This is week three of Lenten 2017. The sermon title is ROADBLOCKS from the series: “Lenten Intentions” Bot the video and manuscript are below
John 4:5-42 (NIV)
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 noon.
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 livestock?”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them 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 ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, 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 the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the 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, the one speaking to you—I 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 Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.
31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”
32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”
33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”
34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”
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.”
St. Augustine summed up God’s purpose for our creation with these words:
“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
The Bible teaches that we were to be loved by God. We were created to drink from the well Jesus spoke about – the well that contains a “spring of water that wells up to eternal life.”
We know that eternal life is about a quality of life that is experienced in relationship with God. Jesus said:
“This is eternal life: that they may know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
So our purpose is to be loved, and in so doing to be a vessel through which God’s love flows to others. We are created to be embraced by God’s grace and to find ourselves intimately connected to one he called Papa.
Yet everywhere we turn, it seems as though there is some detour – some diversion, hindrance, or holdup. It feels like roadblocks beset us at every turn.
Near my house, the blessed County of Henrico has been engage in what seems like an eternal effort toward infrastructure improvement. They dig up the road. They take stuff from under the road. They put new stuff under the road. They repair the road. Then do it all over again. Rinse and repeat.
“Oh, just take a different route,” you might say.
I would, but the blessed County of Henrico seems to be digging up roads at every street-corner. Every day, at every turn, my progress is impeded by numerous roadblocks.
I suspect it feels that way for most of us as week seek that place of rest which Augustine spoke about. We were created to find rest in God’s love. Yet there seem to be so many roadblocks.
The woman in today’s scripture lesson could tell you about life’s roadblocks. She faced many of them.
The woman in our story came to the well late in the day to get water. The normal time to come to the well would have been in the early morning, before the intensity of the sun. Early in the day, the women of the community would go to the well to gather water and enjoy a sense of community. That this woman came in the middle of the day is a hint that she was not welcome in the community. She was excluded from the fellowship.
The text does not say why she was excluded. Some have suggested that she lived an immoral lifestyle. There are hints in the text that this might have been the case, but no definitive evidence is given. All we know is that she came in the heat of the day, by herself.
Yet while she was excluded by her community, she was not excluded by Jesus. Jesus shows us that the God he revealed is not restricted to those considered dignified, respectable, prim and proper. Jesus reveals that God’s inclusive grace is shared with everyone – even those who feel left-out, used-up, and put-down.
Sinners loved Jesus because he partied with them. No roadblock there.
Lepers love him because he accepted them. No roadblock there.
The broken found hope when Jesus was near. No roadblock there.
The hurting found healing when Jesus entered the room. No roadblock there.
The culture limited people base on race, gender, lifestyle, and morality, but not Jesus. There were no such roadblocks with Jesus.
The woman comes to the well, minding her own business, taking care of the chores. She knows her place in the scheme of things. She approaches the well and notices a Jewish man leaning against the well. “You don’t want any trouble,” she says to herself. “Just stay quiet and go about your business.” That was her aim.
But Jesus spoke to her, “Give me a drink.”
The fact that he spoke to her was scandalous. He was a Jewish male. He was the religious sort. They would not even speak to their wives in public, much less a stranger at a well.
But Jesus skipped over that societal roadblock.
Oh, and she was a Samaritan woman. There are some people that simple do not go together. That is what it was like between the Samaritans and the Jews. They hated each other.
The Samaritans were descendants of the Northern Israelite tribes of Ephraim and Manassech who survived the Assyrian invasion in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. In the years following the invasion, the Assyrians and Israeli survivors intertwined and intermarried.
For the Jews, the intermarriage and assimilation of the Jews with the Assyrians was an abomination. That is a big word, but it gets across the point. The Jews thought that the Samaritans were an abomination before God. It is hard to open up lines of communication when that is how you see somebody.
Jesus skipped over that societal roadblock.
There were also some major theological differences between the Jews and the Samaritans.
While the exile Jews returned to Israel, the Samaritans wanted to reunite with their long lost families. They not only wanted to reunite, but they also wanted to join in the reconstruction of the temple in Jerusalem. But the Jews would have nothing of it. Seeing the Samaritans as an abomination, they shut down every effort toward common worship and fellowship.
So the Samaritans chose to worship God right there near Jacob’s well, near mountain where God has met their ancestors. So theology, styles and location of worship, all these doctrinal disputes built a roadblock between the Samaritans and the Jews.
But then Jesus bulldozed his way through that roadblock as well.
Jesus was willing to ignore all the social customs and morays of his society in order to engage this woman in a conversation. It is all a bit odd, scandalous, and (frankly) magnificent.
Jesus goes out of his way to engage this woman in discussion. He chose to travel through Samaria, a route most Jews would avoid like the plague. He took the initiative to speak to her when most others went seemed to go out of their way to avoid her. Jesus actions even confound and confuse this woman. She was so use to the roadblocks in her life that she try to rebuild them as quickly as Jesus was tearing them down.
“Why are you speaking to me?”
“Our peoples don’t ever talk!”
“Why are you asking me for a drink?”
People do their dead level best to avoid God, but God keeps pursuing them. The reason is that God cares. God loves. God’s desire is that all people respond to His invitation to be in relationship. He is not looking for us to observe some set of rules or engage in some sort of religious rituals. Jesus does not want us to become religious. Jesus did not come to establish a religion. He came so that through Him all humanity might know of God’s desire for intimacy – for relationship.
