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The Woman at the Well – A Picture of Law and Gospel

Hi Everyone

Last Sunday (17 July 2016) I had the privilege of teaching the flock.

Text was John 4:1-42, the story of Jesus and the Woman at the Well.

You can hear it here (filter by my name – IE works best).

Sermon notes below.

Link to poem at the end of the sermon.


Our text today is from John 4. The story of the Woman at the Well.

I know that some of you may be thinking ‘didn’t we just finish the book of John?. That’s true, we did. Jarryd covered this portion of John way back in June last year. My aim here isn’t to try and trump his sermon with anything better, or cover anything he missed. He did a fantastic job, far better than I could, at explaining the historical context with the Jews and the Samaritans, and extracting the idea of Christ being the living water.

So I would encourage you if you wanted, to go back into the archives on the church website, and have a listen.

 But at the moment on Sunday mornings, we are currently going through the book of Acts, the story of the birth of the church. And we are reading passage after passage where the apostles are preaching publicly, and the people are being cut to the heart, and people were repenting in great numbers. For instance in Acts 2 after Pentecost, Peter takes the opportunity to preach to the crowds, and in verse 41 is says that about 3,000 were added. And in verse 47 when they sold their possessions the people saw their great works, and the Lord added to them daily in verse 47.

 And again in chapter 3 if you remember, after Peter and John commanded the lame man to walk in the name of Jesus. He did, and as a result, they were both hauled in front of the Sadducees and priests. Peter took the opportunity to preach. And in chapter 4:4 we read that as a result, 5000 men came to believe.

That is the public preaching of the word. And over the next few months as we go through Acts we will see lots more of that.

You may be thinking ‘I could never do that!’
Or ‘I’ll just leave that stuff to the evangelists!’. Well maybe you could, maybe you couldn’t.

Normally when we go about our daily lives, there’s not that opportunity to stand on a soap box and do open air preaching. Or should I say, we all may dream of being bold enough to do that, but we pass on the opportunities presented. I’d love the opportunity. Or more to the point I’d
love to take advantage of the opportunity.

There is always the opportunity to share the gospel. And I’m not necessarily talking about doing it open air. We normally don’t see them because we don’t look for the opportunity. 
Or I don’t have the time.
Or I don’t know the Bible well enough to answer their hard questions. 
Or I haven’t got my testimony down pat. 
Or what will that person think of me?
Or I’m too much of an introvert to approach anyone.

 I know these excuses, because hello, I use them all the time. But the Great Commission of the church is to ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all nations.’ 

That was a commandment from Jesus, not a ‘suggestion’. 

The Gospel needs to be preached because there is no other way for men to be saved.

Romans 10:14-15 (NKJV)

14  How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?

15  And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the
feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!’.

and in verse 17 it says

Romans 10:17 (NKJV)

17  So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. 

Evangelism isn’t just something that we need to do as a sideline, when we get the chance, or the courage. You can look at evangelism as being like a legacy. We are all walking, living and breathing beings why? Because our parents gave us life. 
And if they hadn’t, then the family tree would have just stopped at their generation and go no further.

In the same way, you are all here because why? Because someone took the opportunity and the time to talk to you, or maybe hand you a tract or a tape or maybe a video link, or they invited you to church where you heard the Gospel. 
Or maybe you stumbled upon a TV channel where the Gospel was transmitted (although, with some of the rubbish on TV these days that is passes as preaching, I highly doubt it, but you never know).

 What I’m saying is that you don’t become a Christian by accident. It happened by providential appointment, beautifully planned by God, who masterfully arranged all the circumstances to come together with perfect divine timing. And the most beautiful thing about it is that I can hear hundreds of testimonies from when people were born again, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard two exactly the same.

But don’t get me wrong, though. The Bible says we will all stand before God on Judgement Day, and regardless of whether we heard the Gospel or not, we will all be without excuse if we don’t put our faith in Christ.

And surely that should stir our hearts. If you’re like me (and I know I am), then you would have thought to yourself: 
if only I had the guts to speak to that man, he probably wouldn’t have committed that crime, and be in jail right now.
or she probably wouldn’t have slept with that boy, and got herself pregnant.
or that Aunty so-and- so died before I drummed up enough courage to witness to her, and now I don’t know if she is spending eternity in heaven, or hell.

 I’m not in any way trying to guilt trip you all. If you feel guilty or convicted about these things, then the first place I would point you to is the cross, where there is always forgiveness of past, present, and future sins.

 We can’t change the past, but Christ can forgive us for it, and with His help, we can change things going forward.

And that’s a great segway to our text this morning. For, what better example of love for the lost can we find, than from Christ, the very Author of Love, Himself?

 Let’s turn in our Bibles to John 4. And what I’ll be doing is reading portions of the chapter, then pausing to make a few points, then moving to the next part, and so on.

 But before we do that, let’s go to the Lord in prayer…

John 4:1-4 (NKJV)

1  Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized

more disciples than John
2  (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples),
3  He left Judea and departed again to Galilee.
4  But He needed to go through Samaria.

