Theme: Jesus’ Approach
In this week’s lessons we look at the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman, and see that once the Lord brings someone to saving faith, one proof of their conversion is that they tell others.
Scripture: John 4:1-42
Of course, we don’t know what approach Jesus took. But even though Samaritans only accepted their version of the Pentateuch, Jesus may have referred the woman to a text like Jeremiah 2:13, where God says, “My people have committed two sins. They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns.” Now you see, if he had begun to expound that text, and I suspect very much that he did, he would have said, “You see, there’s two problems with the human race. One is that they don’t come to God. God is the one who is able to satisfy the thirst of the soul. The second thing is that they seek idols, thinking that they’re going to get their satisfaction from these false gods. That’s the cistern that can’t hold real water.”
That’s what the Samaritans had done, you see. They had a false religion up there. They were thinking they were going to get their sustenance from that, and Jesus would have expounded that. He would have explained what they were doing and told her that if she is going to be satisfied spiritually, she has to find her satisfaction in God. As Augustine expressed it centuries later, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” I also think of Isaiah 55, verse 1: “Come all you who are thirsty. Come to the waters; you who have no money, come buy and eat; come and buy wine and milk without money and without cost.” God is the only one who can satisfy the deepest longings of your soul.
I suppose that as she heard him teach that, and as the Holy Spirit was beginning to work in her heart, she must have said to herself, “You know, that really is touching upon something that I have felt and longed for all my life. I have been hunting in all sorts of ways to find inner satisfaction. I wonder if this man really has the answer to it, that it’s really to be found in God as this man is now explaining to me.”
Well, Jesus began at that point to teach something else. He began to teach about sin and about the proper understanding of ourselves. We must realize that we are sinners, and it’s our sin that’s keeping us back from the living water that Jesus gives. He did it in a remarkable and very direct way. He said to her, “Go and call your husband, and then come back,” presumably with him. Now the woman didn’t have a husband. In fact, she had had a number of husbands, and at that time she was living with somebody she wasn’t married to. She didn’t have a very good reputation, which is probably why she was there at noon, when the other women weren’t there. They would come earlier in the morning when it was cooler to draw the water. She waited till they were gone, which was in the heat of the day when no one would be there.
When Jesus brought up the subject of her husband, she didn’t want to talk about that subject– just like we don’t whenever the Holy Spirit gets close to us, putting his finger on our sins. She just said, “I have no husband.” She hoped that would end it, but of course, it didn’t, because she was talking to the Son of God who knew all about her. He said to her, “You are right when you say that you have no husband; indeed, the fact is you’ve had five husbands, and the person you’re living with now is not your husband.” All of a sudden, she realized she wasn’t dealing with just anybody here. This was a person who was able not only to see into her heart, as he obviously had when he was talking about the living water, but he could see into her past. He knew what she had done.
So she tried to change the subject, not wanting to talk about her messy personal life. She began to talk about him being a prophet. She wanted to ask a religious question, you see, but already the Holy Spirit was beginning to work. It was getting below the surface. That’s what was happening, and it was happening through Jesus’ teaching. She told Jesus that she recognized he must be a prophet, and therefore she wanted to ask him a question about worship, and the differences between Jews and Samaritans.
What Old Testament passages might Jesus have used to teach the Samaritan woman? How would they have applied to her situation?
How did Jesus communicate to the woman the reality of her sin? How did she respond?
Reflection: People, including Christians, do not generally like to have their sin exposed. What are some responses or reactions they frequently have? For Christians, what is a godly response when someone approaches you about something wrong you are doing?