John 4:16-19

Sometime into my adult years, my parents revealed an important truth to me: while I was growing up, I wasn’t as good at not getting caught as I thought I was. A lot of the things my parents didn’t point out that they knew about were situations where they felt the best learning I could get was from the natural consequences that would result. Thus, they let me continue without letting me know that they were aware. They kept an eye on me, making sure I wouldn’t get too far into whatever it is I was doing, but they let me make my own mistakes. 

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. – John 4:16-19, ESV

God is our spiritual Father if we belong to Jesus. Regardless of our eternal situation, the Bible describes God as all-knowing. He is. Everything we do, good and bad, God knows about. We don’t fool God. We may fool ourselves, but God knows. And God often let’s us make our own mistakes. 

Such was the case with the Samaritan woman. He knew her past. As we have looked at, her past did not prevent her from receiving the gift of grace, God’s forgiveness and eternal salvation. However, Jesus needed to punch through her thinking of created things, of regular water, to get her to examine the spiritual. Therefore, He told her to do something that for her was impossible because of her current sinfulness. When she responded that she couldn’t, He revealed to her that He knew both her past and her present. This got her attention. Realizing there was no earthly way Jesus could have done by some knowledge, she called him a prophet. 

Of course, we know Him to be much more: the Son of God. However, He had gotten her to a point where He could speak to her about spiritual things. He also was able to get her to confront a major sin problem that had been present for a long time. That’s something God does with us. He gets us to deal with sins that have lingered in our lives, so that we may confess them and repent of them and get them out of our lives. 

God knows when we sin. Much of the time, He doesn’t immediately stop us because it is important we learn from the consequences. Some might say it’s an example of how God doesn’t care. Actually, it’s an example of the opposite. He is allowing us to learn in the best way for us at that moment. Then, when the time is right, He will bring up that sin and help us to work through breaking free of it. This is what He did with the Samaritan woman. How great and loving a God we adore! He is the greatest parent of all!

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John 4:13-15

Have you ever gotten a gift for someone that you knew was something they had wanted for a long time? Do you remember the surprise and happiness they showed when they received your gift?

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but 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.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” – John 4:13-15, ESV

The Samaritan woman asked about the water from Jacob’s well. She asked if Jesus was greater than Jacob. Of course, she had no idea who Jesus was. Jesus responded by telling her that God was offering living water, which we know to be the Holy Spirit, and He then continued the metaphor to help her understand just how great a gift God was offering. 

God was and is offering eternal life. This is the core of the Gospel. We can only receive eternal life through Jesus Christ. It is a gift. We can’t earn it. The Holy Spirit is the mark God places upon us. The Holy Spirit is God’s guarantee. Once we have it, we will never want for eternal life again. It’s not like regular water. We drink, but eventually we will grow thirsty again. Then we need more water. The Holy Spirit isn’t like that. We don’t need Him to fill us over and over again. After all, God doesn’t run out. 

Naturally, when she heard about water which would quench her thirst permanently, the Samaritan woman wanted it. She was most likely thinking in terms of water and physical thirst. She probably didn’t get the metaphor. She would, Jesus would make sure of it, but even when she thought Jesus’ offer was only physical, He was still offering a gift beyond compare. 

With the benefit of hindsight we know what He meant. We know He was talking about spiritual things. And this gift has been offered up to each of us. If we belong to Jesus, we have this gift. To us, it should be more precious than anything else. After all, everything else pales in comparison to the Holy Spirit and the promise of eternal life. Certainly everything physical does. Let us rejoice for the gift which God has prepared for us!

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John 4:10-12

The Gospel message has never been about being a “good” person. Using good as an adjective implies there is something we do to obtain special recognition from God. This is contrary to the Gospel. The Gospel says we can’t do anything to obtain special status. Instead, we must rely on a gift from God Himself. 

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” – John 4:10-12, ESV

Jesus makes it clear: salvation is a gift. That’s why He answered the woman, “If you knew the gift of God…” Since it is a gift, and since God has made it clear repeatedly throughout Scripture that our past doesn’t stop us from receiving God’s gift, as followers of Jesus Christ all this means we attempt to reach all with the Gospel. We don’t get the right to pick and choose. We share. Period. 

It also means that God can and will forgive us and save us, regardless of our past. Nothing is too much for God to save. When He called Jacob, Jacob was a swindler and a liar. Moses was a murderer. So was Paul, formerly Saul of Tarsus. If you haven’t believed until now that God can forgive you because of some issue in your past, let me encourage you – he has forgiven and saved men and women who have committed some of the most evil of deeds. He can and will forgive you, if you truly believe. 

