The Nameless Lady
(John 4:4-29, 39-42) Warren Payne
At MBCC many of us are from other countries. If you were to be asked why did you come to NZ from China, Japan, Malaysia, India and many other countries what would you answer? Maybe some of you would explain that it was because you met someone who told you about NZ and this created a desire to immigrate.
When I think about how I came to go to Japan as a missionary, one of the people that had a strong influence on my life was the meeting of Doreen. This was while we were studying at the Bible College in Henderson. Through Doreen's parents I learned about Japan and the need for missionaries.
Also, through meeting a Japanese man, for the first time, at the same time, I was challenged to pray about going to Japan. Finally God spoke clearly through the Bible, and I knew for sure that Japan was the country for me.
Who we meet and what we hear from people can change the course of our lives.
In today's story, Jesus sought out a person. He started a conversation with a Samaritan woman by asking her for a drink of water. So water, worship and the Holy Spirit become themes of the conversation. .
I remember one time, talking to a lady about the meaning of an English word, and concluding the conversation with a deep discussion about God, and His creation of the world.
Let us pray and ask God to guide us by His Holy Spirit now, as we begin this same journey in John Chapter 4. This encounter started from a simple discussion about water, with one nameless lady, to a total change of belief and direction in life for her, and her whole community.
1. Women and Jesus
Opening comments - Jesus’s need for water
Verse 4 to 8 give us the setting of this story.
- Jesus was on his way from Judea in the south, to Galilee in the North.
Galilee was where Jesus home town of Nazareth was.
- Jesus was travelling through a region called Samaria.
- Jesus came to a village called Sychar. Sychar was near a field that the Jews ancestor Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob is a very important man in both Jewish and Samaritan history.
- Jacob's Well was in this field.
- Jesus was very tired and sat by this well to rest.
- Jesus was alone, because his disciples had gone to the local supermarket to buy food!
V.7 In this setting a Samaritan woman, with deep emotional and spiritual need, came to draw water at the well. Jesus takes the initiative by asking her for a drink.
God knows everything about us and desires to communicate with us.
How has God spoken to you recently? Have you recognised His voice? Maybe as you were reading the Bible or in prayer, God has spoken into your heart. Don’t be surprised, but take it as the start of a longer conversation that could lead to your greater blessing.
Maybe God is just asking for your attention, as you go about your busy daily tasks. He won't ask for water, but He may ask for your time and attention.
Overcoming culture - Jews and Samaritans
The other day on TV there was a program that showed a very excited young lady. She was excited because one of the Royal Family had actually spoken to her.
When Jesus spoke to this lady at the well, she was very surprised. Why was that? V.9 (Read)
In today's world, we know that, on average over all countries of the world women earn 36% less in wages than men.
In Jesus’s day women had very, very low standing in society. The culture of Jesus’s day was a man centred culture. It was a culture where Jewish men did not speak to women in public and a culture where Jews and Samaritans disliked each other.
Samaritans were Jews, who had married other races and so were no longer pure Jews. This created strong racial prejudice so most Jewish travellers avoided Samaria.
Map. Sadly this prejudice continues today with the Jews, Palestinians and Arabs. In Jesus’s day Jewish travellers often found other roads when travelling from South to North. One way was up the coast, or the other way, to cross over the Jordan River and by-pass Samaria all together.
If there were terrorists on the Auckland Harbour Bridge you would not risk going that way but either go via route 18 and through the West of Auckland, or you would go to Devonport and take the ferry?
However, Jesus was not controlled by cultural difficulties nor did he ignore culture.
Jesus often showed a new way of living that made the old ways either drop away, or be changed for the better.
So must we. Christians should not be bound by the prejudices and dangers in our culture that are against what the Bible teaches. We are to love and work in and through our cultures as Jesus did. In this case it was giving a lady the right to be spoken to, and to have a meaningful conversation. In the end, Jesus actually broke all the traditions of the Jews, and stayed two nights in the Samaritan village.
Three important questions. What difference are we making in our culture?
Through this story Jesus asked 3 very important questions.
- What is the Jewish way?
- What is the Samaritan way?
- What is God’s way?
Now let's ask these questions in our world.
- What is the Japanese or Chinese or whatever nationality way of doing something? (Eastern)
- What is the Kiwi way of doing something? (Western)
- What is the Christian way of doing this? (Christian)
Being a Christian, is to live in the cultures of our time, but to live in what I would call a trans-cultural way – ABOVE Culture as well. LIVE IN, THROUGH and ABOVE culture.
A new God centred, life giving culture in an old, man centred culture.
2. Water and Jesus
Ordinary water - Jacob's water
In reply to Jesus’s startling statement in verse 10 (We will look at this in a minute) the lady is unable to understand, and just thinks Jesus is talking about the water in the well.
v.11 You have no rope or bucket and the well is deep.
v.12 Are you greater than or ancestor Jacob? How can you offer better water?
This reminds me of Nicodemus in Chapter 3:4 “How can an old man go back into his mother's womb and be born again?”
Maybe you have heard what Jesus offers:
- salvation from the power and penalty of sin,
- the ability to love and forgive unconditionally.
- or that Jesus offers a deep heart felt satisfaction and peace.
Maybe you too ask, “how can this be?” “What does this really mean?”
Upbringing, culture and learned lifestyle all cause us to think of life from our own point of view only. Therefore our decision making and thought processes become very man focused and not God centred.
When God speaks to us, He desires to break through our limited human thinking, and open a new world and new way for us.
Jesus took this Samarian woman’s thinking and understanding from water in a well, to living water that will flow from her very inner being for ever. God wants us to move from H2O thinking to Living Water experience.
Overflowing water - Jesus's water
Read v.10, 13 and 14.
In verse 10 Jesus introduced four new thoughts into the conversation.
