Summary: A sermon based on John 4. The encounter with Jesus at Jacob's Well.
At the beginning of John Chapter 4, Jesus and his disciples are traveling back to Galilee from the province of Judea. In order to do this, they have to travel either around or through the province of Samaria. Jesus apparently makes the decision to take the shortcut through Samaria.
When they reached the town of Sychar, they decided to stop to rest. Jesus sends the disciples into the village for food and he stays at the well outside of town.
What happens next is an encounter of biblical proportions. There was no battle where hundreds died. There was no fire from heaven that consumed cut up meat on an altar. There was no miracle or sign or wonder. Yet, here is this encounter between Jesus and a woman whose life has been spent in abject spiritual misery. A life that has certainly been misspent and, up to this point, wasted. She has no friends, no one that really loves her, and no respect. In fact, she is simply surviving avoiding people and hiding in the shadows because of shame.
This encounter changed the life of one person. Jesus spent time with ONE person because she was important to him. This woman is not just an example. This woman is you and me. This woman shows the depth of attention that God has for us.
Jesus and the Samaritan woman could not have been more different. The Jewish people had deep disdain for the people of Samaria. They were the remnant of the people who were taken into captivity. They had intermarried with their captors and, as far as the people of Judea were concerned were biracial and polluted by Gentiles. They weren't generally allowed to come to Jerusalem to worship at the Temple, so they worshiped at Samaria.
They were a people apart. Apart from the law. Apart from the worship. Apart in just about every category. They were victims of generations of racism and bigotry. They were hated and disrespected by the people just to the south.
Yet, they had the same legacy. The same history. The place where Jesus met the woman was a well, Jacob’s Well, was at Sychar. This well had been given to Jacob’s son Joseph 1700 years before. The Samaritans were well aware of their history and their relation to the people of Judea.
When Jesus decided to talk to this woman, he was going against hundreds of years of culture. Not only was she a Samaritan, she was a woman. Not only was she a woman, she was a divorced woman. Not only was she a divorced woman, she was a woman by herself. Because of that, Jesus should have ran away from her.
Yet, he challenged the cultural conventions of the day and talked to her. He was breaking every rule in the book because she needed to hear what he had to say. He had a deep and truthful conversation with her. He looked genuinely within her and drew out the source of her deepest hurt. He knew what she needed and he gave it to her.
I understand that there are cultural differences. As an American living in Korea, I see them every day. And I know that I make mistakes every day. I know that I offend people sometimes. I also know that people will, to some degree, allow those mistakes because I am different. I appreciate that more than you know. However, I want you to know that I would never offend anyone on purpose. If I have offended you in any way I am so sorry.
So, this meeting on a hot day at lunch time was momentous and life changing. It was one of those divine encounters that seem to happen out of nowhere. It is one of those times that changes everything.
Jesus was tired. It was a long walk. It was about 48 kilometers from Jerusalem to Sychar. This was probably noontime of the second day of walking. I am sure everyone was tired and hungry. John tells us that Jesus was weary from the journey.
He was also thirsty. Even though he was at a well, he didn't have anything to draw water with. He asked a woman who came to the well for a drink. She was surprised on several different levels.
When God speaks to us during one of these encounters, it often seems quite normal. We may sometimes even miss it at first. This woman had no idea what was going to happen when she went out for water that day. She did this every day, probably. She went out in the heat of the day to avoid the stares and disrespect of the other women in the village. It was simply too hot to go out at noon. Most went in the early morning or late evening when it was cooler.