Jesus Comes to Us Sermon - John 4:7-26, 28, 39-42
Preached at Kendalia Community Church on September 4, 2016
I am blessed to be here and worship with you. This church, built around 1886, grounds and the people that gather here are the “the body of Christ” that speak to people in this community, and I’m blessed to be a part of it. I am David Little, and hail from Dripping Springs, and am here because Pastor Keith Bruce couldn’t be here this Labor Day weekend. Let’s pray:
Father God, you are wondrous! You give us a signs all around – like this church and the people in it - if we have eyes to see it. This Labor Day let us remember that we do all our work for you, and let us rest in that. Now, take my voice away, and let your Holy Spirit replace it, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Jesus on His way to somewhere:
You know, if you look at Jesus’ journey, He was on His way to somewhere when he “happened” to cross paths with people a lot. Look around the New Testament, and you will get stories of the Wedding Feast at Cana, the young woman with a disease that touched His cloak, Zacchaeus, and of course the twelve disciples. It seems that, to those in this world, Jesus just happened to see some people, but as the story of the Samaritan woman at the well shows, maybe there was a bit more there spiritually.
God speaks to you in this world:
The fact is, God speaks to everyone in this world, we can read Romans and get that fact. Now, it’s a fact that everyone in this world has not heard of Jesus, but we here don’t have that problem. No, God has spoken His deepest revelation to us in the form of Jesus Christ. Now, the question is: what are we going to do about it? But before that is where this sermon enters in, because it is a compelling question these days: Does Jesus come to us, or do we somehow have to find Him? Let’s go searching together...
It was the night of April 14, 1912. The RMS Titanic sailed on the bitterly cold ocean waters heading unknowingly into the pages of history. On board this luxurious ocean liner were many rich and famous people. At the time of the Titanic's launch, it was the world's largest man-made moveable object. At 11:40 p.m. on that fateful night, an iceberg scraped the ship on the starboard side, showering the decks with ice and ripping open six watertight compartments. The sea poured in.
On board the ship that night was John Harper and his six-year-old daughter Nana. According to documented reports, as soon as it was apparent that the ship was going to sink, John Harper took his daughter to a lifeboat. It is reasonable to assume that this widowed preacher could have easily gotten on board this lifeboat to safety; however, it never seems to have crossed his mind. He bent down and kissed his precious little girl; looking into her eyes he told her that she would see him again someday. He had tears on his face as he turned and headed towards the crowd of desperate people on the sinking ship.
As the rear of the huge Titanic began to lurch upwards, it was reported that Harper was seen making his way up the deck yelling, "Women, children and unsaved into the lifeboats!" It was only minutes later that the Titanic began to rumble deep within. Most people thought it was an explosion; actually the ship was literally breaking in half. At this point, many people jumped off the decks and into the icy, dark waters below. John Harper was one of these people.
That night 1528 people went into the frigid waters. John Harper was seen swimming frantically to people in the water, leading them to Jesus before the hypothermia became fatal. Rev. Harper swam up to one young man who had climbed up on a piece of debris. When he asked the man between breaths, "Are you saved?" The young man replied that he was not.
Harper then tried to lead him to Christ only to have the young man - who was near shock - reply no. John Harper then took off his life jacket and threw it to the man and said, "Here then, you need this more than I do..." and swam away to other people. A few minutes later Harper swam back to the young man and succeeded in leading him to salvation. Of the 1528 people that went into the water that night, six were rescued by the lifeboats. One of them was this young man on the debris.
Four years later, at a survivors meeting, this young man stood up and in tears recounted how that after John Harper had led him to Christ, Harper had tried to swim back to help other people, yet because of the intense cold, had grown too weak to swim. His last words before going under in the frigid waters were, "Believe on the Name of the Lord Jesus and you will be saved." This servant of God did what he had to do. While other people were trying to buy their way onto the lifeboats and selfishly trying to save their own lives, John Harper gave up his life so that others could be saved.
Is God or Jesus like that – is He searching for you, and will do anything to come alongside you?
The Gospel of John:
In the New Testament, John is a Gospel but unlike Matthew, Mark, and Luke, which are the “Synoptic” Gospels, or generally cover the same concepts - The Gospel of John, however, aims at a different idea or message.
The Gospel of John is about knowing Jesus and believing in Him. The other Gospels talk about Jesus and the Miracles He did, but only John talks specifically about believing in Jesus. There are seven “I am” statements in John - one of which is in the Scripture I am reading from today – meant to unequivocally say He is God! You remember God (Yahweh) talking to Moses in the Old Testament, and Moses unsure of what to say to the people of Israel about who is their God; God said tell them “I am” sent you! The main purpose of John’s Gospel is to introduce people to their Savior, Jesus, that they might believe in Him and have everlasting life! John does this through stories and signs - his word for miracles. John tells of a story, and a statement that Jesus is the Son of God! Let us see how this Son of God interacts with people...
