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Apr 29 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 27, 2014 – John 4:3-30

When Jesus Broke the Rules

He left Judea and went away again into Galilee. And He had to pass through Samaria. 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. John 4:3-8

Intro: When we went through Genesis, we were introduced to” type-scenes”

A storytelling formula used in shaping a specific sort of event that recurs in different stories
– the type-scene we explored was “boy meets girl at a well” – men who met their wives at a well
• John’s specific reference to “Jacob’s well” in this story reinforces the link with this type-scene (Gen. 29:1-20)
– what stands out in type-scenes are not the similarities with the prototype, but the deviations from it
• in the story in John 4, there are two significant deviations in the type-scene:
1.) Jesus asked for water, but deviated from the type-scene when he offered the woman a drink
2.) the strangest twist is that, far from finding his wife at a well, he met a woman who already had five husbands
○ the dialogue turns on this particular point – this is where it gets serious

The Samaritan woman is a mirror image of Nicodemus
– he was male (named) and a member of Israel’s religious establishment
– she was female (unnamed) and lived outside Israel; in fact, a despised Samaritan
(note that one of the most degrading things Jesus’ opponents could say to him was that he was “a Samaritan” and had a demon (Jn. 8:48)
• that Jesus spent time with this woman and offered her eternal life is a beautiful illustration of his defiance
○ he did not allow cultural or religious conventions stand in his way
○ he refused to love only those he was supposed to love

How the story unfolds

Unlike his meeting with Nicodemus, Jesus initiated conversation with the Samaritan woman
“Give Me a drink”
– surprised, but not flustered, she shot right back, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink . . .”

As if to say, “Where’s your racism now, when you’re thirsty and I have the jar? You wouldn’t even be talking with me if your friends were here”

– John’s footnote explains why she said this, “For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans”  (cf. v. 27)
• I think she enjoyed having the upper hand
• she was not afraid of Jesus – obviously, she knew how to handle men

In his response to her, Jesus said there were two things she did not know”

  1. “The gift of God” – implied in this comment is that the gift was available to her
    • he had the authority and the capability to bless her with the gift of God
  2. “Who” it was asking her for a drink
    • if she knew those two things, she’d be asking him for “living water”

She took issue with both of his points
– regarding the gift of God, she asked, “Where are you going to get that living water?”
• again she points out that she’s the one with the jar, “You have nothing to draw with . . .”
– then, Who do you think you are? “You are not greater than our father Jacob are You . . .?”
• she had not taken the bait – she did not acknowledge that he had used a metaphor
• instead, she took him literally, and in this way she refused to follow his lead

Unfazed, Jesus took the metaphor to a deeper, down into soul issues
– “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again”
• that gnawing, desperate desire that keeps us striving for satisfaction
○ striving for a “thing,” a relationship, or an experience big enough to give our lives a meaning
– the person who drinks of the gift of God will never thirst
• instead, the water Jesus promised would itself become a well within the person’s soul
• their thirst, then, is quenched by something within them rather than something out there in the world
○ peace and contentment come with this quality of life that Jesus referred to as “eternal”

The woman responded to this with fake enthusiasm
– “Sir, give me this water, so I won’t have to drag myself out here to this well any more”
• she is still keeping him at arm’s length by pretending to take him literally
– she’s a tough one
• she not only holds her ground, but jabs him with sarcasm
○ her sarcasm, however, masks her cynicism
• she’s had a hard life
○ she had given up hope on such things as “living water” or “happily ever after”

Jesus treated her as if she were serious and so gave her a task, “Go, call your husband . . .”
– all at once, everything changed
• his mention of “husband” produced a sudden and noticeable change in her

The woman’s response, unlike earlier comebacks, was short and abrupt
– the fewest words she spoke so far — only four words, “I have no husband”  (only three in Greek)
• no clever retort, no sarcasm, she had nothing else to say
○ Jesus hit sore spot and she was done talking with him
– but just when it looks like conversation was over, Jesus hit her with the biggest shock yet
“Well said! The fact is, you’ve had five husbands, and the man you have now is not your husband. So you’ve certainly spoken the truth”