Jesus said He NEEDED to pass through Samaria. No Jew ‘needed’ to go anywhere near Samaria. Jews hated Samaria, and the Samaritans, and they would avoid both like the plague.

There were historical reasons for this, which Jarryd covered in his sermon, so again, you can go back into the archives and have a listen. Needless to say, they despised them.

So now it makes sense then that Jesus used a Samaritan as the character in the the ‘Good Samaritan’ parable, as He knew this would offend the Jewish priests listening – as something to stir them up.

 So why did He need to pass through? 

Well, we do know that He included Samaria in His conversation with the disciples, in Acts 1:8 when He said  

Acts 1:8 (NKJV)

8  But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be

witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth’.

Despite the hatred the Jews had towards the Samaritans, Jesus was showing His love towards the country – a living example of loving your enemies in action. He was showing that He had no favourites when it came to the Gospel, as it is for all people, Jews and Gentiles alike.   

John 4:5-8 (NKJV)

5  So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob

gave to his son Joseph.
6  Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.
7  A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.”
8  For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.

It was the sixth hour of the day. Depending on whether John was talking Jewish time or Roman time, this could be either midday or 6pm. Commentries I’ve read seem to be split 50/50. I’m going with the earlier, you can choose to disagree. 
No one in their right mind would be silly enough to wait until the hottest part of the day to draw water. We don’t know how far she had to come to the well, maybe she had to make a long journey. And for this reason most water is drawn by women at evening time.

In fact, Genesis 24:11 makes mention of that specific fact. If you want, you can read the full context of that story in Genesis 24, and you’ll read a beautiful story of how God manipulated circumstances to provide a wife for Abraham’s son Isaac. That’s a whole sermon in itself, and for another day, but we read in v11 says

Genesis 24:11 (NKJV)

11  And he made his camels kneel down outside the city by a well of water at evening time, the

time when women go out to draw water.

In the same way this story in John is also a Sovereign knitting together of circumstances. What the world would call ‘coincidences’, we know as divine providence. 

So that begs the question: if it was midday time, why would she choose that time to get the water?

Well, we read later, that she was a woman with a reputation. I’ll come back to the reason later – but she was there when no one else was. 
Maybe she felt ashamed. If she was there when all the other women were, then maybe they would all whisper, point, giggle at her, as only women can do. (I can only get away with saying that because my wife is out of the country at the moment).

So she used the quietest part of the day, when no one else was around, to do her chore of collecting the water. And it was then that she had her divine appointment. Jesus was seated by the well. He was thirsty from His long trip from Judea and He needed water to drink.

He had sent His disciples into the city to get food, which was another sign that He was not bothered about the silly Jewish tradition not to trade with the Samaritans. And He asked her to give Him a drink.

Now, this wasn’t a chauvanist thing to say. Women were the customary water gatherers and carriers of that era. It was their responsibility. And in the heat of the day, it would have been commonplace for women to be asked to draw water for men.

But to this particular request, the woman was somewhat taken aback:

John 4:9 (NKJV)

9  Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from

me, a Samaritan woman?”. For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.

She couldn’t make out how a Jew would firstly even talk to her, a Samaritan, and secondly, want to take something from her. Pride, and the thought of making himself unpure, would prevent a Jew from doing this.

Again, Jesus was not bothered by these silly man-made laws.

John 4:10-15 (NKJV)

10  Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to

you, ‘Give Me a drink’, you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”
11  The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where
then do You get that living water?
12  Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as
well as his sons and his livestock?”
13  Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again,
14  but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I
shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
15  The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”

So a dialog begins between Jesus and the woman. But it’s a spiritual dialog, and it goes right over her head.

Firstly He says if you know the gift of God, and who is talking to her.
Obviously she did not believe, or understand who was talking to her. Jesus had completely turned the conversation upside down, and she was expected to ask Him for water. He was the gift of God for her, and He could give her water that would never run out.

When she heard this, she craved for this water:

John 4:15 (NKJV)

15  The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”

Let’s fast forward 2000 years to the Evangelical Christian Church of today. In most churches if you were telling others about the wonderful things about God, and about Christ, and that person says “I want some of that!”. What would most Christians do?

I could guess that a majority would say “all you have to do is repeat this prayer after me”, or “just ask Jesus into your heart, because there is a God-shaped hole there, that only He can fill.”

So, is that what Jesus did for her? Let’s read on and find out:

John 4:16-18 (NKJV)

16  Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”

17  The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well
said,”I have no husband,
18  for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in
that you spoke truly.”

Jesus pulled her up on her coveting and lust. There was a longing in her soul to be loved, to the point that she had been through 5 husbands. We aren’t told what happened to these 5 husbands, but the options I came up with are:

 she had outlived them all

 they had all divorced her

 she may have walked away from each of them for someone else (committed adultery by the Jewish Law definition).

But the fact that she hadn’t been stoned for adultery, I’m guessing that she was divorced.

