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Saved by Grace: Now What?

Jesus Talks With a Samaritan Woman

4 Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— 2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3 So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

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 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.[a])

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.”

Many Samaritans Believe

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.”


Sometimes when people seek to study parts of scripture more deeply, to really find out the context of them, and other believers who read these texts quite literally get upset by this, an accusation is made that the questions they are asking are the same as the very first temptation which was the question that the serpent asked in the garden of Eden when he said “did God really say”? It is used to call into question the faith of those who are actually seeking to understand more deeply what Scripture says.

But I actually don't think that the question: “Did God really say” was the first evil tactic used by the tempter. In sermons over hundreds of years on this beautiful text from John chapter 4 I believe that we often see a repetition of an earlier evil tactic, one that the serpent used before he opened his mouth to ask any questions, and that is to aim his attack at women.

For some reason he thought that the woman would be an easy target compared to the man.

We here at St. Marks are dedicated to the protection of children and the vulnerable. We take our Safe Church training seriously, and strive to keep those around us safe. this does NOT include attacking those who cannot defend themselves.

I think preachers have gone looking for an easy target here too. I have heard sermons on the woman at the well which accused her of being everything from a "serial monogamist" to a Black Widow to a tramp. But what you find when you go to the effort to study the culture surrounding this story more closely, is that in her society men could divorce their wives without cause and without reason while women of course could not do the same thing.

It is far more likely that instead of lacking dedication to her marriages or being of loose morals, that this woman was a jaded and tired victim of abuse at the hands of an unfair system, and unscrupulous men, abusing that system to suit themselves.

We do this account a disservice when we spend our time trying to paint a picture of how bad this woman was so that we can have a greater contrast to how great she then becomes after her meeting with Jesus. it becomes a tired old formula.

Instead I'd like to see this story in a new way. I see that this is a story about breaking. it's a story about breaking taboos, it's a story about breaking well known genres, it's a story about breaking through shame, and it's a story about breaking through tradition. It's also about breaking down our preconceived ideas and biases.

The wife at the well genre

The Jewish man sits down at the well to wait while a woman comes to draw water. And the hearers would smile. “Ooh, we know this one”.

This too is a formula that we know.

The conversation is going along well, and all of a sudden Jesus changes the tack of the conversation and says: “go and get your husband”. And here the Jewish audience would smile again. Ahh, see, we DO know this story. This is a well-side marriage story.

In genesis 24, Abrahams servant finds Isaac’s soon-to-be wife Rebekah by a well, in Genesis 29, Jacob finds his future wife Rachel by a well. Finally they get the mention of marriage that they would have been expecting, given the setting of this meeting.

But here is the first big break from tradition. The story is very different from the classical romantic wife at the well story. Here we have brokenness and pain. Things are not as they are meant to be.

The effect of the meeting: the breaking of shame.

When did women usually go to the well to draw water? Abraham’s servant in Genesis 24 knew when, and he used this time as his opportunity to find a wife for his master’s son. We read in Genesis 24:11 "He had the camels kneel down near the well outside the town; it was toward evening, the time the women go out to draw water.

In the Middle eastern climate just like in an Australian one these jobs are easier in the cool of first and last light. So no one would have expected to find a woman coming to a well to draw water in the middle of the day. no one that is except Jesus. This wasn't a chance meeting. This was Jesus. He knew she would be there. He knows our hearts.

So we need to ask ourselves why was she there in the middle of the day? Could it be that as a target of gossip, it was easier for her to be there when there were no other women there? Whether or not they are at fault, ancient and modern cultures alike both have a good way of shaming women.

If this woman was even worried about the shame of finding people from her own culture there at the well, imagine how she would have felt upon seeing a Jewish man, knowing the contempt that the Jews had for the Samaritans. They considered them outcasts, religiously blended and unorthodox.

So imagine her surprise when Jesus speaks through the levels and levels of shame, when he speaks through the levels and levels of taboo, when he breaks traditions surrounding eating and drinking from the same vessels of Samaritans, traditions around a man speaking to a woman.

How many people feel chained by shame, locked up by taboos and traditions and things we dare not talk about?

Jesus knowledge of this woman and his knowledge of her and her life amazed her. His words to her of living water, and his outright claim to be the messiah made an excitement, a hope arise within her like few people ever experience.

We translate his words about being the Messiah as : “I am he”, but the he is just for context. What Jesus literally said was “I am”.

I am. The first of the "I am" sayings in John’s gospel.

I am, the words from which we get the name Yahweh. The one who is.

The effect on the woman was amazing.

All of a sudden shame was forgotten, the power of shame and reproach was broken as she ran excitedly to tell the very ones who looked down on her about what she had found.

Here was a woman, a Samaritan woman, a potentially tainted woman in the eyes of her own people, preaching Jesus to men and women alike, like the first preachers of the risen Jesus, the women at the tomb would do within a short amount of time.

How many traditions hold us back from effectively preaching Jesus Christ to those around us? Is it the embarrassment of being “one of THOSE people”, those overly religious people , or the fear of losing friends?

Have we allowed the shame of others (whether it be churches sinning financially, or in the area of abuse and paedophilia) to be associated with us, so that we are timid to speak out, for fear that we may be associated with the sins of others?

Have we just become so used to the daily 9 to 5 grind of drawing water and going home and going about our lives that we forget to go and tell others about this living water?

The Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the knowledge of our salvation in his name, as well as breaking our shame and out guilt, breaks down old ways of living. Like the rain gives the dry soil the power to bring forth new life, our justification, our being made right with God, gives us the power to live in new ways, to grow in our faith. That power is called the Holy Spirit. The spirit is the power of god at work in our lives.

Can the soil receive the rain and still have nothing grow? The only way the soil would remain barren would be if it never received the rain at all.

Can someone be saved, be changed, and nothing change in their life? Perhaps sadly, they never really understood the gospel.

We were not saved to stay the same. The chains of sin that enslaved us were not broken for us to remain slaves.

We are freed to serve. We are saved to grow. Our chains are broken. Thanks be to God.


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