At this, the woman suddenly came alive – much more than than she had been before
– she then asked Jesus a theological question, “Where are we supposed to worship? Here or in Jerusalem?”
• it looks like she is quickly changing the subject
• in reality, she is now tracking with Jesus
○ he’s a prophet, so he would have to know — and she is dying to know
○ hidden beneath the theological question was a deeper, personal question:
• “Can I still worship God? Will God accept my offering–will he accept me–, five husbands and all?”
• her question has to do with space – “the place” where worship is to be offered
– she asked a theological question, so Jesus gave her a theological answer
• the relevant issue is not space but time, “. . . an hour is coming”  (vv. 21-24)
– Jesus also answered her personal question, but I don’t think she heard it
• instead, I hear despair in her voice and all she was able to do was fall back on her beliefs
• “I know the Messiah is coming, maybe he will explain everything”
– at this point, the Lord’s words explode with truth and hope, “I who speak to you am He”
– she had said, “Maybe the Messiah will answer my question,” and now here was the Messiah standing before her
• her was answered — he accepted her, just as she was

There’s one more observation I want to make as an aside
– it is not so pertinent to the revelation we have just discovered
• but it is an interesting facet to the story that John supplies
– in movies, directors frequently communicate something to the audience using a close-up shot of  an object
• if we’re alert, we recognize the object as a hint, a clue, or a flash forward of something that is coming
• John does this with the woman’s jar –he just happens to mention, “So the woman left her waterpot” (v. 28)
○ neither she nor Jesus needed to say anything about it
○ it was a thoughtful gesture that reveals the fact that Jesus had reached her

What was Jesus’ strategy in this conversation?

He wanted to give her a life above the dreary, cynical life she had
–  he wanted her to experience the life of God’ Spirit
• but for her to get off hamster wheel, something hidden had to be exposed
• she had a wound, a disappointment, a shameful memory
○ at first, she resisted his pull in that direction
○ she had invested a lot of energy in not facing it – it was too big for her
– this meaningless existence, this repetitive journey to and from the well
• coming and going, coming and going, coming and going day after day, and getting nowhere
○ no matter how many times she drank water from the well, she thirsted again
• Jesus wanted more for her, but something was holding her back

I am amazed at how many are unhappy, broken, abusive, frustrated, and overwhelmed
– yet they refuse help – they resist taking a good, honest look at themselves
• they’re afraid exploring their inner lives – they imagine it would be too painful or humiliating
• so they cling to to their bankrupt beliefs and continue to revert to their useless habits
○ they remain imprisoned in the lesser lives to which they are attached and that they hate
– later on, Jesus will teach that continuing in his word and becoming his disciples leads people to the truth
“and the truth,” he says, “will make you free” (Jn. 8:31-32)
– what did the Samaritan woman learn when she looked into the cellar of her heart?
• she learned that Jesus did not judge her, scold her, or shame her
○ he even let her quickly change the subject to non-threatening questions of theology
• but she was already different
○ she discovered she was accepted
○ her past had not ruined her or disqualified her
○ she no longer needed to live under a cloud of shame

In Sacred Intersections, Steve Adams says, “We all have our blind spot issues. . . . It’s the blind spots that keep us from being all that we were made to be, so receiving input that can help us address those things is a gift indeed.”

That is what Jesus offered her — the opportunity to lovingly look into the darkness of her heart and mind
– to shine his light on all the hidden things
• then to refresh and renew her soul with living water
• finally, allowing her to go her way into a new, eternal life

Conc: This woman proved to be a challenging case

But Jesus wanted her – so he broke the rules of his religion and culture to go after her
– from the start, his goal was to bring her to himself (vv.10 & 26)

Do you realize that Jesus works just as hard to win you?
– that’s why he won’t let our shallow lives work
• why we keep stumbling over the same problems
○ there are hidden things we need to face

Jesus wants to face those things with us
– he wants to expose them, redeem them, then repair us and make us whole
• the response he wants from us is:

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;

And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.  –Psalm 139:23-24


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