“On The Road With Jesus” (John 4 sermon)

One of best ways to learn about someone is to spend some time on the road with them. I remember reading an article by the renowned actor, Charlton Heston (who played Moses in the classic 1956 movie “The Ten Commandments”). Heston was conservative politically, and was supporting Ronald Regan as he ran for office, so one time he went on the road with him. People had sometimes suggested to Heston that he follow in Reagan’s steps and run for office, but he said spending that time on the road with Reagan taught him a lot of lessons, among them being how HARD it is to be a candidate like that: how hard the travel is; how many meetings there are; and how many people to try to meet and keep happy. He said he could tell that Reagan just “fed” off of the people; he said the more he met, the happier he seemed to be, and the more energized. But Heston said all that would have killed him! So he learned some things about politics, and about himself, while “on the road” with Ronald Reagan.

This is one of the reasons why Jesus took His disciples “on the road” with Him: so that they could spend time with Him, and learn from Him. And they did learn amazing lessons that they would carry with them for the rest of their lives. You and I did not get that opportunity to personally walk with Jesus like they did, but through God’s word, we can “virtually” go “on the road” with Jesus and His disciples in their trip to Samaria in John 4, and as we do, there are a number of lessons we can learn from it:

I. We Learn to Take Comfort in the HUMANITY of Jesus

:6 “Jesus, being wearied from His journey …” 

This is an amazing statement. It says that Jesus was “wearied.” We need to hear that, because some of us tend to think of Jesus as some kind of “Superman” character with special powers who didn’t really get weak or tired like we do. But the Bible says He DID!  That was part of His “becoming like us” that Hebrews 2 talks about. In the Incarnation He became like us in our weaknesses.  He didn’t need to rest from 6 days of creating the whole universe (the only reason He “rested” was as an example for His people; He wasn’t “tired” by it at all!) But here this same Creator was “wearied” from walking, by the 6th hour of the day. He had undoubtedly gotten up early and spent quality time with His Heavenly Father in prayer, then He walked for a number of hours before stopping here in Samaria. He was a real man who got “weary.”  If getting tired and weary is not in your mental picture of Jesus, you need to re-do your mental picture! Jesus got “weary”, just like we do!  

Have you ever been “weary”? I’m sure all of us can say we have. Maybe you are “weary” right now. But take comfort — Jesus knows what that is like! So when you’re weary, bring that to Jesus. He too has been weary; and He knows how to help you in your time of need.

Jim & I were talking on the phone about some things about the service last Wednesday night, and he said, “How are you doing?” And I said, “Man, honestly I am TIRED!” We had just driven 2000 miles to Oklahoma and back to celebrate Paul’s marriage, and got home and then I was behind on everything of course, and I was tired. I had gone to see one of our people in the nursing home Wednesday afternoon and I was literally slapping my face on the drive over to stay awake!  I told Cheryl before the service Wednesday, I am just SO tired. But you know, I had read this passage this week, like so many of y’all did as well, and it reminds us that Jesus was “weary.” Just like we get sometimes. So I prayed, and said, “Lord, help me. Give me the strength I need tonight even though I am weary.” And of course He did!  He knows how to help us when we are weary, because He Himself has been weary. Hebrews 4:15 says “We do not have a great High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” 

Jesus knows what it is to be weary!  And it was in that state that He ministered to the Samaritan woman! You know, sometimes we have to minister “hurt” or weary. That’s just how it is. Jesus knew that, and He modeled it for us!  But we can also call on Him to help us when we are tired and weary. And when we do, He WILL help. He won’t think you’re “weak” or foolish; He’s been weary Himself. He will help you. So going “on the road” with Jesus here in John 4 we learn that we can take comfort in the humanity of Jesus.

II. We Learn to WATCH for opportunities to witness. Like Jesus had here. 

Verse 6 says that Jesus was sitting by the well, “wearied” from the trip. And :7 says “There came a woman of Samaria to draw water.” 

What would you have thought when this woman came up? Honestly, you know what you would have thought about her?

— You would have thought about her the same thing you thought when that one person walked down the aisle towards you in Wal-Mart last week.

— You would have thought about her the same thing you thought when you saw that repairman come up to the door of your home.

— You would have thought about her the same thing you did when that parent came to your school. 

