Summary: Confession is a key to spiritual formation—it frees our chains, releases Christ’s power in us, and helps us to mature as He desires, not as we desire.
In his autobiography, Mahatma Gandhi wrote that during his student days he read the Gospels seriously and considered converting to Christianity. He believed that in the teachings of Jesus he could find the solution to the class system that was dividing the people of India. So one Sunday he decided to attend services at a nearby church and talk to the minister about becoming a Christian.
When he entered the sanctuary, however, the usher refused to give him a seat and suggested that he go worship with his own people. Gandhi left the church and never returned. "If Christians have class differences also," he said, "I might as well remain a Hindu." That usher's prejudice not only betrayed Jesus but also turned a person away from trusting Him as Savior.
A. To say this problem still exists is an understatement. Class distinctions in the world also manifest in the church.
B. Consider the many denominations grow out of personality conflict, socioeconomic divides, lifestyles and traditions? How many more will grow out of other social/historical issues?
C. You may be interested to know that people of first century Palestine have the same problem. Some people aren’t proper company—so they avoid the slightest contact with them.
D. John the evangelist tells us of an outcast who is the first in her village to meet the Messiah, and what happens to an entire town as a result of her testimony. OYBT Jn 4.
[Confession is a key to spiritual formation—it frees our chains, releases Christ’s power in us, and helps us to mature as He desires, not as we desire.]
II. THE SETTING (1-6)
A. Jesus leaves Judea (southern region) on his way to Galilee (northern region). On his way, he passes through Samaria (central region). Self-respecting Jews go around Samaria rather than through it, because of their disdain for the Samaritan people. A little background may help…
1. When the Assyrians capture Samaria, they deport volumes of people, replacing them with others from across the empire. These people brought their own gods, traditions and ideals to the region. Eventually, they came to worship the one true God, but remained at odds with many traditions of the Israelites.
2. Samaritans are bitter toward the Jews. When the Jews return from Babylon (where they were captives), the Samaritans offer to help them rebuild the Temple—the Jews refuse (Ezra 4:1-3).
Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the Lord, the God of Israel, 2 they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of fathers' houses and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we worship your God as you do, and we have been sacrificing to him ever since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria who brought us here.” 3 But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of fathers' houses in Israel said to them, “You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God; but we alone will build to the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us.”
3. This humiliating retort causes the Samaritans to refuse to worship at Jerusalem, preferring their own temple built on Mt. Gerizim (400bc). But the Jews burn this temple in 128bc, worsening the tensions between the Jews and the so-called “half-breed peoples” of Samaria.
B. Enter Jesus—passing through Samaria—encountering a woman who comes for water. Their conversation leads to a her confession and meets Jesus.
III. THE ENCOUNTER (7-15)
A. Jesus loves to engage the unapproachable
1. The woman is stunned by his request; “Jews have nothing to do with Samaritans”
a. This probably refers to using her vessel to draw water. If the disciples went to town to buy food, they were obviously going to be doing business with Samaritans.
b. Jesus immediately takes the conversation to a higher plane. “If you knew…”
2. “Living Water” is translated “free gift”. Jesus speaks metaphorically of the gift of eternal life, given freely to those that accept “the gift of God” (Jesus). This well never runs dry.
3. Early in the exchange the woman dismisses his statement, patronizing him as though he was a child or one mentally disabled (vv. 11,12,15).
B. Jesus confronts her with her sin (vv.16-24)
1. Suddenly the patronizing tone of this conversation changes. “I see that you are a prophet”
2. She changes the subject by asking a question (she can’t change the subject fast enough!)
a. The great worship debate: Should we worship here or in Jerusalem?
b. “Our fathers worshipped here…” is a statement of argument; one meant to defend her theological position. (reinforcing the bitterness between the Samaritans and Jews)
3. Jesus responds with the simple truth of the gospel. True worship is of utmost importance; where it happens is of no importance. These are strong words; the Jews were required to worship in Jerusalem! What is he saying? Jerusalem doesn’t matter?