

A single woman, divorced multiple times, living with the latest man in her life. In the culture of first century Israel she was an outcast of outcasts. Even today there are many who would reject and judge her. What a different encounter she had with Jesus. He not only did not reject her, he actually engaged her in conversation. He treated her with dignity and respect.

Typically we deal in extremes in situations like this. People would either reject the woman or accept he and her lifestyle as being perfectly fine. Jesus did nether of these things. He absolutely accepted her but he also called her life choices into question. He did it without heaping condemnation on her but he did make it clear that her life was not what it could be or ought to be. She knew that was what he was saying, that is why she deflected the conversation. She really didn’t want to talk about her life.

Interestingly, Jesus went with it. He engaged in the conversation she wanted to engage in. He didn’t do it because he didn’t want to talk about her life. He did it because it kept her engaged and allowed that opportunity for further ministry to emerge. And that is exactly what happened. This woman began to feel the love and respect Jesus gave her and as a result she opened up and her life was forever changed.

People often say, hate the sin but love the sinner. Yet rarely to people stay engaged in the relationship long enough for the other person to experience that love. They are already sensitized to being rejected and will sniff out any hint of it and bale. How willing are you to hang in there, over the long haul, with people whose lives are a mess and need Jesus? Do you know how to truly love them while not affirming their poor life choices? The more you watch how Jesus did it the better you will get at it.

A Year of Listening to Jesus 1/24 John 4:16-24

Imagine meeting a perfect stranger who proceeds to tell you some of your darkest secrets. It would certainly be disconcerting to say the least. You might try to deflect the conversation, change the subject, or flat out deny what they say.

The woman at the well decides to change the subject and take advantage of the knowledge Jesus has by engaging him in a theological debate about worship. It is not a bad tactic. If you want to stir up controversy and get people talking, a debate about worship preferences and theology will certainly to that. The Samaritans were not welcome in Jerusalem nor at the Temple there. As a result they established their own place of worship and the Jews despised them even more for it. The woman wants Jesus, whom she perceives to be a prophet, to settle the issue or at least talk about it.

Jesus makes a startling claim. God really doesn’t care much about where you worship. What really matters to God is that you do worship and you do so “in spirit and truth”. Okay, fine. But what does that mean? Given the setting and context of his conversation with the woman we can draw a few conclusions.

The debate over location for worship is also connected to what things you actually do in worship, what practices one follows. The Jews and Samaritans argued over form instead of function. As long as you performed the right actions, in the right place, at the right times, you were worshipping correctly. Jesus makes it clear that worship is first a matter of the Spirit. You have to be connected with God on a spiritual level to actually worship God. Performing the right rituals without the spiritual reality of a connection with God is useless and actually damaging. Because you are actually fooling yourself into thinking you are right with God.

The second aspect of truth is just as crucial. You have to know who God really is in order to worship HIm. You can have some “spiritual” experience that feels wonderful but if it is focused on a false understanding of God then you are worship a false God. This is where God’s Word becomes so important in worship. It is in his Word, his Truth, that God has most clearly made himself known. It is the God of the Bible who we worship and the more we learn of him through his word, the more amazing, beautiful, powerful, awesome, and worthy of worship he will become in our eyes.

A Year of Listening to Jesus 1/23 John 4:7-15

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “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.” 11 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? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 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.” 15 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.”

Jesus promised the Samaritan woman that he has living water that if she drank it, she would never thirst again. The woman could only think in very tangible, physical terms. She was not thinking in spiritual terms at all. That should not surprise us. Most of us think more in practical, physical terms than we think about things from a spiritual perspective. All the woman could think about was never have to be physically thirsty again and never having to draw water from the well again.

But Jesus knew that she had a deeper thirst. There was an emotional and spiritual thirst in her life. It manifested itself in the multiple relationships she had with men. She was trying to fill some deep emotional need with physical relationships and it wasn’t working. Jesus was offering to quench her spiritual thirst and in the process heal her emotional needs as well.

So often we try to fill the spiritual void in our lives that exists because we are estranged from God. We try to fill it in ways that promise much but deliver little. In fact they usually end up making things worse. That was certainly that case with this woman. She was an outcast on several levels because she was trying to fill he need for love and acceptance in was that only destroyed her relationships.

What Jesus was promising to do for her was heal her spiritual brokenness and give her the hope and joy of a relationship with God that would satisfy her deepest longings. Not only did he promise a changed life now, but he promised that such a life would extend on into eternity. How sad is it that we recognize that something is not right in our lives and when we try solutions of our own design we only make it worse. How glorious is it that Jesus comes to us, even in our most broken moments and offers a life beyond our wildest dreams and he offers it for free.

A Year of Listening to Jesus 1/22 John 4:7-15

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “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.” 11 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? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 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.” 15 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.”

The parenthetical note in verse 9 is shocking if you understand the context, “for Jews have no dealing with Samaritans”. There was such animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans that a Jew would walk miles out of his way to avoid crossing through Samaritan territory. They were considered half-breed traders to the faith, heretics and idols worshippers who were worse in some ways that the pagans around them, because they once were a part of Judaism in the past.

Not only is it shocking that Jesus spoke to a Samaritan, which the woman acknowledges, but the fact that Jesus is speaking to a Samaritan woman is even more disturbing and confusing to her, because men would not normally speak to a woman they did not know. But here is Jesus breaking all conventions to speak to a Samaritan woman.

So what are we to make of that? The word that comes to mind is dignity. Jesus treated this woman, and all women with dignity. He treated her as a person of value. He did not gloss over her sin as we will see later in the chapter. But he did not interact with her primarily as a sinner but as a person in need of grace and mercy as well as some shocking truth to put her on a path to God.

From the immediate context we can assume that this woman is an outcast in her own village. She is alone at the well gathering water in the heat of the day. Women at that time would do this early in the morning, gathering the water they needed for the day before the heat of the day. They would also make it a social event. Even today woman don’t go to the restroom alone. Back then they would do as much of their chores together as possible. This woman is alone. The other women do not include her in their circle. When we find out about the number of men she has had we understand why the other women don’t want her around. Nobody wants her near their man, just in case.

Jesus pushes all that aside and speaks to this woman and engages in a conversation that quickly takes a turn she did not expect. He focuses on giving her a new life by way of living water. She doesn’t understand what he is offering. She thinks he is offering her some kind of water that will make it possible for her to never have to come to the well again, to never have to be reminded of her shame by being there in the heat of the day, isolated from others and reminded of her sin. What she will find is that Jesus is in fact offering her a way to remove the guilt and shame of her sin and a way to be no longer be isolated and cast out but we welcomed into the fellowship of Christ and a relationship with God.