This is a story about Jesus and a Samaritan woman from John...
Scripture: (Wait some time for people to get the Scripture open)
The Scripture for this sermon comes from John 4 and is the story of the woman at the well.
John 4:7-26, 28, 39-42
7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
9 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.[a])
10 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.”
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 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?”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 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.”
15 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.”
16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 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.”
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”
Skip a verse...
28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.
To verse 39...
39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.
42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”
The Word of the Lord – Thanks be to God.
Background of John 4:
The Samaritans were just north of Israel in Jesus’ times, part of the old Northern Kingdom, Israel (when Judah was the Southern Kingdom). When Assyria conquered the Northern Kingdom in the 8th Century B.C., they took some Israelites away to their Kingdom, but left other Israelites behind. When Assyria populated the Old Israel per the King of Assyria’s orders, the Jews intermarried, and their offspring became unclean to the now Israelite faithful. Yet the Samaritans kept the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament, called the Pentateuch in Greek) and worshiped – at least partially – the same God Israel worshiped – the great “I am.” In fact, if you were asking a Samaritan of the 1st century B.C. who was really worshiping God, they would say the Samaritans were!
The Samaritan and Jewish conflict came to a head in about 200 B.C. The Samaritans had built a worship center at Mt. Gerizim (the Torah says to worship there), but the Jews didn’t like that because the Hebrew Bible said that worship was to be in one place only, Jerusalem (which was in the Hebrew Bible, but after the Torah). Well, the Israelites had enough of the Samaritan Gentiles actions, which included worshiping their God! So, in 128 B.C. the Israelites destroyed the temple at Mt. Gerizim, which only heightened the state of affairs. For all practical purposes, they were Israel’s enemy!
John 4: The Samaritan Woman at the Well
So, in John 4, Jesus is going from Judea – where he had been – to Galilee because of the Pharisee’s knowledge of Jesus’ successful ministry and the conflict that could arise because of it. It was not time for the conflict that would end up with Jesus on the cross. That would come later in time and in the Gospel. On the map, to a crow flying, it would better and faster to go through Samaria to get to Galilee from Judea, but Jews usually went around Samaria for the reasons I have cited. But there was something more in Samaria – something spiritual – an encounter with the woman at Jacob’s well.
It is one of the longest meetings between Jesus and a person scripturally in the Gospels. Jesus came to the well about noon, and He was tired and thirsty. His disciples had gone into town to get some food, and he stayed at the well. Lo and behold, a woman comes up – to the well – to get some water.
Now, normally, a woman went to the well in the morning, not noontime, but as we learn about it in the story perhaps there is a reason...
4:7-9: You cannot miss that this is a male Jew talking to a female enemy here. This violated two societal restrictions for Jews. Jewish men – especially teachers - did not talk to women other than their wives or family. And she was a Samaritan woman, which not only was the enemy but unclean.
4:10-12: It is understandable the woman’s confusion, for living water in that day meant water that flowed, instead of still water that might be drawn from a well. We get a portion of Johannine irony here and Jesus’ talking in parable-like discourses because Jesus is not talking worldly.
4:13-15: But Jesus takes the opportunity to unpack the spiritual aspect of what He’s really talking about. Like a lot of Jesus’ stories (think about Nicodemus and the talk of being “born again”) He gets to the rut and talks about “living water” and the Spirit of God. But she is still confused...but is inquiring into the mystery that Jesus is speaking of. She gets good marks for trusting Jesus and being willing to go further. We even have hope for her that comes to fruition as the story progresses.
4:16-19: Jesus then comes at her with a curveball. “Go, call your husband, and come back.” This is an opportunity for Jesus to tell her part of who He really is. Don’t spend too much time on this, but know that perhaps she is a woman who has had hard times. When confronted, she admits it, and then sees that He is more than just a man (she thinks He is a prophet).
4:20-24: Then, she asks Him a relevant question (at the time, since the Samaritan’s only used the Torah, they thought Mt. Gerizim was the appropriate place, not Jerusalem). He takes her question and broadens it to talk about the true worship of God, in Spirit and Truth, and the hope that is salvation.
4:25-26: Then the woman says that the Messiah, whom Samaritans believed would came (they called him Ta’heb (“the one who returns”) and He will explain all things to us (as the Samaritans thought of Him as a teacher). Then the veil comes off, for Jesus said “I am.”
4:28, 39-42: She was so astonished and excited that she ran back to town, told the people. The people came running, and believed even more because they heard and saw Him in the flesh.
Let’s look at another example of Jesus coming to people – through the Jesuits...