- Gift – we all know what a gift is. We all love good gifts.
- God – the giver of gifts. God always gives good gifts to His children.
Do you and I bring God into our conversations with others?
- Himself – ‘if you knew who I am?’ Jesus raises a question in her mind.
- Living water – The Samaritan woman, like maybe some today, need some explanation because naturally we do not understand what ‘living water’ is.
Verses 13 and 14 Jesus explains.
If you drink ordinary water from Jacob's Well water you be thirsty again .v.13
Drink my water and you will never be thirsty again! v.14
Then the reason is given, ‘It becomes a fresh bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life’ Wonderful, but how?
In John 7:37 - 39 (Read) where the meaning is explained.
v.37 On the last day of a major Jewish festival, the seventh day, a time when the priests marched 7 times around the altar of God, drew water and poured it over the altar while chanting
Psalm 118:25. “Please Lord, please save us. Please, Lord, please give us success.”
v.38 In the middle of all this Jesus shouts out: ‘If you are thirsty come to me. If you believe come and drink. Rivers of living water will flow from your heart’!!!!
v.39 The meaning is given by John. Living water is a term for the Holy Spirit who was to come at Pentecost.
That is why in John 4 verse 14 Jesus refers to eternal life.
Only an eternal God can give the gift of eternal life.
v.15 When the woman heard this she wanted that water. She thinks she will be free from the daily task of coming to the well and collecting water.
However, God does not promise to save us from the daily tasks of life, and from trouble.
But He does promise to give us hope, wisdom, and satisfaction through our daily workloads and problems.
3. Worship and Jesus
Open Life - Truth
One of the wonderful, but challenging things I have learned and am still learning is, that God looks at our heart. To God our heart condition is more important than our actions.
If our heart is right with God, our lifestyle should also become right before God too.
v.16 Jesus makes a simple request. “Go and get your husband”
v.17 An immediate answer – No husband!
v.17 -18 (read) Jesus confirms this truth, and commends her for being willing to speak the truth.
She had lived with 5 husbands, and now living with one who is not her husband.
Let's not be too quick to criticise this nameless lady. In our society today many live with others and are not married. This state is not God's plan for couples.
Why this lady’s marriages failed, we do not know. Divorce, abuse, death or even unfaithfulness by some of these husbands could be the reason. Whatever the reason, Jesus was more interested in her heart than her life style at this point.
Jesus knew, that if this lady believed, the Holy Spirit would teach her what was right and wrong.
As she grew to understand God's ways, she would by God's power have the strength to obey.
So Jesus concentrates on two issues – Truth and Spirit in the context of worship.
If you worship God in spirit and truth, you will be able to live a life that pleases God.
Open Heart - Spirit
Twice in the conversation about worship in this story Jesus refers to worshiping God in Spirit and in Truth.
- V.23 True worshippers and
- V.24 God is Spirit.
Because of time, let me summarise verses 21 to 23 for you.
Where you worship is not as important as HOW you worship God.
- God is Spirit, therefore he requires worship by people who have the Holy Spirit living within them.
- God is Truth, therefore he requires worship by people whose sins are forgiven, and are honest and open with God and their neighbours.
In the Japanese language there are two words that are used a lot.
- One is ‘Tatemae’ which means ‘the face you show to others’.
- The other is ‘Hone’ which is ‘the real you’ which may or may not show. In the context of culture this is more ‘Eastern’ than Western.
God requires ‘hone’. Honest open worship. Worship that is willing to recognise that God knows our sin and weakness. Then with the Holy Spirit's help ask to be forgiven by others, or if needed forgive others.
In verse 25 -26 (Read) Jesus tells this one lady, the truth she needs to hear. “I am the Messiah” or in the Greek “I am the Christ” I am God!
4. Witnessing and Jesus
Overcoming shame - An open confession
V.29 Come and see a man who told me everything I did.
Could he possibly be the Messiah?
She was so excited about meeting Jesus, that she even left her water jar beside the well !! V.28
- From a lady who came to the well, in the middle of the day, to possibly avoid meeting others, to a lady who could now openly share her story.
- Shame and guilt, were beginning to be healed by love and acceptance, by the knowledge that God loved her enough to speak to her, and teach her about himself.
- This nameless women is discovering her true identity as a child of God. She was like a flower exposed to the sun and coming out in full bloom. Praise God.
Ongoing joy - A personal encounter
v.42 (read) Then they (The Samaritans) said to the woman “Now we believe, not just because of what you told us, but because we have heard Him ourselves. Now we know that he is indeed the Saviour of the world”
After hearing of Jesus through the nameless lady, the village heard directly from Jesus and many believed!
Near Nelson where I grew up is Te Waikoropupū Springs. These springs are the largest freshwater springs in New Zealand, the largest cold water springs in the Southern Hemisphere and contain some of the clearest water ever measured. Even though it is the purest water you will ever drink, it will never quench your thirst like the living water Jesus offers you.
To experience the wonder of the Holy Spirit, the living water, each of us must listen directly to God.
When you read the Bible, in faith always pray “Lord speak to me today, I am listening.”
Remember, Jesus shouted to the crowd, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare. ’Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’
Today if you are thirsty for more of God you come. Come and we will pray for you that out of your heart will flow the Holy Spirit. We will pray for your personal spiritual blessing and that through you many others will be blessed. Come and drink!
Let us all stand, open our hearts and hands to God and read the prayer on the screen.
Dear Heavenly Father I confess my need of your help each day. I am sorry that I have been living in my own strength. I confess I am spiritually dry and thirsty. I believe that Jesus Christ died for me, and is the Saviour of the world. Please forgive my sin, and fill me with your Holy Spirit. Yes Lord, I desire to be refreshed by your promised living water. Come Holy Spirit. In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen