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Author:Rev. W.B. Slomp
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Congregation:Immanuel Canadian Reformed Church
 Edmonton, Alberta
Title:How the Lord Jesus Leads the Samaritan Woman to the Living Water.
Text:John 4:1-26 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Church Building

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)


Psalm 138: 1, 2

Psalm 119: 1, 2, 30

Hymn 23: 3, 6, 7, 8

Hymn 55: 4

Hymn 57: 2, 3, 4

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. W.B. Slomp, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,
I read somewhere, and I assume that the author is right, that the human body is two-thirds water and that by the time you are 70 years old you will have required 1.5 million gallons of water. When our bodies fail to retain the right amount of water, dehydration sets in. If you lose 2% of your body's water supply, your energy will decrease by 20%. If you have a 10% decrease in water you will be unable to walk, and at a 20% decrease of water you are dead.
So water is essential. You cannot do without it. It is the water in our body that determines the vitality, strength, and energy associated with daily living.
I think you can see where I'm going with this. What is true of the physical is also true of the spiritual.
But how do you convince people that they need spiritual water as much as they need physical water? You know you need physical water when you are thirsty. Therefore you will go to the tap and pour yourself a glass. Your body tells you that you need it. But it's different with the spiritual. How do you know when you need spiritual water?
A lot of people, especially in this day and age, are spiritually thirsty. They feel that they are dying inside but they don't know what to do about it. They try to satisfy their spiritual thirst with all kinds of things, but nothing does the trick for them. They don't know where to find the true living water either. How do you direct them to the source?
That was the problem for the Lord Jesus throughout his ministry. That is a problem for us today as well. How do you bring others to Christ? How do you evangelize? Do you knock on doors? Do you sit your co-worker down in front of you and tell him or her about the Lord Jesus? What is the right approach?
Well, brothers and sisters, it is marvelous to see the Lord Jesus at work with the Samaritan woman. He has a very refreshing and effective approach. Let's watch the Lord Jesus at work and learn from him. To see how, listen to the message of this morning. The theme is:
How the Lord Jesus Leads the Samaritan Woman to the Living Water.
His approach is:
1. Without bias;
2. Respectful;
3. Obedient.
The apostle John alerts the reader to the fact that the Pharisees were, from the very beginning, opposed to the ministry of the Lord Jesus. They were jealous of him, and afraid that he would draw the people away from them. They had already been concerned with the ministry of John the Baptist who had many followers. But now, to their alarm, they notice that the Lord Jesus has even more disciples than John. Their jealousy puts the Lord Jesus in danger and therefore he had to flee from Judea to Galilee. He did not want his ministry to come to an end prematurely.
It says that he had to go through Samaria in order to get to Galilee, however, not necessarily for geographical reasons. He could have done like most Jews did, and go around Samaria. However, that would have meant three days more travelling. And he did not deem that necessary or desirable.
Do you know why most Jews would not go through Samaria in order to get into Galilee? It was because as far as they were concerned the Samaritans were an unclean people. They wanted nothing to do with them. So intense was their dislike of Samaritans that the Pharisees even prayed that no Samaritan would be raised in the resurrection. If you wanted to insult someone, then you would call him a Samaritan, just like the Pharisees did to the Lord Jesus in John 8:48.
The Samaritans were a mixed race, part Jew and part Gentile. And so they shared a common heritage with the Jews. That is why the Samaritan woman also speaks with the Lord Jesus about "our father Jacob". However for the rest, they differed from the Jews radically. For one thing they believed that God should be worshiped on Mount Gerizim, and not in Jerusalem. They also had different legal traditions regarding the cleanliness of vessels.
Although they were very devout and strict observers of the law, they interpreted the law much differently than the Jews did. The Samaritans had for Scripture only the five books of Moses, and they had their own way of interpreting those books. They called themselves Shamerim, that is "observers of the Torah", in reference to the law as contained in the five books of Moses, and were of the strong opinion that they and not the Jews were the bearers of the true faith of ancient Israel as expounded by Moses and as practiced at Mount Gerizim in ancient times.
There was a lot of tension between the Jews because of the history between them. The Temple that the Samaritans had built on Mount Gerizim around 400 B.C. was destroyed by the Jews in the year 128 B.C. The Jews destroyed that Temple because they claimed that the proper worship must be conducted in Jerusalem. No wonder there was so much animosity between them.
However, the Lord Jesus ignores all that history and enmity and prejudice against the Samaritans and has no problem to go through their land and have contact with the Samaritans. We see that when he encounters a Samaritan woman. For as he went through Samaria he came to a town called Sychar where he, being tired and thirsty, sat down near Jacob's well. As he rests there, a Samaritan woman comes into the picture who wanted to draw water from the well. And then a remarkable conversation takes place between Jesus and the woman.
