The Text: John 4:1-42.
Simplicity. A few words, a single action– they mean so much in this familiar story from Jesus’ time on earth. It’s amazing how God uses even the simplest things to dramatically change us. One phrase in a sermon. One hug from a friend. One act of kindness from a stranger. One telephone call. One new visitor to the town well.
Let’s examine how God used a few of the simple things in this story to make a deep impact.
Jesus needed to go through Samaria. He didn’t just mosey along, wherever he wanted, on his way back to Galilee. He “had to” go through Samaria. It might have been, in the eyes of the Jews, the land of half-breeds, but Jesus had an appointment there with a woman at a well in Sychar… an appointment he couldn’t miss. He was compelled toward this meeting, conversation, and revival.
Jesus spoke to a Samaritan woman. Just the fact that Jesus spoke to her was a big deal. He was Jewish and a man. In their culture. for him to speak to a strange Samaritan woman at the well was taboo to boot. But Jesus never cared about taboos. He cared about people. And he still does.
“I would give you the living water.” Jesus doesn’t mess around getting to the point. He is tired and thirsty, and probably does wish she would get over herself and just hand him a cup already. But his mind, as always, is on spiritual things before physical things. Of course, our minds don’t usually function that way. So, when he tells her about this crazy awesome living water, the woman assumes he is talking about literal water.
First, she thinks he has no idea what he’s talking about. How could he give her water? He didn’t have anything to draw it with, and if he did, how could the water he drew be any different from what she could provide for herself?
Then he tells her, “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Her new train of thought: “Gee, it would be nice not to trek out here with this giant bucket in the heat of the day. Where can I get some of that?”
She’s still stuck on the physical, while he’s telling her that he can spiritually wash her clean and give her new life– life that will never end. But, like he so often does, Jesus meets her where she’s at…
“Call your husband.” I’m rewriting the lyrics to Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend” in my head as I type this: “Call your husband/ Oh wait, you don’t have one/ He’s your boyfriend/ And you live with him/ But you’ve got five ex-husbands…” (No, I’m not replicating her dance moves).
This gets the woman’s attention (even without the catchy tune). She knows now he isn’t just some stranger bragging about special water. He’s some sort of prophet. But still, she tries to focus on the physical by attempting to argue with him about where the Samaritans worship versus where the Jews worship.
But Jesus tells her it’s listenin’ up time. That stuff, those petty political issues, aren’t going to matter much longer. In fact, they’re basically irrelevant now. Because when you’ve got the living water, when you receive the cleansing and the life that the Messiah has to offer, you can worship him anywhere.
“God is Spirit.” Location is nothing when the Spirit of the one you worship is dwelling in you. Jesus tells her to stop worrying about the physical aspects of her religion and to start worshiping God for who he really is… with all she is– to worship in spirit and in truth. She’s finally got her mind on the spiritual when she says that the Messiah is coming and will explain all of this more fully.
Then Jesus reveals that not only is God Spirit– God is right in front of her. The Messiah just explained the spiritual to her as a physical man. Talk about meeting her where she was at. Wow.
What happened next?
The Samaritan woman left her water jar. She completely abandoned her purpose for coming to the well in the first place. Suddenly, Jesus took priority. She forgot her goals and plans from just a few moments before and embraced new ones, namely: spreading the word about Jesus. The spiritual Savior and Messiah who offered the living water she and all her friends desperately needed was chilling at their town well. She forgot about her reputation, her status, her past– she booked it back to her village to tell everyone else about him. She couldn’t contain it. The spiritual overtook the physical.
Drastic change. And Jesus caused it so simply. Merely his presence and a few words completely reversed this woman’s thoughts, priorities, and future. And not only did it affect her– many of her fellow Sycharians (Sycharites… Sycharios?) also believed in Jesus as the Messiah because of this woman’s testimony.
What lessons can we take away for our own lives from this amazing story? God purposefully meets and talks with us. And when we don’t get it, he often meets us where we are– he invades the places where our minds and hearts are stuck to get our attention and bring our focus back to him. He overcomes our propensity for the physical with the spiritual and reminds us what’s truly important. He wants us to remember to worship in spirit and in truth– and that those prerequisites matter much more than where we worship or what songs are played or how many different kinds of lights illuminate the stage. He changes our priorities, plans, and purposes and makes them about him– the one who blesses us with that cool, refreshing, thirst-quenching living water.
COMMENT: What ways can you see God working in this woman’s life? What Bible characters would you like to see featured in this series in the future?
This is part of the Re:nowned series, which shows how we can see God working in the lives of different people throughout Scripture. You can read more Re:nowned posts here. Previous posts from this series have featured Barnabas; Joseph; Ruth; John; Mary; Nicodemus; and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.