Found Out and Fulfilled
What if God set up a video projector right here in the foyer and began to show all of your greatest sins on the screen, for everyone to see? Would you be embarrassed? Full of guilt and shame? Or what if God set up the projector and started the reel, and all that came out was the light of Jesus in your life? Every sin had long since been forgiven and thrown into the deepest ocean, to be remembered no more? Would you feel grateful, appreciative of what Jesus has done for you? Maybe even a little proud and ecstatic that he took notice of you individually and did such a great thing for you? Such undeserving love!
Today we see a story of a person whose life was in shambles. She had pretty much given up on any significant relationship, with a pattern of failures laying behind her. What’s more, she lived in a small town, where everyone knew everyone’s business. So her sins were public knowledge. She was basically shunned by society, living on the outskirts, barely surviving. And the God of the universe took a personal interest in her. What’s more, he used her word as a catalyst for change for the entire community!
In the story read earlier, of Jesus and the woman at the well, consider these three points on your outline. If we’re truthful, we can all relate to each, in some form or fashion. First,
1. Give all your guilt and shame to God (vv. 16-19)
This woman had three strikes against her: 1. She was a woman. Women were considered second class citizens in the First Century, much as they still are today in many ways in many parts of the world. Rabbis in Jesus’ time taught that women could not learn the Law, and that a long conversation with a woman would lead a man astray. (Think of the Barbra Streisand movie, “Yentl.”) Power-hungry men in every generation forget that God made male AND female in his image, that women carry the image of God just as men do.
2. She was a Samaritan woman. The Samaritans were half-Jews who had bred with non-Jews in the past. They believed in the same God but only recognized the first five books of the Bible. Israel hated them more than unbelievers! Imagine your most hated stereotype, whether it be somebody of a different skin color, someone from the LGBT community, or -- worst of all -- a civilian! (Smile) That’s who the Samaritans were to the Jews. They were to be ignored at all costs. And...
3. She had a questionable reputation. We surmise this early on because she was at the well in the heat of the day, instead of coming early in the morning with the other women. She had been shunned, ostracized by her own community, because of her reputation.
All of these strikes against her should have made her the least likely candidate for a private chat with the Savior of the world. At least that would be our logic, but not God’s logic. Throughout scripture God consistently roots for the underdog. Jesus reveals the very heart of God by spending private one-on-one time with a woman caught up in sexual sin, failed relationships, questionable reputation, undoubtable loneliness, and lots of resulting guilt and shame. He calls her on her sin, but not in a harsh, condemning way; rather, with care.
And this woman does what any of us might do when called out for our sin: she changes the subject. She shifts the conversation to where the best place to worship should be. The Samaritans hold one view, the Jews another. What she really needs to do is confess her guilt and shame to the One who can replace it with his love and forgiveness. She needs to confess that she has put others first, where God alone should be in her life. Without confession, there is no salvation.
Jesus gently guides the conversation from who SHE is to who HE is. She talks about the return of the Messiah in verse 25. And in verse 26, Jesus says, “I, the one speaking to you--I am he.” Except that’s not what he really says. Our English translators added the word “he” to the end of the sentence to make more sense. What Jesus literally says is, “I, the one speaking to you--I AM.” Jesus refers to himself with the great “I am” title of God that Moses had encountered at the burning bush. This woman would have understood that immediately, since the story was in her Bible, too. The gospel of John captures some 23 times Jesus uses this title for himself, seven of those times with major teaching points accompanied by dramatic sign miracles. The message is clear: Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the very Son of God, deity in human form, the author and finisher of our salvation. And once we get that, we are called to #2 on your outline...
2. Trust in Jesus as your Savior (vv. 28-29)
There is no better response once you understand this, that Jesus is in fact God in human flesh, that he came to forgive our sin and make us one with God again, giving us life like vibrant water forever welling up out of our soul (v. 14). The only appropriate response is to trust him as our Savior, because we cannot save ourselves from this battle with temptation and sin.
You see the Holy Spirit working on the woman, to bring her to this trusting relationship with the Messiah, in her words in verses 28 and 29:
28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?”
She is so startled and so much in a rush that she leaves her water jar behind. She rushes to the village and, with obvious exaggeration, invites the folks to check Jesus out with these words: “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did.” And then she raises the question, “Could this be the Messiah?” I love the NIV Study Bible comment here. It notes, “Her question seems full of longing, as though she did not expect them to say ‘Yes,’ but she could not say ‘No.’”
This lady has already begun to trust her life to Jesus as the Christ, her Messiah. Her life is already beginning to change. Salvation is at hand! And like any faithful believer, she cannot keep to herself such excitement. She must spread it to others. That is #3 on your outline, to...
3. Spread the word about his salvation (vv. 29, 39-42)
Tell everyone you know what God has done in your life. Look what happened in this community, in verses 39-42:
39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers. 42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”
They went from second-hand knowledge to first-hand believers. There’s a saying that God doesn’t have any grandchildren, only children. These people knew they needed a personal relationship with their Savior, and they found one.
I just finished listening to a book by Jackie Hill Perry entitled, “Gay Girl, Good God.” She talks about how God grabbed her attention in the midst of a gay lifestyle, and helped her to fall in love with him first and foremost. Out of that, God began to change her life. Now, she is an accomplished speaker, author, wife, and mother. And in her gift of words, she describes the indescribable grace that reached out to someone like her. Now she uses her words to spread the message about his salvation.
I wonder how long it has been since you have told anyone about Jesus? It’s been too long for me. How about you? The problem is, we forget how much he has rescued us. Over time, we lose our excitement; we take our rescue for granted. We don’t let the gospel message penetrate our hearts with a daily freshness like we need to do. If we really realized how far God has brought us--from death to life--we would have more of a sense of urgency to share his salvation with others.
How do you keep your salvation fresh? Stay in God’s word. Listen to the testimonies of others. Spend time with a brand-new Christian, and let their enthusiasm wear off on you. Read or listen to books by people like Jackie Hill Perry.
With the anxiety level so high at this time in our world, there is no better time to tell someone about Jesus. We all need the Lord. None of us know how much time we have left on this planet. We all need saving, from our sin and ourselves. We all need a relationship with God that will endure any storm and last forever.
Let’s pray about it together: Almighty and all loving God, thank you for stories like today’s that remind us no one is beyond your grace, no one outside of your love. We all need you. Help someone today find Jesus as their Savior for the very first time. Help some of us who have been Christians for a long time fall in love with you in a whole new way. Help us to love you more than the daily temptations we face. And help us share the gospel message of grace with someone this week: your love for us in our darkest moments, and our sins traded for your forgiveness. We are so grateful. We pray in Jesus’ name and for his glory, amen.
John 4:5-19, 25-30, 39-42
5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
9 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.)
10 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.”
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
15 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.”
16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 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.”
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.
[conversation about best place to worship]
25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”
27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”
28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.
39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.
42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”