An Unseemly Encounter

In John 4:1-39 Jesus strikes up a conversation with a woman…at a well…in Samaria. It doesn’t get much more unseemly than that folks. Despite the unseemliness of it all, the conversation is a revealing one. So, takes a few moments to read John 4:1-39. I will, like always, sing a song while you read.

It was twenty years ago today,
Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play
They’ve been going in and out of style
But they’re guaranteed to raise a smile.
So may I introduce to you
The act you’ve known for all these years,
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
We’re Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,
We hope you will enjoy the show,
We’re Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,
Sit back and let the evening go.

Why was this meeting so unseemly? Politically Samaria was part of the Roman province of Judea in Jesus’ day. Nevertheless culturally there were ancient barriers that divided the residents of Samaria from the Jews who lived in Galilee and southern Judea that go back to the Old Testament when the Kingdom of Israel was divided into the Northern and Southern Kingdoms. After the Assyrians captured the city of Samaria, which was in the Northern Kingdom they deported some of its citizens and imported foreigners who intermarried with the remaining Israelites. Most of these foreigners continued to worship their pagan gods (2 Kings 17—18). The Jews of the Southern Kingdom regarded the residents of Samaria as racial half-breeds and religious compromisers. There is also the issue of Jesus speaking with a woman…which was just not done. Not only was she a woman but she was a woman of ill-repute. She was not a prostitute, but if you look back at the verses you just read you’ll see that 1) she was collecting her water at noon, which is an activity usually done in the morning. So we can assume the other women did not like her OR that she was trying to avoid people because of her situation OR both and 2) she had been married five times and the man she was currently living with was not her husband. She might as well have had a big ole scarlett A attached to her.

So this is where Jesus is…a town named Sychar in Samaria, a place that was not overly-friendly to Jews and with whom Jews were not overly-friendly, talking to a woman who tries to avoid others because of the situation she has placed herself into.

So the conversation begins and we see Jesus using the situation he is in to tell her the gospel, to reveal himself to her. And they go back and forth, back and forth. Until finally at the end of the conversation she brings up the Messiah and he reveals to her that he is in fact the Messiah.

When the disciples arrive at the well, the woman runs back into town telling everyone she sees about what she has just experienced.

There are two things I want to point out about this woman. One, is something we have already stated, she heard and believed. Did she see Jesus? Well, yes. But she did not know with whom she was speaking until he told her. She listened to what he was telling her. She interacted with him, and we find by the end of the conversation that she believes what she has heard. Remember from Romans 10 that faith comes from hearing.  What did she do with her newfound belief?

This is where I got really excited about this passage.

She told people. Faith is not what we have created it to be, which is a personal, keep-it-to-myself kind of thing. Not at all.

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?[c] And how are they to hear without someone preaching?         Romans 10:14

Faith comes from hearing and if we don’t tell then how will people hear? There has to be a voice telling people about what Jesus has done.

John 4:39 says, “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.”

But, what I find more exciting, is found in verse 41. It says, “And many more believed because of his word .They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Lord.'”

The people believed at first because of the woman’s testimony. Because of that testimony they went to hear for themselves. They had an encounter with Jesus that led the to a faith apart from what the woman had told them. The sharing of our faith introduces people to Jesus but it is the actual encounter with him that brings about faith and salvation. However, if we keep our mouths closed tight then how are people to hear his name?

“So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” James 2:17

“For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” James 2:26

Action should follow faith. Action is the overflow of the love of Christ that lives in us by the powerful working of the Holy Spirit.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10

What Paul is telling us in Ephesians is that our salvation is not of ourselves. We can DO nothing to attain it. It is through faith by grace that salvation comes. However, we are created to do good works. Why? Jesus tells in Matthew 5 to “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Our good works point people to God. You cannot say you have faith in God and then do nothing, for that is to not have a true faith. A real faith is compelled to DO something with it. To tell others, to help others, to act in obedience. We have deceived ourselves into thinking that faith is going to church and reading our bible. Faith is acting in obedience to the Word of God. Faith is believing the impossible is possible through Jesus. Faith is doing what others think is absolutely crazy because you know it is what God has called you to do. We are to put our faith into action, otherwise what is the point in having it?

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