Summary: The story of the woman at the well tells us why we must confess our sins to the Lord, and why we must believe that we are instantly forgiven, and free from the condemnation to ourselves.
This sermon was delivered to Holy Trinity in Ayr on the 26th March 2017
(A Scottish Episcopal Church in the Dioceses of Glasgow and Dumfries,
(It is a revised version of an older sermon but for a larger congregation).
“Please join me in my prayer.” Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength, and our redeemer. Amen. (Psalms 19:14)
There is a region between Galilee on the North, and Judea in the south called Samaria … and in Jesus’ day, every Jew would do whatever they could to avoid travelling through there, even if it meant taking the much longer route around it; … that is because the Jews and the Samaritans did not get on.
The Samaritans you see were a mixed race, unlike the pure blooded Jews who were so holier than thou by their allegiance to the Law, and who considered Samaritans impure … and unclean.
The Samaritans, on the other hand, refused to accept this Jewish law, and in particular, the great Temple of Jerusalem as the place of worship and so, tensions between these two were forever present.
In spite of this, or perhaps because of it, Jesus decided to pass through Samaria, where he arrived at a city named Sychar; and when he arrived there, he understandably felt hot and tired and so sat down by a source of water known as Jacob’s well. After all it was mid day, and the sun was at its hottest, and the city was deserted, with everyone indoors having a siesta.
Now the water gathering normally took take place at dawn or at sunset when the sun was at its coolest, so midday was the perfect time for a certain woman to gather water, that is, when nobody was about. So it took no great revelation from God to tell Jesus that this woman had problems, … her attire and attitude certainly revealed one thing or another.
Anyway, this woman must have been quite startled to see a Jewish man sitting there at the well at that time of day; and she must have wondered what he was up to, … or what he was after, because this women was obviously used and abused by men; … but all Jesus asked her for was a drink of water.
But that too was strange in itself, … ok Jesus was thirsty, but to the woman, Jewish men did not talk with Samaritan women because Jewish men were all superior to all Samaritans, particularly the women.
But unlike every other man that this woman had come in contact with, ... Jesus wasn’t on the take, … Jesus wasn’t trying to take something away from her or use her, ... no, Jesus was trying to give her something; Jesus was trying to help her. ... And so as she was of dubious character, Jesus probably proceeded cautiously, and he must have said, something like, “Could you get me a drink as I have no means of doing so, the well is deep and I have no bucket”; and because of his manner, the woman must have heard something in his voice, … as women do, … which suggested that he was sincere, and she asked him, and I paraphrase, ()and I paraphrase a lot today), “How is it that you a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria”? But Jesus turns the tables on her and tells her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is speaking to you, you would ask me for living water in return".
Startled by this, the woman replied, "But Sir, you have no bucket to return this living water and the well is deep. Where are you going to get living water? What is living water anyway … and who are you to talk about such things … are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well in the first place?
But Jesus replied, "Everyone who drinks this water in the well will be thirsty again, but those who drink my water, the living water … will never thirst again. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life".
Jesus is obviously using the water here as an analogy for the Holy Spirit, as even today the Holy Spirit is difficult to talk about, and understand, … but Jesus is talking to this woman about being born again, or born of the Spirit so she can enter the kingdom of God, just like Jesus told Nicodemus in John chapter 3: “That which is flesh is flesh. That which is Spirit is Spirit. You should be … born again.” So understandably, the woman did not know what Jesus was talking about and replied, "Ok then, give me some of this water, so that I may never be thirsty … and so that I don’t need to keep coming here to this well.".