Summary: God seeks and saves dry souls through his Savior.
In Switzerland every year, in the city of Basel, the festival of Fasnacht is held. The event takes its name from the start of the fasting season of Lent. Before beginning this time of penance and doing without, there are three days of parties and festivities and revelry (similar to Mardi Gras).
Pastor James Boice (Tenth Presbyterian, Philadelphia) lived in Basel three years. He writes: “The carnival is always a time of riotous behavior in which the normally restrained and stolid Baselers let themselves go morally.” (Apparently, what makes this event especially popular is that the revelers wear masks. With their identity completely veiled, they are emboldened to do what they would be ashamed to be known for doing.)
Boice continues: “Each year during Fasnacht, however, the Salvation Army challenges people to a higher standard of behavior by placing large posters around the city bearing the German inscription: ‘Gott sieht hinter deine Maske’, ‘God sees behind your mask.’”
God sees behind your mask. He is not blinded by our pretense. He is not deceived by our deceptions. He knows what’s in our hearts and lives.
King David, about 3000 years ago, sung about God’s sight under and behind our masks: “O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar…. Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there...!” (from Psalm 139).
What will you do about this knowledge? Later in Psalm 139, David professes his faith in God’s goodness by saying: “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!” Will God’s seeing behind our pretense be precious to us?
In our text this morning, Jesus proves his Deity by showing that no mask is able to hide who we are from him. Jesus knows what this woman has done and he exposes her dry soul. He has already offered her living water; now he describes the dryness and its cause, that she might receive the water of life. Three things must happen in her life (and in ours) to escape the drought of dryness through the fountain of life. There must be: 1) a confronting of sin; 2) a coming in spirit and truth; and 3) a confessing of Christ as Savior. Let us consider each in turn, that we might have our dryness healed and so that we can lead others to the waters.
1. Because the Path Out of Dryness Leads to God through Christ, We Must Confront Sin (John 4.16-18)
We now enter a second phase of Jesus’ interaction with this woman. Jesus deliberately and decisively changes the tone.
Last week we heard Jesus arouse her curiosity and appeal to her imagination as he (what we might call) “met here where she lived.” She was physically thirsty – thus she is at a well. Jesus began with that common experience of thirst for water and speaks to her thirst for God. She did not understand (at least not completely), but she was intrigued and said (verse 15): “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty….”
“Go, call your husband, and come here.” It comes from out of the blue – this bolt of reality bringing burning light to the dark secrets hidden in her heart. Jesus (as it were) reaches up and rips away the mask. Here is the principle – any true seeking for living water must confront sin.
It is unpopular, of course. Since Adam and Eve first sewed fig leaves together, and hearing the sound of God’s approach, hid themselves, humankind has continued the futile effort to escape the eye of God. But this not another fun round of hide and seek. It is deadly serious because we are seeking to hide from the Father what only he can heal.
It is common to avoid the doctor. Sometimes we would rather live with a pain than discover a real problem. Yet it might be the case that a disease will end in disaster unless we bring it to the light.
In a similar way, our greatest danger is not our sin (per se), but our refusal trust the Father with our sin. Of course, there are reasons. It is embarrassing to have our failures and rebellion exposed. James Boice notes: “In the Bible, whenever a person meets God, it always produces feelings of shame, guilt, embarrassment and terror in the worshiper. These are all painful emotions, and we are doing everything possible in our culture to avoid them.”
1973, Dr. Karl Menninger (a well-known and well-respected psychiatrist) published, Whatever Became of Sin? In that book he lamented what he described as American society’s rejection of the concept of a divine standard of right and wrong. He also observed that the word “sin,” was even disappearing from our vocabulary!