The fact that the Lord Jesus has a conversation with her is in itself highly unusual. In the first place she was a Samaritan and Jews don't talk to Samaritans, especially rabbis wouldn’t do that. This woman noticed that anomaly right away. For she says to him, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?"
And then John, in connection with this, makes the editorial comment that Jews do not associate with Samaritans. Other translations state that they have no dealings with them. That word ‘dealings’ means literally, ‘to use together’. And so she is actually asking, “You want to drink from my cup?” She knows that the Jews consider the Samaritans unclean. Therefore they would not even share a cup of water with them. In so doing they would contaminate themselves. And so, whatever instrument she would use to draw the water, the water in it would be considered unclean. Yet, the Lord Jesus doesn't seem to care. And she is totally taken by surprise. Whether or not it is a pleasant surprise, as far as she's concerned, remains to be seen. She is still on the fence at this point.
In the second place the Lord Jesus is talking to a woman without others being present. A rabbi in Israel did not do such a thing. He would not talk with any woman in the street, not even with his own wife or daughter. This was totally contrary to the customs of that time.
In the third place, to top it all off, the Lord Jesus knows the kind of woman that she is. He knows, without her having told him, that she is a woman of questionable morals. In her lifetime she has had five husbands, and now is living with a man to whom she is not even married. Humanly speaking you could say that she was at the garbage heap of the marriage market and therefore doubly unsuitable company for any respectable man. She was the wrong race, the wrong gender, and had the wrong history.
And yet, he talked to her.
No doubt this approach of the Lord Jesus makes quite an impact on her. It makes her sit up and take notice. She doesn't know yet what is going on, but her curiosity has been aroused. It has been aroused, not necessarily because of his bold approach, but because of his accepting and humble attitude. He, a man, a Jew even, has an ordinary conversation with her, and of all people asks her for a favour.
His humble and accepting attitude is evident from everything he says and does. By asking for a drink he makes himself vulnerable, for she could have refused and rebuked him. She could have scolded him for doing something so unusual. The Lord Jesus could also have found another way to draw water. Yet, he asks her for a drink. This shows that Jesus has no false sense of pride.
Brothers and sisters, the Lord Jesus teaches us a great lesson. Do you see how deftly Jesus has begun to tear down barriers? First, he goes where most Jews considered themselves too good and pure to go. He, however, has a humble and accepting attitude. He shows himself to be a man without bias and prejudices. He does not consider himself to be better than anyone else, even though as the Son of God he is.
When the Lord Jesus speaks to this woman he is not pushy about it. He has a natural conversation with her. There is no hostility. And he does not put her in the position of obligation to him either.
Christians, and that includes me, often wonder how we must evangelize; how we must talk to strangers about the Lord Jesus. We feel guilty that we have not seized every opportunity to speak to others about him. For we know how necessary that is. We think about all the lost opportunities and think to ourselves that God will hold that against us. We should have spoken up whenever an opportunity presented itself.
But, we don't know exactly how to go about this. How do we bring others to Christ? Do we knock on doors and hand out pamphlets? Do we sit ourselves down across from the person in the restaurant who is sitting alone, and begin by telling him or her about Jesus? Do we confront our fellow workers about our faith as we have lunch with them? Do we rebuke them when they talk about their wild parties or the money they lost gambling in the casino? Where do we start? What opportunities do we seize upon? What do we say?
Well brothers and sisters, take note of the approach that the Lord Jesus takes. He is very wise and skillful in the way that he brings the Samaritan woman slowly but surely to the gospel, to the good news of salvation. He brings her to the truth in a very natural way. It flows out of who he is and what he stands for.
The first thing he does is break down the barriers by accepting her without any bias. The Lord Jesus could have begun by rebuking this woman about her false religion, or about her lifestyle, or about other things. But what do you think would have happened if he had done that? Do you think she would have responded to him? No doubt she would have wanted nothing to do with him. She would have turned her back on him.
2. Instead he engages her in a conversation as an equal. In doing so, he treats her with respect. We come to the second point. He says to 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.” I would imagine that it would have taken her a few moments to respond to this answer. For it is quite unexpected. She would have expected him to give a direct answer to her question. But he doesn't. In this way the Lord Jesus makes her think. Wouldn't such a question pique your interest as well? Think about it. Wouldn't you set down your water jar and say to him, "What exactly are you talking about? What do you mean?"
For he presents her with something very intriguing, especially to her in her situation. She has to fetch water every day. It is quite a chore. She probably had to travel quite a distance. And so, the prospect of not having to do that every day will be very attractive to her. That’s also what she says later on in the text.
And so with that question the Lord Jesus has her right where he wants her. He has her interested. He has her asking questions. In other words, he now has her setting the agenda. Or at least has her think that she is setting the agenda. He is not talking at her, but with her.
