Disclaimer: Because the sermon below is what was prepared, but sat on the pulpit. The sermon that was delivered may vary from what is written below...

 

FIRST READING John 4:5-42

5. So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6. Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. 7. A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8. (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 9. The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a Samaritan woman?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) 10. Jesus answered her, “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.” 11. The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12. Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” 13. Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14. but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” 15. The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” 16. Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” 17. The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, “I have no husband'; 18. for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” 19. The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you {plural} say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21. Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25. The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” 26. Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

 

27. Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” 28. Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, 29. “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” 30. They left the city and were on their way to him. 31. Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32. But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33. So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” 34. Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35. Do you not say, “Four months more, then comes the harvest'? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. 36. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.

 37. For here the saying holds true, “One sows and another reaps.’ 38. I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” 39. Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman's testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” 40. So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41. And many more believed because of his word. 42. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”

 

Sermon for March 15, 2020

 

This was a long reading, but so rich in both reality and symbolism. To understand all that’s going on you need to realize the cultural differences as well as the enmity between Jews and Samaritans who share a common ancestry dating back to approx. 1800BC—3800 years ago. That’s a long time in human years, but only yesterday from God’s point of view.

This morning when the woman expressed surprise that Jesus would ask “a Samaritan woman” for a drink,  both the words, “woman” and “Samaritan” are important, for two things are going on; in that time and place, Jewish men did not speak to a women in public—any woman, not even their own wives—it just wasn’t done.  Additionally, Jews avoided all contact with Samaritans. They would not eat or drink anything that had been handled by a Samaritan lest they become ritually contaminated. Jews believed Samaritans conveyed ritual uncleanness by what they lay on, sat on, or rode on or touched, etc.”

This rift between Jews and Samaritans is rooted in history when the Assyrians defeated Samaria and took many into captivity.  Those remaining in Samaria intermarried with gentiles, thus compromising their ethnic identity.  Somewhat later, the Babylonians defeated Judea and took many Judeans into captivity.  However, the Judeans managed to preserve their identity even though in captivity. 

In time they were allowed to return to Judea and they rebuilt the temple. When the Samaritans wanted to help and offered to, they were rudely rebuffed because of their mixed heritage.  Later they built their own temple on Mount Gerizim, starting a continuous controversy regarding the proper place of worship (Barclay, 140-142).  That temple was later destroyed.

Getting back to the scripture, carrying water was considered “woman’s work.” Probably because it was hard, physical labor, raising and lowering a bucket 100 feet, filling the water jugs and then carrying them home. Because it was hot and hard the women would go to the well early in the morning, or if needed, sometimes later in the evening when it was cool.  The redeeming factor about this labor was that it was a time when women gathered together talking, socializing and catching up on the latest news, AKA gossip.

Which kind of reminds of my navy days and the word scuttlebutt, which was a water fountain, but it also stood for probably false info—scuttlebutt—because it was gotten at the water fountain where sailors stood around and swapped lies.

The well, or scuttlebutt, was a well liked social gather.  So our unnamed Samaritan woman coming at noon is very telling.  It means that she was probably an outcast—in part because of her many husbands and because she was now living with a man not her husband. Though this may be common now, it was very scandalous in that day and time.

So this is what we know: she was a woman of low character and lax morals on the outskirts of society.  And even though Jesus is aware of all this—we ain’t foolin’ Him—He goes ahead and talks to her saying, “Give me a drink.”

The fact that she is a woman of lax morals is further exemplified by the fact that she speaks back—and probably in a flirty manner—“How is it that you, a Jew, speaks to me, a Samaritan?”  Jesus responds that she should be asking Him for the Living Water.  OK, what does that mean?

The living water that Jesus refers to is the source of life—Jesus draws His power and authority of the Source of Life—He who is the Living Water.  That’s why when the disciples return and urge Him to eat He tells them that He has food to eat that they know not of; that His food is to do the will of the Father, the source of all nourishment.

The phrase, “living water,” is from the Old Testament: For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the spring of living waters, and cut them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water “ (Jeremiah 2:13).  Also, • “Yahweh, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you shall be disappointed. Those who depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken Yahweh, the spring of living waters.” (Jeremiah 17:13).

The difference between living water and water in a cistern is that living waters flow—they move with life. A cistern is merely a storage tank. Remember these are metaphors. But the metaphor holds true when referencing spiritual life.

Yes, this woman is an outcast in her own society.  And yet Jesus has chosen her to be the one He first reveals His identity to: “I know that Messiah is coming” and when he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” 26. And Jesus said, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

That was the first direct, positive, and undisguised pronouncement of his divine nature and it was made to a woman, a Samaritan woman, and a woman of questionable character in the eyes of men, but a woman whom the divine eye beheld as having been sinned against more than as sinning of her own desire and was a human soul who desired salvation, desired it sincerely and wholeheartedly, and that was enough. (UB)

In return this woman who has to go to the well alone because she’s not fit for society becomes Jesus first evangelist.  As soon as the disciples came back she left in a hurry. That’s why it was mentioned that she left her water jar—to indicate that she left in a hurry—a panic—caught talking to a man in in broad daylight and in public.

Remember that the disciples are astonished—astonishment shows and she has seen the looks.  But here’s the deal: He has made such an impression on her that on returning to the city that she once again forgets herself and begins broadcasting what has happened. She said to the people (not just women, but to everyone) 29. “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”

The way that is written doesn’t convey the excitement and exuberance her voice would have carried. This marginalized woman is so excited that the town goes to see what had got her into this state.  And once they do, unlike many of the Jews, they invited Him to stay—and He takes two whole days out of His busy schedule to stay and teach.  These Jews have been welcomed by Samaritans; a group of people deemed so heinous that in the story of the Good Samaritan the scribe cannot even bring himself to say the word “Samaritan” when asked who was the neighbor,” but instead says, “He who helped him.”  The very word, “Samaritan” was odious.

     Here’s the truth: when God looks at you He doesn’t see what everyone else does. He looks at your heart and who you can become if given the chance.