You would have thought about that woman the same way you did about all “strangers” you came across last week. Because that’s what this woman was to Jesus. This was just “some person” who came across His path. Only He didn’t see her that way. He saw each person He met through eyes of love and sought to share with each one. The question is: How do YOU look at the “strangers” who come across your path?  

— Do you see them as “strangers”?

— Do you see them as “necessary interruptions”?

— Do you see them as “inconveniences”?

— Or do you see them as God sees them, and their coming to you as God-given opportunities; as those that He has purposefully brought across your path?

That’s another thing we learn from Jesus here. He treated this meeting with this woman as a “divine appointment” that His Heavenly Father had given Him. We need to learn that from Him as we come across people in our paths.  

When I read this passage this week it reminded me of an encounter I had the Sunday night of our church fellowship over at Lake James.  A woman of another ethnicity came out to “our reserved area” at the lake, and wanted to know if she and her son could swim there. My first thought was “well, this is supposed to be ‘OUR area!’” But the Lord nudged me to let her do it; maybe we could be a witness to her somehow. But after we had been there some time I noticed she was just over there by herself, and the Lord nudged me to just go by and speak to her, and see if some opportunity to witness might open up, so I did.  I asked where she lived, and a few general questions. Nothing really seemed to open up, so after a while I said, “Well, it was good to meet you …” and I was already starting to think to myself, “Well at least I was obedient,” and I started to walk away — and all of the sudden she said, “So what church are you all from?” And it just opened the door, and I eventually did get to share the gospel with her. (I think partially God wanted to show me that it is HE who opens up doors, not me!) But it ended up being a great opportunity. She said she did trust what Jesus did on the cross to save her; I don’t know if she really did or not; but we got to talk about her husband. She said he is a Catholic, but she doesn’t know if he really knows the Lord or not. So I went over the gospel again, told her that the most important thing is that both her and her husband to trust that it was Jesus dying on the cross that will take us to heaven, not our own good works. It turned out to be a great opportunity; but God had to show me that I needed to SEE her being there as an opportunity, and obey Him and go through the door when He opened it up.

Now, lest any of you think I’m some kind of “great witness” for sharing that afternoon; I want you to know, I fail all the time at this. (Cheryl can tell you we were at a gas station the other night and this scroungy looking character was begging for money. He just rubbed me the wrong way, and I kinda gruffly said no. When I got back to the car Cheryl said: “I guess that wasn’t the one God gave you to witness to today?” I went, “Ahh….”. I probably missed that one!) 

But I’ve been encouraged the last couple of weeks to hear so many of our people, taking opportunities to share with family, with servers in restaurants, with employees, with those in our barber chair, and others, as God has opened doors for us. That’s one of the things I think if we were physically walking with Jesus, that we would really come away with: how many opportunities God will give us to minister and share with people, if we will just watch and pray for those opportunities. Just step across the room; just speak a word like Jesus did here in :7, “Give me a drink …”, and see what opportunity God might open up for you to be a witness. 

III. We Learn the necessity of repentance

One of the most important spiritual lessons we learn from Jesus here in John 4 is the importance of repentance if a person is to be saved.

See, too often, what we call “evangelism” consists of telling people, “just receive Jesus as your Savior” or “just ask Jesus into your heart” and you will go to heaven. But as we walk with Jesus here in John 4, we see Him confronting the woman there with the necessity of repentance:

Once they got going into the conversation, He was telling her about the “living water” of eternal life that He had to offer her — and she was ready to receive it. She said in :15, “Sir, give me this water!” She was ready to “make a decision”, if you will.  A lot of us would have said right there, “OK, bow your head, and let’s ask Jesus into your heart!”  

But that’s not what Jesus did. Instead He said in :16, “Go, call your husband and come here.” Now this was a sore spot! The woman said in :17 “I have no husband.” But Jesus didn’t leave it alone. He said, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you have now is not your husband.” WHY did Jesus do this? He did not get this line out of “How To Win Friends And Influence People”! He hit on a real area of sin and disobedience in her life. Why did He do that?  Because He knew that her just “wanting to have eternal life” was not enough. There has to be real repentance in her life in order for there to be real salvation.

