Summary: In John 4, the Samaritan woman encounters Jesus and experiences a scandalous conversation, a secret confession, and a startling conversion.
Encountering Jesus (2)
Scott Bayles, pastor
Blooming Grove Christian Church: 1/11/2015
I read a story this week about an Amish family visiting the big city for the first time. They were amazed by everything they saw. Having grown up and lived all their lives on a rural farm everything was completely new to them. Arriving at a fancy hotel, the father and son went inside to check into their room, leaving Ma with the horse buggy outside. While waiting at the reception desk, an old lady hobbled towards the lobby elevator and pressed the button. They’d never seen an elevator before and so they just watch the old lady to see what would happen. A moment later the doors slide open, the women stepped inside, pressed another button and the doors close. Curious, the father and son kept watching. About a minute later, the doors opened again and out came a stunningly attractive young woman. Without turning his head the father patted his son’s shoulder and said, "Boy, go get your mother."
Real life transformation isn’t quite that easy. But it isn’t impossible either. Last Sunday we learned about a man named Nicodemus who had a life-changing encounter with Jesus. And Nicodemus isn’t the only person to experience radical transformation thanks to an encounter with Christ. Everywhere Jesus went he left changed-lives in his wake.
In John 4, we meet another person—an anonymous Samaritan woman—whose entire life is about to be transformed by her encounter with Jesus. But before we can get to her story, we’ll have to set the stage.
Jesus was tired. He and his followers had left Judea and headed north for Galilee. “But on the way,” the Bible says, “he had to go through the country of Samaria” (John 4:4 NCV). Glance at any map of the Holy Lands and you’ll notice that the most direct route from Judea to Galilee takes you right through Samaria. However, the average Jew would never have gone that way. Most Jews would have crossed the Jordan River and traveled along its eastern shore just to avoid Samaria, then crossed over again into Galilee.
Jesus, however, was anything but average. So, he traveled westward through the region of Samaria. He and his followers walked in the arid desert heat for roughly thirty miles, and although Jesus is God, he is also a man. The feet that used the mountains as their footstool were weary. The throat which called into existence the heavens and the earth was dry and soar. Jesus was tired. He was also thirsty.
So Jesus and his followers approached the small Samaritan town called Sychar. Jesus knew of a running spring in the village that feed a well which had been dug out centuries before by Jacob, Abraham’s grandson.
The Bible says, “Jesus was tired from his long trip, so he sat down beside the well” (vs. 6 NCV). Meanwhile his followers went ahead of him into town to buy some food. Now, the curtain opens, our unnamed woman enters stage right, and her story begins with a scandalous conversation.
• A SCANDALOUS CONVERSATION
As the first scene begins, the Bible says, “It was about twelve o’clock noon, when a Samaritan woman came to the well to get some water” (vs. 7 NCV). The conversation began innocently enough; Jesus asked her, “Please give me a drink” (vs. 8). His request seems insignificant. He was tired and hot. He’d walked a long distance. He had nothing with which to draw water himself (no buckets or pails), so he asks for some water. What’s so scandalous about that?
Although we might have missed it, the woman immediately recognized the taboo nature of his solicitation and was a little taken aback by it. “I am surprised that you ask me for a drink, since you are a Jewish man and I am a Samaritan woman.’” (vs. 9 NCV). For one thing, it wasn’t proper in those days for a man to just start talking to a strange woman in public. But more importantly, racism was just as rampant then as it is today. A parenthetical statement at the end of this verse explains, “Jews in those days wouldn't be caught dead talking to Samaritans” (vs. 9 MSG). For Jesus to speak to a Samaritan woman and even to ask for a drink from the same cup that she used was, well… scandalous. But listen to his reply, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water” (vs. 10 NLT).
And this is where it would be nice if the Biblical writers had included some details about the woman’s demeanor or inflection, because I think I detect a bit of sarcasm in her retort: “But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?” (vs. 11-12 NLT).