Last Sunday we heard Jesus teaching Nicodemus a lesson on God’s love.
It ended with the well-known text – John 3:16 – God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
That was a teaching about God’s love.
Today we see that love put into action by Jesus to show us what it means and how it looks.
Jesus meets the complete opposite of Nicodemus.
She is female.
She is unnamed.
She is a Samaritan
She is not a leader amongst her community.
This is where love comes to life and it proves to be the catalyst for the Gospel being preached to her and her community.
Where does this love begin for Jesus?
There are rules about how Jesus, a Jewish male and a teacher should interact with people, especially with women, especially with Samaritan women.
The Jews and the Samaritans were in dispute with each other.
And the dispute was over worship and we know that when there are disputes over worship or religion in general there can grow an intense hating for other groups of people.
Those who can remember the Lutheran Church before amalgamation in 1966 each other was referred to as “the other Synod”.
We didn’t use their Synod’s name – just calling them “the other Synod”.
It’s a division that continues today even with our combined synod – worship styles, creation versus evolution, ordination to name just a few.
Jesus’ love is shown in that he communicates with her where she is at and not through the things that would normally divide and working out who is right and who is wrong.
And she is the one who raises the issue of their division:
The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)
Notice she highlights that she is both a woman and a Samaritan – both conditions that would divide them.
Likewise Jesus’ disciples didn’t understand:
When his disciples came they were astonished that he was speaking with a woman.
So what is this story about – as I said earlier it’s about where love comes to life.
Where head knowledge becomes heart actions.
We transition from Nicodemus – a Pharisee and leading Jews to an unnamed – unimportant Samaritan woman.
And what Nicodemus was struggling to understand about being born again by water and the Spirit Jesus personalises by offering this woman living water.
He doesn’t criticise her in the same way he criticised Nicodemus for his lack of understanding.
Note how Jesus communicates.
Not by coming in all guns blazing but a simple conversation starter:
Give me a drink.
He knew that request would raise many questions by the Samaritan woman.
It’s an interesting introduction to the woman, isn’t it?
Give me a drink.
Do you remember the time Jesus taught – And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”
From that conversation it is the woman who acknowledges the breakdown in their relationship.
She does her own soul searching.
And that asks the question of us – where do we begin in our conversations when we want to share our faith?
Where do we allow a person to begin their own soul searching?
Or are we the ones searching their souls?
Often, from what I’ve seen, it has started with questions like – are you saved?
Do you know that Jesus has died for your sins?
Have you given your life to Jesus?
Jesus is exampling what we call relational evangelism.
It is a sharing of our faith that begins with where we are at with each other.
It is finding a connection with another person that can lead to a continuing conversation that may lead to an opportunity to share your faith.
As St Peter says – always be prepared to give an “answer” for the hope you have.
From that initial conversation with the Samaritan woman, Jesus is able to introduce himself as the Living Water.
Jesus then asks her to bring her husband along to which she confesses that she has no husband –
Jesus knew that but he didn’t begin by stating that which may have seemed judgmental.
He allowed her soul searching to reveal that.
Maybe she is trying to cover up that she is in a relationship that is not really approved of.
Jesus then confesses that he knows her situation – that she has had 5 husbands and the man she is living with is not her husband.
But at no time did he accuse her of any wrongdoing.
At no time does he judge her.
Unlike the woman caught in adultery, he doesn’t tell her to go and sin no more.
Instead she goes to tell her own people about Jesus.
Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”
How is that for evangelism and all because Jesus asked for a drink – a glass of water?
She sounds very much like Phillip in chapter 1 of John’s Gospel:
Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip.
Relational evangelism can take longer and sometimes it seems like you’re not really doing anything or going anywhere.
Sometimes it seems like you’re only ever talking about the weather or football or politics.
But God can gently lead in a way that is so subtle that we don’t always realise that we’re sharing the Gospel with that person.
This conversation didn’t look like it was really going anywhere until Jesus exposed a need.
It would appear that she may have been dealing with guilt.
The reading doesn’t actually say that and we can’t really be certain but we can take from her behaviour that maybe she was feeling some shame.
She told Jesus that she didn’t have a husband when in fact she had had 5 and was living with someone not her husband.
We don’t know the situation but Jesus did not make her feel guilty about it.
She had come out in the heat of the day at noon.
Maybe the other women had been earlier to avoid the heat.
Maybe she had come when she knew there would be no others around to judge her.
Again, we don’t know that but John wants us to know those details.
Jesus begins with her needs rather than trying to correct her ways – if they needed correcting (we don’t know that).
Jesus is exampling what he taught to Nicodemus – God’s love in action.
It began by sending his one and only Son and now it continues by sending you and me.
And like Jesus we don’t know where or with whom that might be.
God works that out – he simply places them in our path like the Samaritan woman.
And it might not be the one we think will respond, as St Paul tells us:
For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
But then Paul reminds us – How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
And as we look at the panic and uncertainty around us and as we keep our faith in God, what better opportunity to share the Good News.
And as Jesus said to his disciples -look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting.
May God bless you as you go and grow for God’s Kingdom.