Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on March 3, 2016
Open your Bibles to John 4:1-26. As we begin, let us start with a question. What is the primary purpose of the Bible? Many people, many churches, many pastors would argue that the Bible is primarily about the salvation of man. No one would argue that this is a significant theme in the Bible, but is this the primary purpose? Others, me included, would say that the Bible is primarily about the revealing God. God, who today we will read is Spirit, is invisible. The only way we can know him is by Him revealing himself to us through His Word. The pinnacle of this revelation is when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
This difference is important, because how you come to the Bible will effect what you get out of it. If you see man as the central character of the Bible then you will seek to emulate their behavior, their questions, their faith, or lack thereof. However, if you see God as the central character you will marvel at his doings and worship. So as we read our text today, come to the pages with a desire to see God, o know God, to worship God. Let us read our text, pray, and then see what God has for us this morning.
Samaria, A Broken Religion
As we have said many times at Cornerstone, context is crucial. So let us spend some time, setting the stage. If you recall, John began this Gospel in Heaven, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” From there John brought the story to Earth. John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Next, our attention was drawn to the rural area of Bethany, across the Jordan, where John the Baptist was Baptizing, and it was there that the Baptist declared, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Next we were taken to Galilee where Jesus calls his first disciples, by saying the simple, but commanding words, “Follow me.” Following this we find ourselves at a quaint wedding where Jesus turns water into wine. John 2:11 tells us that, “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.” From the wedding, Jesus journeyed to Jerusalem for the Passover feast. Where we see Jesus place himself at ground zero of the Jewish celebration, the Temple, and deliberately makes a scene, and declares his ultimate authority over the Temple. While still in Jerusalem we see a conversation between the wisdom of man and God himself. Whereby Jesus tells Nicodemus th teacher of Israel, that religious works will not save you, it is only by God's Sovereign Grace that we have any hope. From there Jesus moves into the wilderness of Judea and people begin to flock to him. As John the Baptist watches the dwindling of his congregation and the increase of Jesus', his heart rejoices, seeing the mystery of the Christ unfold before his eyes.
Now in our passage today, we see Jesus moving on from the wilderness of Judea towards Galilee. In doing so we see in verse 4, “And he had to pass through Samaria.” First, let us address Samaria. What is Samaria? Samaria, during the time of Jesus, was a region within the Roman Territory. It existed between Judea and Galilee. Judea was to its south and Galilee was to its north. Samaria, today, is located within what is known as the West Bank of Israel.
The reason that Samaria exists is because of the sin of Israel. Around 900 B.C. the King of Israel, King Solomon died. Due to Solomon's sin and Israel’s rebellious heart the nation of Israel was divided into a Southern Kingdom and a Northern Kingdom. The capital of the Southern Kingdom of was City of David, Jerusalem. The eventual capital of the Northern Kingdom was Samaria. The town of Samaria was near a placed named Shechem, a prominent location during the days of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses. You can read about this in 1 Kings 16.
Now for today's purposes, this is what is important to understand. The Northern Kingdom was conquered around 722 B.C. The King of Assyria took some Jews out of the Kingdom and brought some gentiles into the Kingdom. This was the King’s attempt to assimilate the people. Over time, these gentile foreigners started to intermarry with the Jews. This was a major taboo, for it made the Jews racially tainted. In the process of intermarrying with these gentiles they started to pick up on some of their idolatrous behavior, and because of this God sent lions to kill the people. In response, the King of Assyria sent the Samaritans a priest to teach them the law of God, which was the first five books of the Bible. The Samaritans, however, did not completely follow God, they were lukewarm towards God. You can read about this is 2 Kings 17.
This lukewarmness towards God continued throughout the Samaritans history, and their understanding of God was greatly undermined. The Samaritans only accepted the the first five books of the Bible, and rejected the writings of the Prophets. This is one reason that Jesus says in verse 22, “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know.” The Jews had been given the full oracles of God, the prophets included, the Samaritans rejected God’s Word beyond Deuteronomy.
In addition to this, because they mixed their religion with the World, they also did not worship at the same place as the Jews. As we saw in John 2, the Jews worshiped in Jerusalem. For the Samaritans, they worshiped at Mt. Gerizim. This is why the Samaritan women said in verse 20, “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Most likely this Mountain was nearby, for it is believed that the town of Sychar was in fact Schechem.
Because of this mix of race and religion, religiously and ethnically pure Jews, did not get along with the Samaritans. There was an immense divide between these two groups of people. You can see that in our text today, Verse 9, “For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.” This division was common knowledge for both Jews and Samaritans. Look at verse 9 again; the Samaritan women says, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” This women knew about the tension. She knew that the Jews viewed the Samaritans as unclean, tainted, religious outcasts.
In fact, it is said, there was a pathway that led up the Transjordan that allowed the Jews to go from Galilee to Judea without having to walk through Samaria. Having said all of this, where do we find ourselves today, we find ourselves at the foot of Mt. Gerizim, the place of Shechem. Why?