See, what causes us to be lost in the first place is our SIN. Sin is when we walk away from God, and say, “I don’t want to do what You said, I am going to do my own thing.” Whether we have said it in so many words doesn’t matter; that is what we have done. That is what sin is. And the Bible says we have ALL sinned. And our sins have separated us from God. He is holy. And those who are in sin, cannot have fellowship with God, either here on earth or eternally in heaven. God still loved us anyway, and He made a way for us to come back from our sins to Him. He sent Jesus to earth to die on the cross and pay for our sins. So now the way is open for us to turn back from our sins, and come back to God, and receive the forgiveness that Jesus bought for us. But we have to be willing to turn from our sins to do that. If we don’t turn from our sins, there is no real salvation. 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote about this in his book The Cost of Discipleship. He talks about how many people have compromised Biblical salvation by offering what he calls, “cheap grace.” “Cheap grace” he said, “is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance …”. And that is exactly what many so-called Christian “evangelists” are offering these days. It is forgiveness without repentance. Jesus didn’t preach that. He confronted the woman’s sin. Because He knew there cannot be genuine salvation without repentance.

Now that doesn’t mean that we have to somehow “clean ourselves up” before we can get saved. Jesus cleans us up. He gives us the power to change. But we have to be WILLING to be changed. And this is just what so many people do not want. They want to hold on to their SIN with one hand, and take Jesus in the other hand, and think He’s gonna take them safely to heaven. And He will NOT! You have to be willing to let go of that sin — and Jesus will help you to do that — but you have got to admit that what you are doing is a sin, and be willing to STOP DOING IT with His help. You cannot just willfully continue in your sin, and think Jesus is going to take you to heaven. He won’t. There has to be repentance.  

— I don’t care how many times you “ask Jesus into your heart;” 

— I don’t care how often you SAY Jesus is your Lord & Savior;

If you are not repenting and turning away from sin in your life you are not being saved. 

Real salvation is accompanied by real repentance.  And there are people who in some sense “really believe” in Jesus, and “really want” to be saved, but they will NOT be saved, because they have never repented of their sin.

Look at the Rich Young Ruler in Matthew 19. After Jesus talked to him, it says he “went away sorrowful” because he wouldn’t obey Jesus and repent in an area He pointed out in his life. And you may go away sorrowful too. You may walk away from this service sorrowful, because although you’d like to follow Jesus, you know you are in a sinful relationship with another person and you are not willing to walk away from it; or because you know there is a habit in your life you don’t even WANT to let Jesus help you break. And you are going to “walk away sorrowful” today because you will not repent, and YOU WILL BE LOST unless you repent!  This isn’t just me saying that. Jesus Himself said, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”  (Luke 13:3)

Do you remember when Don Sunshine was here a few weeks ago, he said he has a friend he has been praying for, and witnessing to, for some years. But he said, my friend is still lost because he will not repent. Folks, it is not enough just to say you “like Jesus” and “want to go to heaven.” One of the great lessons we learn when we walk with Jesus is that we must repent of our sins in order to be saved.  

IV. We Learn that JESUS is the Answer:

When Jesus did confront this woman with her sin, she seemed to try a “distraction technique” — which a lot of people do: when they are convicted, and the spotlight is on them, they say, “Well, what about THIS …?” to try to change the conversation.  That’s exactly what the woman at the well did: she said in :20, “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.”  (Now she is referring to what we have read about in our daily Bible reading earlier this year: how when the northern tribes split off from Judah, Judah continued to worship in the Temple in Jerusalem, but the northern tribes of Israel worshiped on the high place at Bethel. That’s what she was talking about. She was bringing up a controversial subject to distract from her sin.) Jesus gave her an answer that, again, she probably didn’t like: that salvation really IS from Jerusalem and the Jews, not from the hill in Bethel.  

But when Jesus had said all this to the woman, she thought she’d end the conversation the way a lot of us do: by kind of “punting it down the road.” We say things like, “Well, we’ll see …”. Or “Well, someone will figure it out some day …”, that kind of thing. That’s basically what she was doing here when she said in :25, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” She was saying, “Well, when the Christ comes, He’ll tell us.” Kind of like what we do when we say, “Well, when we get to heaven we’ll know all the answers.”  A lot of us have ended conversations by “punting” it like that.