That is a mistake that many people make. They think that they have to speak at people. That they have to preach to them. Now, there is nothing wrong with coming with sermons. If that were the case then ministers would be out of a job. The Lord Jesus also preaches to people. Think about the Sermon on the Mount. Throughout Scripture we see that prophets proclaimed God's word.
But that is not appropriate in every situation. When you preach to people then you come with a general message that can apply to everyone. It doesn't necessarily deal with you in your specific situation. But when you engage people on a personal level then you also have to make a personal connection. You have to understand where the other person is coming from. And so you have to allow him or her to ask questions. You have to allow them to come to understand a certain point that you are making from their point of view. In other words, you have to engage in a two-way conversation.
Ministers and elders frequently make that mistake when they go on home visits. They think that on a home visit they have to set a certain agenda and that they have to do all the talking. After all, they have to instruct. But instruction is the place of the pulpit. A home visit is meant to listen to what is going on in the people's lives. To see how God's word is functioning in the life of that particular family, or of that particular person. And the only way you can find that out is by letting the family members have their say.
And that, brothers and sisters, is the genius of the Lord Jesus. He knows exactly how to do that. He got the Samaritan woman to talk. He broke down the barriers.
However at this point she does not yet take him seriously. She is still a skeptic. For let me paraphrase what she says to him, "Honourable Sir without water, how can you dispense living water? You don't have anything even to draw it with. Even our father Jacob would not be able to do what you propose to do."
It is noteworthy that she speaks about "our father Jacob". In this way she acknowledges a certain connection with him. It indicates that she is somewhat favourably inclined to him at this point. The Lord Jesus has got her that far. And now he can continue to strengthen the bond with her.
He now makes the distinction between two kinds of water. She very well understood what living water normally refers to. "Living water" refers to flowing water or spring water, in distinction from still water, such as water from a cistern or a well. Living water then is fresh water in comparison to still water which is brackish water.
But the Lord Jesus makes a distinction between two kinds of living waters. He makes a distinction between living water that refreshes you physically and living water that refreshes you spiritually. In this way he brought the conversation up a notch. He brings it to a higher, deeper level.
She is still not convinced. Understandably. There are still a lot of questions. There are still many things that need answers. But she continues to be intrigued. She wants him to give her some of that water so that she will not have to keep coming back to the well to draw water.
I'm sure, however, that she understands that he is talking about something different than the water from the well. But nevertheless she asks him to give him some of that water because she wants the Lord Jesus to explain himself further. No doubt she does that so that she can come to a greater understanding of what he is talking about. She wants him to further explain himself. She is still not sure. The Lord Jesus fully understands that for he is dealing here with a sinful woman. That is why he tells her to go get her husband and then to come back to him.
But, he knows that that is where the shoe pinches. For he knows that she is a sinful woman who has had five husbands, and that the man with whom she is living now is not really her husband. She never legally married him. There is sin in her life. She has had great difficulties with relationships in her life. Otherwise she would not have had so many husbands.
It is true that we are not given the reason for those many husbands, but those people who have difficulty with relationships are usually people who can clearly see the sins and shortcomings of others, but who are blind to their own sins and weaknesses.
And therefore, because of her sins and short-sightedness, there is still a great barrier between her and the Lord Jesus. The Lord Jesus has to break down that barrier.
Once again he does that in a marvelous way. He does not do this directly, but indirectly. He does not accuse her, but brings her to accuse herself. He brings her into greater insight to herself, without condemning her.
She had to deal with her own sin; else she cannot make progress. It is only once you realize your own sin that you can understand and be open to the message of the gospel. The gospel requires that you first recognize your sin and that you realize that you have to turn from that sin toward God. Your sin needs to be exposed. That is the New Testament pattern of evangelism. It always calls first for recognition of sin and a turning from that sin toward God.
And so the Lord Jesus says to her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” It is wonderful the way that she responds to this. She could have turned away from him and gone off in a huff. Or she could have made up an excuse that her husband was away on a trip. That's often what people do when they are put into an uncomfortable situation. They try to get out of it in one way or another, by hook or by crook.
Isn't that the way we all are? Isn't that what we do when we are confronted by our sin? We either get defensive or we try to dance around the issue.
But this Samaritan woman was an honest woman. She right away admits that she has no husband. And what does the Lord Jesus say to her? Does he scold her and tell her that she shouldn't be living a life like that? No he doesn't. He would have pushed her away if he had. He looked for the positive. He commends her. He says, "You are right." He brings out the truth. He does not do that by putting her on a guilt trip or by making her feel dirty, for he knows that sin makes you blind. And he was interested in opening up her eyes.
