A little girl once asked her Daddy as they were driving home from church,
“Daddy, my Sunday School teacher said God is so big that He holds me and you and everyone else in His hand.”
Her Daddy replied,
“Yes, sweetheart, your teacher is right! God is so big that He holds the whole world in His hand”
His daughter paused a moment and spoke up again.
“Daddy, my teacher also said that God can live inside our hearts.
“Yes, He certainly does!” her Daddy replied. “Your teacher is right again.”
She paused again for a moment and wrinkled up her face in a confounded sort of manner. After a few moments in deep thought, she shared with her Daddy,
“Daddy, if God is so big that He can hold the whole world in His hand and if God can also live inside our hearts, wouldn’t people be able to see Him on our outside because He’s so big?”
After catching his breath from such a profound statement from his little girl, he replied in a shaky, tearful voice,
“Yes, sweetheart, people should always see God on our outside!”
This little story isn’t an issue of being ashamed of the Gospel, but who, or rather, who we don’t choose to share the Gospel with. If you asked me if I labeled people as I looked at them, the pious side of me would immediately defend and say,
“Of course I don’t! I look at everybody the same!”
But a careful self examination and test (2 Corinthians 13:5) would scream, “You Hypocrite!”
Isn’t it easy to do that – to put a label on people? We see someone walking down the street with piercings all over and more tattoos than bare skin and immediately we throw them into a box. Or what about someone else dressed in a business suit talking on two cell phones and we put them into a box as well. What if the couple who walked by was of the same sex and they were holding each other’s hands? They’d have their box as well. And once we have them in a box, while we won’t admit this openly, we choose which ones are worthy of receiving the Gospel – of seeing our God – and which ones are not. That sounds harsh – indeed it is. We end up making it us…and them!
But we do it! And so did the Jews in Jesus’ day.
Pastor’s sermon Sunday was out of John 4. It tells the story of the appointment Jesus had with the Samaritan woman at the well. What makes this story is the fact that Jews hated Samaritans and the Samaritans felt the same way about the Jews. But before we get into this passage, we need to have a little history lesson behind the hatred.
Rewind back to 2 Kings 17:7-33. Israel had become apostate and rebellious. They’ve grossly perverted worship and began to adopt idols of other nations. Along with worshiping the idols of other nations, they’ve also adopted some of their practices as well. They even sacrificed their own children to be burned all in the name of a god who wasn’t real. God sent prophets to His people, but they stiffened their necks all the more and were stubborn. They refused to respond. So God tore Israel from the house of David,
2 Kings 17:23 So Israel was carried away into exile from their own land to Assyria until this day.
What was once the Northern Kingdom of Israel was now an Assyrian province and was named Samaria, after the capital city. The king of Assyria took other captives from nations they had conquered and settled them in what was left of the Israelite towns. Now some Israelites escaped exile and those that did, ended up intermarrying with the colonists that the Assyrians settled in Samaria. The offspring of the remaining Jews and the colonists became the Samaritans – a mixed Jew and Gentile people.
The religious implications came in the form of a superstitious worship of God that blended the Jewish beliefs with the pagan rituals of the Gentiles. The resulting religion of the Samaritans combined elements of worshipping the Lord with the worship practices of the gods that the Assyrian colonists brought in.
Why is this all important? Because learning about the deep hatred between the two cultures provides us a clear picture of Jesus mission. Yes He was sent to the Jews first, but many rejected Him. His mission was for everybody – “For God so loved the *WORLD* that He gave His only Son, that *WHOSOEVER* believed would have eternal life. It doesn’t say just Israel, America, Ohio, Bucyrus, or even only Bucyrus Nazarene Church. Jesus mission was to reach whosoever – irrespective of who they are or how we, in error, label them.
Fast forward to the New Testament with the history lesson in mind. Hundreds of years have allowed the hatred between Jews and Samaritans to fester and grow. They despised each other. Why? Well, the Jews looked down on the Samaritans has half-breeds and unclean. The Samaritans despised the Jews because the Jews despised them! The hatred was self-sustaining.
Jesus took advantage the hostility between Jews and Samaritans in three different accounts, to teach us that His mission isn’t just for us or who we choose…it’s for whosoever. There are two encounters and one parable where Jesus, a Jew, interacts with them.