Jesus also mentioned living water. We aren’t going to find salvation in something earthly. We aren’t going to discover the path to redemption in something created. Water is not living. At least, the water we deal with isn’t. Jesus was using a metaphor, one which we understand to mean the Holy Spirit, God Himself. God’s gift involves the Holy Spirit. When He saves us, we receive the Holy Spirit. He is the living water. And He seals us with God’s promise of eternal life with Him. 

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John 4:7-9

We are all sinners in need of God’s forgiveness. That’s a central point of the Bible. That’s the line God draws: forgiven and redeemed versus unforgiven and lost. I know that’s not a popular message. However, the way to cross from unforgiven and lost to forgiven and redeemed is a free gift, offered by Jesus to all. To all. It doesn’t matter what race you are. It doesn’t matter what gender you are. It doesn’t matter what your past was. God doesn’t draw lines on those things like we do. Even the best of us do. God does not. 

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. – John 4:7-9, ESV

The Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans because they considered them half-breeds who worshipped God incorrectly. Add to that that Jesus was male and the one He spoke to was female, and He was crossing three human drawn lines when He spoke to her. Naturally, this caught the Samaritan woman by surprise. That’s why she responded the way she did. 

While Jesus may have been thirsty – we’d expect such based on His travel – His primary purpose in opening a conversation with the Samaritan woman wasn’t to attend to His needs, but her greatest need. And not just hers, but everyone’s within a reasonable distance. He was giving them an opportunity to cross the line from unforgiven and lost to forgiven and redeemed. After all, He came into the world to save us from our sins. Her gender and race were irrelevant to Jesus. Only the fact that she was a sinner mattered. 

We draw lines intentionally and unintentionally when it comes to people. The example Jesus demonstrates here is for us to stop drawing those lines.  We aren’t to care about anything other than whether or not a person belongs to Jesus. In this we care only from the perspective of helping folks cross from unforgiven and lost to forgiven and redeemed. We do this by sharing the Gospel through both word and deed. 

It’s a simple example, but it’s often lost in today’s world. There’s money and power in creating and fostering division. Therefore, we are bombarded with messages that conflict with Jesus’ example. We must not listen to those messages. Instead, we must act in opposition to them. 

We are to try to reach all with the message of the Gospel. And we are also to try to love and serve and care for all with the same sacrificing love our Savior demonstrated during His ministry with us. We aren’t to choose against someone because of race, gender, or past. We aren’t to choose against anyone for any other human-drawn line of separation. That’s not the way of our Savior. That cannot be the way of His people. Let it not be so with us. Let us erase those human-drawn lines. Let us try to reach, love, and serve all in the name of Jesus. 

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John 4:4-6

We all get tired. Whether physically, mentally, emotionally, or some combination of the three, we become worn down. A lot of times circumstances cause us additional stress, which brings about that exhaustion. We are human. It happens to all of us. It is important we recognize when we do become tired and, if we can, take the appropriate steps to recuperate. 

And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. – John 4:4-6, ESV

Jesus and His disciples had left Judea and were traveling back to Galilee. They would have done so on foot, and based on what we know here it was about noon. Jesus had gotten worn down, so He plopped down beside a well. The well itself was a landmark, so John gives us those details. 

I’m sure part of the weariness had to do with the situation concerning the Pharisees, the reason Jesus left Judea in the first place. So we likely have a combination of factors for Jesus’ tiredness. Jesus, the Son of Man, became worn down, just as we get. So He rested. 

Yes, this situation sets up an encounter with the Samaritan woman, something we will begin exploring tomorrow. However, let’s not jump ahead to those events. Let’s focus on Jesus becoming tired and taking the appropriate steps to deal with it. 

The reason I want to stop here is I know that when I was younger, I would try to ignore my exhaustion and press on when I didn’t have to do so. This led to greater levels of exhaustion. And with greater levels of exhaustion our bodies begin to break down. So does our judgment. So does our emotional capacity. 

We’ve all seen it in children who are tired. They become cranky, argumentative, and the least little thing can set them to crying. Even normally placid children can become quite distressed if they get tired and don’t get proper rest. We do the same thing as adults, but we often characterize it differently. “He’s under a lot of stress.” “She’s got a lot going on.””He’s trying to do too much.” “She’s burning the candle at both ends.”

All of those expressions may describe what we are going through. However, we have to take time to rest. We can all think of circumstances when we need to push through exhaustion and keep going. The reality, though, is most of the time when we need rest and choose not to take it, we have the time. We are just choosing poorly. 

Our Savior took a rest when He needed it. We are to follow His example. He had the biggest issue ever faced in our world on his shoulders: redeeming us from our sins to the glory of the Father above. Yet still He rested. Let us take time to do the same. 

