“This Is My Story: The Woman At The Well” (John 4:1-42 sermon)

Several summers ago, a father and his son were out for a walk in a farmer’s field in northern England. The son had brought a metal detector with him, and all of the sudden, it started to squeal. They decided to dig up whatever was buried, and what they brought out of the ground was a metal bowl, that turned out to be over 1000 years old, buried by Vikings, and it was filled with over 600 gold and silver coins! They thought they were just out for a normal afternoon walk – but they ended up finding a great treasure that day.

Our “story” for today is very similar. It is the tale of a woman who went out on a normal day’s activity – to get some water from the well — and yet she found more than she ever expected. More than just some silver and gold coins, this woman found eternal life. In the same way, perhaps you have thought that today would be just a “normal” church day – but God may have something more in mind for you. Maybe this is the day that you, like the woman in this story, will find eternal life through Jesus Christ. Let’s look together at the story of The Woman At The Well from John 4:1+

I. THE ATTENTION SHE RECEIVED

We don’t want to take this for granted: the fact that Jesus took time for this woman was remarkable. Verse 7 says she was “a woman of Samaria”. There were several good reasons why He shouldn’t have had anything to do with her:

1) She was a woman, and in that culture women were not respected.

2) On top of that, she was a woman “of Samaria” – the hated “step-children” of the Jewish race. The people we call the “Samaritans” came into being when the Northern Kingdom of Israel had been carried off into captivity (like we have been talking about on Wednesday nights) and the Assyrians took some foreigners and settled them in the land. The people that came about as a result of this “mixing” of peoples were the Samaritans. The Jews, who were so proud of their “pure blood” genealogies, despised them. Verse 9 elaborates on this some: it calls her again: “the Samaritan woman”, and then she even says: “’How is it that you ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman.’ For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.” The woman herself even thought it was extraordinary that Jesus would speak with her!

3) In addition to being “a woman”, and “of Samaria”, you figure she had to be a pretty rough character, too. I don’t know what you picture “the woman at the well” to look like, but she probably did not resemble the nice pictures they put on children’s Sunday School posters! Verse 18 says she had had 5 husbands, and she was currently living with a man who was not her husband. You know what sin does to a person’s countenance, how it ravages and ages them?

I spoke to someone the other day in a place of business, and my first thought was that she looked very old, and very rough. But as I walked away, it occurred to me that she was actually quite likely younger than I am, but she just looked much older than she was. Sin and rough living can take a great toll on your countenance.

If you think about it, this woman at the well probably looked somewhat like that woman at the convenience store did: very rough, very ravaged by life, very much older than her years. She was NOT an attractive picture; she was NOT someone that the average person would have had any desire to talk to: a rough looking, Samaritan, woman! But it is extraordinary that despite all that, that Jesus DID talk to her, and took advantage of the opportunity that God gave Him to share with her. This just magnifies how gracious the Lord is, and how much He loves every single one of us, whoever we are!

Some time ago, I read Peter Ackroyd’s Biography of Shakespeare, and it was interesting that in the book he said that it is of note that all of Shakespeare’s tragedies deal only with “persons of high degree.” He said: “tragedies of low life … held no interest for him.” It was only royalty he was concerned with: the King Richards, the Caesars, the Prince Hamlets. The tragedies of the poor he was not concerned with at all. Aren’t you grateful that our God is not like that! God cares for the most insignificant of us.

We were sharing from our Bible readings in a discipleship class one time, and my wife Cheryl shared that she was reading in Matthew about when Jesus was arrested, and the servant of the high priest had his ear cut off, and Jesus healed his ear (Matt. 26:51). Cheryl’s observation was: How extraordinary was this of Jesus: He did not just heal the man who was ordering His unjust arrest; He healed that man’s SERVANT! This was a NOBODY to the world! And yet Jesus took the time, when He was in the very act of being arrested and taken away to the cross, to care for this man, and restore his ear.

There are so many stories like that in the Bible that show us how God cares for the least of us: He cares about the servant of the enemy; He cares about the rough Samaritan woman; He cares about a guilty thief who was being justly punished on the cross; He cares about an outcast servant woman who was about to die in the desert — and on and on. Listen: if you ever wonder if God cares about you, all you need to do is to look at these stories in His word. If He loved them, you can know He loves you! If He cared about them, you can know He cares about you. (Now, honestly, some of us here today don’t need this encouragement; you already think the world revolves around you – and it doesn’t! But some of you really do need to hear that: you are wondering if God really knows you, or if He hears your prayer, or cares about you. This message is for you today: God does love you; He does care about YOU — just like He did this outcast woman.