- Jesus heals the Samaritan man (Luke 17)
- Jesus talks to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4)
- Jesus chooses to make a Samaritan the hero of His parable (Luke 10)
We are going to look at John chapter 4.
As we read through this passage, we’ll stop along the way.
John 4:1-4 Therefore when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were). He left Judea and went away again into Galilee. And He had to pass through Samaria.
Scripture says He had to pass through Samaria. Speaking from the physical world only, no He didn’t. There were several roads that led from Judea to Galilee. There was one that was nearer to the coastline. Another went through the region of Perea. But Jesus **had to** take the road that led right through the heart of Samaria.
Now think about this for a moment. You are traveling along and one of the roads you get to take travels along the seacoast. You’ll get to walk along a beach, maybe see some sea gulls and listen to the waves. What a relaxing way to travel! But sometimes, in our lives, the most inviting avenue is not the one that God asks us to take. Sometimes He leads us away from the way we want to go, so that He can use us to accomplish His will. Sure, we might miss the coastline, but how does that compare to knowing that you were used to accomplish God’s will? Indeed it does not!
Jesus was obedient and God led Him to an appointment with a Samaritan Woman.
John 4:5-12 So He came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph; and Jacob’s well was there. So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” She said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water? “You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?”
In John’s account of this conversation, he mentions the woman’s words that the well is from their father Jacob. The well that she is drawing water out of was the same well that provided water for Israel and his family. Including this fact, John reduces down the animosity, boils it away, and what is left are two people from the same side of town. They are both descended from the House of Jacob. **(See the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:1-17)**
When we remove all the outside stuff, the suit, the piercings, the tattoos, the cell phones, the gothic or preppy clothing, the football jersey, the makeup and glam, and anything else that acts as a barrier for us, we reduce each other to the least common denominator. We’re both human, created by a perfect God, contaminated with sin, in need of a Savior, intended and purposed to fulfill a Divine will.
We are human beings.
John 4:13-14 Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
It is interesting to note that the spring that feeds Jacob’s well here is still active today! **(See MacArthur Study Bible)** We may not have Samaritans in Bucyrus, but the need for living water is still active today and there are people thirsty to receive it. They are just waiting for someone to talk to them.
John 4:15-42 The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.” He said to her, “Go, call your husband and come here.” The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus *said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman *said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” Jesus *said to her, “I who speak to you am He.” At this point His disciples came, and they were amazed that He had been speaking with a woman, yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why do You speak with her?” So the woman left her waterpot, and went into the city and said to the men, “Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?” They went out of the city, and were coming to Him. Meanwhile the disciples were urging Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But He said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples were saying to one another, “No one brought Him anything to eat, did he?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work. “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. “Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. “For in this case the saying is true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ “I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor.” From that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all the things that I have done.” So when the Samaritans came to Jesus, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. Many more believed because of His word; and they were saying to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.”
From that city many samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified about the one that promised her living water. Because of one outcast halfbreed, many came to a saving knowledge of Christ. Notice verse 42. The men say that it is no loner her words that they believe on but the words of Jesus that they have heard themselves. The woman wasn’t the one that prayed with them. She wasn’t the one that baptized them. She was merely the one that told them about Jesus. Jesus told her, she received, and she told the men of her city. It doesn’t get much simpler than that. She simply led them to Jesus – pointed them His way. No profound testimony or revelation.
It’s easy to get duped, lied to by the devil, that testifying and witnessing to someone else is complicated and requires a PhD. All that’s really stopping us are social barriers we erect. But in this story we see two huge barriers broke down through the simple act of caring for another human – showing love. Jesus broke the barrier down between Jew and Samaritan. The woman broke down a barrier between men and women by testifying to the men of the city she lived in. Women were not really supposed to have much to do with religious matters. Those were typically left to men. Yet we see this woman testifying about Jesus.
We have our part to play in the story of someone else’s discovery of His grace. Our job is to lead them to Christ, moving past the social barriers. We are to point them in His direction, testify about Him, and then get out of the way. Sometimes we can slow down the gospel by not doing just that – to get out of the way. We can’t do God’s job. His job is changing lives. His job is conversion. Our is much simpler! We just point people in His direction, testify about what He’s done in our lives and tell them that He can do the same in their lives.
All that’s required is that we remove the social barriers that we build and move past them. Be obedient to the Spirit as He leads you to a road that you might not take otherwise. You’ll never know who you might come into conversation with and what impact that conversation may have when God’s in it!