Sermon Series: The Bad Samaritan, Part II ~ Now You Know! ~ February 11, 2018 ~ John 4:16-26
Alright, so what are we going to look at today? Well, I left you off last week with the question, “Why do you think it’s called the Bad Samaritan?” Today we’re going to answer that. Let’s do a little bit of review. As I said last week, this Samaritan woman is surprised, shocked by this Jewish man. First, that he would even talk to her. He was a male, he shouldn’t be talking to a woman, period. Secondly, she was a Samaritan. Hated! And then, she was surprised because he was talking about something to do with some living water. He said in verse 10, “If you only knew the gift God has for you…” If you only knew the gift God has for you. “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”
Now, he goes on to say, “Anyone who drinks this water…” this water from the well that we’re sitting at “becomes thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It become a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” So she really wants this water. She’s interested in this water, who wouldn’t be?
But then, Jesus asks something really interesting, really different. In verse 16 he says, “Go and get your husband.” Now, I know a lot of people at first might say, “Oh here we go again.” Right? Sexist! “We’ve got this patriarchal society and you’re saying that this woman can’t speak for herself, and she’s gotta go get her husband, and she can’t hang around with men who aren’t related to her, and…” Hold on. Before you start getting your panties all in a twist and start burning your bras, this is not Jesus’ point. “Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her. Verse 17: “I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied. “You’re right!” Jesus said. “You don’t have a husband – for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!” Now, that’s a little uncomfortable. But perhaps, perhaps that’s why she’s here at the well at noontime. And what I said last week, this is a desert climate. Water was precious, water was valuable. It was a lifeline. And so people would walk sometimes up to a mile to get to the clean, fresh water source. And they would do so in the morning, they’d go down in the morning, get enough water for the day, for cooking and cleaning, whatever. And they’d go back in the evening to get through the night. That’s when everybody went, it was the rush hour. Morning and evening rush hour. The only folks who showed up at the height of the heat of the day at noontime were people who didn’t want to be seen for one reason or another. Well, this woman was there at noontime. Did she not want to be seen? Was it because of her current living situation? I mean, the likelihood that this woman is a five time widow is very small. Right? Maybe one, maybe two died of disease, or a soldier in the army or whatever. But if you were a widow five times and it’s unexplainable, there’s something else going on here, right? This is a Lifetime movie of the week in the making! Most likely, she was not a five time widow. Most likely, she had been divorced multiple times. And currently, she is sleeping with a man to whom she is not married. Why would Jesus bring that up? What’s that got to do with anything?
Well, remember just like I talked about Peter a few weeks ago, two weeks ago. When he asked Peter, “Do you love me?” Three times, he asked him. “Peter do you love me?” Why did he do that? To remind Peter that he remembered Peter had denied him three times. Jesus was saying, “I remember, I know what you did.” But Peter repented! Peter, the Bible says, wept bitterly. He was truly sorry and Jesus knew Peter’s heart. That’s why he says, in essence, “I took your three denials, Peter, to the cross, put them to death in that little scene on the beach. And just because you fell, just because you made a mistake, just because you’re not necessarily walking with me right now does not mean I cannot use you.” That’s what he was saying to Peter. That’s what he is saying to this woman, who some might deem the Bad Samaritan, because she’s there at noontime, trying to hide from folks. Now, he’s saying to her, “Look, I know. I know you had five husbands, I know you’re not married to the man you’re living with now. That does not mean I cannot use you.” If Jesus was looking for perfect people, he would not have gone to Samaria. He would not have gone to Judea. He would not come to South Congregational Church, because he ain’t going to find them here.
Repentance. Repentance. Repentance is when you are truly and deeply sorry for whatever it is you’ve said, done or thought. And you confess that to God. But it’s more than just saying the words. It’s a reorientation of your life, it’s changing whatever you were doing and heading back to the path following Christ. Repentance is the key that unlocks the door of God’s mercy, grace and forgiveness. In fact, we know with Peter, Peter never again for the rest of his life denied Jesus. Up to his own death. He was imprisoned, he was tortured, he was beaten, and when he was sent to his death by the Emperor Nero in a Christian persecution, he insisted he’d be crucified upside down, because he didn’t believe that he was even worthy of being executed in the same manner as his Lord. Peter never lost faith from that point forward. He repented, he asked for forgiveness, he received it, and he became a champion for the gospel, one of the leaders of the church.
