Sermon September 22, 2019

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1413

September 22, 2019 John 4.1-42

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)


“Can This Be the Christ?”




  • An Unexpected Conversation (Scene 1 – John 4.1-9)


Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), 3 he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. 4 And he had to pass through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob's well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

7 A woman from 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.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)


I hope that you have found our series on conversations with Jesus to be helpful as we seek to learn more about how we might grow to fulfill 1 Peter 3.15, that we are prepared to give a defense of the hope within us. We have been considering how Jesus communicated with various people, friend and foe. Sometimes Jesus would answer a question with a question, tell a story, or allow some space in the conversation for reflection. Other times He might use earthly things to reveal heavenly things and He found ways to plant a seed. Today we look to another story where Jesus speaks with one particular person and, out of that, with others who learn multiple lessons from Jesus.

(Read first scene.)

John 4 focuses on a woman at a well. Jesus comes through the area known as Samaria and a Samaritan woman comes to this well to draw water. You may know that Jews did not associate or even speak to Samaritans because the Samaritans who were Jewish had mingled with Gentiles in marriage and therefore were considered less pure or not fully Jewish. It is why Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan was so scandalous because Jesus put a Samaritan in a good light, even more compassionate than all the Jews who had passed by the wounded man without helping. So Jesus breaks down the barriers of prejudice and arrogance that prevented the Jews from speaking to non-Jews. Jesus speaks to anyone and everyone! He teaches us that there is no one to whom we cannot speak, none below, above, too far left or right. We never know who God may bring across our path in order to communicate the gospel.



  • Drinking Water and Living Water (Scene 2 – John 4.10-15)


10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying 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 water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”


Just as Jesus did with Nicodemus, here He uses an earthly element to reveal a heavenly reality. With Nicodemus, you might recall, Jesus spoke of birth and being born again, and He spoke of the wind to convey the power of the Holy Spirit. Here it is water for drinking and quenching physical thirst, but Jesus speaks of a different kind of water. It is a water that quenches our spiritual thirst. This is something that we could relate to every single person we meet because the Bible indicates that all people thirst for God whether they know it or not. It seems obvious to us because we see people yearning for something in their lives beyond themselves. Many of those people just yearn for all the wrong things or seek fulfillment in all the wrong things. What they need to know is that their yearning, their thirst is really a thirst for God. Psalm 42.1-2 expresses this belief,


As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.


One might argue that the Psalmist is expressing the thirst of one who believes in God, and I believe that is true, but I also think this thirst is in all of humanity. Sin has twisted that thirst for all of us and until we come to Jesus, we do not know that that thirst is only quenched in God’s living water.



  • Offering What We Know (Scene 3 – John 4.16-26)


16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he 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.”


Now Jesus turns the conversation toward the identity of this woman and to the object of worship. True worship will be in those who worship in spirit and truth and it will not be about one place or another, but about worshiping the One who is for us the Messiah and the living water. Psalm 36.7-9 How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. 8 They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. 9 For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light. This is the One worshiped. Those who worship the Father know His protection, His provision of food, physical and spiritual, and the fountain of life. All of this is fulfilled in Jesus. At the end of this scene Jesus identifies Himself as the One the woman and her people have been looking for. Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

What I want us to see is that Jesus gives the woman what He knows. All that God asks of us when we are in conversation if to give people what we know. We tend to think that we have to know something more, something brilliant or super spiritual. God does not ask of us what we do not know or something super special that is going to lead every person we meet to Jesus. What we do know is that true genuine life is only found in God, through Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. God is the living water by which we eat, drink, and live. Jesus will later, in the next scene says that His food is to do the will of God. Jesus said in Matthew four that we do not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. The Psalmist tells us to taste and see that the Lord is good. We know all of this and it leads to the various ways people are invited to come to Jesus. The woman invites the town to come see the man. In John one the invitation is given to come and see the One who is the fulfillment of prophecy. This is what we are called to do, to tell people what we do know – Jesus, the living water, the bread of life, the Way, the Truth, the Life, inviting them to come and see.



  • Pointing to Jesus (Scene 4 – John 4.27-38)


27 Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” 28 So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30 They went out of the town and were coming to him.

31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. 36 Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”


This entire story is about Jesus pointing to Himself as the Messiah. As He pointed to Himself. 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” In this scene He reveals that He is here to accomplish God’s will and thus fulfilling the Old Testament that points to Jesus. In pointing to Himself He reveals that there are people ready to see Jesus. The harvest is there for the taking and it is the disciples call and our call to point that harvest to the Lord. There are people out there who are being pointed toward Jesus, seeds being planted, and we are called to point again and again until the Lord opens their eyes to see and their hearts to believe. We tend to think that the majority of people around us already believe, and that may be the case to an extent, but we just cannot know fully about acquaintances or strangers or even people we think we know well. There is a harvest everywhere and we need to be prepared to harvest.



  • Can This Be the Christ? (Scene 5 – John 4.39-42)


39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 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 Savior of the world.”


Many believed in Jesus through the woman’s testimony and because of Jesus’ testimony. Testimony matters. Our stories matter. Learning to better relate all of this in our conversations is important because, in essence, we are seeking to answer the question of verse 29, can this be the Christ? But we are not just trying to answer the question for people, but seeking to get them to ask the question. Could this be true? Were my preconceived notions about God wrong? In conversation with people about God and faith, we are trying to get people to at least consider the question in one form or another.

We can add to our tools for conversation several more elements:

1) there is no one with whom we cannot speak,

2) we reinforce what we learned in John 3, that we can use earthly things to convey heavenly things,

3) we offer what we know, nothing less, nothing more,

4) we point people to Jesus,

5) we seek to get people to entertain the question: can this be the Christ?


If we can find ways to incorporate one or two or all of these things from Jesus, we might find that God will put more opportunities before us to talk about Jesus. The more we can learn from Jesus, the easier such conversations will become for us and for those with whom we interact.

  April 2020  
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