He Had to Pass Through
Look at verse 4 again, “And he had to pass through Samaria.” This is such as interesting thing for John to say. Jesus, the Son of God, the Christ, had to pass through Samaira. Jesus, you would think, does have to do anything. Geography is no restriction for Jesus. He is not compelled by circumstances. Not to mention that I have already informed you that geography was really not the issue. There was a roadway that along the Jordan that would had led them around this so called tainted region. In fact, there was a good chance that from Capernaum they would have traveled the Transjordan on their way to Jerusalem.
But we are told in today’s passage that he had to pass through Samaria. What is going on? I believe the answer is actually found in verse 34, which is just outside of our text for today, “Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” The “had to” in verse 4, I believe is explained in verse 34. This meeting that took place between Jesus and the Samaritan women was a divine appointment arranged by the God of the Universe. This event was no accident, this was no happenchance. This was destiny.
I believe this conclusion is further corroborated by verse 8 says, “For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.” Why would all of his disciples go into town to buy food and leave their Rabbi all alone in the middle of Samaria? Mostly likely it was because Jesus had sent them all away. He was in effect asking them to step out of the room so that he could speak to this women.
Lost Sheep of Samaria
So what is so great about this women? Why does the God of the Universe, desire His son, the Messiah, to strike up a conversation with this lady? Was this another Nicodemus type moment. In John 3, we saw Jesus have a conversation with the cream of the cream of the cream of the Jewish crop, the most pious of Jerusalem. Was Jesus now going to have the same conversation with the most pious of Samaria? No. In fact you would be hard pressed to find a more dramatic contrast between John 3 and John 4, than this women.
First of all, the Samaritan women is a women. Women during the time of Jesus were not treated as they are today. To put it bluntly, the culture was sexist. You can see this in verse 27, another text just outside of our reading today, “Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a women.” They marveled. What he was doing was counter-cultural. In fact, many people during that time took the position that it was not appropriate for men to talk to women in public. In fact, in my studies I found that for Rabbi's, which Jesus was considered to be, they commonly viewed talking to women, their wives included, was an inappropriate use of their time. This culture had distorted God's original design of men and women having equal value and worth in the eyes of God.
But if that wasn't enough, not only was the women a women, but she was promiscuous. Look at verse 16, “Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” This women was the opposite of virtuous. In stead of spending her whole like pursuing religious devotion, she had made a train-wreck out of her life. Perhaps this is why she was at this well all alone, in the middle of the day, all alone; because of her sins she was an outcast.
He Came to Save Sinners
So let us think about this for a second. The God of the Universe, who is Holy, Holy, Holy. Who is all knowing, all powerful, transcendent. Who spoke all things into existence out of nothing, sends his Son Jesus, who is God himself, into the World so that he can sit at a well, on this particular day and meet this particular women; a women whose culture was broken, her religion was broken, and her heart was broken. Why would God ordain this? Because God loves sinners, and this is why Jesus came.
Never Thirst Again
The women poses to Jesus a very interesting question to Jesus in verse 12, “Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” The answer to this question is a resounding yes. Jacob was a mere man, digging a mere well. As the women said these words, the bones of Jacob lie lifeless in the dirt, and the well he dug could only provide water to quench a man's thirst for a few hours. Little did she know who she was speaking to. As different as she was to Nicodemus, she was also the same. As the King stood before her, she did not have the eyes to see his majesty.
In verse 10 Jesus says, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” Jesus knew who he was. He knew the significance of his presence. As Jesus said, he is the gift of God. This rings with the same tone of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son.” This giving of the Son, is not just some divine experiment, it is a act of amazing benevolence, not only to the Jews, but the world, all people groups, Samaria included.
So what is go great about Jesus that he is a gift to us? He tells us twice. In verse 10 Jesus tells us that he is the gift of God because he is the source of living water. Again in verse 13, “Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” So what is Jesus saying?
One way to describe why we sin is thirst. Not physical thirst, but spiritual thirst? God designed us to be satisfied in Him. We were made in the image of the Trinity. The Trinity is a relationship. Therefore we wired to have relationship with God, yet because of sin our relationship with God is broken. We are cut off from the thing we need most in life, God. All of us feel this separation. All of us feel this need, and we spend our lives pursuing things to quench this thirst. For this Samaritan women, she sought to quench her thirst with men. Divorce after divorce, looking for something only God can fill. For Nicodemus it was religion. For you it may be drugs, alcohol, your kids, your job, your home, your stuff, the list can go on an on. This behavior is the essence of idol worship, a thirst for God that you attempt to quench with the dust of this world. And drinking dust will not satisfy.
I have used this quote before, but it fits so well here. CS Lewis said, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
And this is what Jesus is telling this women, she is not made for Samaria, she is made for heaven. The desire you have inside of you, is ultimately for Christ. It is only Christ that can quench your thirst. It is only Christ who can satisfy your deepest desire. We are all designed for God, to love him, to trust him, to worship him. This is your purpose, and this is God's gift, to satisfy our thirsty souls.
And this gift is available now. It is not something we must wait for. It is a “spring of water welling up to eternal life.” And the fountain of this well is Christ alone.