Summary: A different message on JOY (the theme of the third week of Advent) that focuses on joy that comes from serving God.
It’s the 3rd week of Advent – have you been keeping up at home? I hope so. Today’s topic is JOY. Just as in the past weeks with peace and hope, JOY is a huge subject that we will barely scratch the surface of today. But I want to use a great story from John 4 to show you one way that Jesus said you can have JOY in your life immediately.
In John 4, Jesus is traveling by foot with His disciples, and He stops in the country of Samaria to keep a “divine appointment” with a woman whose life is about to change – we only know her as the “woman at the well.” Jesus was from Israel, and his stopping in Samaria would be the same as a Jew today stopping in the country of Iran – lots of hostility because those two countries hate each other. Yet Jesus stops in Samaria and has a conversation with the woman at the well that transforms her life. She is at the well to get water – Jesus tells her that the water she is seeking comes only from Him. He is the “Living Water” that if she drinks from, she will never thirst again. She doesn’t understand because she is thinking physical water, but He is speaking on a spiritual level. And at the peak of their conversation, in vs. 26, Jesus plainly tells her, “I am the Messiah.”
Now why Jesus would go out of His way into a hostile country to tell an insignificant and immoral woman at a well that He is the Messiah, the Promised One, will become clear eventually, but to the disciples, this made no sense. Actually, before this conversation, they had Jesus rest by the well while they went and got something to eat. And it is at the point when Jesus reveals to the woman that He is the Messiah that they come back. Let’s pick up in verse 27-30
27 Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked to find him talking to a woman, but none of them had the nerve to ask, “What do you want with her?” or “Why are you talking to her?” (that she was an immoral woman was the big deal) 28 The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, 29 “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?” 30 So the people came streaming from the village to see him.
The disciples were still very new at following Jesus, and their minds flooded with questions about this woman and her reputation and why Jesus was talking to her. We do the same thing, don’t we? We wonder why God would work in someone who we don’t approve of – why not work in the heart of a respected businessman or politician?
But Jesus knew exactly what He was doing. This woman was known for her “boldness” in approaching men, and He knew that she would be a wonderful follower who demonstrated great boldness for God. And that’s exactly what happens as she immediately went back to the town to go and tell people about this man who might possibly be the Messiah.
You see, Jesus knew this woman’s heart. Yes, she had a checkered past where she was “looking for love in all the wrong places,” but it was a result of her truly seeking love. And when she meets Jesus, who was the God of the universe, at a well (of all places!) on the side of the road – this woman who was looking for love in all the wrong places finally finds love in a place she’d never imagined! And her boldness that in the past was used for lust becomes boldness used for God that results in many people coming to see Jesus (vs. 30).
At this point, Jesus has had a life changing conversation with the woman. Now while she is gone bringing people back, Jesus turns His attention to the disciples. At this point, the disciples are probably hot and tired from walking; testy from having to deal with the Samaritans (have you ever tried to buy something from someone who doesn’t like you?! I’m SURE they got a GREAT deal on lunch); and to top it off, they arrive to find Jesus interacting with a VERY questionable Samaritan woman. But they’ve brought back food to eat, and they insist that Jesus eat His Whopper before it gets cold (that sounds good right about now). Look at verse 31-38:
Meanwhile, the disciples were urging Jesus, “Rabbi, eat something.” But Jesus replied, “I have a kind of food you know nothing about.” “Did someone bring him food while we were gone?” the disciples asked each other. Then Jesus explained: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work. You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest. The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike! You know the saying, ‘One plants and another harvests.’ And it’s true. I sent you to harvest where you didn’t plant; others had already done the work, and now you will get to gather the harvest.”