So this woman is shocked, she is surprised, first that a Jewish man would even talk to her, and then, even though he knew everything about her, he was still ready and willing to offer her living water. What’s her response when Jesus mentions her marital situation? Verse 19: “The woman said, “You must be a prophet. So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?” What? What does that have to do with anything we were just talking about? Why would she ask something like that? Well, I’m sure you’ve been in a similar situation, right? You’re in a circle of friends, and you’re having a conversation, and things are getting a little hot, things are getting a little testy, so all of a sudden one of you goes, “Hey, how about the Red Sox?” Right? Just to get everybody off track. Kind of divert a little bit. Things are getting a little uncomfortable. Well, that’s what she’s doing! She’s not talking about her five husbands, she doesn’t want to talk about her current living situation, she wants to talk about something else. It’s a smoke screen, right? So she picks a popular theological issue of the day: the correct place to worship. Keep Jesus away from getting to the things that are the heart of the matter. She’s trying to change the subject. Jesus doesn’t bite. Verse 21: Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming…” Now, notice he says “dear woman?” Not “Bad Samaritan? That’s my title, not his. “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain [Gerizim] or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. But the time is coming…” The time is coming. “Indeed, it is here now.” If you only knew who was talking to you, and what he had to offer. “But the time is coming – indeed it is here now – when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way.” In spirit and in truth. “For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” He doesn’t bite, he says, “Look, it’s not about worship, that’s not what we’re talking about. Where you worship doesn’t matter.” And it really doesn’t. I mean, there are a couple hundred churches here in Hartford. You can worship at whichever one you choose, whichever one you feel God is calling you to. I do hope it’s a church that’s preaching the truth and the gospel. But which building you’re in doesn’t matter to God. What matters is are you worshiping in spirit and in truth? In other words, when you come to church on Sunday, does it feel like your job? You walk in at 11:00, or some of you 11:05, and punch your time card, “ch’ching”? And then, when we’re all done at 12 or sometimes 12:30, you go back there, “ch’ching,” and you’re done?
Are you just going through the motions? Are we just singing the songs because it’s a pretty good band, and the songs are catchy, whether they be praise songs or hymns? Are we reciting the prayers because they are printed up there on the screen? Are we sleeping through the sermon? On our phones? Answering our email? Or, are we presenting ourselves before the throne of God and offering our sacrifice.
That is a big difference in an attitude of coming to church, folks. And I think I’m on new territory here because the more I talk about it, the more people say, hmmm, that’s an interesting way to look at it. You see, what I shared with the kids, right? Little Levon. Poor little Levon. Levon did nothing wrong. He was just minding his own business. He wasn’t a bad lamb. In Levon’s day, people went to the temple, they went to worship and they brought something to give to God.
In fact there were three optional – optional is not the word – there were three worship – two worships that were mandatory and three that were not. The three that were not – voluntary, that’s the word I’m looking for – were burnt offering, in which you had to bring a little Levon or a bird or a bull or a ram without blemish and you offered it to God and the priests sacrificed it on the altar. That was the burnt offering, and they burned it on the altar. And the smoke that rose from the table of the altar was symbolic of prayers going to heaven. That’s what you did when you went to – I don’t want to say church, but when you went to temple on Saturday. The second voluntary offering was a grain offering. I like this one, see, because the pastors of the temple get to keep the stuff, parts of it. So, on the grain offering you brought a cake or baked some bread made of grain, fine flour, oil and salt. No yeast. And you accompanied that with a drink offering. You had to bring about a quart of wine and you poured that on the fire, too. You brought food and gave it to God. And the third voluntary offering was a peace offering, it was kind of a combination of both. You might bring some wine, you might bring some grain, you might bring a little Levon… The two mandatory sacrifices were a sin sacrifice, when you brought a small bull, a male or a female goat without blemish, a bird or a pigeon, or a tenth of an ephah, two quarts of fine flour and burned them on the altar. That was the first mandatory – everybody had to do that. The second mandatory sacrifice was a trespass offering where you had to bring a ram. Little Levon gets the day off, because he doesn’t have horns. So the point was, all of these sacrifices were expressing your thankfulness to God for his provision, and for the atonement of your sin. Thank you Lord for receiving Levon and atoning for my sin. Now, that’s the way it was. That was the mindset. When you went to church, you brought something, you offered something, you gave something.
