Summary: The woman at the well is confronted by the truth which Jesus presents her.

Charles Swindoll, in his book Growing Deep in the Christian Life, tells the true story of a man who bought fried chicken dinners for himself and his girlfriend to enjoy on a picnic one afternoon. He was in for a surprise because the person behind the counter mistakenly gave him the wrong paper bag. Earlier, the manager had taken the money from the cash registers and placed it in an ordinary bag, hoping to disguise it on his way to the bank. But when the person working the cash register went to give the man his order, he grabbed the bag full of money instead of the bag full of chicken. Swindoll says, “After driving to their picnic site, the two of them sat down to enjoy some chicken. They discovered a whole lot more than chicken — over $800! But he was unusual. He quickly put the money back in the bag. They got back into the car and drove all the way back. Mr. Clean got out, walked in, and became an instant hero. By then, the manager was frantic. The guy with the bag of money looked the manager in the eye and said, ‘I want you to know I came by to get a couple of chicken dinners and wound up with all this money here.’ Well, the manager was thrilled to death. He said, ‘Let me call the newspaper. I’m gonna have your picture put in the local paper. You’re one of the most honest men I’ve ever heard of.’ To which the man quickly responded, ‘Oh, no. No, no, don’t do that!’ Then he leaned closer and whispered, ‘You see, the woman I’m with is not my wife. She’s, uh, somebody else’s wife.’” Swindoll closes the story by saying, “Harder to find than lost cash is a perfect heart.”

Unfortunately, these stories are all too common in a culture which has lost its moral foundation. Even the Christian world has been rocked by recent moral failure. John Paulk, an ex-gay who was running a Christian outreach ministry to homosexuals, recently resigned because he was discovered in a gay bar. Mike Trout the host of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family resigned this month because of an extramarital affair. Jay Leno quipped that perhaps he had “focused” on the wrong family. Scandals have become so commonplace that we are cynical. We wonder if anyone lives up to what they believe or believes what they say. In fact, the Barna Research Group says that their study shows that one third of American teenagers believe that “most adult Christians are hypocrites.” The decay of the culture is having an impact on the Christian community. Two things are wrong: 1. We have failed to teach the basic tenets of the Christian faith in our homes. 2. We have failed to model the Christian faith in the world. And the church itself has failed to clearly teach the fundamentals of the Christian faith and give clear definition to right and wrong. Instead, we have opted for vague notions about what it means to be nice, and made tolerance our defining doctrine.

How did we get to this place when Jesus Christ, the center of our faith, was ruthlessly clear and truthful? Whenever people confronted him, they were often stripped of their pretenses and made vulnerable by the truth with which he confronted them. Some of those individuals ran from the truth, others were staggered by it, and still others embraced it, difficult as it was. But people were always confronted by the truth. They had to face the truth about themselves and the reality of whom Christ was.

That was the case with the woman Jesus encountered by the well in Samaria, whom we read about in the Scripture today. Let’s look at what this story teaches us. I believe it teaches that when Jesus encounters us, the first thing that happens is: We are confronted with the truth about who we are. The truth this woman was forced to see was not very pleasant. She was the biblical equivalent of Paula Jones. She liked men, and if there had been a men’s magazine she would have posed for it. Her moral life was the joke of the community. She seemed to lack any moral sense, let alone an understanding of what was appropriate. She defended herself and discredited herself at the same time. And there was always someone to take advantage of her weakness. When Jesus offered her water from the well of living water, she didn’t understand what he was saying. She misinterpreted what Jesus meant when he said, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14). She foolishly replied, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” She thought that since Jesus was a stranger she could pretend to be someone she was not, but Jesus quickly unmasked her pretense by saying, “Go, call your husband and come back.” Now her disguise began to unravel, and her true self was laid bare. She said to Jesus, “I have no husband.” He said, “The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true” (John 4:18). Jesus knew the truth about her, and forced her to see and admit the truth about herself. But that is the way it is when we come into contact with God. Suddenly his light shines on us and reveals the truth about us, and we understand that he sees us as we really are. And when the real us is exposed by God, we have to admit the truth.

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Tim Richards

commented on Nov 1, 2008

Great message. Very well illustrated. Thanks for sharing it. It provides good resources for those of who are preaching on this passage.

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