So here was a woman who had craved for love. So much so that she was willing to sin in order to get it.
She was thirsty for satisfying water, and the water she was drawing couldn’t satisfy her. 

And that’s how it is with the things of this world. They can’t satisfy. They will never satisfy, regardless of how much you drink them in. There isn’t enough water in this world to satisfy us.

And Jesus holds back on giving her the true thirst-quenching water that she longed for. Why? There was a sin issue she had to deal with first. And in exposing her lust and her covetousness, He was holding her to the standard of 2 of the 10 commandments. And she had fallen short of both of them.

Now we know why the Apostle Paul said in

 Romans 7:7 (NKJV)
7  What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have 
known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law 
had said, “You shall not covet.”

The law Paul was referring to was of course the 10 Commandments.
Without them, we would not have the need for a Saviour.

Jesus could have gone into all the world handing out living water to everyone who wanted it.

Why not? That’s what a lot of churches do these days. They offer up a cheap grace. They throw pseudo-living water around with glee to anyone who wants it, and declare all takers “Christians”.

But there is no knowledge of sin, no Godly sorrow for sin, and no knowledge of why they are sinning.

That is, until Judgement Day, when they all stand before Him to give an account, and they will realise with shock that they rejected His eternal, living quenching water – for a cheap, unsatisfying knock-off, that saves nobody.

So He uses the law to bring about the knowledge of sin, and in verse

John 4:19-20 (NKJV)
19  The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.
20  Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place 
where one ought to worship.”

This woman is waking up to the fact that the person she is having this conversation with is someone special. She percieves Him as a Prophet. So she does something interesting.

She uses the opportunity to try and settle an old disagreement the Jews had with the Samaritans, in that where was the correct place to worship?

The Samaritans believed it was Mt Gerizim, the place that overlooked Abraham’s altar, where the Israelites shouted blessings down. They built their temple there. 

The Jews believed it was Jerusalem, and had built the temple there.

But, you see, she had missed the point entirely. Standing before her was someone who had looked straight into her heart, saw the evil inside, and called her out on it. And she was convicted of it.

And like all sinners confronted with sin, the direction can go two ways:

 it can cause you to feel remorseful, repentant, and submission to God

 or it can get your heckles up, become self-righteous, and try and divert the attention away from the problem.

Unfortunately, she chose the latter.

So Jesus changes tact:

John 4:21-24 (NKJV)

21  Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this

mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.
22  You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.
23  But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in
spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.
24  God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Jesus knew what was going on. He pulled her up again on the real problem – not where do you worship, but who do you worship?

Do you worship the God of your own making, that suits your every wish, turns a blind eye at your sin, yet can never satisfy you?
Or do you worship the one true God who sees that sin, can remove it from you, and give you the water of life that always satisfies?

John 4:25-26 (NKJV)

25  The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). ” When

He comes, He will tell us all things.”
26  Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”

The light was going on. She knew of a Messiah that would eventually come, and free the people. She needed freeing. She wanted to be free.

She wanted the cool satisfying drink of everlasting life that could only come from the Messiah.

And it was at this point – when He saw her longing, saw her remorse, saw her need for the Christ, and His life-giving, cleansing water – it was at this point that Jesus revealed Himself to her and said

John 4:26 (NKJV)

26  Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”

Skipping down to

John 4:28-30 (NKJV)

28  The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men,

29  “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”
30  Then they went out of the city and came to Him.


John 4:39-44 (NKJV)

39  And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.”

40  So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days.
41  And many more believed because of His own word.
42  Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we
ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”
43  Now after the two days He departed from there and went to Galilee.
44  For Jesus Himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country.

Jesus went out of His way, to a place where every other person avoided, to have a pre-arranged encounter and conversation with a woman of ill-repute. And as a result, many were saved.

And this time He didn’t stand on the banks of a lake and preach to thousands, like He did at Galilee. He could have, but He didn’t.

Like Peter in Acts, He could have stood in the village square and preached a sermon that would cause 5000 people to be cut to the heart from. This time, He didn’t. 

But He showed us something invaluable. He showed us that you don’t need to try and win people over with clever arguments or tricks. He showed us that grace is not cheap, it’s actually free. But it’s only free when we turn from the sins that convict us, turn to Christ, and place our
faith in Him.

And how do we come to recognise our sins? We just need to look at the 10 Commandments, and see how far we have fallen short of them.

Now, I said earlier that there was no magic prayer we need to recite in order to be saved. But we do need to recognise how far short we have come to meeting God’s perfect standard.

About 6 years ago I wrote a poem called “I Repent”. Its’ intention was to help others see that to sin was to break Gods’ commandments. 

I made a Powerpoint presentation of it, which will be shown on the screen. I wrote the poem, then decided to add some verses to add a bit of context.

If the worship team could come up.

And what I thought I’d do, is I’ll read the poetry part, and you could read the white verses.
Then afterwards, we will finish with some worship.

And again, this is not a magic mantra to recite in order to become a Christian. It is something from me to you, so take it for what its’ worth.


Link to poem

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