Now we know, because we are Christians, that Jesus is the Lamb of God who offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for our sins, good for all time. We no longer have to go to temple or to church and bring a little Levon. However, and this is where I think the Christian church has gone a little astray, we are still not supposed to go to church with the expectation of getting something. They brought something. They didn’t come to get some lamb chops. They went to offer some lamb chops to God. Sorry, Levon. In a similar fashion, just like Moses and David and Mary and Joseph and Peter and Paul, we’re all supposed to bring an offering to God. Now what is our offering? Singing songs. God loves to hear his children sing, whether it’s “Jesus loves me this I know,” or the songs we sing, he loves to hear his children sing. He loves to hear his children talk to him, that’s called prayer, we offer him our prayers. He loves to hear from his kids, just like you love to hear from your kids. He loves to hear us read his holy and inspired word. We bring this offering to you, God, when we read your word. It is important to us. It is the word of life, and we want to learn and grow and be blessed by it. We offer this reading to you, God. And we offer our attention, when hopefully the Holy Spirit is speaking. We’re not sitting in the pews. There was a gentleman who used to come to church here years ago. He sat in that little empty space back there, and he basically set up his office. He had his laptop on his knees and his phone here, and you could see him doing all his work right in the middle of church! We bring our attention to listen to him, that he might speak to us in some way. But it’s about bringing things to God, not getting stuff from him.
Now, with all that said, unlike me, Jesus didn’t let this woman sidetrack him. He didn’t bite. He simply said, you know, “Where you’re worshiping doesn’t matter, are you worshiping in spirit and in truth?” I’m the one asking the question, are we? Do we come on Sunday to take or to give? Especially with teens. Especially with teens and young people. What do I hear all the time from teens and young people? Same thing my teens used to say: “I don’t get anything out of the service!” You’re not supposed to! You’re supposed to give something, not get something. You’re supposed to give your voice in song, even if you can’t sing, God wants to hear from you! You’re supposed to give your prayers instead of chopping up Levon and putting him on an altar and burning him and having the smoke go to heaven, your prayers are the smoke. You’re supposed to give to God, not get from him. It’s not about “I didn’t get anything.” you’re supposed to come to give. But the amazing thing that happens is what? When we give our best, we get blessed! Isn’t that amazing? It’s not the reason we give, we give because we are thankful. Thank you, Lord, for the gift of life! Thank you, Lord, for provision! Thank you, Lord, for forgiveness. Thank you, Lord, for this.
I’m here to say thank you to you Lord. What’s amazing is that he gave me this, and he also, when I come on Sundays to thank him for this, he gives me more. That’s how it works. We’re supposed to come to church to give. But in the end, we still get blessed.
Now, he says to the woman, “the time is coming.” The time is coming. The time is coming. Well she knows on some level, right? Because she says in verse 25, The woman said, “I know the Messiah is coming – the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” And then the most amazing thing happens: This woman, the Bad Samaritan, the Samaritan woman is the first person on the face of the planet to hear directly from Jesus’ mouth, verse 26: Jesus told her, “I am the Messiah!” It’s me.
Why didn’t he tell that to the priests at the temple? Why didn’t he tell that to the pastors or the governor or the emperor or the wealthy business man. Who’d he tell it to? The Bad Samaritan. Woman at the well, trying to hide. That’s amazing information. What does that tell us? That tells us that just because you’ve fallen, just because you’ve made a mistake does not mean that God can’t use you. That God won’t use you. Look, I can’t tell you how many times in my life I really felt I should go to the well at noontime. But what’s amazing is, when did Jesus go? Did he go in the morning? Did he go in the evening? He went at noontime, because he knew who was going to be there. I was going to be there. He came for me. And he came for you. See, Jesus is not really interested in who you were. He’s not really all that interested in who you are. He’s interested in who God meant you to be. And if we repent and we follow him and we listen to him, he promises he will make that happen.
Last week Jesus told this woman, “If you only knew who I am and what I have to offer…” He’s talking to us too, you get that, right? Every single time he speaks to someone in this book, he’s speaking to you. He’s talking about us, he’s talking to us. That is why we read the word, that is why it’s so important. This is a book full of conversations with God. He’s talking to us, not just this woman at the well. We are the woman at the well. So he says, “If you only knew who I am and what I have to offer,” well, we just read it. Well miss, now you know. Now you know! Now what are you going to do? And we’ll look at that next week as we complete our message. Will you stand and pray with me please?