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Life-Changing Encounters with Jesus: The Woman at the Well

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Sermon shared by Jonathan Mcleod

March 2008
Summary: Jesus’ gift of living water satisfies the thirst of our souls.
Denomination: Baptist
Audience: General adults
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THE ENCOUNTER (vv. 1-9)

“When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?’ (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The 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.)” (vv. 7-9).

From a Jewish perspective, there were three strikes against the woman at the well:

1. She was a WOMAN. When Jesus’ disciples returned, they “were surprised to find him talking with a woman” (v. 27). For a Jewish man to speak to a woman in public was a definite breach of social custom. Many Jewish men would not even speak to their wives in public!

2. She was a SAMARITAN. In Jesus’ day, there was bitter hostility between Jews and Samaritans. The woman said to Jesus, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. Who can you ask me for a drink?” (v. 9).

The reason for the hostility of the Jews to the Samaritans goes back a long way. When the Assyrians took Samaria captive they deported large numbers of the inhabitants and replaced them by people from all over their empire (2 Kings 17:23-24). These people brought their own gods with them (2 Kings 17:29-31), but they added the worship of [the Lord] to their other practices (2 Kings 17:25, 28, 32-33, 41). In time their polytheism disappeared, and they worshiped [the Lord] alone, though their religion had its peculiarities. For example, they acknowledged as sacred Scripture only the Pentateuch [Genesis through Deuteronomy]. They thus cut themselves off from the riches in the Psalms, the Prophets, and other books. Their religion was also marked by a pronounced bitterness toward the Jews. When the Jews returned from exile in Babylon the Samaritans offered to help them rebuild their temple, but the offer was refused (Ezra 4:2-3). This naturally engendered great bitterness. One might have expected that the Jews would have appreciated the fact that the Samaritans worshiped the same God as they did. But it did not work out this way. The Samaritans refused to worship at Jerusalem, preferring their own temple built on Mt. Gerizim c. 400 B.C. When this was burned by the Jews c. 128 B.C. relations between the two groups worsened. (Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, pp. 226-27)

To call someone—especially a fellow-Jew—was a great insult. Jesus was called a Samaritan by the Jews (John 8:48).

3. She was IMMORAL. “The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband” (v. 18). We are told that she arrived at the well at “the sixth hour” (v. 6). The sixth hour was noon. Women usually came in groups to collect water, either earlier or later in the day to avoid the sun’s heat. But the Samaritan woman came alone at noon. Why? Perhaps her public shame caused her to be isolated from other women.

There is a contrast between Nicodemus (ch. 3) and the Samaritan woman:

• Nicodemus is an example of the truth that no one can rise so high as to be ABOVE the need for salvation.

• The Samaritan woman is an example of the truth that no one can sink so low as to be BELOW the offer of salvation.

Jesus “had to go through Samaria” (v. 4). Why? Not because it was the shortest route. He went through through Samaria to demonstrate
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