THE SEVENTH MAN (John 4)
Today, I want to tell you a story that is true, although some of the incidents and facts have been lost to history, and I have taken literary license in reconstructing a few of the events.
Literary license essentially means that I have just made some of them up, like I was writing a novel. What I have added is totally incidental, and does not impact the truth of the story itself. That will be quite evident, by the end of the message, today. You will see the story, for what it is. I hope that you will hear the truth of it, and let it bless you and your life.
The story begins in the life of a lovely girl named Rachel (my name for her) when she was about 15 years old, and at 15 was already beyond the age when many of her friends were married. But, she was soon to be married to a young man, THE FIRST MAN in her life, who's name was Benjamin, whom she loved deeply, and her love was reciprocated. That means he loved her, too. They had a lovely wedding in June of that year, moved to a village about 100 miles away, rented a small house, and started their lives together.
They lived happily and peacefully for about 2 years, but misfortune struck, and Benjamin was accidentally killed, having been struck by lightning while watching a flock of sheep at night. It was the kind of accident that can't happen...but did. I think that just made it all the harder for her. She could see no sense in why God would allow that to happen, but that didn't change things.
We all have seen things happen, accidents that we can't explain...loved ones taken without reason or explanation ... and we cry out to God, "WHY?" And God does not answer. The heavens are silent, our hearts are broken, and we simply fail to see the fairness, or necessity, of it. But that does not change it. It is not reversed. The next day, Benjamin was still dead.
And she was alone. She had no close relatives, and no way to live. Friends and neighbors tried to help, but their help was temporary...and it consisted only of food and things like that. There was no one to heal the hole in her heart. There was no one to comfort her. Needless to say, she was devastated. Her life was torn upside down and inside out. She had no money, thus no way to pay her annual rent when due. Since she had no money, and no family, she was not what the townsfolk called 'good material' for another marriage. She could bring no dowry to a second marriage, and in that culture, a girl without a dowry was doomed to live with no hope of anyone becoming interested in her.
THE SECOND MAN in Rachel’s life was a certain older gentleman in the village, a man about 60, who's wife had died, and he had no children, thus no one to help him. His name was Hiram, and he was considered by all to be an honorable and good man. He invited Rachel to his home to help him, and after only a very short time, proposed marriage. She was reluctant to accept, but could really see no other way, so she agreed, and at age 18 was married for the second time, and her new husband was as old as her grandfather.
Hiram and Rachel lived together in harmony and peace, but as the course of nature is, Hiram was getting older, and in their 6th year of marriage, simply didn't wake up one morning. Rachel had come to love him over the years, and found herself in mourning again, at only 24 years old. But this time she was not left penniless, in fact, she was left quite well off, since there were no children by his first wife, and all he had was inherited by Rachel.
She moved to a larger city where she hoped to set up some kind of business, having already decided that marriage just wasn't working for her, and she intended to just support herself and go on with her life. But there was one thing different, now ... Rachel had money, and being the attractive young woman she was, suddenly found herself being wooed by a number of men of all ages and stripes. It didn't take her long to realize they were much more interested in her money, than in her, and she kept them all at a very long arm's length... that is, until an incredibly handsome and presumably rich fellow, only a few years older than herself came along. His name was Micah.
Micah, THE THIRD MAN in her life, told her of his vast holdings in another town, called Sychar, and persuaded her to marry him and move there, promising they would have a grand life with his family and friends and business. Shortly after arriving there, he pitched a wonderful idea to her about a business venture, and she promptly gave him some of her money to invest. To her abject horror, though, she found out that the business was his own gambling, and that he had lost all the money she had given him...and then learned that he never had anything at all... it was all lies and smoke and mirrors.
He was what is called today a gigolo...just taking advantage of whomever was gullible. Devastated, she left him and with her remaining money moved across town, and did set up a small business, selling cloth and such to the local townswomen.
But the men on that side of town started calling on her, and of course, being aware of the old saying "once burned twice learned" fell for NONE of them.
Three, maybe four years passed, and her loneliness started to get to her. She wanted children, and a home, but having had such poor success at marriage, just didn’t know quite what to do…until Jacob arrived upon the scene. Maybe it wasn’t love at first sight, but it didn’t take very long until their marriage was announced.
Jacob was THE FOURTH MAN in Rachel’s saga. He was a shrewd businessman, a hard working merchant, a mover and shaker in the town, and all was well, for a very short time. Jacob has assumed that Rachel was much better off financially than she really was, and when he learned the truth he simply confiscated what she had, which was the husband’s right in that day and time and land, because women were only property, and all any woman brought to the marriage belonged to the husband.
Rachel could not help him, the way he wanted, greedy man that he was, and he simply cast her out. About 30 years old, now, Rachel was again penniless, alone, struggling beyond belief to simply survive.
At this point, her only recourse was either a quick marriage, or prostitution. No other options existed for Rachel. She chose the route of marriage, this time to practically the first person who came at her, a lout named Mudro, THE FIFTH MAN, who’s sole intention was to turn her into a slave that he could sell. Which he did.
Kudrah, THE SIXTH MAN bought her, took her to his home, made her his concubine, and demanded all the personal services she could perform, as she was simply a slave, pure and simple, by this time. She was a handmaid to Kudrah’s wife, as well as the cook, house maid, gardener, fetcher of water, and whatever else either Kudrah or his wife demanded.
This is a sad tale, without question, and this is the part that is largely recreated. Now, let’s look at the rest of the story, the way it is recorded in the Bible. Let’s meet THE SEVENTH MAN, in Rachel’s life.
