Close Encounters with Jesus
I want to start by taking a poll on who’s an inside person and who’s an outside person. For example, if you have a day off work to do whatever you want, who would prefer to spend it outside? You’d rather be out in the yard, or at a park or out in nature? Who would prefer to spend it inside-working on a project or a craft or reading a book, or just sitting down with a cup of coffee and some good conversation with a friend? Usually, we tend to fall into one category or another-either we’re an outside person or an inside person. If you’re an outside person you’ll get really bummed when you had weekend plans that get rained out-or the weather’s too cold or snowy to go outdoors. But if you’re an inside person bad weather doesn’t bother you a bit because it’s the perfect excuse to stay indoors. In my opinion, there’s nothing like a rainy afternoon spent reading a good book. When I was a kid, one of my most traumatic childhood experiences was a summer basketball camp. This was a week when my parents made me head out of the house for 4 hours of playing basketball and doing drills. Clearly, as someone who didn’t have the height advantage to be a power forward or the dribbling skills to be a point guard, those 4 hours dragged by so slowly. I can remember staring at the clock just waiting for basketball camp to be over because I didn’t want to be out there shooting hoops, I wanted to be back home inside reading a book. It killed me-and it killed my dad too-who realized he had a reader for a son-not a future basketball star that he could cheer on! I wish my parents could have sent me to reading camp instead-that would have been awesome! But there’s a difference between inside people and outside people-and what they find satisfying. And that’s what we’re going to encounter this morning in God’s Word-but it’s not the difference between being inside or outside of your house, but the difference between what’s inside and outside of your heart.
Open your Bibles to John 4-and we’re going to read about someone who wrestled with this difference, someone who was mistakenly looking to things on the outside to fill her heart on the inside. Her story begins in John 4:3-4. Judea was in the south, Galilee in the north-and Samaria was right in the middle on the way but it was not a top vacation destination. Most Jews would often try hard to avoid going through Samaria because they disliked the Samaritans so much. Here’s a map. To go from Judea to Galilee, Jews would often travel on a western seacoast route or the eastern route through Perea-but they would certainly not take the middle road through Samaria so they wouldn’t have to interact with them-but not Jesus.. Did you notice that John said Jesus had to pass through Samaria-and yes, He maybe had to so He could save time in getting to Galilee-you can see this route is much quicker. But I believe John said Jesus had to because He intentionally wanted to go through that region to meet someone and teach us something very important. And that’s what the rest of this chapter is all about. Look at v. 5-6a.
And that refers back to Genesis 48 where Jacob gave a piece of land to his son Joseph. In fact, when the Jews returned from captivity in Egypt they buried Joseph’s bones in this region. So this is a famous place in the Bible-and after a full morning worth of traveling all the way from Judea, Jesus is sitting and relaxing by the well. All traveling was done by foot back then-so you can understand why Jesus is weary-they weren’t taking an uber or even riding bikes or mopeds-this was a morning hike. When it says the 6th hour that’s about noon-so it’s time to eat. And as verse 8 tells us, Jesus is sitting there by Himself-v. 8. The custom back then was for the students of the rabbi to do the serving. So that’s what Jesus disciples are doing-they’re serving Him, letting Him rest, while they go pick up some food, They’re grabbing some burgers or tacos-and in the meantime, Jesus is going to have a very interesting conversation-v. 7. Now what is particularly noteworthy is the fact that this woman is there all by herself.