And again she responds well. She says, "Sir, I can see that you are a prophet." She hasn't quite figured out yet who exactly he is. And since she only knows the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch, she knows what it says in Deuteronomy 18:18, namely that the Lord God is going to send his special prophet to his people. She recognizes him as such. And so she has come a long way. But she still has to come further.
3. The only way that she can come to full understanding is through obedience to God and his word. It is our final point. The Lord Jesus shows in his answer how he wants her to be obedient to all of God's word.
As is clear from verse nine, it bothers this woman that there is such a rift between the Jews and Samaritans. The Lord Jesus is also bothered by that. He is bothered by all barriers. And he came in order to break down barriers. Therefore that barrier between the Jews and Samaritans has to be broken down first.
The only way you can do that is by understanding exactly what true worship is about, by being obedient to all of God's word. The Scriptures clearly state that salvation is from the Jews. Numerous Scripture passages point to that. We do not have the time to go through all of the verses now, but we all know that to be true.
That is also what the Lord Jesus tells her. This is a very important point. She is looking for salvation at the wrong address. Or more accurately, she doesn't know where to find it.
Now then, how does the Lord Jesus point her to the right address? Well, the Jews dealt with it in an arrogant and haughty way. They did it with an air of superiority, in such a way that they present themselves as being better than others. After all, aren't they God’s special people? Has God not said that they are the chosen nation? And are they therefore not at the right address when they worship God at the temple? And so they think of themselves as being more obedient and more acceptable to God than anyone.
Isn't that a mistake that we sometimes make as well? We know where the right address is, don’t we? It is this church, where you will find the right doctrine. And you are right. It is indeed here where the Lord gathers his church. This is where you belong.
But, that does not mean that he does not gather his church elsewhere. Of course he does. We have nothing to boast of. All we can do is to have a thankful and humble attitude. That is more important than anything else. It is not only where you worship, but also how you worship. Just because you come to this church doesn't mean that you are a better Christian. It only means that you come to that place where God's truth is proclaimed most fully. But now you also have to put that into practice. If all you can say about yourself is that you are going to the right place, then you still have a long way to go. For then you don't understand what God wants from you. He wants you to embrace the Lord Jesus Christ. He wants you to worship him, as he says, in spirit and truth.
That is also what the Lord Jesus now wants the Samaritan woman to do. The Jews and the Samaritans have to worship the Father in truth. And the Father reveals himself through his Son. When the Lord Jesus explains to her that the worship of the Father is in the spirit and in truth then he wants her to understand that it is a total obedience to his word.
And the word is standing right in front of her. For the Lord Jesus Christ is the word. And somehow she also came to understand that. For she already had confessed him to be a true prophet. But now she also comes to refer to him as the Messiah. The Samaritans did not have a Messiah expectation. The Jews did. And she knew that about them. And therefore by stating that she knows that the Messiah is coming she recognizes that there are no longer any barriers between the Jews and the Samaritans. It is the Messiah who breaks down those barriers.
What a tremendous revelation that is to her! Now she has come to the living water. She realizes what he means with that. And now she is so excited that she wants to go back to town and tell others about it. She tells those people in town, those people who know her and who listen to her.
How did she come to that insight? Well, the Lord Jesus met her where she was, in her situation of life. And then he gave her life; he gave her the living water. He opens her eyes and heals her heart and reconciles her to God. He breaks down the barriers between God and man.
That is also what God wants you and me to do as we go about our daily tasks. We have to humbly walk with our fellow man and bring him or her to the Lord Jesus Christ in a natural and loving way. Not in a condescending or know-it-all way. Humbly, joyfully, in a way that it flows out of your heart, out of a thankful heart. Thankful because the Lord God has saved you from your sins. For none of us is any better than anyone else. We are all sinful people. But we know that salvation is through the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the only one who quenches our thirst. He is the only one who can give us the living water. He is the only one who can make us spiritually alive. For without that living water we would be dead.
We have something absolutely wonderful to share, don’t we? The Lord God has given you and me the living water. And there is enough of the living water to go around for everyone. Lead others to that living water so that they too may have their thirst quenched forever. Lead them to Christ. Do it in the way the Lord Jesus teaches us. Do it because you truly love God and you truly love your neighbour. Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. W.B. Slomp, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2011, Rev. W.B. Slomp

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