John, chapter 4 …
Jesus left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.
Now He had to go through Samaria. So He came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired as He was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, "Will you give Me a drink?" (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
Let me interrupt the reading at this point and say that this incident tells me she was a honest woman. She was puzzled at the request of this SEVENTH MAN for at least two reasons… the first reason she mentions … Jews and Samaritans just didn’t interact. And the second reason was that Jesus was a man, and Jewish men did NOT speak to women on the streets … historians say that Jewish men would not even speak to their mothers or sisters, when they accidentally met in public places. I see her as an honest woman, but surely a puzzled one!
Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water."
"Sir," the woman said, "You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can You get this living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?"
Again, I interrupt myself … put yourself in her position. What would you think if a total stranger were to start talking about living water. What, pray tell, is “living water?”
How would YOU respond? What would YOU say? How would YOU react? I don’t know, either, for myself … and if I don’t know how I would act, how can I fault Rachel for her lack of understanding?
Jesus answered, "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."
The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water."
Now, Friends, this woman had a hole in her heart. She had been used and abused, and life had not been kind to her, for the most part, until this very day. Of course she wanted relief from thirst. Of course she didn’t enjoy coming to the well in the middle of the day. And so, she opened herself to the offer that Jesus had made.
Jesus can fill that emptiness in our lives. He did it that day, and He does it today …. But, we, like Rachel, must be open to the filling!
I love this next part of the story! The mark of a disciple! The mark of one who learns, who receives …. They want to SHARE!
Continuing with the reading …..
He told her, "Go, call your husband and come back."
"I have no husband," she replied.
Jesus said to her, "You are right when you say you have no husband. 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 4:2-17)
Now, a lot of people have made a big deal out of this story, dreaming up the life of a flagrantly sinful woman, a woman of either loose, or no morals, a life of little more than a prostitute … with NOTHING to go on but these few verses. I’d like to believe that we have treated her very shabbily in so doing. And the primary reason is that THE SEVENTH MAN saw someone whom we have not seen, previously. THE SEVENTH MAN saw a soul with a need who was willing to receive what he could give. “Jesus always sees the sleeping hero in the soul of every man and woman,” so writes William Barclay, that great Scottish preacher and theologian.
I love this next section to the story. "Sir," the woman said, "I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem."
Some want to say that she was trying to deflect the story from her five husbands and such to get the topic off herself, so she makes a provocative statement to do just that.
What I see is a seeking searching woman who had a question no one had been able to answer to her satisfaction, and she just JUMPED at the chance to have an opinion of someone outside her village, who may have a different perspective on the matter, because, look at how Jesus responded!!
Jesus declared, "Believe Me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."
What does Jesus say here? Only some of the most precious truth that could be said, that’s all. Some of the greatest words in the Bible are said to Rachel, here at the well in Sychar … said to a woman whose life was total sinful wreck? I don’t think so! Jesus saw her, and knew her for the faith that she had … and yes, she was a woman of faith, make no mistake about it.
Look at her next statement!
The woman said, "I know that Messiah" (called Christ) "is coming. When He comes, he will explain everything to us."
Then Jesus declared, "I who speak to you am He."
Now, get the picture, here, my friends! In what appears to be the very first time, Jesus says plainly that He IS the Messiah … and the words are said to a woman of loose morals and a sinful lifestyle? Gimme a break!
Look at what happens next!! Verse 28 ..
Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?" They came out of the town and made their way toward him.
Now, Friends, I do not believe that this woman was one of loose morals … how could she go into the town and tell something as wild as this, and folks even pay any attention to her, let alone leave whatever tasks they were doing, and follow her. I think she must have had considerable respect for everyone to follow her!
What I see here is the world’s first mass evangelist … one who shared her faith and her hope with her neighbors, and turned the whole city out to see and hear THE SEVENTH MAN!
She became a woman with a mission. She is going to find other people and tell them about the truth she has discovered. She is excited, and wants to tell others about the great Truth she has discovered. She wants to tell them about Jesus.
Then the Bible says, “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony.
Jump back, now, to the very first part of this story, back in verse 4 … "Now He had to go through Samaria...)
It is quite true that the most direct route from Jerusalem to Galilee was through Samaria, but the Jews habitually went around Samaria, rather than through it … but Jesus ‘had to go through Samaria?” What Jesus had to do was talk with Rachel, there at the well, and reveal Himself as the Messiah!
OK, Jerry …. I get the picture … I hear what you are saying. How does this help me? How does this make a difference in the world in which I live, in the year 2010?
1. Be careful how and whom you judge. You don’t know all the facts.
2. Be willing to be open to Jesus when He comes to you.
3. Be willing to share your faith with those around you. After all, you may be the next evangelist Bluefield needs.
4. Accept this one great truth. Jesus changes lives, and He wants to change yours. You may be weighted down with sins of all kinds, but to Jesus, you are a super soul who needs help, and He is willing to give it. Be it at the well in Sychar, or a computer in Bluefield, or a machine in the place where you work, or dirty dishes in the sink, Jesus is willing to meet you … anywhere, any time.
5. Jesus did change the life of Rachel at the well in Samaria, because she was willing to receive the truth that He brought. Jesus WILL change your life, too, to make it what God has in store for you, if you will give Him the opening.
What is your need today? How can we help? The only thing any of us can do is pray with you … but God has all the answers you will ever need. Let’s deal with those needs, today!
Thank You, Father, for the great truths of the Scriptures that draw us to You. Here we are, Lord. Move upon and within us, as we so desperately need, this very day. We ask in the Loving Name of Jesus our Lord. Amen.