And there is a lesson here also for every one of us as believers and church members: if God cares about each person like that, we should too. We should not be out looking for “people like us” to invite to church whom we think will fit into our little “club.” The testimony of every single one of us who has come to Christ is that we are saved only by the grace of God, and if you think that there is anyone who is “not good enough” to be invited, or to be saved, or be a part of this church, that just shows that you may not really understand the grace of your salvation at all. We are ALL saved by the grace of God alone; and that grace is available for EVERYONE who will call upon Him. We see that in this story of the woman at the well, and the attention she received from Jesus.

II. THE OPPORTUNITY SHE HAD

Jesus said in :10 “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.’”

This woman, unbeknownst to her, had “stumbled” across a treasure: it was not just “some guy” who was sitting there at the well that day, but Jesus the Messiah. It was not coincidental that He was there, but God had ordained for her to meet Him there, to give her an incredible opportunity to know Him and be saved. She did NOT know, at this moment, “the gift of God” that He was about to set before her.

It is interesting that Jesus uses this term, “the gift of God” to describe salvation. Romans 6:23 tells us: “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” And this is exactly what Jesus went on to say that He could offer her. He said, “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (:14) This woman had an incredible opportunity: the gift of eternal life was sitting right in front of her. She had come out just doing her routine chores — to get water – just going through the motions of every day life. But all of the sudden she had the opportunity to have eternal life!

May be you are like that: you have been “going through the motions” of every day life – getting up every day, going to work, doing what you have to do, eating, drinking, living, breathing, making money, paying bills … but God is saying there is something more for you than that. There is more than “just life” – there is “eternal life” – a relationship with God that He designed for you to have with Him, a new perspective on life, and a new purpose as you work for His kingdom here on earth – and then all eternity in heaven enjoying Him.

Genady Krechin was a Russian businessman who knew what he thought was a “good opportunity.” He was made a fortune during the downfall of the old Soviet Union, selling vodka and working with organized crime. He had what some would call a very “successful” life. But he said: “As the money became more and more, happiness became less and less. I was drinking, I was partying, I was destroying myself.” One day, an unexpected “opportunity” came for him: a Russian Baptist shared with him the story of Jesus, and God touched his heart. He came out of that selfish, destructive life, and he received the gift of eternal life that God had for him. He was discipled, and became a church planter working with Southern Baptist missionaries in Moscow. Genady saw that the greatest opportunity of his life was not to make money, or have what the world would call “success”, but to receive God’s gift of eternal life, and to know and serve Him. That is his “story”!

Can I ask you this morning: Do YOU know the gift of God? Do know the opportunity that you have in front of you today? You may have been just like the woman at the well – just going through your daily routines, living life from one week to the next, from one paycheck to the next, from one weekend to the next … but God is saying to you today, there is an opportunity for something more. There is eternal life before you! You can know that your sins are forgiven, and that you are going to live in heaven forever. You can know that you have the relationship with God that you have been looking and longing for all of your life, and which was meant to truly satisfy you. You can be a part of serving God in His kingdom, in a ministry that will be fulfilling in life, and that will lead to eternal rewards. If you have never received it, there is a great opportunity in front of you today. “The gift of God” is before you today! That is the same opportunity this woman had. But before she could have that opportunity, she had to face a problem first – and some of you here today need to face up to the same thing:

III. THE PROBLEM SHE FACED

Jesus actually brought up the problem she faced, because He knew it was important: her sin separated her from the opportunity God had for her to receive eternal life. We need to realize the importance of this; this was obviously no small thing, or Jesus would not have brought it up here. Here this woman was, with the opportunity to receive eternal life – and she wanted it! Jesus said in :14 that He could give her this water that would spring up to eternal life, and she said in verse 15: “Sir, give me this water …”. She wanted this eternal life! She was ready for it – or so she thought! But there was a problem, and that problem was her sin. Jesus said to her in :16 “Go call your husband and come here.” Why did He say that? Some may say, well, He didn’t want her to be saved without her husband, He wanted them both to be saved together. That’s a nice idea, but that’s not why. Look at the woman’s response: she said “I have no husband.” Then look at what Jesus said: “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.” WOW! WHY in the world would Jesus say this?! Here is this woman, seemingly ready to receive eternal life, and He has to say this? He sure didn’t get that out of a “How to Win Friends and Influence People” class, did He? I mean, this was sure to turn her off — WHY would He say something like that to her?