Normally, women would come together in groups to collect the water that they needed for the daily household chores of cooking, bathing, cleaning, etc-but John doesn’t say that. She’s not with a group, it’s just her-and that right there tells us a lot about her life. This was a communal society so the mere fact that she’s all alone suggests that she’s not liked or welcomed by the other women. Plus there’s the important detail that she’s here at noon drawing water-which is the heat of the day. Again, most women would come early in the day when it wasn’t so hot. But not this woman. She’s purposely come here all by herself, in the heat of the day when no one else is generally around-and the reason we’ll soon discover is that this woman would have been an outcast; someone who was disliked, maybe even ostracized from the rest of the women. So it’s likely she’s come to get her water at noon when she wouldn’t have to endure the glaring looks from the other ladies in the village. She’s trying to avoid their insults and jeers, maybe she’s got her face covered, having lived in shame-so here she is all by herself with no one to help her or talk with her-except for today. This day is quite different-because Jesus is there-and He’s asking her for a drink. No doubt that’s the most surprising thing that has happened to this woman in a long time-v. 9. For Jesus, a Jewish man, speaking to a Samaritan woman was a huge social no-no. Look ahead at-v. 27. But that’s what they were thinking. This woman was someone at the bottom rung of the social ladder-plus Jesus wanted to drink water from her cup-and that would make Jesus unclean according to their customs. Why would any God-fearing Jew drink water from a Samaritan woman’s cup? To answer that we’ve got to understand a bit of the background.
Historically, the Samaritans came from the split in the kingdom of Israel in the OT after Solomon’s rule ended. Centuries before, when the Jews were taken away into captivity by the Assyrian Empire, some of the Jews were left in this region known as Samaria and they intermarried with the non-Jewish people who were there, creating a mixed race called the Samaritans-half Jew/half Gentile. So when the pure-blooded Jews returned from captivity, they didn’t like the Samaritans and quickly developed a tension and hatred for them. The Samaritans began following their own religious practices and refused to worship at the temple in Jerusalem. Instead they started worshipping at their own place, Mt. Gerizim, which was right nearby this village-and that made the Jews really mad so they considered the Samaritans a bunch of heretical, half-breeds and tried to avoid them at all costs. It’s not any different from the racial tensions and prejudices that plague our world today-the people groups we dislike or even the different socio-economic groups we try to avoid or shun-I’m not hanging out with those sorts of people! This is an age-old problem society has always wrestled with-so John’s parenthetical statement summarizes the situation well-v. 9b. Not just limited interactions-but no dealings. Jews and Samaritans aren’t hanging out together, they’re not conversing together, and they’re certainly not sharing a drinking together. Yet, here’s Jesus not following the customs or social norms. Jesus is doing the complete opposite by initiating a conversation with this woman and asking for a drink. It’s remarkable. But for Jesus social norms take a back seat to showing compassion. Jesus always turns our customs upside down, particularly the wrong ones-and so we see Him calling out to a woman who normally gets the cold shoulder from people. And that’s our first point this morning-Pt1: What Did Jesus Do? He loved the unloveable and showed grace to the unlikely. And from the Jews’ perspective a sinful Samaritan woman was as unloveable and unlikely and far away as you could get, especially when she was an outcast within her already hated people group. This was a Samaritan disliked by her fellow Samaritans.
Earlier I mentioned how we’d see the reason-look ahead at v. 16-18. Now there’s a past that drops like a bomb! Going through 5 husbands and then living with guy number 6 was scandalous back then, and it’s scandalous today. You can see why people would look down on this woman because clearly she’s got some serious problems and a really bad track record. This lady can’t keep a guy and goes from one to the next. Something’s really wrong, her life is a mess-immorality that’s run rampant. No doubt she’s been the talk of the town-and by living with guy #6 she’s just adding fuel to her own fire. Think about it. Is this the sort of woman you’d start talking to-someone with this kind of dodgy past? Is this the sort of woman you’d invite to church? Would we even welcome a woman like this in our church-or would we all roll our eyes and whisper under our breath-I can’t believe she’s here! What should we do? Last week in John 3 we saw Jesus sharing the gospel with Nicodemus who was a well-respected religious leader, and that makes sense. We get that Jesus would talk with him-but this woman-an adulterous, shameful Samaritan? That stretches us, it challenges our pre-conceived notions and dismantles our categories of who we think is worthy or saveable-but that’s precisely the point-Pt1.
