Hello and welcome to Thursday’s podcast. I hope you have enjoyed listening in through this week and that they are a helpful tool to meet with Jesus. And special mention goes to those new worship tracks at the end of these recordings. If Michael Bublé did some worship tracks they would not sound as good as those – well done to the worship team at STC and everyone involved. They are top quality.
Today we start chapter 4 in John’s gospel. Jesus meeting a woman at the well. She is a Samaritan woman. Part of understanding this passage is to understand some of the background at play here. I’ll not be able to mention everything in this short thought but let me share some headlines with us of things that help this conversation come alive – because what I really want us to remember today is that God’s love is for everyone, even the outsider.
We heard earlier in the week that we are SO loved.
Yesterday we touched on how his love defines us before other people’s love and praise.
Today is building on how that love is for everyone.
Ok, what comes to mind when I think of the word Samaritan is the amazing charity that gives emotional support to people all over the UK. Or the story of the good Samaritan. But those two examples alone do not let us into the tension that is here in the Bible story today.
Let me read v7,8,9 so we can hear the words in the Bible.
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
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.)
The reason they did not get along – we are told so in the Bible – this was because they had broken away as a new religious movement earlier in Israel’s history. When the Assyrian Empire defeated Israel they captured some of the men and imported some of the women and in a sense created a new ethnic group called the Samaritans. They were not allowed to worship in the temple of Jerusalem so they took the Torah (that is Israel’s religious text) and edited out all reference to Jerusalem and established their own temple up North. As you can imagine, over the years there was this growing dislike, in part it was racial tension – they were part of the oppressive system that had caused so much pain in their history. In part it was spiritual tension as they edited the word of God – especially where and how he can be worshipped. The Samaritans didn’t like the Jews because they felt excluded and mistreated. Over the years they fiercely avoided each other.
Into that story Jesus begins to talk to this woman, which would not ordinarily happen in public. On top of this, if we go back to verse 6 (I’ve not yet read verse 6 to us), but it tells us she came by herself to draw water in the middle of the day. She did not come in the morning with the other women, when it was cooler, and when you really needed the water (which was early in the day). All the commentators I’ve read say the fact that she came by herself in the middle of the day was because she was a moral and social outcast because of the kind of life she was living.
But Jesus reaches right through all those barriers: the racial barrier, the difference in ideas about God, the gender and moral barriers – could have all become obstacles that stopped these two people ever meeting and he respectfully engages her in a conversation about her life. This is not something she expected. In verse 9 she sounds so surprised. She says, “You’re a Jew, and I’m a Samaritan woman, how can you ask me for a drink…” how can you even be talking to me?”
And so to her surprise Jesus begins to ask about her life, and respond to her questions. This is what he says in verse 10 and verse 13.
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.”
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 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.”
[she replies], “Sir, give me this water.”
They are not just talking about water any more – this metaphor for salvation. The thing that Jesus has that we all crave. He calls it a gift. Yet so often we see it as a wage.
(I read a book called Desiring God, by Timothy Keller and that is a paraphrase of some of the things he commented on this passage).
Jesus has the gift we are all looking for. And we often see it as a wage that needs to be earned.
That she may no longer thirst and look for the things of this world to satisfy the soul.
The beautiful truth of the Christian faith is that we do not need to climb a ladder to get close to God. He comes to us. He gives us a gift that we might not have to thirst for fulfilment any more. We have to receive it and believe it and then live in light of it. We will look at what happens next in more detail tomorrow. But for today, let’s be inspired by all the barriers God broke down to through to get to this woman. Think about your own journey and the obstacles overcome that you might hear and understand the story of Jesus. He has come all the way to us and nothing can stop him. God’s love is for everyone. Even for me.
Thank you that it does not matter who we are or what we have done. You love us and your gift of living water is for us. Free us from the mindset we sometimes drift into that I must climb the ladder of religion to earn your blessing. In Jesus name, Amen.
READING: John 4:1-26
Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptising more disciples than John – although in fact it was not Jesus who baptised, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.
Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?’ (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
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.)
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.’
‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 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?’
Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 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.’
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.’
He told her, ‘Go, call your husband and come back.’
‘I have no husband,’ she replied.
Jesus said to her, ‘You are right when you say you have no husband. 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.’
‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.’
‘Woman,’ Jesus replied, ‘believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.’
The woman said, ‘I know that Messiah’ (called Christ) ‘is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.’
Then Jesus declared, ‘I, the one speaking to you – I am he.’