Though the Roman Catholic Church has had some hiccups over the years (like the Crusades from 1095 – 1291 A.D.), there have been some blessings that champion them, too. One of the stories is the monasteries, which cropped up in the 1500’s on, and included such orders as the Franciscans, Augustinians, Dominicans, and Jesuits, to name a few. The Jesuits were started by Ignatius Orlando, a Spanish Soldier, in 1540. The Jesuit monks did anything but stay in the monastery. In fact, they spread the Gospel all over the world, from Japan to China to the Americas.
In North America, the Jesuits were up near Georgian Bay (in what’s now Ontario, Canada) working with the Hurons. Jean de Brébeuf spearheaded the effort of bringing Christ to Native American people, but had some obstacles, not the least of which was the language and the practice of the Huron people. Brébeuf was not dismayed by it, though, and learned the Huron’s language, translated Scripturals and liturgical materials, and ordered his Jesuit subordinates to adopt the Huron’s lifestyle. Finally, he crafted the Christ Story, not in the hills of Bethlehem, but in Huron Native American language:
Within a lodge of broken bark
The tender babe was found,
A ragged robe of rabbit skin
Enwrapp’d His beauty round.
The Jesuits pioneered the recognition that communicating Christianity involves a cultural repositioning of the faith. It is now – and has been since Jesus and Paul walked the earth – a way of reaching people who need to hear the story of Jesus and bring peace into their life.
The fact is, Jesus came to speak to the Samaritan woman. He went out of His way – through Samaria – and broke two customs to even speak to her. Then, He gets down and speaks to her in her world. He asks her for water! This Deity asks her for a drink! At that point, He goes into spiritual then personal issues. It is as if He speaks her to get to the heart of it – person to person. And then, she responds. She doesn’t even know what she’s responding to, but there’s something there. Something out of this world, something amazing, wonderful! She says He’s a prophet – she’s coming around. She knows that there is something strange about Him, something not-of-this-world. Then, she inquires about worship sites – not because she is concerned about them (although of course she is) but because she is starting to think that He is the Messiah. Then, He unmasks before her.
Don’t miss what happens next. She runs and tells the townsfolk. She – a female enemy – is witnessing to Jesus. And the people – Gentile according to the Jews – believe in Him and come to see Him. Then they believe stronger that the Savoir of the World is right amongst them. And He stays two days more with them, and fellowships.
The story of John Harper or the Jesuits is a repeat of the story of Jesus coming to us, only we as Christians (the “body of Christ”) get to do it because Jesus has ascended, therefore the Holy Spirit in us does the work...
Folks, this is a story that happens again and again. God searches for us, finds us, talks to us in our terms, and then reveals Himself to us (even if it is the body of Christ that does the labor!). If we are willing, like the woman at the well, to let Him inside us, our lives will never be the same!
Bring it to the Congregation:
But that’s a story, you say. What does it have to do with this congregation, with this world, with me? You say I am one person, and maybe a lowly person at that: Just a teacher, just a janitor, just a construction worker, or perhaps just a lawyer, like I am...you say look at the things I have done in my life. I lied, I cheated, I shamed a person, or you just say I am not perfect. I’ve got news for you, nobody’s perfect, except Jesus...you say what would Jesus – even if what you say is true – want with me? I say look to the woman at the well...
An enemy to Jesus...a woman who he’s not supposed to talk to...perhaps a sinner. He went out of His way to meet her and bring her to faith. Will He do any less for you? And there it is...the struggle. Some of you have it and have had it all your life. And probably you’ve had Christians talking with you, showing you the love of Jesus along the way, but maybe you were too busy with the troubles of the day, too worldly, or maybe you just missed it. I know I did...
But He will do more for you than you can imagine. He will give you peace when there is chaos. He will give you comfort when all is lost. He will give you guidance when you have nothing left. He will give you love and expect nothing in return – and for that you will love Him always.
For those of you who walk with Jesus, not only does He pursue you, most importantly, He adores you and wants a relationship always with you! He is waiting even if you’ve gone astray...
Jesus has already come to you in this message. He is with you, and waits for you to answer His knock on your heart. Listen – do you hear Him? What is your answer?
Father God, You do come for us. Let us believe that and walk with that every day of our lives. We know that we are not perfect – that is reserved for Jesus, who was perfect in every way. Let us love each other in our imperfection, bringing us together in Him through the Holy Spirit. Amen.
 Exodus 3:13-16 (NIV)
13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.[a] This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord,[b] the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’
“This is my name forever,
the name you shall call me
from generation to generation.
16 “Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt.
Exodus 3:14 Or I will be what I will be
Exodus 3:15 The Hebrew for Lord sounds like and may be related to the Hebrew for I am in verse 14.
 See George R. Beasley-Murray, “John,” 2nd Ed., Vol. 36, The Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 2000), lxxxviii.