THE WOMAN AT THE WELL – 5

Bible Reading: John 4:15-26

Yesterday we saw how Jesus challenged the woman at the well in a gracious and non-condemnatory way about her past. She had five husbands and the man she was now living with was not her husband!

There is a great danger of wanting experiences of the Holy Spirit but not being prepared to deal with our past sins. Such an attitude will cheapen the gospel, and mean that we don’t fully enjoy what Jesus has made available to us. For this reason Jesus challenged the woman about her life-style. Her life-style was a barrier to spiritual understanding and salvation. “Inner healing is simply cooperating with the Lord to let Him remove from our psychological natures the things that are blocking the flow of the Holy Spirit” [Dennis Bennett]

Repentance is the Greek word, metanoia, and means a change of mind that leads to a change of behaviour. Repentance is far deeper than remorse or regret over something that has happened. Repentance implies that if we had the opportunity to commit that sin again we would not do so. Paul writes about godly sorrow that produces repentance – it leads to salvation. On the other hand, worldly sorrow, that is remorse and regret, and sorrow at being caught out, leads to death [2 Corinthians 6:17].

What exactly does godly sorrow look like? The Holy Spirit convicts of sin and reveals how God’s heart is broken over sin. It is literally seeing our sin as God sees it and recognising how it grieves Him.

The woman quickly changed the subject when she knew that Jesus knew all about her private life. His presence exposes sin! Instead she raised the issue of the correct place to worship God. Strange how so often people use religion or theology to cover up sin, but Jesus would not be side tracked. He dealt with her very gently, explaining to her that the issue of worship is not the location but the heart attitude of the worshipper. Jesus then brought her back to the necessity of making a decision, but without demanding it of her.

With great simplicity Jesus led the woman of Samaria to faith. It was not well formulated or very extensive in its understanding, but it was sufficient! What did she actually know? She knew about the coming Messiah [v25]; Jesus’ claim to be Messiah [v26]; She recognised that Jesus knew her intimately [v17-18, 25], and that Jesus could transform her life with “living water” [v14]. She also knew something about God and worship, although it was probably hearsay and very limited [v21-24].

Questions:

Considering how much the Samaritan woman understood, how much do you have to understand in order to genuinely come to Christ and be saved?

How would you explain repentance to someone who was seeking salvation?

Why do you think that Jesus challenged the woman about her five husbands but did not continue to question her or challenge her any further about this?

THE WOMAN AT THE WELL – 4

Bible Reading: John 4:15-26

Although the Samaritan women does not fully understand what Jesus meant by ‘living water” she asked to Him to give her this water [John 4:15]. In response to her request Jesus asked the woman to call her husband, and she told Him, “I have no husband” [v.17]. She did not tell Jesus a lie, but she did not tell the truth either. Jesus, however, knew the truth about this woman, and talked with her about her five husbands and the man she was living with not being her husband.

How did Jesus know about this woman? I would suggest that this is a clear example of the Holy Spirit giving a word of knowledge. Jesus had never met her before, and yet He knew all about her. There is absolutely nothing hidden from God.

Why did Jesus raise the matter of the woman’s past and her relationships? It is probably for two reasons. Firstly, immediately after Jesus spoken this word of knowledge the woman recognised Jesus as a prophet, but secondly because the past needed to be dealt with before she could enjoy the living water that Jesus was offering her. It is wrong to think that you can just enjoy a new experience of God without dealing with wrong things in your life.

When Jesus preached the message of God’s kingdom He began with repentance [Mark 1:15]. It was the same message of repentance preached by Peter on the Day of Pentecost [Acts 2:38]. Repentance is a vital element of salvation. Salvation is more than merely embracing Jesus. It is a total change in the way that we live, where Jesus becomes Lord of every part of our life.

It is very easy to misjudge people and to presume things that are not true. Most people assume that this woman was immoral because she had five husbands and was now living with a man who was not her husband. I have carefully looked at this story and would suggest that she was not necessarily a prostitute or a woman of questionable morals. There is another possible explanation. In the culture in which she lived it was expected that a married woman would bear children, and if she did not do so the result was often that the husband would divorce her. What if this woman could not bear children and had been divorced five times for that reason? I am not justifying her having five husbands, but could there be another reason for her failure other than immorality? Whatever the reason this had to be brought to the light and Jesus was not embarrassed to do that. He did it firmly and graciously and without condemning her. He didn’t let her off the hook!

Tomorrow we will take a closer look at repentance and what it really means.

Questions:

Are you tempted to judge people without having a full knowledge of the background and facts? Why is this a dangerous thing to do? What does Jesus say about judging others in Matthew 7:1-2?

Why does Jesus have to bring the woman’s past life before He can fulfil her request for living water?

THE WOMAN AT THE WELL – 3

Bible Reading: John 4:1-38

“Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water” [John 4:10]

We see in the story of Jesus and the woman of Samaria the remarkable way in which He connected with her and opened her to the truth. Not only did Jesus ask her for a favour, but He also began with what was of interest to the woman. They both wanted water! It was a perfectly natural setting to talk, and it is always easier to share the gospel in a natural setting rather than a false or artificially created situation.

I am reminded of the late Rev. Alf Lawson, who was a very godly Methodist minister. He lived in Hull but on one occasion needed to travel to a meeting in London. It was in the days when trains had compartments in each carriage. Alf was wearing his clerical collar and shared a compartment with another passenger. After a while the man asked Alf if he would like a cigarette. Alf politely declined, saying that he didn’t smoke. Nothing much was said after that until the train was close to London. Unexpectedly the man said to Alf, “You must think that I am a terrible sinner because I smoke.” Alf responded, “Of course not! We have never met before, and you offer me a cigarette. I think that you are a very generous man.” Before they arrived in London Alf led this man Christ! It was such a natural and not a falsely created situation.

The woman’s questions not only reveal her lack of real spiritual understanding but also her curiosity. When she asked, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman” [v.9], the door opened for Jesus to speak with her and He offered her living water. Jesus is speaking not only of the fresh water in the well, but also of the Holy Spirit who would dwell in believers. Later in John’s Gospel Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit as “rivers of living water” that flow into and from the believer [John 7:37-39].

The woman takes what Jesus says literally and misunderstands Him, just as Nicodemus did [see John 3:4]. In John’s Gospel, Jesus frequently spoke in terms of the visible, physical world [birth, water, bread, light] to teach about spiritual life. Although the woman does not understand what Jesus is offering, a desire has been created within her, and so she asks, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw” [John 4:15].

Questions:

Why is it much better that if an opportunity to share the gospel with someone opens up naturally? Why not make it a specific prayer that God would open doors for you to share the gospel in a totally natural way?

Why do you think that Jesus used the picture of living water to explain the Holy Spirit?

Why does Jesus not immediately grant the request of the woman of Samaria for the living water?

THE WOMAN AT THE WELL – 2

Bible Reading: John 4:1-38

Yesterday we saw how Jesus defied religious, social, racial and cultural barriers to reach out to a woman of Samaria, but how did He actually connect with this woman?

Because Jesus loves people He draws alongside them, making Himself vulnerable and them comfortable. Here is an important principle. We must allow ourselves to be vulnerable, but also let the people we reach out to feel comfortable with us. In some cases making people feel comfortable may be difficult and require patience. Yesterday I heard that because of the terrible dictatorship and conditions in North Korea it might take up to two years for a North Korean to feel comfortable enough to trust another person!

How did Jesus make Himself vulnerable and the Samaritan woman feel comfortable? Jesus was tired, thirsty and probably hungry after the long journey, and He made the woman feel needed by asking her to help meet His need – “Give Me a drink” [John 4:7]. He asked what He knew she could give Him. This is so different to an attitude that just says, “You’ve got a need and I’ve got the answer!” If we are honest we all have needs. Corrie ten Boom once said, “Never say that you have no needs, because if you do, then God cannot meet your need.”

Making ourselves vulnerable will always make it easier for other people to feel comfortable with us. It may be a simple need like a drink as in the case of Jesus, or it may be confessing personal failure, disappointment or something that you struggle with. I have noticed that honest testimonies of struggles or failure and of how God brought you through are often more powerful than the testimonies of great success and personal achievement.

To love always makes a person vulnerable. C.S. Lewis penned these remarkable words: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal! Wrap it carefully around with little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it safe in the casket of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable…the only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers of love is hell.”

Questions:

Why do you think that making ourselves vulnerable makes people more comfortable to trust and listen to us?

What are the personal needs that you are aware of in your own life? Why not open up to someone in the next week and share this with someone that you trust, and then take the opportunity to pray together?

Why do you think that Christian leaders in particular might find it difficult to be open and share their personal needs and struggles?

THE WOMAN AT THE WELL – 1

Bible Reading: John 4:1-25

Jesus was covering a large area. He was at wedding in Cana of Galilee [John 2:1], then Jerusalem for the Passover [2:13], and then in the countryside of Judea near to Jerusalem [John 3:22]. After this He headed back to Galilee [John 4:3,43], but on the way to Galilee went to Samaria [John 4:4].

Jesus went to Samaria with a specific person in mind. Over the next few days we will look at the beautiful story of how Jesus met with, and ministered to, a needy Samaritan woman. It is a remarkable lesson in loving people and dealing with them wisely.

The passion of Jesus to share the good news of the Kingdom [John 4:4] motivated Him to deliberately go into Samaria. No strict Jew would ever have dealings with Samaritans [see John 4:9]. Following the death of Solomon there was a rebellion and Israel was divided into two nations [2 King chapters 12 & 13]. The capital of the Northern kingdom was Samaria. In 722 BC the king of Assyria brought foreign people into Samaria [Kings 17:24-31]. The local people inter-married with the gentiles and assimilated a non-Jewish culture. The Samaritans had their own scriptures and their own temple at Mount Gerizim. The animosity between Jews and Samaritans had existed for nearly a thousand years when Jesus went to Samaria. Strict Jews would actually take the longer route from Jerusalem to Galilee by crossing the River Jordan rather than travel through Samaria.

Jesus not only defied strict Jewish convention but also racial and social barriers in order to meet with this Samaritan woman. People were always more important to Jesus than rules and regulations and individuals more important than crowds. Consider three of the social rules that Jesus broke. Firstly, men did not speak to women without their husbands being present. Secondly, Jesus was a Jew speaking to a Samaritan, and thirdly, Jesus was speaking with a woman from a morally questionable background.

In His memoirs, Robert Murray McCheyne wrote the story of two Moravian missionaries who worked in a leper colony in Africa. They were burdened to bring the gospel to the lepers who were regarded as untouchable. The colony had only one entrance, and anyone entering the colony would never be allowed to leave. For a time these missionaries were unable to communicate easily with the lepers. Only when the missionaries themselves contracted the disease did the lepers want to hear the good news that they had to share. What is perhaps even more remarkable is that when these two brave men died others from the Moravian community were prepared to take their place.

Questions:

What do we learn from this story about the necessity to die to self in order to bring the gospel to someone in need?

Are there cultural issues that make it difficult to share the Gospel with certain people in the society in which you live? What are barriers that need to be broken down, and how could you go about doing that?