Jesus said that to this woman because He knew that she could never have eternal life until she faced up to her sin against God. The problem that she had was that she had flagrantly disobeyed God with her lifestyle. She had had 5 husbands; she had broken God’s laws about marriage. She was now living in immorality with yet another guy who wasn’t even one of those 5! She had totally disobeyed God regarding marriage and morality – and that was her problem. Her sin had separated her from God.

We need to understand that the problem this Samaritan Woman faced is the same problem we all face: our sins have separated us from God. Isaiah 59:2 says of all of us: “Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God.” As we saw last week, we were all born with a sin nature, and we have each have chosen to disobey God — and you can’t have eternal life until you face up to your sin and deal with it. You can’t just “sweep your sins under the carpet” and pretend that they never happened – or worse yet, just keep on doing the same sins as if God doesn’t care. God does care about our sins; He is a holy God, who cannot abide sin in His presence. Jesus shows us that here. He wouldn’t have brought this up right here unless it was extremely important. You cannot be reconciled to God without repenting of your sins, because it was your sin that separated you from God in the first place.

It would be like a husband saying, “I want to be right with my wife, but I don’t want to stop running around with other women.” Well, that is not going to happen, is it? It is the running around with other women that destroyed that man’s relationship with his wife; he doesn’t have a hope of fixing that relationship until he stops doing what destroyed it.

It’s the same way with us and God. Sin, by definition, is disobeying God. It is saying, “I don’t want to obey You; I want to do what I want to do!” When you are saved, you admit that your choices to sin were wrong, and you come back to God to obey HIM as your Lord, the way He designed you to. When you turn away from your sins, and turn back to God, that is called “repentance.” You must repent of your sins and turn back to God in order to have a real relationship with Him.

This can be painful – facing up to your sin — but that is part of genuine salvation. John Bunyan, whose conversion “story” I am going to share here, in a moment, wrote:

“Conversion is not the smooth, easy-going process some men seem to think . . . . It is wounding work, of course, this breaking of the hearts, but without wounding there is no saving. . . . Where there is grafting there is a cutting … and this I say, must be done by a wound.”

Helping someone face up to their sin can be “wounding work” like Bunyan wrote — and that is what Jesus did with that woman. He had to “wound” her by confronting her with her sin, so that she could eventually be saved. This has to happen for genuine salvation.

One of the worst invitations I ever heard came from an evangelist years ago who told a really scary story about hell, and then said: “If you want to miss hell, and go to heaven, come down to the front!” Well, of course everyone came down to the front! Who doesn’t want to miss hell and go to heaven?! The problem with that was, he never dealt with sin; he never talked about Jesus dying on the cross to pay for our sins. WHY would people miss heaven? Why weren’t they going there already? It was because of their sins, that had separated them from a relationship with God and were sending them to hell. That evangelist did not do what Jesus did: he did not confront the people he was preaching to with the problem of their sins.

Each one of us needs to realize the same thing. If you want to have eternal life, you must admit that you have disobeyed God. You have sinned. It might “hurt” you to hear that – just like it did that woman Jesus talked to, but you need to realize that it is your sin that has separated you from God, and it is your sin that Jesus paid for on the cross. I John 1:8-9 says “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Don’t deceive yourself; don’t try to act like you haven’t sinned and that you are so good that you “deserve” a place in heaven. You don’t! And I don’t either! The Bible says “ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We have all sinned, and we need to face up to it. God can cleanse you from your sin; He can make you as white as snow – just like we talked about last week. He can forgive you. But for that to happen you must confess your sin. Like the Samaritan woman, you must come face to face with the problem of your sin in order to have eternal life.

IV. THE SOLUTION SHE TRUSTED

This woman’s sin was the problem (as is ours) – but what was the solution? The solution she discovered, was Jesus Himself. After Jesus confronted her about her sin, she attempted a diversion with a controversial question (which people often do, by the way) about where they should worship. And when Jesus answered her diversion, she responded in :25, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that one comes, He will declare all things to us.” Then in :26 “Jesus said to her: ‘I who speak to you am He.’” She basically said: there is going to come Someone who is going to be the answer to all these problems. And Jesus said: “I who speak to you am He.” In other words, Jesus is the answer to the problem we face in our sins.

