Sermon: Samaritan Woman’s Search for Truth

Samaritan Woman’s Search for Truth
John 4:5-42
RUMC 2 April 2017

The Great Depression of 1931 was no time to go into business, but Ted and Dorothy Hustead took a risk and bought a drug store in the little town of Wall, SD. At first, things were okay, but then a series of natural disasters began to rock the community.  There was the plague of grasshoppers that had eaten up all the crops; that was followed by the dust bowl and a long drought.  With all these obstacles overwhelming the town, the little drugstore was about to close.  Then Ted and Dorothy began to ask themselves “How can we get people into the drugstore?”  They came up with the idea of billboards; so they made signs made which said “Free Ice Water at the Wall Drug Store.”  They put them everywhere, people came and Wall Drug store has survived.
Now fast forward many years. When I was on vacation in the Army from Ft Sill, Oklahoma, we drove north to see Yellowstone and Mt. Rushmore and on our way home we went through S. Dakota and sure enough, we began to see hundreds of Wall Drug billboards still advertising free ice water.

In my scripture today, Jesus offered the Samaritan woman something far better than a bucket of free water from Jacob’s well; he offered the living water from above. This is a timeless message of how we can fill the spiritual void in our lives.  My text is John 4:5-42.
5 So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.
7 A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) 10 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.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”
27 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” 28 Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, 29 “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” 30They left the city and were on their way to him.
31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. 36 The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”
This is the Word of God. Thanks be to God.

Samaria was “unofficially” off limits to all devout Jews. The conflict had begun hundreds of years prior; the Jews from Samaria had intermingled with pagan foreigners, and as a result they were labeled heretics by their ‘pious’ Jewish neighbors.  Thus the Jews would have nothing to do with the Samarians.  It was like the feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys, minus the violence.

Now here in John 4, we are told some striking details about this Samaritan woman who went to the town’s only well to get her daily ration of water. She was alone; this was unusual because most women used the trip to collect water as a time to socialize.  They would meet to gather water early in the morning and late in the afternoon to get the news of the day.  So the fact that this Samaritan woman would come alone in the heat of the day to gather her water should alert you to the fact that something wasn’t right.  Because of her marital situation and home life, this woman was considered an outcast or the black sheep of the village.  She went alone so she would not be hurt by their words, attitudes and hard looks.  Sad to say, there are outcasts everywhere who are in need of spiritual healing.

The Samaritan woman didn’t know was that she was dying of spiritual thirst until Jesus offered the gift of eternal life. Look at it this way; many spiritual functions parallel the physical.  As our bodies hunger and thirst, so do our souls.

People often equate faith in God as the belief in a supreme being, following the rules, and being good and sincere in their religious beliefs. Tied in with all of that is a God given void that needs to be filled; if the void isn’t filled with a personal relationship with the Lord we will fill it with other things.

When the Samaritan woman first came in contact with Jesus, she probed him with questions. As the discussion moved from her own personal situation to the true worship of God, it appears that the Lord touched her heart.  She was moved to tell others.

I think most people genuinely want to be right with God; deep down they want to experience something in the spiritual realm that would make a difference in their lives. We would call this ‘living water,’ which is a form of spiritual nourishment that comes from a relationship with Christ.  We are nourished by our experiences and what we take in, and we are nourished by what we give out, like we did with the “Stop Hunger Now” program on April first.

The major league baseball season begins tonight (April 2, 2017). For those who follow this sport, the name Sparky Anderson might be familiar.  He had a long and distinguished career as a player and manager.  In an interview with a Detroit newspaper he said, “I am not lying when I say that religion is important to me.  If I had one great wish, it would be that I could honestly say that I am one of His people.  That’s the one emptiness I have.  I’d give up all the pennants and all the honors just to know I was doing right by him.”  Sparky was 76 years old when he died in 2010.  I don’t know if he ever found that spiritual fulfillment, but Sparky was right about one thing: there is more to life than physical achievement.

The Serendipity Bible has several thought provoking questions. Let’s look at a few:
How would you compare your own spiritual beginnings with God to that of the woman at the well?

  1. More intellectual
  2. Different, but just as real.
  3. Even more crazy.
  4. I’ll have to think about that.

If Jesus were to stop by the watering hole where you hang out, what would he probably ask you right now?

  1. What are you doing with your life?
  2. Are you satisfied with what you are doing?
  3. Are you looking for the real thing?
  4. Other

How would you describe the way God is working in your life right now?

  1. Master architect.
  2. Construction foreman.
  3. Coach on the sidelines.
  4. Big boss in the grandstands.
  5. Trainer.
  6. Cheerleader.
  7. Sculptor.

Let me close. Shortly after the Samaritan woman had spoken to Jesus, she became a Christian believer and was baptized.  In ancient Christian tradition there was a custom that new believers take a new name.  The Samaritan woman took the name of Photini, which means ‘enlightened one.’  In time, Photini and her family moved from Samaria to North Africa where she was quite active in sharing the gospel, but then suffered martyrdom.

For us, Christ’s offer of living water still stands. It is up to us to accept, embrace, guard, and care for it.  It is up to us to keep it flowing.  We drink of this living water when we spend time in worship, and we are nourished by what we give out.