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She Left Her Jar: Four Questions Every Heart Asks

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There are four questions, questions that I believe most of us have or have had in common with the Woman at the Well, that are driving the woman’s responses to Jesus.

John 4:4-29, 39-42 (NIV)
4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” 11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?” 13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” 16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” 17 “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” 19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” 25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” 26 Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.” 27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” 28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”…….39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers. 42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”[1]

I.         Growing up in Sissonville and my experience of riding through Orchard Manor when I was a kid growing up in the turbulent sixties.

A.     That’s the closest thing I have to identify with how Jewish people felt about traveling through Samaria.

1.      Samaritans and Jews did not get along.

a.      Hatred was both racial and religious

(1)   In 727 BC the Assyrians took the ten northern tribes captive.

(a)   Brought other people into the region

(b)   Remaining Jewish people intermarried

(c)   Lost Racial Purity

(i)     Joshua killing the women and children

(ii)   Strict Jewish homes conduct funerals for children who marry none Jewish spouses

(2)   In time the Southern Kingdom was taking into captivity

(a)   They clung to their Jewish identity

(b)   In the Days of Nehemiah

(i)     They eventually were allowed to return and rebuild the city of Jerusalem

(ii)   The Samaritans tried to stop them

(3)   Religious Tension

(a)   Both claimed a common religious and biological ancestory, but the Samaritans had made some changes. 

(b)   Samaritans built a rival temple on Mount Gerazim

(c)   Samaritans “revised” Jewish history to say that certain historic events happened on Mount Gerazim instead of where our OT records they happened today

(d)   Samaritans only accepted the Torah and rejected the other books of the OT.

b.      New Testament Times Customs

(1)    (Show Map) Jews despised Samaritans so intensely they would add three days on their journey between Galilee and Judah

(2)   Jews would not think of sharing utensils with a Samaritan, yet here Jesus was asking her for a cup of water

2.      She asks the question “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?

II.       Four Questions Every Person Asks

A.     The Question Behind the Question: Why would you have anything to do with me?

1.      She was a Samaritan – but I think it went deeper than that.

2.      She was a woman

a.      Jewish men did not speak to women in public – even their own wives and daughters.

b.      The Bruised Pharisees – Walked into walls because they closed their eyes when they saw a woman.

3.      She was a societal outcast

a.      She had had five husbands – Jewish law allowed three

b.      She was currently living with someone – not her husband.

c.      She was at the well when other women probably would not be there.

(1)   She had no reason to believe that Jesus knew this

(2)   She knew it and was never allowed to forget.

4.      She may have been wondering what Jesus really wanted.

a.      Jewish men would speak to prostitutes.

b.      There was no indication the woman was a prostitute but here presence at the well at that time of day would have communicated something about her character to any man in the region

c.      My story of helping a woman who needed gas outside of Pueblo.

5.      Many of us ask the same question or at least have the same feeling

a.      Why would other people want to have anything to do with me, especially if we perceive those people to be “holier than thou” kind of people.

b.      Why would God want to have anything to do with me?

c.      Some people have clearly communicated that they want nothing to do with us.

d.      Some of know our own failures all too well.

e.      Even though we are here, we still allow those things to keep us from fully engaging in life-giving relationships with one another.

6.      Recapping who she is (as a lead to the next question)

a.      A Samaritan

b.      A Woman

c.      An Outcast who is used to being used by people.

d.      Talking with a Jew

e.      Who is also a man

f.        In public

g.      And wondering if he is just one more who is going to put her down and take advantage of her.

h.      It’s only natural for her to wonder if he can be trusted.  She wants to know who he is.

B.     “Can I trust you?" is the question behind the question

1.      Rather than asking the question directly, she asks “Who do you think you are?“

a.      John 4:11-15 (NIV)
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?” 13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”[2]

2.      The well

a.      Originally dug by Jacob, later known as Israel, whom both Jews and Samaritans claimed as their biological and religious father.

b.      Even today it is one of the deepest wells in Palestine, at least 100 feet deep

3.      Jesus was focused on the spiritual dimension of life, but the woman was focused on her physical, the here and now.

a.      He was not speaking in cloaked language when he spoke of giving her living water.

