“The Woman–and the Man–at the Well” (John 4:5-30, 39-42)

Third Sunday in Lent
March 12, 2023

“The Woman–and the Man–at the Well” (John 4:5-30, 39-42)

Acceptance is a big idea in our culture these days. Every weird subgroup wants to be accepted as normal. More than that, they demand to be celebrated and approved, even if what they’re proud of is really something to be ashamed of. And if you don’t approve, if you don’t celebrate them, then you are a bigot and some sort of “-phobe,” and you need to be canceled.

So the challenge is how to accept people in love without approving of what they’re doing that’s wrong. And our Gospel reading today is a good example. It’s the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman, from John chapter 4. “The woman at the well,” she is often called. But our story today is not as much about her as it is about him–Jesus, that is. And so our theme this morning: “The Woman–and the Man–at the Well.”

OK, so, acceptance. It’s natural to want to be accepted. We want people to accept us for who we are. But from time to time we all experience a nagging sense that we are not accepted. There’s this a sense of alienation–whether from others, from God, or maybe even from ourselves. We want to be accepted, but if we’re honest with ourselves, we can find some things in our character and our behavior that are really unacceptable. “I want to be accepted, but if people really knew me for who I am, why would they accept me?” It’s like Groucho Marx once said: “I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would have me for a member.”

The big question, though, is this: Does God accept me? I mean, really? With all my sins and doubts and selfishness? That’s a good question. And we find the answer in our text. The answer is found in Jesus himself, the man at the well. Jesus does all things well. And he accepts this Samaritan woman, without approving of her sinful behavior or her wrong beliefs. If he can do that with her, he can certainly accept you and me.

Jesus accepts the Samaritan woman. He accepts her in spite of some rather significant obstacles. There were racial and religious barriers, moral and social barriers, that stood in the way.

Jesus accepts her even though she is a Samaritan. The Samaritans were a mixed bag, both racially and religiously. Ethnically, they were not a pure breed. They were a mixture of Jewish and Gentile elements. And that showed up in their religious beliefs and practices. As a result, the Jews looked down on the Samaritans and would not associate with them. But Jesus did. He, a Jewish teacher, strikes up a conversation with this Samaritan woman. He even asks her for a drink, which means he would have to receive water from her water jar.

Jesus accepts the Samaritan woman. But he’s able to do so without compromising the truth. He never expresses approval of the faulty teachings of the Samaritans. In fact, he begins to correct them: “You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we Jews worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.” But that doesn’t stop Jesus from accepting the woman herself. Not only does he accept her, he also points her in the direction of the truth. Because the Truth is sitting right there in front of her. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. He himself is the salvation that comes from the Jews.

Now how about you? Does Jesus accept you? Yes, he does! He accepted the Samaritan woman, in spite of her faulty theology that needed correction. And he accepts you, even if you don’t have all of your theology perfectly straightened out yet. Some of your personal beliefs and practices need correction, even though you belong to a church that teaches the gospel in its truth and purity. You may have doubts and uncertainties. Nevertheless, take heart. Jesus accepts you, and he will guide you in the way of the truth. Jesus is as committed to you as he was to the Samaritan woman.

Jesus accepts the Samaritan woman even though her racial heritage was mixed and her religion need correcting. Furthermore, Jesus accepts her even though she has led a sinful, immoral life. This woman was living with a man outside of marriage. She was “shacking up” with a guy. And she had had five marriages before that, all of which apparently had failed. So this woman has a load of sin and guilt as she stands there before the Son of God. She knows it, and Jesus knows it too. Yet he accepts her.

At the same time, just as he did not approve of her wrong theology, so Jesus does not approve of her immorality. It wasn’t like he said: “Divorce? Adultery? Living in sin? Oh, that’s OK.” No, no, on the contrary, by telling her that he knows all about her sin, Jesus is leading her to repentance, so that she will see her need for forgiveness. His acceptance of the woman does not mean that he ignores her sins. Instead, he confronts them, so that she will be led to repentance.

How about you? Are you a sinner? Do you bring a load of guilt before God? Then take heart. Jesus accepts you. “This man welcomes sinners,” it says elsewhere in the gospels. “Jesus sinners doth receive,” we sang at the start of this service. And he does something better than tolerating your sin or excusing it. He forgives it.

Now when the Samaritan woman is confronted with her load of sin and guilt, perhaps she wonders where she can go to have her sins forgiven and her guilt removed. The Samaritans said that their mountain, Mt. Gerizim, was the place to go to make sacrifices and sin offerings. The Jews said that it was Mt. Zion in Jerusalem, where the temple was–that was the place to go to get your guilt taken care of. “So which is it, Jesus? You obviously are a prophet sent from God, so you must know.” But Jesus doesn’t send her to either place. For the solution to her dilemma is sitting right there in front of her. Jesus himself, the man at the well–he will remove her guilt from her.

You see, Jesus not only accepts the Samaritan woman, he does something much more. He dies for her. This same Jesus will go to Calvary’s holy mountain, where he will make the atoning sacrifice for her sins. And not for her sins only, but also for your sins and mine and the sins of the whole world. As it says in Romans: “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” Again, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Christ died for us sinners. His holy precious blood cleanses us from all our sins. That’s why he forgives us.

Here, make the connection: This man at the well, tired and thirsty at about the sixth hour? There would come another day, also at about the sixth hour–only now this man is on a cross. Once again, he is tired and thirsty. He says, “I thirst.” Friends, Jesus suffered that thirst for you, so that you and I might never be thirsty.

Jesus satisfies a thirst that water from a well can never quench. “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again,” he says. Where do you look to quench your thirst? People look in many places to try to satisfy their thirst. The Samaritan woman bounced from one man to the next, trying to find meaning and satisfaction in her life. Where do you look? So many people look in all the wrong places–sex, alcohol, drugs, the new boat, a bigger house–always trying to satisfy their thirst. But nothing seems to fill the bill and do the job. In the end, all you’re left with is a dry and dusty taste in your mouth.

Listen, are you thirsty? “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Jesus gives you what you need. He gives you what he gave the woman at the well. He gives you living water. “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Eternal life. The new and abundant life that Jesus freely gives. And it will last forever. “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Jesus gives the Samaritan woman the gifts of God: acceptance, forgiveness, living water, eternal life. The gifts he gives her are so great that it changes her life. It’s so exciting that she leaves her water jar there at the well and goes back into town and starts telling others about the man at the well. Her testimony leads others to believe, to receive the same gifts from God. So it is with us. You and I have received living water from the Savior, and we too want to tell others and share our joy with them. There’s plenty of living water to go around.

My friends, I have good news for you today. The man at the well, Jesus Christ, is here right now, here at this hour. And he is giving you what we all so desperately need: acceptance, forgiveness, living water, eternal life. So, like the Samaritan woman, we also have a testimony to share with our friends and neighbors. For we know that this man Jesus, the man at the well–“this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

Published in: on March 11, 2023 at 8:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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