In John 14, Jesus told His disciples that He was going to prepare a place for them in heaven, and he said in :4 “’You know the way where I am going.’ Thomas said to Him: ‘Lord we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?’ Jesus said to him: ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.’” Jesus Himself IS the way; He is the solution; He is the answer. We are to put our faith in Him.

This is what John Bunyan, the author of the famous book Pilgrim’s Progress, finally found. Bunyan grew up in a religious home, and so he felt guilty for lying, and breaking the Sabbath, and cursing. He knew about God, and about Jesus, but he could find no comfort for his soul. One day he overhead some people talking about their faith in Jesus, and he was listening to them. (Remember: “the prisoners are listening”!) Just after that, he was out walking in a field, and although he had tried to “reform” his life, and stop his cursing, and lying, and tried to live for God, he knew that he was not right with God. But he said that suddenly this sentence fell upon his soul: “Your righteousness is in heaven.”
He said that at that moment: “I saw with the eyes of my soul … Jesus as my righteousness”. He said he suddenly understood that nothing that he could do could make his righteousness any better, and nothing he could bad would make it any worse. He said all the sudden he understood: “My righteousness was Jesus Christ Himself, ‘the same yesterday, today and forever.’” And he said when he understood that, “Now did my chains fall off my legs indeed … now went I also home rejoicing for the grace and love of God.” Almost all of his life Bunyan knew ABOUT Jesus; but at that moment he really TRUSTED Jesus as his Savior — the One who dealt with his sins and made him right with God.

See, there is an important difference, between just knowing “about” Jesus, and really TRUSTING Him to deal with your sins. The famous English preacher Charles Spurgeon, in a number of his messages, described saving faith as “reclining” in Jesus: putting your trust in Him to save you. It is not just “believing” intellectually. This is the difference we have been talking about over the past couple of weeks, between intellectual assent, and saving faith. Intellectual assent says that you believe a “fact” about something; saving faith really trusts it for yourself.

For example, you can see one of the chairs up here on this platform; and you could ask me: “Do you believe that this chair would hold you up?” And I could say, yes, I believe it could. In my mind, I might believe that chair would indeed hold me up – but in actuality it is not really doing anything for me. That chair is not going to “do” anything for me until I go over and sit on it, and actually put my weight on it. There is a big difference in “believing” that chair COULD hold me, and actually letting it hold me.

And that is precisely how a lot of people are with Jesus. Some of you may be like that today. In your mind, you may know the “fact” that “Jesus died for everyone” or that Jesus can save you. But it is just something you know ABOUT – like the person who “believes” that chair can hold them up. But the truth is, you have never really personally trusted Jesus to forgive your sins and save YOU! There is a big difference between belief and trust.

But Jesus Himself IS the solution; He is the “chair” in illustration. He is the way to heaven. If you are going to be saved, you must trust what He did on the cross for you; not just “believe” in Him in your mind like you believe in George Washington. You have to TRUST Him; “recline” in Him; trust what HE did to save you, not anything you can do. Stop saying you “believe” that Jesus can save you, and actually LET Him save you! Trust your life to Him.

Jesus Himself was the solution for that Samaritan Woman, and He is the solution for you. He cares about you, just like He cared for that Samaritan Woman. He wants you to have eternal life, but just like that woman, He needs you to know that your sin has separated you from Him, but that He is the answer. He died on the cross to pay for your sins, so that if you would repent of your sin, and trust Him, He will be your Lord & Savior today!

You may have come out here today just for a “normal Sunday” — but Jesus has something much bigger in mind. Just like that woman at the well, if you will admit your sin, and trust Jesus as our Savior, you can be washed from all your sin, get a real relationship with God and eternal life in heaven — and like that woman, you can then say: “This is my story”!

INVITATION
Some of you have been standing and looking at Jesus long enough, saying “I believe He can save me” long enough; it is time for you to actually “recline” in Him, and trust your salvation to Him. You can do that right where you are: pray and ask Jesus to forgive your sins, and come into your life as your Lord & Savior from this day forward.

But if you are really doing that, you will want to tell someone; and you will want to follow through by being baptized — and I want to give you an opportunity to do that right now.

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, provides brief devotions from own personal daily Bible reading, as well as some of my sermons, book reviews, and family life experiences.
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