The conversation began about water, so Jesus continues to use water to illustrate what he has to offer this woman. “If you knew who I was, you would ask me for water, and I would give you living water. If you drink the water I want to give you,” Jesus says, “You will never be thirsty again!”
Of course, Jesus is talking about more than H20 from a well. The woman is speaking of physical life, but Jesus is talking about the totality of human existence. He is speaking about how the life and love of the one he called Papa was mediated through him, by the Spirit, to the entire world. That’s something BIG and the woman senses it. She’s hooked and wants to know more!
“Give me this water!” she says. Perhaps she is a bit sarcastic. Still, she knows that what Jesus is speaking about is something she needs. It’s something the whole world needs.
“If it were only possible!” she may have thought to herself. She knew that thirst that goes beyond water and she wants he to be satisfied.
“Give me this water!” she says.
Based on what little we know of the woman from this narrative, we can assume she has been through the very worst life has to offer. She’s been battered, abused, tattered and worn thin. Life has chewed her up and spit her out. Nobody seems to want her – till now. Now there is some fellow offering her water that will forever satisfy her thirst. She is ready for the good stuff. But before that can happen, she needs to take an honest look at herself. Some of the roadblocks she faced were the result of cultural and religious exclusion. But as with all of us, some of our roadblocks come as our own creation.
Jesus looks at her and says, “First, go call your husband.”
Can you imagine how uncomfortable she must have felt? It was like an arrow through the heart. She’s been “married” five times – and the man she was living with at the moment was not even her husband. She feels a bit of emptiness in the pit of her stomach.
We assume, don’t we, that she has been an unfaithful harlot of a wife. But that is reading something of our cultural bias into the story.
Maybe she was a good wife who was divorced by a wicked and uncaring husbands.
Maybe she outlived several spouses and is now looked upon as bad news and bad luck.
She’s living with a man now – he’s not even her husband. But who is anyone else to judge. They don’t know her story. Maybe he is the best man she knows. He provides her shelter and warmth and clothing and food.
Still, there is some internal brokenness. There is roadblock that comes from all those choices we make to live life outside God’s intimacy. So, she feels like a broken down mess. Sin has that kind of impact on people’s lives.
Bless her heart, she does the right thing. She fesses up. She owns up to the reality of her brokenness. She confesses the reality of her circumstances. She could have lied. She could have tried any number of strategies. She did not do that. “I have no husband,” she said.
I imagine that she probably thought that the conversation was about to end, but it doesn’t. Jesus doesn’t do what a lot of people do when confronting the brokenness in others. He doesn’t judge her. He doesn’t cast stones. He doesn’t boycott experiencing life with her. He doesn’t exclude her. Jesus stays right there in order to reveal the true nature of the Papa he represents.
Sometimes we say such silly things about God. Here’s one. We say, “God cannot abide being in the presence of human sin!” Really? Somebody tell that to Jesus. He was the incarnation of God. “I am the Papa are ONE,” Jesus said. “Those who have seen me have seen the Papa,” he also said.
The God revealed in Jesus Christ is not repulsed by our sin. It is not a roadblock that prevents God from loving us.
That’s not to say that Jesus approves of our sin. It’s not to say that he ignores our sin. The truth is that our sin is awful. Our sin causes the brokenness, heart-ache, and pain which make us feel disconnected from God. But Jesus comes to us as one of us, into the mess and brokenness of our sin torn lives, in order to reveal the redemptive and restorative love of God.
Let’s look at how the dialogue continues.
Woman: “You’re a Jew, I’m a Samaritan, if you know about real religion … tell me.”
Jesus: “It’s not about being a Jew of a Samaritan, it’s about worshipping God in your heart. “
Woman: “I know the Messiah will sort all that out.”
Jesus: “I am the Messiah. It’s not about religion. It’s about me!”
The woman wants to make this a discussion about religion, morality, or politics. She wants to keep pointing toward all the roadblocks. But Jesus wants to keep the conversation focused on the grace of God. He keeps tearing down the roadblocks.
At the end of the day, that’s what Jesus came to do. He came to tear down the roadblocks and reveal God’s inclusive and redeeming love. He came to reveal that the Father’s one and only Son came in the power of the Spirit to bring mercy, grace, and relational love.
Confronted with the reality of this Jesus and what he was offering her, the woman is left with a choice. She knew who she was. She heard what Jesus said about himself. She was invited to make a choice.
The choice is not whether or not God is going to love us. That love is a done deal. That grace is a certain reality. The decision was whether she was going live out of the reality of God’s love, or not!
That’s a decision you and I are left with today. What do you intend to do with the message of grace? Jesus stands before you with the gift of living water. If we taste it, our lives will be radically and forever transformed as we recognize God’s embrace of grace.
What do you intend to do with Jesus?
The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity
by: William P. Young
publisher: Windblown Media, published: 2007-07-01
sales rank: 4
price: $4.95 (new), $2.02 (used)
Mackenzie Allen Philips’ youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack’s world forever.
In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant The Shack wrestles with the timeless question, “Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?” The answers Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him. You’ll want everyone you know to read this book!