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Sunday Night Live Sermons

LIVING WATER WITHIN

Who He Really Is

John 4:4-41
7th March 2004

There is a photograph on me on a stand outside our church advertising our services to people passing by in the street. I heard this week that photo saved a woman’s life. She lives in the western suburbs but every day travelled to down-town where she worked in a nearby bank as a Customer Services Officer, what we used to call a bank teller. Each day she went a few doors along the city street to a Club that provided cheap meals. Her life was empty, despite a good marriage, a nice home and three children. After lunch, seeking a thrill, she played the poker machines sparkling along the walls. As time went by she skipped eating to spend more time on the machines.

When her money was gone, she borrowed from the bank’s cash drawer, planning to replace it with winnings. For some reason, no one noticed at the bank she frequently transferred money to make up for deficiencies in her cash drawer. Then she developed a means of covering her transactions. When the bank finally uncovered the paper trail, as banks always do, she had embezzled over $800,000. In the Dowling Street Court, she was sentenced to a custodial period in the Emu Plains Women’s Prison for 11 months. Her family, and her life fell apart. While in Prison, like hundreds of prisoners across the nation, she watched my television program every week. She heard the testimonies of former prisoners who found that Jesus Christ filled their emptiness. She longed for that inner filling and vowed upon release, she would seek guidance about Jesus. Upon her release, the old emptiness was still there. Almost automatically, she caught the train into the city, and started to walk back to the club and the poker machines. At the last minute, thirty metres from the club’s doors, she saw the sign with my photograph.

She stopped. She remembered the television programs and her questions about Jesus. This was a moment of decision. Which way? She decided to walk into Wesley Centre and come and see me. She did not make it to my office. Instead, she turned into our restaurant and had a long cup of coffee while she reviewed her life. Without anyone speaking to her, she prayed for Jesus to enter her life, to take away her compulsion to gamble, and make her a better wife and mother. He did and He did! Filled with joy, she walked out of Wesley Centre and continued down the street with purpose and assurance, right past the enticing doors into the Club, and past her old bank. She has continued to walk tall since. Jesus now fills her every need. There is no need for the gambling thrill.

I think the woman of Samaria we read about in John’s Gospel would have agreed with her. She, like most of us, was looking for happiness, but it kept eluding her. Her current man was number six. Our modern permissive society is not new. Modern sexual liberation is simply old immorality. She hoped love would make her life worthwhile, but every relationship had turned sour. Now she was growing older and men friends were turning to younger sport. She would give anything to relieve her depression. She felt insecure, lonely, dissatisfied. Take the wretched water pot she had carried from the village for instance. There it stood, empty again. She had filled it yesterday. She would fill it again tomorrow. It was like her life — a symbol of never-ending thirst. She would spend the remainder of her days filling that pot and at the end its appetite would be as insatiable as ever. Empty. Empty again. That was her water pot and that was her. Her life was meaningless. She knew no satisfaction. She was empty!

1. MANY PEOPLE POSSESS EMPTY LIVES.

Kirk Douglas, the Hollywood actor, said his life was like a second-rate movie script. “It is that corny, if someone offered me the screenplay of my life to film I’d turn it down flat.” Millions of people with lives far less exciting than Kirk Douglas’ would say something similar. They are bored out of their minds by the sheer tedium of existence. They are empty, “hollow men” T.S. Eliot called them. The irony is they do not even know what it is that they really want, let alone where to find it. They try another job, another marriage, alcohol, drugs, the latest fantasy movie, the hypnotic stupor of the TV screen, gambling, holidays, a work romance. But nothing works! These things offer only temporary escapes. The emptiness remains. This is the inner anguish of millions. They are empty within!

2. JESUS CAME TO SATISFY OUR INNER NEED.

In 721 BC, when Israel was defeated by an Assyrian army of Tiglath-Pileser III, many Israelites were exiled and the land was repopulated with other defeated peoples. Over time, through intermarriage between remaining Jewish settlers and the repopulated aliens, a people known as the Samaritans emerged in this region. The exiled Jews and their descendants believed the Samaritans were neither ethnically pure nor religiously orthodox. The southern Jews dismissed the people of Samaria as half-breeds and heretics. By the time the Jews returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple and the walls of Jerusalem, Ezra and Nehemiah refused to let the Samaritans be involved. Ezra 4:1-3; Nehemiah 4:7 The Samaritans identified Mount Gerizim as their chosen place of worship as they believed Adam sacrificed there. Their scriptures are the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. Moses is regarded as the only prophet and intercessor in the final judgment.

In the days of Jesus, the relationship between the Jews and the Samaritans was strained. Luke 9:52-54; 10:25-37; 17:11-19; John 8:48 The animosity was so great that Jews bypassed Samaria as they travelled between Galilee and Judea, preferring the extra distance through the barren land of Perea on the eastern side of the Jordan. Yet Jesus rebuked His disciples for their hostility to the Samaritans, Luke 9:55-56 healed a Samaritan leper, Luke 17:16 honoured a Samaritan for his neighbourliness, Luke 10:30-37 praised a Samaritan for his gratitude, Luke 17:11-18 asked a drink of a Samaritan woman, John 4:7 and preached to the Samaritans. John 4:40-42 Jesus challenged His disciples to witness in Samaria. Acts 1:8 Philip, a deacon, opened a mission in Samaria Acts 8:5 and many were baptised as followers of Jesus Christ. Peter and John then visited the city in order to lay hands on the newly baptised so that they might receive the Holy Spirit. Jesus had a special regard for the Samaritans.