(1)   Jews often spoke of the thirst of the soul for God; and they often spoke of quenching that thirst with living water. Jesus was not using terms that were bound to be misunderstood; he was using terms that anyone with spiritual insight should have understood[3]

(2)   In Jeremiah 17:13, the Lord is actually referred to as “the spring of living water.”[4]

b.      He was not only saying that he was greater than Jacob, he was declaring himself as the Anointed One of God who was to bring in the new age.[5]

c.      Yet the woman was so focused on the physical she missed the more important spiritual implications.

C.    I think the next question she asks is “Where can I find God?”

1.      Jesus confronts her with the truth of her situation.

a.      I have no husband

b.      You have had five and the man you are now with isn’t even your husband.

(1)   If Jesus had started with that, all would have been lost.

(2)   Jesus had established rapport with the woman

c.      This had to jolt her. Her response tells us that she realized she needed to connect to God.

d.      Jesus’ response tells us she did not know

(1)   Where to worship

(2)   What to worship

(3)   How to worship

e.      She needed help connecting to God.

2.      She is also still rooted in the physical.

a.      Where do I worship

b.      Jesus helps here transition by saying it is not so much where as how – in Spirit and Truth – non-tangible qualities which are spiritual in nature rather than tangible qualities that would be physical

D.    Can you help me?

1.      She begins to speak of the Messiah

a.      Interesting since Samaritans had no concept of a Messiah

b.      “When he comes he will explain everything to us.”

2.      Jesus answers

a.      Ἐγώ εἰμι - Emphatic

III.      A Woman Transformed. (v 28-30)

A.     The woman makes the leap from the physical to the spiritual

1.      She leaves her jar

B.     She moves from being someone who goes to draw water when no one else would normally be there to one who is intentionally engaging others.

C.    She actually influences others.

1.      It was her testimony that convinced others to believe in Jesus.

IV.   Not only do we ask those questions, as followers of Christ we are to be the living examples of those answers.

A.     Why would you want to have anything to do with me?

1.      Is your life an open invitation to others, especially to people who are not like you, to join you for a cup of coffee, or is there a closed sign hanging in the windows of your life?

2.      Are you assertively building relationships with those “outside” of the faith?

B.     “Can I trust you?"

1.      Are you a safe person? 

2.      Will you be shocked by my sin?

3.      Will my sin illicit grace or judgement?

4.      Will you see past my insecure behavior?

C.    Where can I find God?

1.      Is Jesus alive and well…

a.      …in you?

b.      …in your church?

D.    Can you help me?

1.      Will you invest time with me?

2.      Will you, not just introduce me, but help me connect with other Christ followers.

3.      Will you tell me about Jesus?

V.     Everyone of can be found somewhere in this story.

A.      we are asking one of the four questions.

1.      Maybe we’re skeptical that God or his people would really want to have anything to do with us.

2.      Maybe we’ve been hurt so badly by other “people of God” that we are slow to let others in.

3.      Is it possible you are not sure about how to connect with God.

4.      Are you willing to let us help you?

B.     If it is not one of the four questions, maybe we’re still hanging on to our jar.

1.      We’re so preoccupied with our physical needs and wants the spiritual dimension of our lives is nothing by a dry hole.

2.      Perhaps we would rather sit at the well with Jesus than go tell others about who he is.

C.    It’s time we left our jars behind.


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[1] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[2] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[3]The Gospel of John : Volume 1. 2000, c1975 (W. Barclay, lecturer in the University of Glasgow, Ed.). The Daily study Bible series, Rev. ed. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.

[4] The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[5]The Gospel of John : Volume 1. 2000, c1975 (W. Barclay, lecturer in the University of Glasgow, Ed.). The Daily study Bible series, Rev. ed. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.

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