What does it say in Rom 5:8? He doesn’t love us or reach out to us only after we’ve reached to Him and drawn near; He reaches out and calls to us while we’re far from Him, while we’re lost in our sins, while we’re stuck in the mess and mistakes we’ve made in our lives. And that’s a glorious truth! The Lord doesn’t say-Sorry, you’ve gone too far, you’ve sinned too much, you’re beyond help. Instead Jesus calls out to us precisely when we need help the most-just like He did with this woman. Because the truth is that no one is beyond His grace, no one is too far away, or too far gone. If that was the case this woman would have been the prime example of who not to reach out to. Jesus could have said to the disciples when they stopped off for lunch-Here’s someone who’s a lost cause, this lady is the kind of person we write off and walk away from. But instead, much to their amazement, Jesus shows the disciples that this is someone to reach out and converse with, someone who isn’t too far away because we’re all far away and it’s only by His grace that we’re brought near-Pt1. And yet I wonder how many of us know people that we think are too far away-that are beyond grace? I wonder how many of us have people in our lives that we’ve given up on, or avoided or written off because they’re too much of a mess, too sinful, too far from God to ever be brought back? Jesus would say no one’s beyond His grace. In fact, as Jesus calls out to this Samaritan woman He’s reaching across racial barriers, across cultural barriers, across gender barriers, even across moral barriers to offer her something incredible.
And look at the offer-v. 10. And I love that statement because while she has no idea who’s she’s talking to, we do. From our perspective, we want to tell this lady to drop everything because she’s talking to God in the flesh-and if there’s anyone who can give her living water it’s the One who’s the source of all life. Remember John 1:4? But obviously, she doesn’t realize who Jesus is yet so she misunderstands His deeper meaning and speaks on a practical level-v. 11-12, 15 She’s saying-I could sure use this living water because apparently, it doesn’t run out. One jug full of this and I won’t have to come back everyday and feel the shame from the village by being here all alone at noon. She thinks Jesus is talking about some sort of special, magical water that never makes you thirsty anymore-sort of like 5-Hour Energy Drink that lasts a lot longer than 5 hours! Who likes energy drinks? Monster, Redbull, Rockstar? The problem is that if you drink this at 8am by 1pm you’re dragging-the 5 hours of energy are all gone! It doesn’t last. But to this woman living water sounds like an infinite energy drink to power her forever, an infinite thirst quencher. One little shot and she won’t ever be thirsty again. But we know that Jesus isn’t talking about physical thirst-but spiritual thirst. Look at His explanation-v. 13-the 5 hours of energy will run out-v. 14. Jesus is talking about something on the inside. That little phrase in him is so important. Jesus isn’t speaking about the external water from Jacob’s well on the outside; He’s speaking about a well on the inside of our hearts, something spiritual that’s welling up within us causing us to never be thirsty forever. I love the structure of that sentence. Never be thirsty-for how long? Forever! Jesus says the water He gives us will become this neverending source of life, a perpetual engine of satisfaction-to never thirst again. And what’s incredible is that this thirst-quenching satisfaction isn’t based on anything happening outside of you, but rather something that happens inside of you when your heart collides with Jesus’s grace and you’re made new. Again last week we read in John 3 about being born again-this is the essence of it. Being born again means your heart is filled and welling up with living water that only Jesus can provide. As one commentator said When Jesus spoke of this water welling up, He used a word that literally meant leaping up. The picture He painted was of water so alive, so dynamic, so energetic and powerful that it not only would assuage thirst for a moment, it would begin to pour up out of the soul of the person and continue to nurture him day after day, year after year. This living water is what fuels and transforms our hearts-because it’s the very presence of Jesus within us! So What Does Jesus Promise? Perfect satisfaction for our thirsty hearts. This is what we’re looking for-this is what we’re created for. To never be thirsty forever means that the thirst of your heart has been perfectly quenched in Him.
