December 16, 2018 | Andrew Crosby
Passage: John 4:1-42
I’ve had the privilege to lead 3 teams to Africa to partner with Reclaimed Project in Zimbabwe and Lesotho. Those trips are always amazing, but the travel there is just brutal. There’s no good way to get there, and we try to make these trips as cheap as possible so that usually means that we’re going a little out of our way to get to southern Africa. The most direct way to get there is to fly from here to Atlanta, Atlanta to Johannesburg, and then Johannesburg to Harare. That’s the best way, and that flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg is 16 hours. That’s one of the 3 flights and it’s 16 hours. I told you, brutal. On one of our trips home there was a team member who looked back at me and she was walking that line between laughter and tears, and she said, “We’ve been on this plane for 8 hours, and we still have 8 more hours.” It was hilarious and discouraging at the same time.
Now, imagine with me that you are boarding the plane for this 16-hour flight from Johannesburg to Atlanta. You’ve worked and played hard over the last 10 days. You’ve been around people constantly and you’re a little exhausted. You take your seat on the aisle. The middle seat next to you is empty. You could really use this alone time and can’t believe you’re going to have an open seat next to you to spread out and relax. There are just a few people behind you and it looks like that’s everyone. You made it. You’re living the dream and gonna have some extra space for this 16-hour flight.
This is the Samaritan woman.
She’s worked so hard to avoid people so she can just get her water in peace, but here she is, interrupted.
Now having a row to yourself for a 16-hour flight is amazing but having a row to yourself for every aspect of life is a terrible way to live. But she’s created this life of isolation to survive. Of course, she doesn’t want to live in isolation, but she can’t imagine anything else. A little community and conversation are just not worth the endless glances, jokes, and criticism. Maybe she is looking back at her life and wondering how she got here.
Can you relate to that?
The Samaritan Woman
We find out later in the passage that she has had 5 husbands and is living with a man who is not her husband.
This probably explains why she is coming to the well at midday and not evening or morning. She’s trying to avoid the other women because of her reputation.
Fear and shame have become the determining factors in her life. Every decision, every action, every daily chore has to be charted on a pros and cons list to see if the risk is worth the reward. Sure, it’s easier to get water in the cool of the day, and I’d love to catch up on the latest gossip. But if I do that I’m going to have to answer all of their questions, and listen to their criticism. It’s just not worth it.
And it sounds like she’s said “it’s just not worth it” day after day after day. And now it’s just a habit. It’s easier to avoid people than it is to be present and vulnerable.
And now she’s isolated; partly by choice, and partly by consequences of her actions and decisions.
Do you think this woman could hear the laughter of the other women as they walked and talked together on the way to the well early in the morning?
Did she long to hear those conversations and join in their jokes?
Was every day a stinging reminder of her situation?
Have you ever been in a season of isolation; maybe through your choices, or maybe not?
Have you ever pushed someone else toward isolation; maybe with unkind words or a judgmental comment?
How does isolation keep us from joy?
Despite her isolation she’s found a way to cope. She can navigate her day and manage her house in ways that keep her protected from the scorn of others.
There’s comfort and security in this.
But this comfort comes at a cost. It’s limiting. She’s safe, but she’s also unable to fully participate in the life of her community. She’s safe but alone. Perhaps this is all she can imagine. Maybe going beyond that just costs too much. So, she’s alone, but she’s safe.
I want you to imagine with me now what this trip to the well might have been like.
“She woke up early and listened as the other women made their way to the well.
She longed to be with them, but knew it was no place for her. There wasn’t room for a woman like her in that group.
Finally, at midday she feels like its safe to make her way to the well.
Everyone else will surely be home now hiding from the sun. She’ll be able to get water in peace and not have to answer any probing questions or pretend not to hear the comments made behind her back.
But from a distance she sees someone at the well. This can’t be. She’s worked so hard to avoid everyone. Who would be at the well at noon?
She get’s a little closer and sees it’s a man. And then she sees his clothes and can tell that he’s a Jew. Perfect, she won’t even have to talk. There’s no way that a Jewish man will want to talk with her, a Samaritan woman.
Then out of nowhere, he says, “Will you give me a drink?”
She’s worked so hard to avoid this scenario, but here she is, interrupted by Jesus.
And when he asks about her husband she tries to avoid the real issue by simply answering that she doesn’t have a husband.
Jesus knows this and pushes further by telling her that’s true because she’s had 5 husbands.
As she talks to Jesus it becomes clear that this is no ordinary man. How would he know everything about her?
When Jesus calls her, he's calling her out of her comfort and into true joy.
When Jesus shows up it interrupts all of her attempts at comfort, peace, and joy. And in order to experience this full joy, this living water, she has to be willing to let go of her comfort. To drink this living water the Samaritan woman has to come out of hiding and share in the life of her community.
The phrase “Living Water” was used to refer to moving water like a river or stream as opposed to the water of a pond, which did not flow.
Living water was important in ceremonial cleansing as well. This living water, or flowing water, could make you clean.
And Jesus uses this phrase to have a deeper meaning as well. This Living Water gives new life through Christ.
Living water transforms.
Verses 13 and 14 say
“Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 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.”
“Welling up to eternal life” in this verse is a little tame for what I think is actually being communicated.
I like, “bursting forth”
Or “waking from a coma”
We got to celebrate Baptism this morning and it gives us a beautiful picture of this transformation. Did you see Eli? He was bursting forth in new life.
It’s transformation from death to life.
This “Living Water” that Jesus offers, gives new life.
It gives abundant life, eternal life, and the one who drinks will thirst no more.
Living Water is different and new. Not like any water you’ve ever had before.
I love the coke and dr. pepper. But a couple of years ago I realized I was drinking way too many, so I started working on ways to cut back. I used to drink one every morning to start my day. I don’t really like hot drinks, so coffee in the morning was not going to be my caffeine replacement
So, I discovered these Mio Water Enhancers with caffeine. Just add a squirt or two in your water bottle and you’ve got a caffeine boost and a little flavor in your water. I’ve been using these pretty regularly and I enjoy it. It’s a refreshing caffeine boost in the morning or when I hit that wall at about 2:30 in the afternoon.
Sometimes I think this is what a lot of us do with the good news of Jesus. We just squirt a little knowledge into the normal water we’ve been drinking and then expect it to become “living water.” You can’t just add a little knowledge about Jesus to the life you’ve already been living. Drinking the “Living Water” is about being fully immersed and transformed by the love of Jesus.
The Samaritan Woman is transformed right there.
She has to let go of her security if she really wants this living water.
She can no longer be anonymous. Her life will be known.
Her life used to be about avoiding people, and now she’s running through town seeking them out. The fear and shame that controlled her are gone, and she’s running now in new life, and with Joy that she could not even imagine just minutes earlier.
It’s a transformation from being “Fear-Driven” to being “Love-Drawn”
The Samaritan Woman had her life and routine interrupted by Jesus.
She was caught off guard,
and then transformed.
In Advent we are being prepared for the interruption of Christ.
We slow down,
we sit still,
we quiet out lips and our minds,
and we wait.
We wait for interruption. We wait for our world to be disrupted. We wait for Christ to redefine what it means to have Joy.
So sit now and be still. Let the Holy Spirit prepare you to be interrupted.