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John 4:1-3

“Discretion is the better part of valor.” – William Shakespeare

I’m not sure when I learned the meaning of this phrase. I think it was some point during my seemingly endless attempts to beat Dr. Clyde Smith, of the South Carolina Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics, at chess. Back in high school I was known as the player who never saw an attack he didn’t like and the player who could find an attack even in a retreating position. This worked great against players who could be shaken psychologically, but did nothing against Clyde. Clyde would wait for me to overextend on an attack and then bring the game to a quick, merciful end. Chess, like life, teaches you that the right way isn’t always on the attack. 

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples, he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. – John 4:1-3, ESV

Jesus hadn’t done anything wrong. As a matter of fact, we know He had only acted righteously. However, because of circumstances around Him, He was beginning to attract too much attention for the moment. He had a lot to teach His disciples. Getting into a confrontation with the Pharisees would cut that time short. Therefore, Jesus left the area. 

In our lives we have to know when to back off. We have to know when a confrontation will do more harm than good. Sometimes this means backing down even though we are right. Sometimes this means keeping our pride in check and letting happen what will happen. Godly men and women throughout Scripture demonstrated this capacity to use discretion rather than press the offensive. And of course, our Savior did, as we see in the verses I’ve quoted. 

The knowing when can be hard. When should we? Relying strictly on our own wisdom, we are going to get it wrong too often. Good thing through prayer we have the option of asking God Himself. We have the Holy Spirit to guide us if we are willing to listen to Him and obey Him. God doesn’t leave us in a quandary without His help. However, He often doesn’t force us to accept His help, either. We have to intentionally seek it. 

Those times when it is appropriate to back down, we will experience greater success for the Kingdom of God than if we defend ourselves, attack the situation, or otherwise push the issue. I do mean greater success for the Kingdom. It may be a setback for us personally. But we don’t exist to glorify ourselves. We exist to glorify God. We are here to further the Kingdom. And that means taking the personal loss, when called upon, for the Kingdom gain. 

Sometimes we do experience personal gain, too, whether we are talking chess or life. Four years later, when I had learned how to use better discretion in life, I finally beat Clyde at chess. I didn’t overextend. I waited. And when the opportunity came, I seized it. In a few short moves, I had torn into Clyde’s defense and it was only a matter of time before his King fell. Clyde, with a big smile on his face, congratulated me on the win and also for having learned something he had waited years for me to understand. I imagine God is like that, too. He wants us to learn when and how to use discretion, and He is proud of us when we do. 

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John 3:35-36

God provided a way for us to be forgiven of our sins and be seen as righteous before Him. The Scriptures make it clear that the way is through Jesus Christ and Christ alone. While this is an exclusionary message, that does not make it wrong. 

The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. – John 3:35-36, ESV

There are a lot of things in our lives that are exclusionary. I may want to say I’m a member of the New York Yankees, but I’m not. I’m not employed by that storied franchise. I may want to say that I’m a member of the US Senate, but I’m not. I’ve not been elected or chosen to that role. I may even want to say that I’m a member of (insert community group here), but unless I’ve completed the requirements to be a member of whatever community group you thought of, I’m not a member. I’m excluded in all 3 cases because I didn’t meet the requirements. Whether or not I like that status is irrelevant. I am not a part of those groups. 

To be saved, one must believe in Jesus Christ. However, intellectual belief is not enough. James reminded us that even demons believe in Jesus (James 2:19). However, though they knew Jesus is real and that He is the Son of God, that knowledge did not lead them to obedience (they still chose rebellion against God).  This belief in Jesus in us must be beyond what’s in our heads. It must lead us to obedience. It must take us to love Him greater than any other love. It must carry us to a point where He is always first. 

Nothing else works. There is no other way. There is no other path. Jesus made this clear later in John’s Gospel (John 14:6-7). John states it clearly here. If we tell people anything else, whether we wish to avoid confrontations or because we don’t want to hurt feelings, we are not sharing the Scriptures in a truthful way. The hard truth is we are doing folks harm if we imply or state that one could be forgiven and redeemed by God in any other way than by His Son. 

Another important truth that we often forget is that if we claim there are other ways than through Jesus, what we are also saying is that Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross was unnecessary. We call into question His judgment. In doing so we unwittingly attempt to tarnish His glory.  Also, for the sake of a better relation with another man or woman we set ourselves at odds with God. We choose them over Him. In short, we sin deeply when we do not share that He is the only way. 

Let us be unashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, just as Paul wrote (Romans 1:16-17). Let us share it with gentleness and love. Let us be compassionate with the message of forgiveness, because it was given to us with compassion. It is a tender, loving message. It is a love letter from God to us. Let us treat it as such and extend it to others in the same way. Jesus is the only way, so let us give others this message in the same way as it is intended: with a sacrificial love that puts the other person ahead of ourselves. 

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