Jesus, on his way from Judea to Galilee, “had to pass through” Samaria. Sychar, the village mentioned has its own well and Jacob’s well is 1000 paces away. Why did the woman not use the village well, but walked out about a kilometre to Jacob’s well? Because she feared to use the local well because of the other women. Jesus, too, may have used this well, not wishing to encounter Samaritan hostility in the village itself. So two very different people, shunning the well closest to Sychar for very different reasons, met in momentous conversation. Today the Samaritans today are the world’s smallest minority. On Mt Gerizim, overlooking the turbulent Arab West Bank town of Nablus, a tiny community clings to its ancient rituals and dreams of more children to swell its numbers beyond the 561 surviving Samaritans.

Girls are especially prized, for due to some curious genetic quirk, 60% of Samaritans are males. It is a miracle the Samaritans have survived the invading armies of Assyrians, Greeks, Romans, Crusaders, Muslims, Turks, British and Israeli soldiers that have fought on the stony hills of Samaria over 4,000 years. In Nablus, the largest and most radical town on the West Bank, it is difficult to be a Jew, but more difficult to be a Samaritan. So they shifted and today live on Mt Gerizim. They don’t eat pork. They separate meat and milk. They keep the Sabbath, circumcise their boys and make sacrifice at the Passover. This week, the Samaritan Passover rituals are being kept. Six sheep, representing the six Samaritan family groups, are brought to the summit of Mt Gerizim where they will be slaughtered while the congregation prays. The Samaritan priests trace their ancestors back to Aaron the brother of Moses, 3,300 ago. They dress in robes and turbans, like Islamic religious figures. The Samaritans are without land or rights, still awaiting a Redeemer, the most orthodox of Jews, agonising over every death and the shortage of Samaritan wives. They are people with deep needs.

3. JESUS STILL SATISFIES OUR NEEDS.

When Jesus spoke with the Samaritan woman, He broke barriers and satisfied her inner need. Today Jesus still breaks down divisions and satisfies inner needs. Jesus, knowing she was of dubious morals, still spoke with her and promised to give her the water of eternal life. Hence she became the first evangelist telling others Jesus was the Saviour. John 4:42 “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Saviour of the world.”

Water was central in the life of every village. Here, early every morning the women gathered to draw water and late at night the flocks came to drink. It was the focal point of life, the reason why the village was built there, and the centre of community gossip. When Jesus came to Sychar and rested at their well, sitting on the round stone top that exists to this day, a woman, rejected by the other women of her town came out to the well at midday, long after the other women were resting from the heat. Jesus asked her to give Him a drink of water, and in so doing, crossed over social, religious, racial and sexual barriers that really amazed her: v9 “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)”

Jesus took that woman to spiritual depths: v10 “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” The woman could not understand how He could give water that was bubbling, running, sparkling — the spring water described as “living water” because there was no spring nearby and He had not even a bucket for well water and hers was empty. Jesus says: v13-15 “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” She still had much to learn. She still had to discover spiritual life-giving water. Her life was as empty as her water-pot, but she knew Jesus could satisfy her. She still had to face up to her own sin. She still had to discover that the Spirit of God could come to her in real worship. But she was on the way.

She still had to discover that Jesus was a prophet of God, and still had to witness to the women of the town who shunned her. When she did she said: v29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” She would lead others to Jesus and see them believe because of her testimony. She would hear others declare their belief in Jesus: v42 “They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Saviour of the world.” All that was to follow. What was important, was that at that moment she desired to drink of the water of life!

Do you thirst after God like that? Do you wish you possessed that life-giving water? Do you want to find your deepest needs satisfied by Jesus? In a dry continent, we Australians know the significance of water. But how much more important is it to discover the water of life that springs up to eternal life! Yet so few seek the life-giving waters that alone satisfy. The pleasures of this world never satisfy. Like saltwater, the more we drink the more we crave, and the more we crave the more sure is our death.

Jesus alone gives life-giving water! And the life-giving water that Jesus Christ gives springs up to eternal life. Have you walked by in the street, knowing your need, and being led here. Jesus Christ can satisfy your deepest need. Believe Him to be the Saviour of the world. Confess your sins to God and determine to live differently and drink of the water of life! Jesus Christ alone, saves, and keeps and satisfies!

REFERENCES

  • The Truth About Jesus, P Barnett, Aquilla: 1994
  • New International Commentary: John, L. Morris, Eerdmans: 1971
  • Jesus Within Judaism, J.H. Charlesworth, SPCK: 1988
  • Archaeological Diggings, D. Down, Sydney: 1995

 

Wesley Mission, Sydney.