Maybe you’ve never thought of your heart as thirsty, but just think for a moment about the last time your body was really thirsty. Maybe you’d been working hard outside all day, maybe you had just finished exercising, or maybe you spent all afternoon under the hot sun with no shade and your throat was like a parched desert-and all you wanted was a drink of water-preferably ice-cold water. But even if it’s lukewarm, when you’re that desperate you’ll take anything to satisfy your thirst. Those first few swallows hit the spot! And it’s no different with the thirst in our hearts. There’s that nagging emptiness; that void. Our souls feel like a parched desert and we’re so thirsty for something to fill us, something to satisfy us and provide the joy and peace we’re desperately craving. Yet where do we usually look to find it? On the outside. We look to things outside of us to bring that internal satisfaction. We look to romance or marriage; we look to our jobs or a career or education; we look to money or a house, we look to popularity or acceptance, we look to athletics and staying fit and looking good. Maybe we’re looking to technology and video games or the newest iPhone to fill our hearts-but we’re always looking to something outside of us, something out there, to satisfy the thirst in here. And even though most of us would agree that our hearts aren’t perfectly quenched right now-we believe the lie that they can be and will be even if we can get close to those things-Blaise Pascal said:
“There once was in man a true happiness of which now remain to him only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his
surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does not obtain in things present. But these are all inadequate…because the infinite abyss of the soul can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself.”
And that’s exactly what the Samaritan woman was doing. We might think that Jesus was being rather cruel by telling her in v. 16 to go call her husband, knowing full well that she’s already gone through 5 husbands and is on to #6. Don’t make her feel bad and heap on the guilt, Jesus. But I don’t think Jesus is intending to be cruel at all or make her feel bad at all, rather Jesus is graciously revealing the truth to her-saying You thought men were the answer-that a husband would satisfy you on the inside and quench that thirst in your heart and soul. And you took it to the extreme-going from one to the next to the next-and none of them truly satisfied. Those guys-despite all their romance and good intentions-still left you thirsty. You’ve been seeking to quench that thirst in the wrong place. Because what is Jesus saying will quench that thirst-v. 14. What Jesus offers by this metaphor of living water is a saving relationship with Him. He’s talking about having a heart that is changed from the inside out; a heart that’s been cleansed and forgiven of your sins and made new, a heart where His Spirit dwells right within you-constantly giving you that perfect satisfaction and peace that nothing on the outside can ever take away. Listen to how Jesus says this-John 6:35; John 15:11. Full joy within you. Joy right inside of you because of your relationship with Jesus-Pascal quote. That’s what this well of living water produces-Ps 63:1-7. What a description of a heart whose thirst has been quenched by Christ! To sing for joy in the shadow of His wings! When I think of singing for joy the first thing that comes to mind is football matches in England. Whenever Monica and I would go to a match the whole crowd is singing football songs the entire time! I’m sure you’ve heard them if you watched a match on tv. But those songs of joy can quickly turn to tears when it’s a loss. But here the Psalmist is talking about songs of joy as our hearts are forever satisfied in Christ! That doesn’t mean our circumstances are perfect or that life is perfect-it’s often far from it-but we have a perfect Savior who causes our hearts to well up with perfect joy. Look at Ps 73:25-26.
Have you trusted in Him and discovered that? Have you surrendered your search for external, outside things, knowing that it’s only Jesus who brings the internal joy looking for? Back to Pt2. Maybe you know that in your mind, yet somehow you still find yourself living like this Samaritan woman in your heart searching after other things. It might not be 5 husbands-but it’s something else you keep pursuing, something else you keep seeking, and going to again and again only to end up more thirsty than when you started. That’s the problem. We’re like people on a life raft floating in the middle of the ocean. There’s water all around us-but its salt water and the more we drink it the more thirsty we become. It may look promising, it may look like the water we’re longing to drink-but it isn’t-it’s salt water and it never quenches our thirst.