Only Jesus didn’t let her stop it there. She was like “well, the Christ will tell us one of these days …” but in :26 Jesus stopped her in her tracks and said, “I who speak to you am He.” Jesus was saying, Listen, woman: it is not that the answer is going to come “one of these days.” The answer has COME — and I AM THE ANSWER!  I AM the Christ. I AM the Messiah. It is interesting that in the original text there is no word “He” in the verse. It is just “I who speak to you AM.” “I AM” — the name God gave Moses in Exodus 3 when he asked what His name was, and God said “I AM.” “Yahweh,” “I am that I am.” So Jesus was saying here, “I AM that YHWH GOD.” I AM the answer. Like He said later in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.” JESUS IS THE ANSWER. 

And Jesus is not just the answer for that woman in John 4; He is the answer for US today too. It is NOT: “Well, one day we’ll all know … someday we’ll figure it out.” NO! We know NOW!  We have the answer NOW: JESUS IS THE ANSWER! 

Cheryl tells me that when new kids come into their Sunday School class and they are asked questions, their first inclination is often to give whatever they think the “Sunday School” answer is; you know, where “God” or “Jesus” is the answer to every question. One of the things they learn over time is to open up in Sunday School, and give good and honest answers, that are from their heart. But there is also a very real sense in which Jesus really IS the answer to all of our questions. HE IS THE ANSWER. 

There has come about a kind of “Gospel Resurgence” in our Southern Baptist Convention in the past few years, which I think has been very beneficial in getting our focus where it needs to be, on Jesus. It says, our focus needs to be on the Gospel. It is NOT that one day we were lost in our sins, and we needed the gospel, and we asked Jesus to save us, but now that we are Christians we don’t need the gospel any more. NO: this reminds us that we need the Gospel in every stage of the Christian life:

— When we get saved, yes we need the gospel. We need Jesus’ death on the cross to forgive our sins, and give us power to turn from sin and live a new life. 

— But even now as Christians, when we get up every day, we need the gospel: we’ve sinned yesterday, and the only reason we aren’t lost today is the gospel! And we need to remind ourselves of that, and “preach the gospel to ourselves” every day. 

— And then as we go out into the world, we need to be looking for opportunities to share the gospel with others, like we have been talking about. 

— As we serve in our job or school, we do it knowing that everything we do there, reflects on the Gospel. 

— The Christian realizes that their marriage and their family exists to show the world a picture of the Gospel: the husband is to love and sacrifice for his wife the way Christ loved the Church; the wife is to submit to her husband the way the Church submits to Christ. The marriage and family of a Christian are all about the Gospel. 

— And as Christians make decisions about their lives, we are to make those decisions taking into account how our decision impacts the Gospel.

There is no area of our life that is not impacted by the Gospel. In a very real sense, everything in the life of a Christian is to be about the Gospel.

And folks, the Gospel is JESUS! JESUS is the answer. Just like in that elementary Sunday School class, Jesus really IS the answer to everything. (Some people are reluctant to help or counsel people; they’re afraid they won’t say the right thing, or they won’t have the answer to the problem. But in a very real sense, you can’t go wrong by just pointing the person to Jesus. He REALLY IS the ultimate answer to everything: 

— You want to go to heaven? Jesus is the answer for that! He is “the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father” but through Him.

— You want peace? Jesus is the answer! He said, “MY peace I give to you.” 

— You want direction? Jesus is the answer. He said “I am the way”!

— You need healing/help/deliverance? Jesus is the answer! He said “bring them to Me!”

— You need to know how you should act? Jesus is the answer. He said we are to “follow in His steps” (I Peter 2:21)

— You need strength? Jesus is the answer. We just read in II Timothy where Paul said: “The Lord strengthened me” when he was facing the lion’s mouth.

— You need hope in a desperate world? Jesus is the answer. He said He is “coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory” (Matt. 24:30) and things will not always be as bad as they are now. There is coming a better day than what we have now; there is coming a better world than what we have now — and JESUS is our hope of that. JESUS IS THE ANSWER!  

The most important lesson of all that we learn, from walking “on the road” with Jesus, is that He is the answer to everything we need. 

What is it that you are facing today? As we bow our heads, would you pray, Lord, show me how YOU are the answer to the problem I am facing today. And help me to give that thing to You, and let You do what no one else can.  

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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