Here’s this woman-thirsty for meaning in life, searching for love, longing for that something we’re all after-so she tries husband number 1. He didn’t work out too well maybe the guy was a slob! So what does she do-goes after husband #2. And he doesn’t work out too well either-maybe #2 was always uptight and stressed out. So she goes on to husband #3-and somehow it’s the same story again-he doesn’t live up to her expectations, he’s not prince charming, the man she dreamed of, somehow even with him she’s still empty, still searching, so #4, #5 and now she’s on to #6-and none of these guys can fill that ache in her heart, none of them can satisfy her soul’s longing and thirst-until she meets Jesus. Finally now with Him, her search is over, her heart is on fire, her thirst is satisfied. Let’s be honest-even the people we love inevitably fail us and let us down. The only one that never fails us is Jesus. The only one that never goes away; who always forgives us and perfectly loves us is Jesus. And that means our deepest satisfaction and most enduring joy is knowing Him and worshipping Him.
How did He conclude this conversation- v. 21-26. Boom! The one she’s searching for is right here-the Messiah in the flesh. Look at what she does-v. 28-30, 39. But did you see what happened? This woman left her jar because she’s found Jesus. This is John’s way of saying that she didn’t need the physical water anymore-but received the spiritual, living water that Jesus brings. And because of that, she’s going into town to share the good news with the very people who would otherwise despise her and treat her as an outcast. But everything in her life has now changed-it’s changed for many Samaritans. But that’s what an encounter with Jesus does-it profoundly changes us. So what about you? The one you’re searching for is right here. No one else can say what Jesus is saying because no one else is the Messiah, no one else is the Savior sent from God. No one else can satisfy or save you like Jesus. And that means no one else loves you like Jesus. That’s What Do We Learn? Jesus loves us-even at the cost of His own life.
Think about this-why is Jesus having a conversation with this Samaritan woman? Because He was thirsty. Jesus started talking to her because He asked her for a drink. If He hadn’t been thirsty He wouldn’t have gone to the well and wouldn’t have met her. But He was. Jesus, the Messiah, sent from God was physically thirsty. And that small detail highlights something very significant. As you think about His identity, Jesus was the Son of God, the one who’s always existed from eternity past, the one who’s made all things, who knows all things, and has all power and authority. He’s the one who’s most worthy of our praise and worship and yet He came to this earth and emptied Himself of His glory. As Phil 2 says-He made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant and was born in the likeness of men. Jesus descended into our world as fully human, as a baby born in Bethlehem who grew up to be a man who could become weary and tired and thirsty. And He did that in order to save us. You see His request in v. 7-give me a drink isn’t the last time He’s thirsty.
Flip ahead to nearly the end of John’s gospel in chapter 19. This is when the soldiers crucified Jesus and He’s hanging on the cross. What were some of His last words-19:28-30. In all the pain and agony of the cross Jesus was thirsty. And it wasn’t just physical thirst He was experiencing-but Jesus felt the ultimate spiritual thirst by bearing all our sins upon Himself, by having the fury of God’s wrath poured out on Him at the cross. Jesus was the sinless Son of God and yet He was treated as the worst of criminals-cut off from His relationship with the Father by taking the punishment our sins deserved, dying the death we should have died. He faced the sword of justice for us-and His heart cried out in a deep spiritual thirst that we’ll never comprehend. Yet He was willing to do it. Jesus was willing to come to this earth and die for us; He was willing to become intensely and desperately thirsty in order to forever quench and satisfy our thirst. That’s how much He loves us-Pt3. He would die for you so that you could live and have eternal life. He would thirst for you so that you would never have to thirst again. And when you understand that truth; when the depth of His love and sacrifice for you sinks into your heart you can’t help but worship and rejoice. If you have put your trust in Jesus, He brings a joy and satisfaction on the inside of your life, a neverending spring of living water, that nothing on the outside can ever take away or ever diminish. No matter what you face-and we’ll face hard, difficult, terrible things in life-this well of living water doesn’t run dry-because Jesus doesn’t run dry! In Him, you will never be thirsty forever!